The Rise of Blaufränkisch

It seems that in the last few years, Blaufränkisch (German for blue Frankish) has become Austria’s most successful red wine variety. It’s not a new grape: based on its name, we think that it had been growing in Central Europe since the Middle Ages. The name Fränkisch comes from Franconia, a German region praised for its quality wines in the Middle Ages, and so at the time, grapes that were producing superior wines were called Fränkisch. Better rootstock, denser plantings, better cover crops management and nuanced winemaking explain the recent rise in quality with more and more Blaufränkisch wines showing great complexity and finesse. Some producers describe Blaufränkisch using the “triangle” comparison: the grape has the elegance of Burgundy Pinot Noir, the pepperiness of Northern Rhône Syrah, and the structure of Piedmont Nebbiolo. Its home is Burgenland where many of the finest examples are grown. Carnuntum, a region just southeast of Vienna, is also a source of quality Blaufränkisch where they are especially fresh and elegant. Burgenland was part of Hungary until 1921, when most of it was annexed as Austria’s ninth and easternmost state after the dissolution of he Habsburg Empire. The exception was Burgenland’s capital Sopron, which was … Continue reading The Rise of Blaufränkisch

#WineWednesday Spotlight #100: Martinčič Pinot Noir Rosé

An hour’s drive from Ljubljana in Southeast Slovenia, the Dolenjska wine-growing district is one of Slovenia’s largest wine growing region. Thanks to a combination of alpine and continental climatic influences, its gentle, south-facing hills at the edge of the woods are ideal for growing grapevines. The region is famous for its light, fruity, low-alcohol reds, especially the Cviček, a traditional, slightly sour red wine made by blending red and white grape varieties. Made in the same light and fruity style, try this Pinot Noir Rosé from the family-owned Martinčič winery: showing a lovely pale salmon pink hue, the wine is dry and tangy with a refreshing round palate. With only 11% alcohol in a 1 Liter bottle, bring it to your next picnic with a cured salami and a fresh loaf of bread.

The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

15 wines is a lot to get through without losing you after this sentence. However, there is a salty, tart, and often nutty line that connects them all from the Bay of Trieste down to Southern Dalmatia. These are our table wines for the summer. For the past few years, we’ve brought the Martinčič Cviček liter in from Dolenjsko (in between Zagreb and Ljubljana in Slovenia). This tongue-twisting blend of red and white grapes must be between 8.5-10% alcohol and dry by law. Now we are finally adding two more liters to round things out – the 2016 Modra Frankinja (Blaufränkisch) and 2016 Modri Pinot Rosé (Pinot Noir). They are both around 11-11.5% alcohol, incredibly low in SO2, and are impossibly fresh and full of character. Chill all three down and let them come up at the table. Roughly 2 hours West and a bit south by car and you hit Istria (Istra in Slovenia). Dominated by Malvasia Istarska, Teran and Refošk, the diversity by soil and proximity to the Adriatic is immense. Keeping with the liter theme, the 2016 Santomas LNG Refošk is our Dolcetto by the sea in that it satisfies the pizza/pasta needs but still lends itself … Continue reading The Tart, Salty and the Nutty from the other side of the Adriatic: Summer Wines from the Balkans

Mon Chérry…

Forced French puns aside, in the 11th hour brainstorming that usually precedes a newsletter to the trade, it occurred to me — cherries! Marasca cherries, which grow up and down the Dalmatian coast (including Slovenia and Southern Hungary) became famous all over Europe once distilled into Maraschino. Most of this production eventually moved to Italy after the destruction of WWII, but famous producers like Luxardo (1821) were all founded in Croatia. Cherry festivals can also be found all over Croatia and neighboring Slovenia. Whether you’re in Istria/Slovene Istria (Piquentum, Coronica, Santomas), Goriška Brda (Kabaj), the Kras (Štoka), Dolenjska (Martinčič) or Štajerska (Črnko), cherries abound. Sour, bitter and sweet, they also play a role in the cuisine as fresh soups, desserts, added to stews, jams, syrups, etc… Granted, I know I’m not breaking new ground by attaching cherry flavors to wine. It’s less about the wines tasting like cherries (although some really do), but a similar balance between bitter, sweet and sour. Whether it’s skin contact Ravan (Friulano), Rebula (Ribolla Gialla) and Sivi Pinot (Pinot Grigio), salty barrel aged Malvasia Istriana, bloody Teran, sweet and sour Cviček, bright and aromatic white field blends, or tart Refošk, there’s a kinship at play. … Continue reading Mon Chérry…

Wine Awesomeness: Best Wine Club for Beginners

Launched in 2012, Wine Awesomeness is a popular wine club focused on helping millennials learn about cool wines from around the world without being pretentious. Their curatorial team, led by a Food & Wine Sommelier of the Year, “combs the globe to find the coolest, craveworthiest wines. This is vino you don’t see everyday, but will want to drink everyday.” The club was recently reviewed by, a website providing Product reviews, testings, and comparisons. The team looked at twenty online wine clubs and reduced the list to eight contenders and three final picks, based on how well they introduce curious drinkers to the depth and breadth of the world of wine in a affordable way. Wine Awesomeness was their pick for the Best Wine Club for Beginners: For the beginning wine enthusiast, Wine Awesomeness delivers a great experience at an affordable price (even the name seems targeted for a millennial audience). A price of $45 gets you three wines a month, and you can choose among red only, white only, a variety pack (including the chance for rosé or bubbly), or a $75 mondo pack featuring six wines. Each delivery arrives in a fun blue box with a … Continue reading Wine Awesomeness: Best Wine Club for Beginners

A caron of refreshment

Črnko Jareninčan, Štoka Teran rose and Martinčič Cviček will be available shortly after their May 25th arrival at port. They’re all from the idyllic 2015 vintage and none are over 12.5% abv. Spread across Slovenia, the three wineries Črnko, Štoka, and Martinčič form a triangle and moreover, speaking of triangles, that two sided triangle above all these threatening words is a caron. It adds an “h” to the pronunciation of the letter it crowns. “CHrnko, SHtoka, MartinCHiCH”… Get it? Amazing it took us so long to share that! 2015 Martinčič Cviček: The name Cviček (Zvee-Check) is evidently old Slovenian for “very sour wine”. A bracingly dry blend of native red and white varieties that cannot exceed 10% abv. nor be diluted or dealcoholized. Cviček comes from Lower Carniola in Southern Slovenia, another of the country’s picturesque green hillscapes and tastes of the surrounding forest and sour cherry. Barely red and void of tannin, it should be chilled and gulped. In addition to a vine nursery, Jernej Martinčič conscientiously farms 8 hectares over 7 sites of mixed marls and limestones. Fermented with native yeast in stainless steel and wood tanks before blending and bottled just after malolactic fermentation which moderates the … Continue reading A caron of refreshment

A Danubian Thanksgiving

In preparation for this year’s holiday we have shared our favorite wines sourced from along the Danube river to enhance your celebrations. All of these wines are distinct in their own way but sure to pair beautifully with everything on your holiday table 2011 Kabaj Rebula $26.95 I first learned of the significance of cranberry sauce to the Thanksgiving table while skating on frozen cranberry bogs in Massachusetts with my then young children. I’ve since traded the bogs for the backyard orange trees of California. The best cranberry sauce is a simple and quick relish made with fresh cranberries, freshly-squeezed orange juice, peels, and sugar. No wonder the orange Kabaj Rebula wine from Slovenia pairs so well with that dish! Falling somewhere between a white and red, the wine has intense tannins contrasting with a funky, spicy orange-blossom aroma. It has excellent minerality, and a very enjoyable rich long finish. No need to switch to red for me. This wine is a perfect match for the Thanksgiving table for the recognized 100 Top Winery of 2015!” — Eugénie Cabot 2014 Martinčič Cviček $14.95 In the interest of eating and drinking for as long as possible on Thanksgiving, Cviček (Tsvee-check) is … Continue reading A Danubian Thanksgiving

The fall wines nobody will be asking for but everyone will be happy you poured

It was finally cold enough this morning to start thinking about sweaters and heaven forbid a beanie after a seemingly nine month summer. There are also a few wines that have been waiting for the weather to change as well. Namely, from the Istrian Peninsula where Italy, Croatia and Slovenia all meet along the Adriatic. I also added something from the Posavje and the Kras regions for good measure (both less than 2 hours by car). As the seasonal and justifiable urge to reach for Cru Beaujolais, white Burgundy, white Rhone, Cab Franc, Champagne and Riesling etc… grow closer, the following wines offer an equally justifiable transition to something new. Acid, salt, smoke, earth, tart fruits and bubbles can all be found here, they are just hiding in different places and complimented by flavors unique to this little slice of the Northern Adriatic. Moreno Coronica 2013 Coronica Gran Malvasia Istriana, Istria, Croatia The history of the indigenous variety Malvasia Istriana dates back to possibly before the Venetians. Over 30 types are still grown around the Mediterranean. Moreno Coronica’s Malvasia is considered a benchmark in Istria. In lieu of Garrigue, Croatians champion ‘Freškina’ (sent of the sea). Imagine the smell of … Continue reading The fall wines nobody will be asking for but everyone will be happy you poured

Follow the Liter

Whether you are hosting a dinner party or need the perfect wine for a lazy day at the beach, a liter bottle is the answer. Think about it: it’s 33% more wine! Not only does this format provide more volume, it is also greener for the environment and the wines tend to be low in alcohol, refreshing, and alarmingly easy to drink. As the 1-Liter trend is getting more and more popular, we have now quite a collection of liters from several countries and a dizzying array of grape varieties. Our newest 1 Liter: the 2013 Pfneisl Blaufränker Rather than make wine with their father and uncles who run the well established family estate in Austria, Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl decided to farm their ancestral vines In Sopron, Hungary, where Blaufränkisch is Kékfrankos and Pfneisl is Pfneiszl. Organic farming, old vines and wild fermentation all contribute to the finesse of their wines. Their Kékfrankos has always been more Blaufränkisch than most Blaufränkisch so we were happy to discover Birgit and Katrin’s increasing involvement in the Austrian estate and immediately taken with the results. Blaufränker is that wine: a collaborative wine project between Blue Danube Wine Co and the Pfneisl sisters, … Continue reading Follow the Liter