In classic post holiday season fashion, I’m just now writing the January newsletter on the 10th. January feels like you need to pop the clutch going up a hill in order to get things going again. No push button start to this month. It’s also a time when the pendulum starts to swing the other way in terms of drinking. While of course a champion of all things sparkling, aged, sweet, fortified and so on throughout the holidays, now I crave a solid and refreshing table wine – ideally in liter form. On a practical level, wines like this not only help us atone for some perhaps overextended purchases, but also mark the return to casual dinners and that end of the day glass or two. Keeping this in mind, here are some liters to help transition into the New Year. Ironically, the smallest country in the portfolio has our largest selection of liters – Slovenia. About an hour’s drive south of Graz, the heart of Austria’s Styria, and just north of the Slovenian city of Maribor, we find Silvo Črnko (Chair-n-ko). This is an impossibly fertile region littered with apples, hops, pumpkin seed oil and wine at every turn. … Continue reading Liter-ally, the Only Way to Start the New Year
The first time we starting turning over rocks and looking for producers in Eisenberg was 2014. The area is certainly thematically ripe for Blue Danube given the confluence of Croatian, Austrian and Hungarian cultures and borders. A stone’s throw from the Hungarian border and a part of the Hungarian Empire for centuries earlier, but the Croatian connection is less obvious. After the Turks were pushed out in the mid 16th Century, Hungary repopulated the war torn area with Croatian communities. For centuries, villages like Schandorf spoke a unique Croatian dialect and the culture was distinctly Croatian. This was the case up until 1921 when the borders changed, empires fell, and then were broken up again with the Iron Curtain. Things have of course perked up since then, but Südburgenland is still one of Austria’s smallest wine regions, and specific areas like Eisenberg are even lesser known. Needless to say, the region’s wines are underrepresented in the US. As such we are proud to introduce Kopfensteiner. Largely committed to Blaufränkisch, Thomas and Astrid have 9 hectares in Eisenberg and 6 hectares in nearby Deutsch Schützen planted in iron rich clay, loam and layers of green schist. Combined with the highest elevation … Continue reading Schist Happens
When French eonologist Stéphanie Berecz founded Kikelet Pince with her husband Zsolt in Tarcal, Tokaj, she wanted a name that was easy to write and pronounce. She chose Kikelet, which means springtime in Hungarian or more literally “out-waking” (“ki” meaning “out”, “kel” is “to wake up” so “kelet” is technically “waking”). Kikelet refers to that moment when the young buds open up and the first spring flowers start blooming as the snow melts. Stéphanie told us when we visited the winery some years ago that she was enchanted by the fact that there was a Hungarian word for this moment and that she named the winery after it. So Spring is in the air and we start craving for brighter, more fruit-forward wines that can be paired with green salads, spring vegetables and fresh fruits. Kikelet’s Hárslevelű and Furmint wines are delicious Springtime wines, quite mineral and savory and full of stony fruit flavors. Also from Hungary, the Gilvesy Bohém Cuvée is a fragrant and zingy blend of Olaszrizling, Pinot Gris, Rhine Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, the Gallay Bistronauta White (60% Pinot blanc, 40% Zenit) is an aromatic and easy going bistro wine, and the Pfneiszl Zefir is a refreshing … Continue reading It’s Springtime! Megjött a kikelet!
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
This week’s #WineWednesday Spotlight is the dazzling Pfneiszl Zweigler thanks to this Instagram post from wine lover Shelley Warkentin: Crushed this tasty Zweigelt over the weekend. Really loving this grape as an alternative to rosé on hot days, especially with a little chill on it.⚡️Also, I want to hang out with the two awesome sisters, Birgit and Katrin, who made this wine. @pfneiszlestate #glouglou #pfneiszlwinery #zweigler #zweigelt #austrianwine #realwine #birgitundkatrin #bluedanubewine Affirmative! The 1 Liter Zweigler from the Pfneisl sisters is just what you need on a hot day. Try also his brother, the spicy 1 Liter Blaufränker. Both are bright, fruity as well as organic. And don’t forget to follow Shelley Warkentin on on Instagram.
WHO AM I? Connect the dots on the label to find out! The grape is called Zefir, a white grape variety created in 1951 from a crossing of Leanyka from Romania and Hárslevelü from Hungary. It’s a new creation from the Pfneisl sisters Birgit and Katrin, and like its label, it’s a playful wine! Low in alcohol (11.5%), pale straw in color, with a floral Muscat-like nose, the Pfneiszl Zefir is crisp, refreshing, with some herbal and spicy notes. Share it with some good friends on a hot summer night and as the Pfneisl sisters say, “A sip is worth a thousand words.”
Do you know that as many as 13 of the wineries in our current portfolio are run or co-run by women? Witnessing an increasing number of talented women involved in the wine industry on International Women’s Day is exciting. They may have taken different paths — some took over their family estate from their parents, others founded their wineries from scratch — but they are all passionate about their work. Whether they have a degree in oenology or learned the trade while working with their family, these women are making important contributions to viticulture and winemaking. In Austria, grower and winemaker Ilse Maier pioneered organic farming in Kremstal when she took over Geyerhof, the family estate, in 1986. Dorli Muhr resuscitated her family vineyards in Carnuntum and now produces some of Austria’s finest Blaufränkisch. In Tokaj, Hungary, winemakers Judit Bodó and Stéphanie Berecz founded respectively Bott and Kikelet wineries with their husbands and are now making some of the best wines of the region. In 2014, Stéphanie was awarded by her fellow winemakers the prestigious title of “winemaker of the winemakers”. Sarolta Bárdos who owns and runs Tokaj Nobilis was the winner of the prestigious award of 2012 Winemaker of … Continue reading Meet our Women Vintners
This is a contribution by Jeremy Dugan, wine buyer at The Wine Country in Long Beach. Not too often does an Austrian wine get to be Wine of the Month. But when I sat down with Orshi Kiss, our Blue Danube Representative, and tried this Blaufrankisch from Weingut Pfneisl in Burgenland, Austria, the second thing I did after enjoy it myself was take it back to Randy and said “We could do this for Wine of the Month in December.” The rest of the staff tried it and everyone was in agreeance, this wonderfully balanced medium bodied red wine is the type of crowd pleasing, goes well with everything kind of wine people love. Especially at $13.99 for a liter! But who is Weingut Pfneisl? And who the heck are Birgit and Katrin? Once named Pfneiszl when they lived in Hungary over 100 years ago, the family moved to Austria to escape Communism, dropped the z from their last name and kept making wine like they did in their home country. Since 1993, the Pfneisls have had two wineries, one in Austria (Pfneisl) and the other in their ancestral Hungarian lands(Pfneiszl). The Austrian winery has been ran by Franz Pfneisl … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker
I’m back from France after spending a couple of weeks moving my Mom from the south of France to Paris, and drinking mostly Provence Rosés — her favorite wine. So it was good to be back home and with the evenings getting darker and cooler, switch to autumnal reds: medium-bodied wines like Cabernet Franc from the Loire, Gamay from Beaujolais, Barbera from Piedmont or Blaufränkisch from Burgenland, which should include Kékfrankos from Sopron, Hungary, as the two regions were part of the same wine district when Sopron was the capital of Burgenland during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Hungarian Pfneiszl estate of Austrian Birgit and Katrin Pfneisl illustrates precisely this point. The Pfneiszl family was originally from Hungary before escaping from Communism and settling just across the border in Burgenland where their surname lost its “z”. It’s only in 1993 that the family was able to re-acquired its Hungarian vineyards, now managed by the two sisters. Under the leadership of Birgit the winemaker, the Pfneiszl vineyards and winemaking are now certified organic. The Pfneiszl Kékfrankos, which is also called “Újra Együtt” or “Together Again”, symbolises the reunion of the family with their Hungarian side. It also means getting together with friends … Continue reading #WineWednesday Spotlight #57: Pfneiszl Kékfrankos
In a rare moment of not being late and or lost en route to a winery, we had the fortune to eat and drink our way through the Central Market Hall (Nagyvásárcsarnok) in Budapest this past spring. Built in 1897 and comprised of three enormous levels (10,000 sq meters), it looks like a combination of a train station and a massive Church devoted to everything I want to eat and drink. It’s one of the finest markets in Europe. Taking into account that all of our new Blue Danube Wine arrivals from Austria and Hungary were grown within 2-3 hours drive from the market, I’d like to use the adage of what grows together goes together to introduce them. Starting in the basement level, it’s readily apparent that you’re entering ground zero for fermented fruits and vegetables. Pickle art is definitely a thing, and many venders grow their own produce. Much like a Viennese Heuriger grows and makes its own wines, the co-fermented field blends like Peter Bernreiter’s 2014 Gemischter Satz, 2014 Grüner Veltliner and 2014 Heuriger Liter all have the brightness and aromatics for furthering fermented consumption. A little further West along the Danube is the small town of … Continue reading What to drink in Budapest’s Central Market Hall