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 #99: Pfneiszl Zweigler

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.

#WineWednesday Spotlight #89: Pfneiszl Zefir

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.”

Meet our Women Vintners

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

#WineWednesday Spotlight #67: Pfneisl Blaufränker

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

#WineWednesday Spotlight #57: Pfneiszl Kékfrankos

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

What to drink in Budapest’s Central Market Hall

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

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

Tasting event at Seasons

Mike Dunne’s Blog: A Year in Wine. Our friend Tamas Torok recently hosted an extended sit-down tasting at his restaurant Seasons in Davis, CA. We designed a flight showcasing Hungary’s best white, red, and sweet wines. Well known wine connoisseur Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers in Sacramento attended together with Mike Dunne, the Sacramento Bee’s former wine and food editor. Read Mike’s article From Hungary, Diversity and Quality. The stars of the tasting were Tokaj’s classic grapes: Furmint, Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat from Patricius and Zoltan Demeter in their dry & Aszu styles. Medium bodied reds made from native grapes paired well with home-made Hungarian food: Gere Portugieser and Pfneiszl Kekfrankos.

A Chance Pfneiszl Tasting

The bottle includes a handy map so you don’t get lost in varietals Having visited Pfneiszl last year, I’ve been intrigued by the wines that Birgit and her sister Katrin have been making. In preparing for her career as a winemaker, Birgit literally traveled around the world to learn about winemaking in Italy, California, Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand. The result of this was an interest in trying out the various wines from these regions in their vineyards in Hungary. These few vines were just starting to produce last year and they had they have had their first proper harvest of them. The end result is the távoli világ, a wine that is a blend of Shiraz, Carmenére, Malbec, Zinfandel, and Sangiovese. Definitely a wild blend (that I hope I never have to pronounce in front of a Hungarian), but one that is done quite delicately reflecting the fact that Birgit learned these grapes well in her travels. It’s quite subtle at first, but then opens up with mint and watercress in a decently mineral nose. That watercress then turns in to a peppery, enjoyably spicy body that is light and fresh with the slightest tinges of strawberry and much … Continue reading A Chance Pfneiszl Tasting