Friday, September 10, 2021

This week’s Blog is about the very exciting, lighter style, native Austrian red variety – Blaufränkisch, or as one of my more Ocker mates calls it, “Blow-Frank’s Quiche”.

I fell in love with Blaufränkisch in 2015 when thanks to the Austrian Wine Marketing Board I was part of a group of international wine journalists who toured many of the wine growing regions of Austria. Before the trip, I had not tasted any Austrian red wines other than their Pinot Noir, so it came as a great and pleasant surprise to me when I tasted Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and St. Laurent, the main three native Austrian red varieties.

I was smitten by Blaufränkisch, which I like to describe as a Pinot Noir that has been working out seriously at the gym. It is just that bit beefier/bigger bodied and more sinewy than what Pinot is. As Jack Simmonds from Hahndorf Hill describes it, “Pinot with stubble”. In parts of Europe it is referred to as “The Pinot of the East” but the Austrians prefer to refer to Pinot Noir as “the Blaufränkisch of the West” in a bit of friendly rivalry.

Having tasted a considerable number of Blaufränkisch wines since my first visit to Austria, I believe that one of the variety’s assets is the fact that the vast majority of the wines I have tasted had a strong varietal commonality, with basic characteristics rarely varying. This is in contrast to many emerging varieties where the taste can vary significantly/wildly from one producer to the next. Yes, the taste of the wine varies, but like with its Austrian native “partner” the white variety Grüner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch has a consistent inner core of flavour that is constant. This helps to convert drinkers over to the variety as every wine they try will have the same basic characteristics.

Blaufränkisch is a bit of a bastard, because one parent is known to be Gouais Blanc, however, the other parent is unknown, i.e. it is the bastard daughter/son of this unholy union. It is known as Lemberg in Slovenia and parts of Germany but its officially recognised name is Blaufränkisch.

In the vineyard it is an early budding variety which is therefore susceptible to early spring frosts, and yet it ripens quite late, thereby needing a sunny site to reach full maturity, which is why it is predominantly planted (75% of plantings) in the south-east corner of Austria called, Burgenland. It tends to be very productive and without lots of strict discipline and TLC it can yield large volumes of insipid wine.

Apart from residing in Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Hungary, more recently Blaufränkisch has flown over to the USA, Japan and most importantly, Australia. Here in Australia, the first wine was produced by the Adelaide Hills’ Hahndorf Hill Winery in 2008.

At present the only other winery making Blaufränkisch that I am aware of is Mt Bera Vineyards from the Adelaide Hills that make a delightful and very elegant Shiraz Blaufränkisch blend – well worth checking out.

All the wines in the tasting (see This Week’s Wine Review) were eminently drinkable and delightful wines making this is a brilliant example of vintage variation, as the grapes come from the same paddock and the wines were all made by the same winemaker, ergo the difference between them is the variation in vintage conditions.

This consistency augurs well for the variety’s future here in Australia as consumers gradually swing towards lighter styles of red wines and other cool-climate winemakers hop on board with this exciting, enticing and even possibly sexy, Austrian Emerging Variety.

Have a great week, stay safe and enjoy fabulous Aussie #emergingvareties wines.

Winery Links:

This Week's Wine Review:

This week to accompany the Blog, is a review of the first vertical tasting of Australian Blaufränkisch conducted by the “Aussie Champions” of the variety – Hahndorf Hill Winery.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the tasting of the HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2008 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (their first vintage), the 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and the soon to be released 2018 vintage.

The wines tasted were:

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2008 BLAUFRÄNKISCH – the first Australian Blaufränkisch (1 trophy, 2 gold medals):  Savoury meaty and red berry aromas. A peppery palate with stacks of flavour and still a bit tight on the finish with great fine tannins. At 13-years-old, powering along with a long life in front of it.

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2009 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (1 trophy, 2 gold medals, inc AWC Vienna + Top 100 – Adelaide Advertiser):  Slightly lighter and more gamey on the bouquet. A rich, round palate, more fruit and softer tannins but still quite tight on the finish. A perfect example of the latent nobility of this variety.

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2010 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (Gold medal AWC Vienna + 95 points/Top rated Alternative Red – James Halliday Wine Companion):  A younger version of the 2008, with masses of flavour. Still has some youth characters and is not quite as tight as the 2008, with greater elegance and depth from a warmer year. My pick of the flight!

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2012 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (Silver medal): From a lesser year, soft, gentle aromas, savoury olive, cured meats aromas, graphite and spice to the fore on the palate. Ready to be enjoyed right now.

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2013 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (3 gold medals inc Berlin):  A mid-point in style between the 2008 and 2010 and that of the 2009 and 2015. A bit less intense, a hint of vegetative characters on the bouquet, slightly higher acidity with a lesser degree of savouriness but more minerality. A keeper!

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2015 BLAUFRÄNKISCH (Gold medal Berlin + 2 silver medals):  Young, fresh colour, vibrant bouquet with red berries, minerality and a hint of graphite. A divine palate with masses of flavour, more complex, fabulous aging ability. Will become stunning in a few years’ time.

HAHNDORF HILL BLUEBLOOD 2018 BLAUFRÄNKISCH:  Bright purple/red in colour, subdued black and red berries on the bouquet along with more predominant white pepper – graphite characteristics. The palate delightful yet sooo very tight and restrained at this stage.

An infant at this stage, it is very similar to the 2009 in style and will develop spectacularly over the next few years.

This was an exciting, revealing tasting that amply demonstrated the quality and consistency of this native Austrian superstar of lighter style emerging red varieties.

Mark my words, we will be hearing a lot more about BLAUFRÄNKISCH in the years to come. In the meantime also keep an eye out for Hahndorf Hill’s St. Laurent 2021 to be released next year – the first St. Laurent wine made in Australia and probably the whole Southern Hemisphere.

Cheers & Prost! Have a great week, stay safe and enjoy fabulous Aussie #emergingvareties wines.

Winery Link: