I indulged myself a little a little over Christmas, opening up some more expensive wines that I had accumulated over the year. Three of the best red wines I tasted were from Austria – and they are included in my wines of the week. I have written many times about Austrian white wines, and several times on the reds too, but this was a timely reminder as to how good the red wines really are.
All of the wines below are 13 per cent alcohol or less, so if you like lighter wines but don’t want to suffer any loss in flavour, these are really worth trying. I sometimes liken Austrian red wines to good Beaujolais. The basic wines are light, fresh and full of pure fruit. As with the crus of Beaujolais, the best are delicious, complex wines that offer good value compared with some of the better-known wine names.
Blaufränkisch is probably the most impressive indigenous variety, one that has improved out of all recognition in recent years. The best come from the Burgenland, Austria’s warmest wine region. It runs along Lake Neusiedl and further south along the Hungarian border. Sub-regions such as Leithaberg, Eisenberg and Mittelburgenland are carving out a reputation as the finest producers of this grape. You will also find blaufränkisch in neighbouring Hungary, where it is called kékfrankos; Germany, where it is known as lemberger; and frankovka elsewhere in central Europe. Look out for the excellent Irish-made Roka blaufränkisch from Slovenia.
As well as the producers mentioned below, keep an eye out for Pittnauer, Heinrich, Braunstein, Moric, Umathum, Wellanschitz and Weninger. Dorli Muhr, producer of the Muhr van der Niepoort (see below), and one of the leading exponents of blaufränkisch, will visit Ireland next week, holding a dinner in Clanbrassil House restaurant on Wednesday, February 5th.
Austria is producing increasingly good pinot noir (Terroirs in Donnybrook has the Johanneshof Reinisch pinot noir for €18.50 and look out for the Pittnauer pinot noir) and two other local grapes are also receiving increased attention. Once dismissed as only good for simple everyday wines – and there’s nothing wrong with that – it is now accepted that zweigelt and its cousin grape variety sankt laurent are both capable of producing good-quality wines, often as part of a blend with blaufränkisch and other varieties. The first two wines below feature such blends.
Most Austrian red wines are best drunk alongside white meats such as chicken and pork, roasted, grilled or in creamy stews. Vegetarians could try tomato-based stews and pasta dishes.
Zull Lust & Laune 2018, Niederösterreich
13 per cent, €13.95 down from €15.95 during February.
Light, juicy black cherry and blackberry fruits with good supporting acidity. This would go nicely with a plate of charcuterie. Stockists: O'Briens, obrienswine.ie
Ink 2018, Judith Beck, Burgenland
12.5 per cent, €17.95
Crunchy, vibrant black cherry and damson fruits with a lively, refreshing acidity. Serve very lightly chilled with grilled chicken or pork.
Stockists: Baggot Street Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Loose Canon; Le Caveau; Bradleys Off Licence Cork; Cass & Co Dungarvan; Clontarf Wines; Fallon and Byrne; The Drink Store Stoneybatter; Green Man Wines; The Corkscrew; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Martins Off Licence; 64 Wines.
Prieler Johanneshöhe blaufränkisch 2017, Burgenland, organic (in conversion) and vegan
13 per cent, €25
A very refined, instantly drinkable wine with silky smooth dark cherry and damson fruits with a touch of spice. Try it with ham, roast pork, mushroom risotto or roast chicken.
Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie.
Samt & Seide blaufränkisch 2016, Muhr van der Niepoort, Carnuntum, Austria
13 per cent, €27
Samt & Seide translates as “velvet and silk”, aptly describing the wine. Soft smooth, fresh, clean dark fruits perfectly balanced by a light, cleansing acidity. With pork dishes.
Stockists: Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6; redmonds.ie; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; elywinebar.ie; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com.