The Great Red Wines of Austria


The red wines of Austria are an underappreciated jewel of the wine world. Two-thirds of Austria’s vineyard land is dedicated to white varieties. The remaining one-third belongs to red. The red wines of Austria are a closely guarded secret among wine lovers, but demand is on the rise. Vineyard area for red wine grapes has doubled over the past few decades. The country’s heritage grapes -- Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, and Zweigelt -- are growing in popularity. The first two grapes are the proud parents of the third. Here we explore this grape family tree and suggest some stunning selections from top brands available for purchase in the United States.
In addition to the heritage grapes, Austria boasts some gorgeous interpretations of red varieties from around the world. They, too, are available at fantastic values from your local retailer. Read on for more.

The grape family patriarch, Blaufränkisch, offers layers of complexity with lots of gamey and spicy notes. Acidity is high and tannins are fine. Blaufränkisch takes well to oak, which softens the acidity and amplifies fruit character. Wines created with Blaufränkisch have a dark, ruby color that is particularly striking in its beauty. This grape creates food-friendly wines anxious to express the nuances of terroir and vintage. While you can find plantings in Italy (as Franconia Nera), Germany (as Lemberger), Croatia (as Borgonja) and more, Austria is the grape’s true home. The Blaufränkisch name first appeared in 1862 at a grape variety exhibition in Wien. The International Ampelographic Commission in Colmar, France, officially adopted Blaufränkisch in 1875. Blaufränkisch is Austria’s second most planted red variety after its offspring, Zweigelt, and accounts for 6.5% of Austria’s total vineyard area. There are large concentrations of Blaufränkisch vines in the Burgenland and Mittelburgenland regions.
Burgenland selections are especially attractive thanks the Pannonian Plain’s warming winds. Nearby hills protect the grapes from harsher conditions. The grapes can get at least three hundred days of sunshine per year, and rainfall is low. Blaufränkisch is particularly good at expressing mineral notes of Leithakalk, a marine sediment found in the foothills of the Alps.
A few to try:
Anita and Hans Nittnaus Eastside Blaufränkisch Burgenland 2015
Pungent, dusty floral notes of violet and ripe cherry blossom with a hint of raspberry and brown sugar. Tart, earthy and acidic on the palate with fresh cranberry and cherry fruit, drying tannins streaking through the center with a perfumed character throughout and a nudge of cherry compote and coffee cake crumble on the drying finish.
Heinrich Blaufränkisch Burgenland 2015
Floral, mixed berry aromas with a clean, light and fresh cherry note. Crisp and clean on entry, this brings cherry, cranberry and red currant fruit with a smooth and medium-light body, hints of tarry earth and a savory spice on the finish with more sticky, smoky cranberry.

Eisenberg Wines
Eisenberg, Austria’s smallest appellation, is renowned for its Blaufränkisch. Thousands of years ago Eisenberg was known for high quality ore which was farmed and sold to the Roman empire. In modern times, the iron-rich soil contributes to the terroir of superior quality Blaufränkisch.

Wachter Wiesler Bela-Joska Blaufränkisch Eisenberg 2013
Intriguing savory spice, notes of beef bouillon and floral violets on the nose with fresh cherry and soft earth. Ripe, fresh and medium-full bodied on the palate, presenting up front with loads of berry and cherry fruit, but tightly wound at first, this unravels towards the finish, releasing waves of tannins and tart acidity with an herbal oakiness on the finish.
Straka Blaufränkisch Eisenberg 2015
Light, vanishing aromas of cherry and plum. Rich and full on the palate with a licorice and spice palate, notes of smoky tar and dusty earth, firm tannins and baking spice. Finishes with a smooth, full palate of chocolate and violets.
Click here for a complete list including others to try.
St. Laurent
The official name of this Austrian grape is Sankt Laurent, but you may see some bottles use “Saint Laurent” (the German spelling). The “St” abbreviation helps to keep things simple. St. Laurent plantings in Austria have grown over the last few decades. Producers appreciate the grape for its ability to ripen early and its potential for quality, aromatic wines. The name refers to St. Laurentius, a 3rd century archdeacon of Rome and Catholic martyr. His feast day falls on August 10, which is around when the varietal begins to ripen. St. Laurentius is considered a patron saint of grape growers and winemakers. Wines made from St. Laurent bring aromas of blackberries, sour cherries, plums, and chocolate alongside firm yet silky tannins.
Thermenregion, known for its hot springs, is the warmest part of Lower Austria (also known as Niederösterreich). Red varietals are planted in the south near the towering Anninger mountain (2,214 feet tall). Reams of limestone soils contribute to the unique terroir.
A few to try:
Weingut Schneider Sankt Laurent Thermenregion 2014
Nicely fruity aromas of concentrated black cherry, black currant and blackberry with a creamy vanilla note. Good acidity, nice spice and warm fruit notes of cranberry, cherry and red currant on the palate with a tart and focused herb and spice which gives some complexity to this approachable, lively and refreshing wine.
“Dorflagen” is a German term for “village”. The St Laurent grapes for this wine were selected from fifteen to twenty year-old vines concentrated in the village of Gols.

Pittnauer St. Laurent Dorflagen 2015
A bit restrained with cayenne spice and ripe plum and red currant fruit on the nose. Crisp cranberry, red currant and cherry fruit on the palate with loads of acidity and chewy tannins, turning a bit green towards the finish with a pepper and herb note, some black pepper and a bit of licorice.
Click here for a complete list including others to try.

The child of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent is a spritely sort, filled with ripe blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry fruits plus a touch of floral. Zweigelt plantings grew 48% between 1999 and 2015. It is the most widely planted red grape variety in Austria. Viticulturist Fritz Zweigelt made the first cross in 1922 and called it Rotburger. It was later renamed Zweigelt in his honor. These much-adored Zweigelt wines come in a variety of styles. Some are enjoyed young while others exhibit aging potential. Like most all Austrian reds, Zweigelt can be appreciated for its freshness and crispness – facets of wine that are limited to white varietals in other regions. Zweigelt wines are widely appealing to both red and white wine lovers precisely for this reason.
A few to try:
 Hugl Weine Zweigelt Niederösterreich 2015
Complex aromas of fresh bell pepper, perfumed sweet spice, fresh black cherry and raspberry jam and soft clay. Good acidity and an earthy texture open for a fruity blend of blueberry, black cherry and currant with zesty, warming spice.
Carnuntum is the only region in lower Austria where red grapes dominate over white. This is made possible by the nearby Danube river’s (Donau in Austria) cooling influence. Zweigelt thrives in the loamy soils of this area.

Netzl Rubin Zweigelt Carnuntum 2015
Tarry, earthy and smoky with a dark cherry and raspberry fruit hiding underneath the rich earthy aromas on this brooding nose. A bit more fruit expression on the palate, with chunky blueberry and blackberry fruit wrapped in spice, acidity and a vanishing creamy texture that all but disappears on the finish when gripping tannins and espresso notes take over with a gasp of acidity. Austere and assertive.
Artner Wines Zweigelt Klassik Carnuntum 2015

Raspberry, cherry and red currant aromas are quite fruity. Generous fruit notes of cranberry, cherry, red currant and plum on the palate, tart acidity and fresh cut flowers with a blueberry jammy finish with a hint of coffee candy.
Until 2007, Austria’s Wagram wine region was known as Donauland. The name referred to the nearby Danube (Donau) river. The region decided to establish an identity unique to Austria with a name change. Wagram means "shore”, and it references the nearby town where most of the region’s vines are located. Wagram primarily grows white wine grapes (like Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Roter Veltliner) but they also make delicious Zweigelt.

Diwald Zweigelt Grossriedenthaler Löss Wagram Austria 2015
Stately black cherry and blackberry aromas with perfumed flower aromas and fresh anise seed. Zesty and prickly in the mouth, this comes with plenty of red fruit notes of cranberry, cherry and currant, some tart plum skin, blueberry and oak spice towards the finish of gritty tannins, herbed pine and dark chocolate.
Click here for a complete list including others to try.
Pinot Noir
A new style of Pinot Noir is emerging from Austria – one that delivers the same coolness and crispness you see in all of the country’s wines. These are notably graceful and careful expressions of the grape that will be attractive to all Pinot Noir lovers. The grapes are perfectly ripened yet they retain an aromatic complexity that is hard to capture in a finished wine. Pinot Noir constitutes just 1.3 percent of acres under vine in Austria, but this represents a 58.6% increase in plantings between 1999 and 2009.  
A few to try:
Hillinger Eveline Pinot Noir Burgenland 2015
Sweet spice and lightly floral aromas with rich, syrupy cherry notes and soft strawberry jam. Explosive fruit and bold acidity on entry with a smooth core of blueberry, cherry and strawberry fruit, very juicy and fresh with a pop of fresh spice towards the finish that plays well against the tart cranberry and herbal pine and eucalyptus notes and finishes with cinnamon and nutmeg spice.
De La Rosa Oneg Pinot Noir Weinland Austria 2015
Dusty herbal and darkly spiced on the nose with a mineral note coming off savory oak notes. Tart and red fruited on the palate with dried rice syrup, plum and earthy cranberry notes, a bit of medicine and some pleasant minerality towards the finish of cherry and toast.
Malat Pinot Noir Reserve Furth-Palt Niederösterreich 2013

Tart, spicy and floral with a bit of heat and ripe cherries on the nose. Herbal on entry with tart cranberry, licorice root and birch bark, bright, sharp acidity and a thick streak of tannin coming through with a bit of sticky resin and maple syrup, finishing with a warm spice and a touch of cream.
Click here for a complete list including others to try.
Red Blends
If you don’t wish to commit to a single varietal right now, Austria’s expert winemakers offer a number of carefully crafted red blends too.  This is where winemakers showcase the skills they and their ancestors have cultivated over multiple millennia making wine in Austria.
A few to try:
Heinrich Red Burgenland 2015
Made with each one of the heritage family grapes, Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, and Sankt Laurent. Dark raisin and plum aromas with a toasted smoky richness and soft red fruit notes. Bold and assertive on the palate with zippy acidity, full bodied cinnamon spice and black pepper, and fruit notes of cranberry and sweet cherry, this finishes with a core of dusty earth and smoldering heat, dried eucalyptus leaf and mixed berry.
Biokult Zweigelt Pinot Noir Burgenland 2014
Floral licorice notes with soft sawdust aromas and fruit notes of plum, black cherry and savory minerality. Round and juicy on the palate with blue and red fruit notes - mostly black cherry, red currant and bilberry with a richly creamy textured body, soft tannins and a puff of light smoke and fertile earth on the finish.
Nastl Klassik Cuvée Zweigelt-Merlot Niederösterreich 2015
Soft clay and stone earth aromas with some savory spice and a spiky heat somewhat obscure the cherry and cranberry fruit notes. There's no missing the fruit on the palate though, with a bold generous palate of cherry, cranberry, strawberry and red currant on entry that gives way to a pleasant jaunty spice towards the finish of zesty acidity, dark and smoky roasted cocoa beans and grainy tannins.
Kirnbauer Das Phantom Burgenland 2015
A combination of Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. Earth, dark spice and bold fruit aromas with a stately blend of black cherry, blackberry and black currant fruit on the nose, somehow restrained even in its expression. Dark and brooding on the palate with stormy black cherry and blackberry fruit roiled by strong tannins, bold acidity and a punchy backbone of fresh baking spice, but finishing with an astringency and buoyancy of character and some light cocoa notes.
Click here for a complete list including others to try.

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