The Next Go-To Red is Austria’s Zweigelt

This is the Red Wine for White Wine Drinkers


These days, Austrian Zweigelt is no stranger to wine lists. Sommeliers at the trendiest restaurants and wine bars in major cities arm themselves with Austria’s shining star. While Zweigelt is grown in a few other places (like Japan and British Columbia, for example), the grape truly is synonymous with Austria.

Its recent surge in popularity (plantings have grown by fifty percent since 2000) is astounding, but not surprising. Zweigelt is one of the most agreeable red wines you will experience. Alcohol levels are low to moderate, and the fruits are bright and friendly. They can be young, fresh, upbeat wines for everyday drinking. They also can be barrel-aged show stoppers – a newer phenomenon just starting to take hold. The zippy, exuberant red and purple fruits are palate pleasers for red and white wine drinkers alike. Indeed, Zweigelt undeniably is the red wine for white wine drinkers.

Winemakers across Austria are experimenting with Zweigelt in new and exciting ways. Join me for a deep-dive into this fun and fruity varietal.
Zweigelt is an ingenious cross between two indigenous Austrian varietals, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent.  Varietal Blaufränkisch can be gamey and spicy with high acidity and bright fruits. Varietal St. Laurent can be notably aromatic with fine, silky tannins and dark berry fruits. The two in combination yields something quite special, with facets of each grape contributing to a greater whole.

 In 1921, botanist Fritz Zweigelt founded a grape breeding station at Klosterneuburg, a research and technology institute just outside of Vienna. He wanted to create a grape that would resist vine diseases and produce generous yields. His first big success came in 1922 with Rotburger. Its name was a portmanteau of rot (red) and Klosterneuburg (the Institute). The grape remained fairly unknown until 1956, when growers noticed how well it weathered a particularly harsh winter. It was renamed Zweigelt in 1975, to honor its creator.

Zweigelt is a friendly and consistent wine. The initial wave of cherry red fruits ride in on a unique blend of spices – cinnamon, violet, and a distinctive floral note. The grape retains its signature aromas from bottle to bottle. I am also pleased to report Zweigelt is available in the United States at fantastic values.

Here is a shortlist of some favorites I had the opportunity to taste. The full list of wines from this tasting can be found here.


Let’s start with three bottles that fall in the Niederösterreich designation. Niederösterreich, or Lower Austria, encompasses 28,145 hectares of land. It is the country’s largest wine growing area. Two hundred and sixty kilometers of the Danube River cut right through the Niederösterreich. The river valleys are breathtaking. They set the stage for superior grape growing.

Forstreiter Zvy-Gelt Zweigelt Niederösterreich 2013

This family has been making wine since 1968. Vineyards are located in the Kremstal, along the right bank of the Danube River, across from the Wachau. The wine brings expansive, generous fruit with lots of floral notes - ripe juicy red berries and cherries, fresh spice and a touch of savory earth. Bright and juicy on entry with a tart and tarry, thick streak of tannins and earth welling up on the mid palate, violet petals and dark plum, blueberry notes and a finish of licorice and herb. It’s a true steal at roughly eight to twelve dollars per bottle. 90 pts.

Johannes Zillinger Velue Zweigelt Niederösterreich 2015

This wine is Biodynamic and Demeter certified. Like many Austrian producers, the Zillinger grapes are farmed in accordance with the rhythms of nature. The yeasts are native. Nice depth, floral aromas of raspberry and cranberry with earthy mineral notes adding another dimension. Tart, perky red fruit flavors of astringent cranberry, red currant and raspberry, this is refreshing and easy drinking, with surprising depth and a pleasant chewiness from the tannins towards the floral finish. It’s available for around twenty dollars. 90 pts.

Weingut Bründlmayer Zweigelt Langenlois 2015

Grapes used in this wine come from vineyards that once belonged to Fritz Zweigelt himself. It matured in oak casks for twelve to twenty-four months. It’s one of my favorites in this tasting, and well worth the twenty to thirty dollars investment. Cheery cherry and raspberry compote aromas with a floral hint, a touch of chalk and pencil shavings. Medium-high acidity, tart focused fruit notes of cherry, cranberry and red currant with a bold tarry core that turns resinous towards the finish. This is generously fruited and coats the mouth nicely but finishes clean. 92 pts.

Hugl Zweigelt Rosé Niederösterreich 2017

Clocking in around ten dollars per bottle, this rosé of Zweigelt is perfect for your Thanksgiving table. Light, lightly citrusy aromas of tart grapefruit, cherry and cherry blossom, strawberry and honeysuckle. A bit effervescent and lively on the palate this carries tart cherry and plum skin flavors, fresh strawberries, cut flowers and bright acidity. It’s a bit candied towards the finish with a bit of citrus and herb at the very end. 90 pts.


The next three wines hail from the Carnuntum region, a smaller section of the Niederösterreich. Ancient Romans settled the area, and many of their remains are still visible today. Two hundred and thirty-two of Carnuntum’s eight hundred and eighty hectares of vineyards are planted with Zweigelt. The varietal thrives in the region’s gently rolling slopes. The region’s skilled winemakers pay close attention to the wide array of microclimates available to them in Carnuntum. The Zweigelt tends to be grown at higher elevations. Soils vary from fossil limestone to loess and clay.

Artner Zweigelt Klassik Carnuntum 2016

Fresh pie filling aromas of raspberry, strawberry and cherry with hints of cinnamon and moist earth. On the palate this starts out with a pop of acidity and a burst of fruit sweetness - cherry, red currant and raspberry. On the mid palate this opens up with structure and finesse, floral notes of blueberry and a creamy texture. Finishes clean and light with more fruit and earth. Well-made and elegant. 91 pts.

Netzl Rubin Carnuntum Zweigelt Carnuntum 2015

The Rubin was created in 1992 by Carnuntum winemakers. It was created to honor the region’s recent separation from Donauland and establish a unique identity. Rubin wines are 100% Zweigelt with at least 12.5% ABV and aged in barrels for at least six months. Smoky, rich vanilla and cherry-raspberry aromas with chocolate and baking spice, the smooth and mellow aromas are inviting and warm. Spiced and smoked with lots of dark black fruit on the palate, chewy tannins and a creamy texture, toasted oaky notes and a dark chocolate finish that carries a bit of red cherry glaze that brightens the tips. Intriguing wine - good for lovers of oak. 90 pts.

Netzl Zweigelt Classic Carnuntum 2016

Pleasantly soft and floral aromas of cherry and strawberry. Clean and direct on the palate with good varietal character, smoky and tart notes of cranberry and raspberry with deep fruit and full body, enveloping spice and a finish of chocolate cherries and refreshing acidity. This has a touch of medicine and bitter herb on the mid palate that adds some depth and character and finishes with gripping tannins and more smoke. 89 pts.


Now we move to the East with two selections from the Burgenland region. Red vines here thrive in the limestone, schist, and clay soils. Zweigelt tends to be found in the hills, on the outskirts of Lake Neusiedl.

Anita and Hans Nittnaus Blauer Zweigelt Burgenland 2015

Dark, rich and brooding aromas of mineral earth, barnyard and toasted spice, fruit notes of black currant and black cherry, some floral notes and dusty, resinous sawmill aromas. On the palate this is juicy and playful, with medium acidity and notes of plum and cherries, blueberry and cranberry, a floral note alongside baking spice and a pine sap and herb finish that’s warming and pleasant. The thirteen to seventee dollar price point is a good bet. 91 pts.

Paul Achs Zweigelt Burgenland 2015

Paul Achs spent some time growing grapes in Sonoma. He brings those sensibilities to the family winery back in Burgenland. Tart cranberry, cherry and raspberry fruit aromas with moist savory earth notes and a bit of light mushroom. Soft and juicy on entry with lots of red fruit and floral notes, this pushes towards tart cranberry and bold acidity towards the mid palate - this is generous and assertive yet stylish and approachable, finishing with blueberry, strawberry and zesty spice. 90 pts.

Biokult Zweigelt Pinot Noir Burgenland 2017

Zweigelt can be found in red blends, but I was most impressed by its union with Pinot Noir. Intriguing and alluring aromas of lightly floral cherry, fresh spice and warm earth, this is elegant and richly fruited. Tart on entry with impressive delivery of ripe red fruit notes of cherry and raspberry, this turns a bit tarry with some bitterness on the mid palate, a hint of cola, toast and forest floor, resin and a finish of cranberry and more cherry.

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