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Snooth User: VeniVidiVini

Got Blaufrankisch?

Posted by VeniVidiVini, Sep 12, 2007.

A while back The New York Times Wine Critic Eric Asimov wrote about blaufrankisch , an Austrian/German grape varietal that produces an earthy red wine that I personally love. Asimov noted that the wine may not have gained the popularity it deserves in the US because people are unable to pronounce its name. "Think of how many potentially pleasurable experiences await if we can get past the strangeness of names and taste the wines," Asimov noted.
I agree. My first blau experience was at New York City 's Ocean Grill where I tried Long Island winery Channing Daughters ' version. I chose it because my family and I wanted something reasonably priced (it was then $38 or so) and because I'd never heard of this varietal and couldn't pronounce it (I'm the adventurous type). Bottom line - I was curious and it was cheap.
The wine was surprisingly delicious (to Ocean Grill's credit, the server explained it beautifully and encouraged us to try it) and food-friendly. My parents liked the fruit, I liked the rusticity. We all appreciated the price. Blaufrankisch had gained some needed American fans.
I mention this now, because fall is almost here and Blau is the perfect fall wine. Asimov noted in his blog that he had tried it at the West Village Southeast Asian restaurant Fatty Crab and it worked well with a spicy meat/seafood dish. It was also well-suited to the fish dishes my family and I had at Ocean Grill.
If you can't find the Channing Daughters Blau (it's a small production wine that is virtually always sold out), try the Austrian Paul Achs Blau (I believe it's organic too!). And please remember to add your ratings to Snooth- we want to know what you're drinking…

Replies

Blog comment by Lynn Hoffman, Sep 12, 2007.

I just got back from another wine trip to Austria. You can find hundreds of great bottles of juicy, earthy blaufränkisch for under ten buck and a gazillion under twenty.
By far the best thing to do is it visit, particularly the Burgenland region just south of Vienna. It's where the Viennese go to get away and drink lots of Blau.

you can find out more at http://www.winesfromaustria.com and get some great travel help at http://www.austria.info

--Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and
the novel bang BANG. ISBN 9781601640005

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Reply by dvogler, Nov 24.

I'll be accused of dumpster-diving with this, but I stumbled across this while trying to find the recent thread where some of you were talking about Asimov.

Anyway, this person (above) failed to realize that Blaufrankisch is also called Lemberger.

Kiona (Washington winery) makes some and I tasted it in March and LOVED it. 

Anyone know of any California Lemberger?

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Reply by outthere, Nov 24.

Wind Gap does a Spring Mountain Blaufränkisch. Really enjoyed the '10 so when it was offered in '12 I jumped on it as well.

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Reply by JonDerry, Nov 24.

Not a bad dumpster dive at all...think I've yet to try the Blau.

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Reply by gregt, Nov 24.

Not much grown in CA - it's a grape that does well in slightly cooler areas and too many people think that Pinot Noir is the only grape worth considering when you get to that category. I think that's mostly because of marketing and because people just don't taste very many grapes other than the top ten.

In any case, the literal translation is Blue Franc. Jed Steele trademarked that name however, (go figure) so nobody else can use it except one guy in Michigan who's his nephew. And who, BTW, makes a pretty good BF at a winery called Shady Lane. Best domestic BF by far is also from Michigan of all places, called Circa.

There's some in NY, which makes sense, but it's not in the same league. The stuff from WA called Lemberger, or Steele's BF, isn't really all that great. Best BF I've had comes from Hungary, especially from the mountains of Eger, but nobody's importing any. The second region known for it is Szekszárd but that's warmer and the wine lacks the peppery quality of the Eger wines, as does Ach's. The mountains matter!. Besides, his Syrah is far better than his BF although that's also rarely imported, unfortunately.

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Reply by JonDerry, Nov 24.

I stand corrected...good info Greg.

Szekszard Blau by Kefrancos rings a bell, though I remember not caring for it.

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Reply by vin0vin0, Nov 24.

Had an Austrian blaufrankisch earlier this year from the Leo Hillinger Winery.  Here's my tasting notes:

Fairly light weight Austrian red from the blaufrankisch grape. Medium to dark purple, red berries, bright cherries and some decent acidity. This leans more on the acidity and less on the fruit similar to an inexpensive pinot.

Seemed to remember not being too impressed especially since it was in the $15-20 price range.

I can attest to GregT's observations about the excellent cool climate wines coming out of Michigan, mainly the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas.

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Reply by dvogler, Nov 24.

Well this is weird. 

Greg, you must not have tried the Kiona Lemberger.  I wasn't hammered at the Taste Washington event in March and I remember how surprised I was.  It was quite fruity.  The guy (actually from the winery) said to hang onto some for as long as you can stand it (implying like ten years) and it would be wicked.

I have two 2011 and two 2012 and will be lucky to make it a couple more years and I'll do a comparison.  I actually have a Mt. Boucherie (BC) Blaufrankisch that I'll throw in with them and see how it compares.

Why don't you hop on up to Victoria Greg and well blow through my entire cellar?

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Reply by gregt, Nov 25.

Jon - Kékfrankos is the name for BF in Hungarian! "Kék" means blue, so you have Kékoportó, which means Blue Portuguese, which is another red grape in Hungary.

Szekszárd is known for their Kékfrankos, and it's one of the ingredients in Bikaver, or "Bull's Blood", which unfortunately was so debased under communism that it's basically a joke today in the US. But there are people working on the reputation of the blend, just like they did in Chianti in the 1970s and in Austria in the 1970s, and there's some really good bikaver made these days.

The composer Franz Liszt, who was Hungarian, loved the bikaver from Szekszárd and the first references to that wine are about the Szekszárd version. But only in Eger were you able to actually bottle it as such.

There's a lot of arguing between them about which place "invented" it. One story is that the guys in Eger were being attacked by the Ottoman armies and figured they were dead anyway, so they got drunk and ran down the mountain to attack the Ottoman army, screaming and ready to die. The Ottoman army was so surprised and bewildered that they abandoned the field. They thought the red wine running down the beards of the guys was blood.

It's obviously a fanciful story because the Ottoman army would have known wine, but it's a good story nonetheless.

In any event, in Eger bikaver is usually heavy on Kékfrankos but in Szekszárd it's usually Kadarka-based. I always wondered why the Hungarians didn't really focus on Kékfrankos and I've heard a lot of reasons, one being that the name itself indicates that it's French rather than Hungarian. That's kind of BS because those "French" grapes were really brought in by people we would consider Germanic today, but whatever.

In Szekszárd they grow some good Kadarka, which was brought in by the Serbs about 700 years ago and which is often considered more "indigenous" to Hungary than some other grapes, as well as the ubiquitous Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, which Hungary can do quite well, and Merlot, Kékfrankos, Zweigelt, Kékoportó, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. And there's a crazy guy there who is also growing Sagrantino and some Italian grapes, some of which I got to taste a few weeks ago.

Until the 20th century, it was pretty rare to do monovarietal wines in most places - that's something that the Americans really came up with in the 1970s. You had Burgundy and Piedmont, and it's not even clear that the wines of Piedmont were always monovarietal, but most places in Europe made blends.

So it's really kind of a brand new thing to be finding monovarietal Kékfrankos and I'm not sure anyone has really figured it out yet. At its best it has great acidity, somewhat lighter body than Merlot or Cab Sauvignon, and a black pepper note over a cherry base. I've only found that in Eger but almost got in in Michigan. I think it has to do with the cold, as it comes in Syrah sometimes when it's not grown in an overly warm place. It's why I like the Syrah from Achs actually.

D - sorry but I've had the Kiona a number of times. I like the Kiona winery and I'm willing to try it again, but it wasn't my fave. There's another one up there - Shooting Star? The Kiona is way better. Now I'm going to have to find some to refresh my memory!

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Reply by EMark, Nov 25.

OK, so they grow Blue French and Blue Portuguese wines in Hungary.

Have they tought of growing Green Hungarian?    

Sorry, I had to.  As usual, an interesting and informative post, Greg.

Holy crap.  I just checked Wikipedia.  It says that Green Hungarian actually comes from Hungary.  Up until this moment, I thought it was a hybrid developed in some university lab.  I am humbled once again.

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Reply by gregt, Nov 25.

"Green Hungarian" used to be almost common in CA. Recently I met a guy who told me his neighbor had some vines that he had brought over from Hungary, woven into a kind of wreath so they'd get past customs. He had come over after the revolution in the 1950s and brought these vines which he was now growing to produce wine. But he has no idea what it is. Maybe he just brought over some more Green Hungarian?

But in case you're interested, it's not only about grapes. This is available at WalMart -


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Reply by dvogler, Nov 25.

(sssshhhhh! Greg T is a Wal-Mart shopper.  I hope he doesn't buy his wine there)

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Reply by dvogler, Nov 25.

OT,

Do you have another '10, or is this photo of the one you drank?  Are you going to hang onto the '12, or whenever it strike you, you'll pop it?

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Reply by gregt, Nov 25.

Of course I shop at WalMart! I like the crowd and the practical ideas. Just cut the hash marks out of your briefs and you have a nice halter top for your girlfriend or wife! And it's lovingly made with your own little hands too - she's bound to appreciate it!


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Reply by dvogler, Nov 25.

Greg, you know this is going to run WILD now right?


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