Wine 28: Zweigelt

Because it’s my lucky number and this post returns us to the world of red wine, I thought I’d “stop by” the country that ranks the thirteenth among wine-producing countries: Austria. On average, Austrians drink 200 glasses of wine per year….I’d hate to know how I compare. 😉

Austria’s most widely grown red varietal was created in 1922 at the Teaching and Research Centre for Viticulture and Horticulture in Klosterneuburg, Austria. Fritz Zweigelt originally dubbed his creation rotburger, made by crossing the grapes of St. Laurent and BlaufrĂ€nkisch, but I think it’s safe to say we appreciate the name it’s come to be known by: Zweigelt (pronounced “tsz-veye-gelt”). Though the grape has been around for just shy of a century, it didn’t start to pick up in popularity until after the second World War.

Here’s another fun fact about Austrian wine: back in 1985 Austria was part of quite the wine scandal. It was discovered that a group of wine brokers were adding diethylene glycol (something also used in antifreeze) to wines in order to doctor the taste, making wines fuller and sweeter. Thankfully, it was a short-lived operation and the wines were pulled from shelves without major incident for consumers. But that whole situation actually did a good thing for Austria; it sort of cleansed, as one winemaker put it, the region of inferior wineries who were only in it to make mass-produced styles, leaving behind only those winemakers who viewed winemaking in the same vein as religion or who possessed such great passion for the process and overall outcome.

Zweigelt grows as medium-sized blue-black grapes, in compact clusters that look like they’ve got wings above a conical shape. This grape is extremely fertile, and it doesn’t require a ton from the soil, like other grapes we’ve heard of. That being said, because it grows so well, careful steps are needed in order to ensure the ideal leaf-to-grape ratio is maintained, which means either removing any canopies of leaves that emerge or cutting back some of the fruit that has grown. Even though it seems like a tough guy, this isn’t immune to some of the other stressors that can present themselves during the ripening season, like extreme temperatures, water logging, or lack of nutrients. Factors such as those can result in withered grapes, which is as bad as it sounds. You just can’t make wine from withered grapes!

Zweigelt is grown throughout the country of Austria, and is also planted in Hungary, the Slovak Republic, Canada, and even parts of Washington state. It’s a lighter bodied red, similar to grenache or gamay, that is pretty low on the scale for tannins and acidity, and it’s rarely oaked. This style of wine is meant to accompany a lot of different foods, and oaking a wine can make it more robust, which could limit the types of food it’ll pair well with. Zweigelt is known as the “cherry bomb” as there are abundant characters of red fruits and, you guessed it, cherries! It typically has a bitter note on the finish, which is a result of the cooler climates it grows in.

A few words of wisdom from Wine Folly on serving Zweigelt:

The best advice available to someone who wants to try Zweigelt is to give it about an hour to decant. A Zweigelt that may initially have a bitter or tart finish suddenly becomes deeper and more fruity, exhibiting notes of black cherry and raspberry.

I’ve always been intrigued by this varietal – who doesn’t love saying it?! – but admittedly, don’t typically venture into the Austrian wine section of stores. So when my Bright Cellars shipment arrived with a bottle of Zweigelt, I felt it was destiny (especially because I hadn’t known they made this type of wine)! What I opened for this tasting was the 2017 Herz & Heim (Heart & Home) Austrian Zweigelt, with 13.5% ABV:


What, you might be wondering, is that thing in my glass? It’s the EparĂ© pocket wine aerator I recently bought! “Decanted” in 30 seconds!

Since Wine Folly’s Madeline Puckette said it’s best to decant, I figured this was an excellent reason to put my new pocket aerator to the test. From a Bright Cellars’ newsletter, I learned about this little gadget called Eparé which is almost like a motorized swizzle stick, except instead of swirling something fast, little bubbles shoot out the bottom end of the apparatus. There are settings for white, red, and port/fortified wines, all in 15 second increments. So I tried it out for my tasting and here’s where it got me:


Appearance: Ruby red in color, this wine begins to lighten near the rim. After a good swirl, the legs of this wine slowly melt down the sides of the glass.

Nose: There’s an abundance of dark cherry with the soft aroma of baking spices. You might be mentally transported to deeply breathing in the fragrance of a freshly baked holiday dessert.

Taste: Very low acidity and tannins, this lush wine offered flavors of chocolate covered cherries (not milk chocolate, but almost the bittersweet cocoa powder). I’d call this one a low-to-medium bodied wine.

Overall: I definitely wouldn’t recommend pairing it with sushi, like I did, but really enjoyed it after I let the sushi aftertaste fade. 😉 Zweigelt is the perfect wine to accompany traditional traditional SpĂ€tzle and Schnitzel due to its medium acidity levels, but it could also pair well with our more American fare of chicken tenders and tater tots.

A nice wine from a country I’d like to travel to, Zweigelt was a great option to drink as we start to get into these cooler fall days.

As some Austrians might say, Zum Wohl! To your health!

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