We return to a red wine in this post, tasting a light-to-medium bodied wine called Blaufränkisch. I think this is going to be a good season-transitioning wine, taking us from the end of summer into the chilly fall days already upon us!
Blaufränkisch’s parents are believed to be Gouais Blanc (which most wine experts can get behind) and Blaue Zimmettraube (which is debated by many), and it’s thought to have originated in the southern part of Austria, this tiny country that’s just about the same size as the state of Maine.
Primarily grown in Hungary and Austria, Blaufränkisch is also found in larger quantities in Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. You may even find it under a couple aliases as well: kékfrankos and Lemberger (the German name, but also the name used for wines produced in Washington State!). The name Blaufränkisch is comprised of the German word for blue (blau) and the term used to note “a fine wine” (fränkisch). I’ve never been to Austria, but I do have to give it some props as it’s notable for a lot of people, places and things: Sigmund Freud, Mozart, the Viennese waltz, The Sound of Music, and Riedel wine glasses, to name a few.
Side note of sad news in my world – I was supposed to attend a special wine tasting with Riedel wine glasses this past week (your wine glass does make a difference!), but it was cancelled due to a scheduling conflict! I was so looking forward to comparing taste across wine glass shapes but, alas, I’ll have to wait until it’s offered again, or recreate it myself.
Austria is broken up into four different wine regions: Burgenland, Lower Austria, Styria, and Vienna (yep, it’s the only city, let alone capital, that is its own wine region!).
Lower Austria and Burgenland are known for higher quality wines from Austria; the former straddles the Danube River and the latter neighbors Hungary’s border.
Karen MacNiel has such a cool way of describing this wine in The Wine Bible:
Austrian Blaufränkisch is precise and sleek – spicy, herbal, and floral – and all of this plus the flavors of delicious woodland berries and a sense of frostiness. […] It is exactly what one so often wants in order to splice through the meatiness of meat.
This particular varietal can produce wines that are a bit more off-dry with medium to high tannin levels and higher acidity. They tend to have aromas of dark cherry and berries – like blackberry, and same on the palate, although a nice spiciness of allspice or pepper can shine through and become more pronounced as these wines age. Blaufränkisch can be easily influenced by the use of oak, which may overwhelm the other flavors of the wine, so winemakers need to be sensitive to monitoring this throughout the maturation process.
According to Wine Folly, this wine is best served at room temperature (60-68°F) and decanted for roughly 30 minutes. Though you can cellar it, it’s not going to last more than a handful of years, so best to drink it kind of young, when it’ll be more fruit-forward.
This particular varietal, though not Austria’s biggest red star, performs well accompanied with food; your typical German fare like spaetzle, smoked sausage (and other meats, such as lamb) and anything with spices, yet another reason I think this wine can take us into fall.
I’m popping the 2017 Herz & Heim (Heart and Home) Blaufränkisch Qualitätswein from Burgenland, Austria. This 13.6% ABV is another Bright Cellars match:
Appearance: This wine has a deep ruby color in the glass, but it begins to soften in depth nearing the rim.
Nose: This wine has blackberry and pine aromas, along with some spices and dried herbs.
Palate: This wine is medium-bodied and dry, full of brambly fruit and raw leather flavors with slightly green tannins that dry out the sides of your mouth. It’s almost like the tannins aren’t fully developed – which is an odd thing to say – that leaves a slightly bitter taste in the mouth.
Overall: With the level of tannins, I do think pairing this with food would be the best action, which I didn’t. Because of that, I wouldn’t say this ranked super highly on my list, but I’d be willing to try another Blaufränkisch – or this one again! – with a meal to see if it helps to balance everything else out. The aromatics, fruit and herbal notes were great, it’s just the tannin bit that through me off.
This varietal shares similar characteristics with the gamay grape (which is a sibling of Blaufrankisch, so think Beaujolais or Beaujolais Nouveau, which will be hitting shelves the third Thursday of November!) and Zweigelt (an offspring of Blaufränkisch), so if you are looking for something similar that may be a bit easier to find, those are some good options.
As the Austrians say, prost!