There is an old saying that copying someone is the oldest form of flattery. In the past few years, native Austrian grape varietals have seen increased popularity and, naturally, others around the world are beginning to plant them. Although “Lemberger” (another name for Blaufränkisch) has been around for a decent amount of time in the Northern portion of the US, it has only recently begun being planted in other areas, such as Virginia, and it’s increasingly being referred to by it’s indigenous name.

We were contacted by Wine Compass Blog via Twitter a short time before the conference who suggested we find a time to do a head-to-head Bläufrankisch tasting…Austria against Virginia.

The players:

Austria: 2008 Feiler-Artinger Umiss Blaufränkisch ($22 srp): From Burgenland grown in chalky soils. Fruit is sourced from 30 hectares of vine grown in some of the best vineyard sites in Rust. The winery founded in 193o and is currently run by grandson, Karl Feiler. The wine is  100% Blaufränkisch and has spent 9-12 months in oak barrels, 20%  in barriques.

Virgina: 2009 Otium Blaufränkisch ($20 srp): 100% Blaufränkisch. The vineyards were planted in Northern Virgina in 2007 alongside another uncommon varietal for this area, Dornfelder. The German-born vintner founded the winery and his plantings are among the first of their kind. There is not a lot of information available regarding the practices used to vinify the wine, but the result leads us to believe it was done in stainless steel. The 2009 is the first year the winery bottled any Blaufränkisch.

The taste:

Austria: Distinctly earthy with the presence of cherries and strawberries and a generous amount of spiciness. Slightly garnet in coloring of medium intensity so that the words on the page were still visible behind. In short, it’s what one might expect from a distinctly Austrian Blaufräkisch with layers of flavor.

Virginia: In the other glass we found a candied nose of ripe cherries and red fruits and a nearly opaque coloring leaning closer to that of dark purple. On the palate, the same character as in the nose came through, except the assumed sweetness of the aroma. Instead, full-bodied, inky tannins filled our mouths leading to a lasting finish.

So which was better?

Well, that’s not really a fair question. The wines are completely different as they are made in an entirely different style, climate and soil. While there is an underlying theme to the grape evident in both the differences between the old and new world styles is astounding. Our preference is, of course, the Feiler-Artinger, but that’s just what we’re used to. We’d like to commend the  Otium Winery for taking a risk and extending the reach of such an amazing varietal.

Where else have you had a chance to try Blaufränkisch?