Burgenland is internationally famed not only for its sweet wines, but also for red wines that achieve truly outstanding expression. The two indigenous (in technical jargon ‘autochthon’) red wine varieties Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch dominate the Burgenland vineyards and seduce wine drinkers and connoisseurs with their charming and unique character.
Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt
Blaufränkisch is the predominant black grape variety in Burgenland; in all of Austria it is ranked second. The variety was first documented 1200 years ago as a grape that impressed with complex, dark berry flavoured red wines. The robust and intense structure pairs with concentrated fruit character to build a solid foundation for extraordinary ageing potential. Blaufränkisch covers a broad spectrum of styles ranging from easy-drinking, fruit-driven red wines all the way to “reserve” or single-vineyard wines with tremendous depth of aroma and terroir expression. Regional diversity is clearly communicated with subtle differences between wines from Gols, Rust, Pöttelsdorf, Horitschon, Neckenmarkt, Deutschkreutz, Lutzmannsburg, Eisenberg and Deutsch Schützen thus confirming the exceptionality of this Burgenland grape variety.
Zweigelt is found in around 2800 hectares in Burgenland. The spectrum of wines range from fresh, fruity wines with intense cherry and amarelle fruit that are destined to be drunk young, all the way to powerful growths that have been matured in small oak barrels. The seductive texture and velvety tannins highlight the charming fruit of this grape variety. Zweigelt feels particularly at home in the region surrounding Lake Neusiedl. The advantageous climate brings forth spicy, harmonious wines.
Due to the great significance of these two varieties it is no wonder that they play leading roles in wines of geographic origin. Blaufränkisch is the variety behind Leithaberg DAC, Mittelburgenland DAC and Eisenberg DAC, while Zweigelt is the protagonist for Neusiedlersee DAC.
Neusiedlersee DAC: This region stretches from the north and down the eastern shore of Lake Neusiedl and encompasses a vineyard area of 7,000 hectares making it the largest geographic wine origin of Burgenland. It is situated in the heart of the Pannonian climate zone. The microclimate is influenced significantly by Lake Neusiedl and yields harmonious, soft, spicy, fruit-driven wines from Zweigelt.
LeithabergDAC: A unique, pure expression distinguishes the wines of this origin. The typical geology of the region is comprised of mica-schist and marine limestone that yield wines of finesse with subtle mineral character. Next to the Leithaberg red (Blaufränkisch), there is also a Leithaberg white that is vinified from the varieties Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and/or Neuburger.
Mittelburgenland DAC: This region has a long tradition for the Blaufränkisch variety, which has earned it the nickname “Blaufränkischland”. The majority of the vineyard area here is planted with Blaufränkisch. It was therefore only logical that Mittelburgenland define three categories of the fruity, spicy Blaufränkisch as the typical wines of geographic origin. The robust, clay-rich soils of Mittelburgenland strongly influence the style to yield wines with powerful tannin structure and subtle spice.
Eisenberg DAC: This region is located in the very south of Burgenland. Its soft rolling hills and steep slopes are planted with grape vines. Approximately 150 hectares are dedicated to Blaufränkisch here. This size may be modest, but the wines have an inimitable mineral character due to the unique iron-rich soils.
Red wine as food accompaniment
The grape varieties Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch are particularly well-suited to the Pannonian cuisine of autumn: St. Martin’s Day goose, beef stew, braised meats, game, and robust beef dishes are found on many restaurant menus at this time of year.
The most traditional autumn dish of Burgenland is “Martinigansl”, the St. Martin’s Day goose. The heat during roasting transforms the surface of the meat into a crispy brown crust with soft smoky flavours. These roasted, smoky aromas are reflected harmoniously in tannic red wines. Elegant Zweigelt or nicely matured Blaufränkisch are particularly well-suited accompaniments to this dish.
Roast beef, beef rouladen, braised beef cheeks – there is always a sauce that accompanies these dishes and this determines the choice of wine. Because the meat becomes wonderfully tender and next to the roasted aromas, subtle sweet notes develop, dishes like this are good terrain for fruity, yet sophisticated wines. A mature, harmonious Zweigelt is an exemplary pairing choice. Wines with these dishes should be concentrated and juicy and have substantial tannin content.
Tafelspitz was the Austrian Emperor’s favourite dish and it enjoys cult status in Austria. The name is actually a cut of beef from the bottom sirloin primal cut. It is simmered in broth with root vegetables and typically served with fried potatoes and a mix of minced apple and horseradish or horseradish cream. Austrian butchers give almost every muscle of beef a separate name and each has its own attributes as a pot roast and requires a sauce and special side dishes to be fully appreciated. This makes wine pairing capricious, but a fruity Zweigelt can be absolutely delightful. Red wines here should be medium-bodied, fruity, and served slightly chilled.
A final epicurean tip from the regional cuisine of Burgenland is the Filet of Wetland Ox – a meat specialty from South Burgenland. The favourite wine to pair with this is a Blaufränkisch in the reserve category. Its complex aromas and concentrated structure make it an ideal partner for the flavourful dark meat.
**This posting was bought to you by Wein Burgenland.