BLAUFRANKISCH GRAPE

By Rose Murray Brown MW  Published in The Scotsman 23 June 2018

Imagine a red wine with bright cherry fruits, velvety soft texture and refreshing tart acidity.  The juicy tangy Blaufrankisch grape is the perfect summer time medium-bodied red – ideal for anyone who usually drinks Pinot Noir or Syrah.

Most examples of Blaufrankisch come from Austria, or countries which were once ruled by the Hapsburg monarchy.  It is strangely not that well known in the UK as the wines available from this versatile hidden gem are often great value – like our star value buy – a beautifully mature example of Slovenian Blaufrankisch at just £11.95. 

The grape is believed to derive from a natural cross between Blauer Zimmettraube and Weisser Heunisch.  It was first documented in 1862 at a grape variety exhibition in Vienna in Austria.  It was known as Lemberger after Lemberg in Austria’s Styria and Limberg in Maissau in Austria’s Niederosterreich – and it is still known as Lemberger in Germany today.  Some believe it actually derives from Lower Styria, in an area which is now part of Slovenia.

In Germanic tradition, the Blaufrankisch name it was given derives from its large blueish-black grapes which look distinctly blue in the vineyard.  The Frankisch word comes from the historic Franconia region of Germany.

Austria Blaufrankisch grapeToday, Blaufrankisch is one of Austria’s most popular red grapes covering 6.5% of its vineyard area with just over 3,000 hectares.  This vigorous late ripening grape is most important in Austria’s Mittelburgenland where it grows particularly well on clay-rich soils.  In Eisenberg DAC with its iron rich soils and Leithaberg DAC, examples are particularly nervy and refined.  Austrian wineries who make dense elegant examples are Moric, Nittnaus, Pichler-Krutzler, Wohlmuth and Pieler to name a few. 

Like Pinot Noir, Blaufrankisch is particularly popular for its versatility – as it can make a variety of different styles from light rose, light Beaujolais-style quaffers to serious intense Rhone-like reds for maturing  – through to sweet dessert Eiswein.  It is also a popular crossing partner – with St Laurent it created Austria’s beloved Zweigelt grape.  It was also a parent in the crossing of Blauberger, Roesler, Rathay, Cabernet Mitos – to name a few.

DNA has proved that Kekfrankos (the literal translation of Blaufrankisch) in Hungary is the same grape – and it is more prolific here than in Austria – with 8,000 hectares mainly in Kunsag and Szekszard in the south, Eger in the northeast and Sopron near Austria.   One highly rated Austrian producer, Franz Weninger, makes lively spicy rich examples on both sides of the Austria-Hungarian border in Burgenland and Sopron.

This popular grape is also found in Croatia under the name of Borgonja with 800 hectares, in Slovakia with 2,000 hectares known as Frankovka Modra and even in Italy’s Friuli region with 127 hectares.  It has even crossed the Atlantic now growing in Washington State’s Yakima Valley, Canada’s British Columbia and New York’s Finger Lakes – and down-under with an Austrian-born family in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.

When serving Blaufrankisch, bear in mind that it goes well with similar dishes which match with Pinot Noir.  My favourite is roast duck or lamb – in Austria it is often served with veal or gamebirds and in Hungary with braised meat goulash.  For a summer time red, it would also be delicious with duck breast salad.


TASTE TEST


Podravje, Slovenia: MODRA FRANKINJA 2009 Dveri Pax (13%) 
(£11.95 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)   ***STAR VALUE BUY***

In Stajerska in eastern Slovenia near the Austrian border, Blaufrankisch is known as Modra Frankinja.  The name might be unprounceable but the wine is wonderful and scored very highly in our recent Slovenian tasting.  This beautifully mature lightly oaked perfumed example comes from a steep vineyard near Maribor at the Benedictine Admont Abbey which was revived in 2001, after Slovenia gained independence.

Burgenland, Austria: BLAUFRANKISCH 2015 Feiler-Artinger (13%)
(£10.99 Waitrose)

From my favourite Austrian winemaker, the charming Kurt Feiler-Artinger makes characterful earthy examples of Blaufrankisch in the wonderful town of Rust.  This savoury red tastes similar to an Italian Barbera with its tangy spicy fruit, some tannin structure, with rich dense fruits without being too overpowering.

Burgenland, Austria: CLASSIC BLAUFRANKISCH 2015 Hans Igler (13%)
(£10.50 The Wine Society www.thewinesociety.com)  

Another great example of what good value Blaufrankisch can be.  Juicy, ripe, gently spicy, softly tannic, lightly oaked example which tastes a bit like a tangy young Syrah – with an extra kick of acidity on the finish which makes the grape so refreshing.   Made by Hans Igler’s daughter Waltraud and husband Wolfgang who took over after Hans died.

Burgenland, Austria: BLAUFRANKISCH KULM 2012 Heidi Schrock (13.5%)
(£17 Alpine Wines www.alpinewines.co.uk)

Heidi Schrock is a legend in Burgenland, making some of the best Blaufrankisch examples.  Her Kulm vineyard was planted by her great aunts in the 1950s.  Her wines often do need time to mature, so six years on this example is nearing its best with mellow succulent ripe cherry fruits, subtle oak notes from 14 months in large oak and an elegant textured palate.

Szekszard, Hungary: KEKFRANKOS RESERVE 2012 Ferenc Takler
(£18.50 Woodwinters, Edinburgh & Bridge of Allan)         

Rich black cherry aromas with plummy depth, an open voluptuous palate with soft tannins and a fresh acid bite to the finish.  This is one of Hungary’s best examples of the grape, matured for 14 months in new 500 litres indigenous oak barrels by the well-known Ferenc Takler, a ninth generation winemaker & former Hungarian winemaker of the year.


Join Rose’s Burgundy v New Zealand wine tasting in central Glasgow on Friday 13 July £42 : www.rosemurraybrown.com

 

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