Prieler Marienthal Blaufrankisch 2011
The source of Austria’s finest botrytized sweet wines, Burgenland covers a lofty portion of Austria's wine producing real estate. It encompasses the smaller regions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland. The latter two are most associated with their exceptional red wines. The region as a whole produces no shortage of important whites.
Neusiedlersee, named for the lake that it surrounds to the east, is home to a great diversity of grape varieties. The region’s most notable wines, however, are the botrytis-infected, sweet versions.
Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, which wraps the lake on its western side, includes the town of Rust, a historically esteemed wine community. Its close proximity to the lake’s fog and mist make it another source of some of the more prestigious botrytized wines. Neusiedlersee-Hügelland also produces fine Blaufränkisch, Pinot Blanc, Neuburger and Grüner Veltliner, though a label will usually name the more general, Burgenland, so as not to confuse it with its eastern cousin, Neusiedlersee, across the lake.
Blaufränkisch is well suited to and makes up over half of the vineyard area in Mittelburgenland. The region’s hills and plateaus, which are composed of variations in schist, loess and clay-limestone, produce high quality reds with interesting diversity.
Südburgenland, also known for its deep, complex and age-worthy Blaufränkisch, is beginning to turn out some alluring whites from Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).
Inky magenta in color with aromas of violets, herbs and spices, Blaufrankisch was first documented in Austria as far back as the 18th century and today is the second most planted red variety in Austria after its own offspring, Zweigelt. Blaufrankisch thrives in Burgenland as well as in the warmer sites of Niederösterreich (including Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal). While most of the global acreage of Blaufrankisch remains in Austria, the variety has travelled a bit outside of its homeland and taken on a few different names. In Hungary it remains well regarded and goes by Kékfrankos; in Bulgaria it is Gamé; in the Czech Republic, Serbia and Croatia, Frankovka; and in Friuli, it is called, Franconia. The Germans call it Lemberger. Oregon claims a small amount of acreage; there it goes by its Austrian name.
In the glass
Blaufrankisch typically has a deep red to purple color, medium body, fine tannins and a racy acidity. On the palate it is full of blackberry, black cherry, tart red cherry and accents of black pepper, herbs and allspice.
Versatile because of its deep fruit, and medium tannins and acidity, Blaufrankisch goes well with smoked sausage, lighter meats, vinegar marinades, balsamic dressings, tomato-based sauces and of course, traditional Austrian dishes like red potato goulash and creamy spaetzle.
In pre-Medieval times grapes were divided into superior quality, that is those whose origins lay with the Franks, called “Frankisch,” and then all others, which were deemed inferior. Because this grape was well revered, it got the name, blau (meaning blue or dark) and “Frankisch,” or Blaufrankisch. The grape was actually born from a crossing of Blauer Zimmettraube and Gouais blanc, the latter also a parent of many of our modern favorites: Chardonnay, Gamay, Aligoté, Riesling and Furmint!