Weingut Paul Achs Altenberg Blaufrankisch 2006
Fog and humidity arise from the Neusiedlersee (lake), and extend over the wet flatlands region of the same name, all the way to Austria’s border with Hungary. This moisture, coupled with the daily sunshine that reflects from its wet surfaces, serves as the perfect environment for the development of the desirable fungus called, Botrytis cinerea.
This fungus causes the grapes to essentially “rot” and dry, concentrating their sugars for harvest. It also helps the grapes develop intricate phenolic complexities leading to some of the most sought-after and unique sweet wines in the world. Austrian law categorizes these botrytized, sweet wines according to the must weight (sugar concentration) at harvest in the same way as the Germans. So the wines will be labeled, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein.
While the region’s reputation has historically ridden on the success of its sweet, botrytized wines, in 2011, Austria granted the official appellation of origin, Neusiedlersee, to its high quality Zweigelt red wines. As a result, any of its prestigious sweet wines will be actually be labeled after the general region of Burgenland.
Neusiedlersee’s slopes of mica, schist, limestone and variations in gravel, sand and clay make it ideal for its indigenous red varieties, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and Zwiegelt, as well as the international varieties of Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder), Merlot, Cabernet and even Syrah.
Though not widely planted here, some white wines, such as Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), have distinguished themselves locally.
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!