There are more than 120,000 acres of land under vine in Austria. Most of the production (about three quarters) is white wine, for which the country is internationally known. But they do grow red grapes as well.
We covered some notable Austrian whites last week. This week, let's sample some reds.
Burgenland, the southernmost region of eastern Austria, is the region known for its red wines. Here are the grapes, in addition to Merlot and Pinot Noir, that you'll find there:
St. Laurent is a red grape that creates a wine similar in appearance and flavor to Pinot Noir.
Blaufränkisch is a red grape that makes wines with moderate levels of tannin and good acidity, and can give sour cherry and peppery flavors.
Zweigelt is a red cross between Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent that makes deeply colored red wines with fairly soft tannins and wild fruit flavors.
Here are some that we sampled recently at a tasting at Bella Vino in Windham:
-- 2011 Tegernseerhof/Mittelbach Rosé, Wachau, Austria, $16.99. 100% Zweigelt. Red grape, with the pressed juice pumped off the skins after a brief exposure, giving it its light red color. A light, whimsical nose of red fruit, etherial in character. A bone dry palate with very good acidity, flavors of red fruit including strawberry and an excellent, light, lively, refreshing finish. 91 points.
-- 2010 Leo Hillinger Eveline PInot Noir, Burgenland, Austria, $23.99. 100% Pinot Noir from the southern wine making region of Burgenland. A ruby red Pinot with a nose of ripe raspberry, a dry palate of raspberry balanced with a light earthiness and a long finish. One word to describe this wine: Elegance. Want to buy a great American West Coast Pinot that runs $80-100, but the bank account won't allow it? Here's your answer. 91 points.
-- 2010 Leo Hillinger Small, Burgenland, Austria, $18.99. A Red blend of 25% Pinot Noir, 25% St. Laurent and 50% Merlot. A ruby colored red wine, in the range typical for a Pinot Noir, with a rich nose of red fruit, and a rich palate of raspberry, ripe plum, good tannin, balanced acidity with a certain earthiness joining the components along the way to the finish. Filet mignon or prime rib come to mind. 91 points.
-- 2010 Netzl Carnuntum Cuvee, Burgenland, Austria, $19.99. 40% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufränkisch, 20% Merlot. The last of our reds, with a ruby/garnet color, light intensity nose of red fruit, a dry, light bodied palate with raspberry, pepper and dark cherry flavors, well balanced, subtle finish. 91 points.
Take a step into the unfamiliar and seek out some of these distinctive wines. They will more than repay the attention you give them.
Jim Beauregard is a local wine and beer writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.