Hans Nittnaus, prize-winning Austrian winemaker, thinks this tasty variety is “perched somewhere between Pinot Noir and Syrah.” Indeed. Divinely elegant, Blaufränkisch has body without heaviness, supple tannins and notes of ripe forest fruits. It can be restrained and subtle or joyously berry fruited. It’s a versatile food wine that works well with almost all meats and spicy dishes. If you can score a mature bottle, smoky undergrowth and earthy fruit tones await.
St. Laurent (San LAUR-ont)
This thin-skinned grape is said to be even more fickle than Pinot Noir—but in the right hands it shines, delivering layers of red fruit. Strawberry and Morello cherry dominate, edged by gentle pepperiness. The tannins are ephemeral and silky, and underneath there is a seductive pull of something truly earthy and authentic. Do the bottle justice with equally subtle food: salmon and mushrooms would work extremely well; miso-flavored dishes would resonate, too.
A cross between Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent, this young grape is the best intro varietal to Austrian reds. Light-hearted in body and style, this often-unoaked wine often has primary plum and strawberry fruit, making it the perfect lunchtime or picnic pour. It’s rarely heavy and usually affordable. Its fruity simplicity could even do with being lightly chilled. It’s a winner with cold meats and salads.
* With its hot Pannonian climate and 300 days of sun each year, Burgenland is like Austria’s own little Sonoma or Mendoza.