A grape once condemned as only good for simple bulk wines, blaufränkisch has proven its critics wrong in its native Austria, as well as slowly being seen as an interesting prospect in Australian conditions.
Also known as
Blaufränkisch is also known as limburger or lemberger, mainly in Germany and the United States.
What blaufränkisch tastes like
Dark fruited primarily, good examples of blaufränkisch are generally characterised by dark forest berries, black cherries and dry brown/black spices, but there are also typically red fruited notes there, too. While it can be quite powerful, blaufränkisch tends to be savoury, too, with dry dusty minerality often a feature, though this depends on site.
Vineyard & winemaking
Budding early and ripening late, blaufränkisch is a variety suited to warmer sites and is somewhat prone to disease. In Austria, it was often historically pushed to high yields, which it is more than capable of achieving, with the wines somewhat thin, and proper ripeness elusive. But with crops limited, blaufränkisch produces wines of deep intensity that can reflect the minerality of a site very effectively. Blaufränkisch can have both arresting tannins and bright acidity even at full ripeness, and though it can be quite powerful, a careful hand is needed to balance it with oak flavours.
Where is blaufränkisch grown?
Associated most notably with Austria, blaufränkisch is planted heavily in the warmer zones in the Czech Republic and occupies almost 10 per cent of vineyard land in Slovakia. It also has meaningfully large plantings in Hungary, Romania and Slovenia, while in Germany it is primarily grown in Württemberg, near Stuttgart, where it generally produces simpler wines. It is in Austria, though, that it has achieved the most fame, with much of that acclaim coming from the efforts of winegrowers in Burgenland and Neusiedlersee in the east. That wasn’t always the case, with the variety long seen as a supplier of jug wine to wine taverns, or heurigers, where vignerons sell their wares seasonally. That all changed toward the end of the 20th century when Austrian wine as a whole had a huge quality push, with reds a little in the shadow of the grüner veltliner and riesling, but blaufränkisch and sankt laurent also stamped themselves as capable of making wines of distinction.
Blaufränkisch around the world
Blaufränkisch has found somewhat of a New World home in the United States, with it first planted in the 1960s in the Yakima Valley. And while it is hardly heavily planted anywhere, meaningful vineyards exist on both the East and West Coasts, as well as in inland regions like Colorado and Montana.
Blaufränkisch in Australia
Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills has been at the forefront of cultivating Austrian varieties in Australia. They weren’t quite the first to plant grüner veltliner, with Lark Hill and Stoney Rise a couple of years earlier, in 2004, but they have pushed that cause more than any other, and they certainly had a jump on everyone for blaufränkisch. In fact, when Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson purchased an existing vineyard in the early 2000s, blaufränkisch and trollinger had been in the ground for over a decade, with the original owners Austrian immigrants. Jacobs and Dobson have since also planted Sankt Laurent and Zweigelt, the two other key Austrian red grapes. Hahndorf Hill made Australia’s first varietal blaufränkisch in 2008. Tasmania’s Stefano Lubiana now makes a blaufränkisch from his own wines, while Winter Brook in the Tamar has the variety planted, and Mac Forbes has smattering of vines also.
Some of the best Australian blaufränkisch