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Blaufränkisch is not the most important red wine variety in Austria, neither in economic terms nor due to its cultivation area, that is clearly the Zweigelt. But when it comes to real top quality, independence and character of origin, there is no way around Blaufränkisch. And this despite the fact that it only plays a significant role in two wine-growing regions: in Burgenland and its sub-zones, where it is indeed by far the most cultivated red wine variety, and in the neighbouring Carnuntum to the north, although here it is limited to the area around the Spitzerberg.

The variety is often referred to as Austria's Pinot Noir, but the two varieties are not at all as similar as is often rumoured. Blaufränkisch tends to have dark fruit aromas, often associated with blackberries, present, mostly tart tannins, noticeable acid bite and likewise dark, finely bitter, often somewhat ethereal spice reminiscent of pepper and juniper. Blaufränkisch has something challenging about it; charm is therefore, with a few exceptions, not the first quality that would come to mind.

For a long time, people counteracted the natural coolness and astringency of Blaufränkisch by harvesting its grapes particularly ripe and giving the resulting wines, which are often full of alcohol and almost thick, intensive treatment with new small wooden barrels. The style is still widespread today and enjoys a loyal following. It works because the acidity and tannins of the Blaufränkisch are still able to lend backbone and a certain freshness to the mighty examples - at least if one does not completely overdo it. Nevertheless, with all the jammy, juicy fruit and the spicy, often reminiscent of cloves and toasty, sometimes bitterly sooty wood aromas that one so often encounters here, two things are almost inevitably lost that are increasingly valued today: Elegance and character of origin.

The trend is therefore now going in a completely different direction. Admittedly, there have always been some top producers who have dedicated themselves to an authentic style that is more refined than bulky. Many a young winery has taken them as a model anyway, but in recent years even some former pioneers of the wood and high-maturity faction have changed. The changes range from cautious to radical; the transitions are fluid. While some continue to focus on power and a lot of new wood, but avoid too much ripeness and do everything else to maintain the freshness and precision of the fruit, the wines elsewhere are much leaner and no longer have any prominent wood flavour at all. In this group, too, the stylistic differences are often enormous: here, particularly crisp black fruit, plenty of acid bite and pithy tannin, there - somewhat rarer and more likely to be found in Carnuntum - considerably more red berry components, silky tannin and almost supple texture. Quite new are the red natural wines, which have to be sold as "wine from Austria" without a specific indication of origin, because they meet with little approval in wine control due to their unusual character: light-coloured, cloudy, herbaceous, fresh-juicy, mostly strikingly light in alcohol and appearance, but at their best endowed with a stunning liveliness and complex aromatics. And with minerality. But the better wines of all conceivable styles have this in common anyway; it can turn out differently - depending on origin and soil composition: chalky, salty or even iron-like-metallic. Sometimes all of these together.

We tasted more than 200 wines for this special, focusing on single vineyards and reserves from Burgenland and Carnuntum. We present the best wines here, but also separated by region with the two area articles linked above. Links to all wines with detailed tasting notes as well as their producers can be found at the end of the lists. All wines were tasted blind several times over at least two days in our tasting room in Erlangen.

BEST OF Blaufränkisch Vintage 2020

BEST OF Blaufränkisch Vintage 2019

BEST OF Blaufränkisch Vintage 2018