...so a little over a year ago I was sitting relatively pretty in Weiden am See, on the banks of the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland. I had been invited to take part in a jury-tasting of new red-wine releases by the Österreichische Gastronomie Zeitung (Austrian Gourmet Digest, sortof) along with a wide range of wine people from various disciplines—other tasters from France, Belgium, England, Sweden and Bavaria—plus a couple Austrian wine-journalists.
Most of the wines came from the 2007 vintage—good material. The variety most often abused by the winemaker was St. Laurent, and the murder-weapon was usually François Frères mi-toast. Out of perhaps one hundred Blaufänkisch, ten were ethereally impressive, twenty were excellent, and maybe seventy a bit too ambitiously elaborated.
There were one-hundred thirty-five Zweigelts, and I would happily have drunk one-hundred twenty of them.
The experience made clearer to me that which I had long believed: there is no other grape-crossing which produces such consistently reliable and oftentimes delicious wine as does the Zweigelt. Not even Scheurebe offers serious competition, and Pinotage comes nowhere close.
A crossing is not a hybrid. Crossings result from the uniting of two vitis vinifera subspecies. Pinotage is a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, for example. Popular hybrids include Seyval Blanc and Chambourcin—matings between vinifera and American vines.
Zweigelt is a crossing of Blaufränkisch with Sankt Laurent. It was created in 1922 by Dr Friedrich Zweigelt. He named it Rotburger because of its birthplace in Klosterneuburg, but due to occasional confusion with the Riesling/Trollinger cross RotbErger, Austrian wine pioneer Lenz Moser brought the current name into official use long about 1975. We will not go into Dr Zweigelt’s motives or his politics, but he was looking for prolific grape-bearing, good deep colour, and resistance to disease.
Zweigelt is relatively hardy when it comes to frost, drought, and to various ailments of the vine. In crossing Blauf and SL, Dr Z came up with a grape that tastes like neither.
Zweigelt is wonderfully versatile in its applications. It flourishes as monovarietal, but also blends beautifully with Blaufränkisch—as well as with French varieties Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon—and of course the two Bordeaux brothers together.
While occasionally profound, Zweigelt is so frequently delicious, and handles such a wide range of culinary demands, that one is amazed at its versatility. Try it with highfalutin’ Mexican cuisine, molé or adobo—take it to tandoori, pair it with panang—Zweigelt paints the very picture of panache…