Bauhaus's resident wine enthusiast is back with another story, and this time he's taking us across the Atlantic to Austria and diving into the Austrian Blaufränkisch and it's history.
This time, we're travelling to Austria to learn about a wonderful grape called Blaufränkisch. More specifically, one man’s passion to define a country’s wine industry. Before we get into the man, lets talk about the wine industry in Austria. Based on the availability of Austrian wine in Vancouver, I'm comfortable assuming many readers won't know much about Austrian wines.
The history of Austrian wine is actually a very long one, dating back several thousand years. Wars have disrupted its wine production many times in history, and not just in the 20th century. Of course, in the mid to late 19th century, phylloxera wiped out the vine stock, but eventually this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It allowed Austria to plant vine stock that was best suited to its climate and soil, with Grüner Veltliner being the predominant grape.
Side note - 80% of the vines in Austria are of a white varietal. About 5% is Blaufrankish.
So, following the First World War, Austria was the third largest producer of wine in the world - who knew, right? Then the Second World War came around, and that changed. The wine regions in Austria are all located on the eastern part of the country, following the borders with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and the Danube river. If you remember your high school history lessons, you'll remember that Hungary and Czechoslovakia were under the rule of the Soviet Union and the threat of war was very real for decades along the border. During this time, Austria became known for producing basic bulk wine with little structure and flavour. Then came the 'oops' in Austrian wine history: in an attempt to create a better structure in their wines, some producers started adding diethylene glycol. Now, this chemical is used in anti-freeze and is very difficult to detect chemically, but it made wines a bit sweeter and more interesting. This was only discovered because one winery tried to write off a bunch of it as a business expense. Oops! Now the good news is, in 1986, in response, the DOC system was created to ensure the quality of Austrian wines. The guidelines were now in place, and wineries started to see wine for what it could be - world class.
This is where we return to the man, Roland Velich, and he comes from a family of wine makers. The Velich winery began in 1933, and the family winery produces only white wines, with Reisling and chardonnay being the main wines. Early on in his life, Roland was passionate about wine, and became very dedicated to finding a red grape that would best showcase what Austria had to offer. It turns out it was the Blaufränkisch grape. He believed that Blaufränkischcould become what Nebbiolo is to Piedmont, and what Pinot Noir is to Burgundy. So, he began studying both regions. His experiments with Blaufrankish began in 2001, with his new winery, Moric. Over time he developed his style and started creating the vision he had back in his youth. He owns multiple vineyards all in the Mittelburganland, the only red grape DOC in Austria. When it comes to making wine, he focuses on following the traditional techniques used in Burgundy and Barolo, and could apply for certification as organic, but doesn’t want to. Fermentation can be a bit different at Moric, sometimes taking an entire year, or more, to allow a malolactic fermentation to take place. Aging of the Blaufränkisch takes place in only old oak. Now, 16 years later, Roland will argue that the aging potential of his wines are 20 to 40 years, I guess time will tell on that. But what we do know is, he creates beautiful, complex wines that are being recognized as unique world class wines.
We are very fortunate to have 2 wines from Moric on our list. The Blaufränkisch and the Reserve. What does it taste like? Unique is a good starting point. In a blind tasting, you will hear people talk about Gamay Noir, but then the tannins are too present. Others will mention Pinot Noir, but the fruit is much richer than Burgundy. Others may start thinking Barbara, or a Nebbiolo but the structure is wrong in both cases.
What you will find is beautiful and upfront raspberry and current flavours - I call it fleshy as well - finishing with some wonderful minerality and crushed herb flavours. The acidity and soft tannins pair nicely with some of our dishes.
The difference between the two we have, relates to the complexity and intensity. The Reserve shows more dried floral tones and a deeper intensity. We are using the Blaufränkisch as the pairing for our duck course in the tasting menu. The Reserve is available by the bottle for $125. If you would like to buy the Blaufränkisch, we offer it for $95.
Come on by for a taste of Blaufränkisch, Austria’s signature red grape."
- Alan Koller