Austria is best known for its white wines and not least the Grüner Veltliner. But the country has more red wines than you might think. Go to Burgenland, the easternmost part of Austria, and you will find plenty of them. And as a bonus, you will discover a plethora of lovely sweet wines. We have tasted wines from Neusiedlersee DAC, the most famous appellation of Burgenland. Here, the star is Zweigelt, a grape worth getting to know.
Red grapes are grown throughout Burgenland. Austria’s red wines came into vogue in the 1990s. Then, they were primarily blends. We now see more and more single grape wines from Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, Merlot and others.
The red grape varieties
Zweigelt is a successful crossing between Blaufränkisch and Sankt Laurent, which was made in Austria in 1922. It is now Austria’s most cultivated red grape, popular not least in Neusiedlersee DAC.
Zweigelt gives fruity wines with aromas of ripe cherries, plums and warm spices such as cloves. The wines are often dark in colour, sometimes elegant in style, sometimes powerful with plenty of tannins, and always with refreshing acidity.
Blaufränkisch, often tannic and full-bodied, is Austria’s second most grown red grape. It is the number one grape in Hungary, where it is also called kékfrankos. St. laurent is an exciting variety, a bit challenging to grow but often elegant in style and reminiscent of pinot noir.
Neusiedlersee DAC is the largest and most famous appellation in Burgenland. Lake Neusiedl is a shallow lake; at its deepest, it is barely two meters. The lake and the surrounding area have long been a nature reserve and a popular haunt for bird watchers. The climate around the lake is mild, and the area has the largest number of sunny days in all of Austria. But cool nights ensure that the wines retain an excellent acidity, something we noticed during our tasting. And this goes for both the reds, the dry whites and the sweet wines.
Zweigelt is the big name here, and when Neusiedlersee DAC was created in 2012, it was decided that this appellation would apply only to zweigelt for dry wines. Semi-sweet and sweet white wines may also use the designation Neusiedlersee DAC if they meet specific requirements. But red wines with a grape variety other than zweigelt, as well as dry white wines, have to use Burgenland as their designation of origin.
The climate around the lake is suitable for sweet wines of various kinds. Thanks to the warm and humid autumn climate, you can make excellent late harvest wines and deliciously sweet beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese. The mists that develop around the shallow lake favour the development of the noble rot.
A variety of grapes are used for the sweet wines, often Welschriesling but also Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay and others.
Dry white wines
Weissburgunder 2020 Trocken, Allacher Vinum Pannonia, Burgenland, Austria
Weissburgunder is German for Pinot Blanc. This is a pleasantly aromatic wine with aromas of pear, melon and white flowers. The nose is quite intense, and it is unusually full-bodied for a pinot blanc.
Grüner Veltliner 2020 Trocken, Kummer Weine, Burgenland, Austria
It has the typical white pepper aromas and a pleasant, distinct taste of white flowers, apples, citrus and a lovely freshness with an acidity of almost 6 grams per litre, an excellent wine.
White semi-sweet and sweet wines
Traminer Spätlese 2020, Preiner Wein, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Aromatic with intense flavours and refreshingly high acidity. Floral aromas, citrus, and it reminded us also of a particular dessert with apples made in the oven with butter and spices. Alc. 11.5%.
Weissburgunder Spätlese 2020 Kummer Weine, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Aromas of ripe melon and apricots, light and fresh on the palate. Alc. 10%. The high acidity makes it a lovely before-dinner drink.
Cuvée Beerenauslese 2017, Johannes Münzenriede, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Intense and concentrated with ripe apricots. Quite light in style but very tasty: spices, cinnamon, a little buttery. The alcohol content is 9% and the grapes are welschriesling, sämling (scheurebe) and grüner veltliner.
Welschriesling Beerenauslese, Artisan Wines, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
It is very sweet but also very fresh so the balance is excellent. Honey and marmalade from the botrytised grapes, a high viscosity. A superb wine with dessert, cheese or on its own. 9 % of alcohol.
Red wines from Zweigelt
Zweigelt Reserve Ried Luckenwald 2018, Gebrüder Nittnaus, Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, Österrike
Dark, dense fruit, some oak and a pleasant spiciness. Relatively light in structure with a good balance. Highly enjoyable.
Zweigelt 2018, Weingut Pöckl, Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, Österrike
Very dark and dense colour. It is very concentrated and intense, with plenty of tannins and fresh acidity. There’s cherry fruit and some oak aromas. It is full-bodied enough to be balanced but would benefit from being a little less concentrated. But I like it nevertheless.
Zweigelt 2019, Allacher Vinum Pannonia, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Relatively light in colour. Pleasant light and fruity style but with good intensity in the aromas with ripe berries. It is structured with a rather soft finish.
Zweigelt 100 days 2018, Keringer Massiv Wines, Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, Austria
Dense, concentrated fruit. Good length, acidity, spicy and herbal aromas. The wine has 100 days of extraction, which gives concentration and a slight dryness in the finish.
Zweigelt Ried Seeweingärten 2017, Weingut Lentsch, Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, Austria
Light in style with a dominance of red berries and some oak on the nose. Fruity, spicy and elegant on the palate. Excellent.
Zweigelt 2019, Hannes Reeh, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Fairly light in colour, with red berries, ripe fruit, almost overripe, but not too much, there’s a good balance and tannins for the structure. Quite enjoyable.
Zweigelt 2019, Salzl Seewinkelhof, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Fresh and aromatic, lots of fruit, full-bodied, refreshing in taste. Excellent.
Zweigelt 2019, Moser Weine, Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Ripe, crushed cherries and prunes on the nose. Savoury, spicy on the palate, slightly volatile.
Artisan Wines 2018 Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, Austria
Lots of dark cherries and red berries, good structure although light and elegant in style. Very balanced and very drinkable.
Other red wines
Sankt Laurent 2019, Ried Herrschaftswald, Markus Iro, Burgenland, Austria
Fresh herbs and dark fruit mingle with some oak aromas. It is refreshing on the palate. Pleasant and unpretentious.
Blaufränkisch Ried Ungerberg 2017, Georg Preisinger, Burgenland, Austria
Concentrated aromas, dense fruitiness, black currants, fresh herbs, sour cherries. It is structured with noticeable tannins and, in the finish, lovely refreshing fruit with mouthwatering acidity.
To end this tasting, we had something quite special: a sparkling red Zweigelt.
Reehbellion Zweigelt Schaumwein, Hannes Reeh
This slightly odd sparkling wine with added carbon dioxide has a really dark colour and a lot of foam when you pour it. It is packed with dark fruit; it’s dry and quite structured. A versatile variety, Zweigelt.