Blaufrankisch prepares for the limelight

Austria tied its colours firmly to the Blaufrankisch mast yesterday, picking out the variety as its strongest ambassador to build the country’s reputation as a serious red wine producer.

blaufrankisch_done.jpgChaired by the drinks business and hosted by the Institute of Masters of Wine, the round table discussion brought together expertise from across the trade to establish the quality and identity of Blaufränkisch, together with its future potential in export markets.

There was universal agreement at the table that Blaufränkisch was the only viable ambassador for Austria’s red wines. In terms of production levels, only Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt have a sufficiently large presence to justify a concerted export focus.

Although Zweigelt has nearly double the plantings of Blaufränkisch, Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board spoke for the room when he observed: “Zweigelt is a good ambassador, but has it the great wine potential as well as the entry level potential? Blaufränkisch needs to be a great wine; it needs that elevage.”

Since 1999, Austria’s plantings of the variety have increased by 22%, as part of a steady increase in the overall proportion of the country’s red wine production, which now stands at 35%.

The growing confidence and belief in the variety was evident from the comments made by producers Markus Kirnbauer and Silvia Prieler, who highlighted it as offering “great ageability and very food friendly”. For Kirnbauer, Blaufränkisch is “like Pinot Noir; it speaks for its region”.

Nevertheless, with just 3,200 hectares of Blaufränkisch planted in Austria, of which 95% is found in Burgenland, Klinger maintained: “We are looking for a very select audience worldwide.”

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