Friday, December 10, 2010

Lesser-known grape varieties

When most people think of wine they think of the the noble grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are the grapes traditionally associated with fine wine. Slowly, varieties such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Malbec, Viognier, Torrontes, and Semillon are slowly entering the everyday wine lexicon. With hundreds of grape varieties, the wine world has a diverse range of flavors and stories. All wine-producing countries have lesser-known grape varieties that receive little recognition due to unfair preconceptions or a simple lack of lack of knowledge. The U.S. has Norton and Vidal Blanc, Spain has Godello and Mencia, Greece has Assyrtiko and Xinomavro and Italy has hundreds of indigenous grapes of which most people outside of Italy have never heard. This list could continue ad infinitum.

Much of the problem with these little-known varieties is the public's ability to pronounce their names. One such variety probably comes as a surprise to most people. Austria and Germany are known for world-class white wines, and few people realize that they also produce high-quality red wines. One one of these lesser-known varieties is Blaufränkisch, also known as Lemberger. Blaufränkisch is a cold-hardy grape that is naturally high in tannin and acidity. If you haven't had the chance to experience a Blaufränkisch or Lemberger I recommend finding some!

2004 Weingut Hans Igler, Vulcano, Burgenland, Austria

This red wine is dominated by Blaufrankish (55%) with Cabernet Sauvignon (20%), Zweigelt (15%) and Merlot (10%) completing the blend. It is a beautiful garnet color. Cherries, wood and spices are the first aromas present but as the wine opens up in the glass after a few hours it becomes more aromatic and reminiscent of a Pinot Noir. Tart cherry, cedar, toasted oak, spices and pomegranate flavors fill your mouth along with tart acidity and smooth tannins. This is a well-balanced wine that only gets better in the glass. 13.5% abv Purchased ($19). Very Good (tasted 12/4/10)


  1. Some of these wine varieties originated in Germany and Austria where their languages and terms are really difficult to pronounce.

  2. Yes, there are a lot of grapes with names that are hard to pronounce but consumers should not be afraid to try them!