Honest Blaufränkisch That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Today’s Story: Rosi Schuster

Rosi Schuster is a family owned and operated wine estate located in the town of St. Margarethen in the Austrian state of Burgenland. Established in 1979 by Rosi Schuster, the estate consists of nine hectares (22 acres) of vineyards planted in St. Margarethen and Zagersdorf with some of the finest and oldest vines for the area. Though Rosi Schuster is known for Blaufränkisch, she also produces Sankt Laurent, Zweigelt, and Grüner Veltliner amongst a selection of other obscure varieties. Rosi was joined in 2005 by her son Hannes, and though he runs the estate today Rosi is still involved as both a guide and sounding board throughout production. Stylistically, Hannes was greatly influenced by Roland Velich of Moric and he transitioned Rosi Schuster to organic viticulture to start. The wines are meant to be classic representations of Burgenland and its terroir, and are fermented in open-top wooden or stainless steel tanks with both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations accomplished naturally and spontaneously. Hannes works exclusively with Stockinger barrels which don’t impart much oak influence into the wines, ensuring each bottling is the best and most honest representation of variety and place possible.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Blaufränkisch

100% Blaufränkisch; 13% ABV

The 2017 Blaufränkish is deep ruby in color with purple hues. I decanted this for about 45 minutes which seemed to be the right amount at this stage. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, black plum, blueberry, black cherry, violet, sweet tobacco, and allspice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, brambly blackberry, blueberry, licorice, black pepper, smoke, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $20. Though the intensity and finish length could be better, I still think this offers solid value at its price-point and the balance is already very impressive. Given the acidity and how this opened up, I think this needs another year or two before it really starts coming into its own.

My First Time Exploring Welschriesling

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking.

The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines typically age for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I previously wrote about the 2017 Glück, 2017 Ex Vero I, and 2017 Freude from Weingut Werlitsch so feel free to revisit those notes to get a better feel for their portfolio!

Today’s Wine: 2018 Welschriesling vom Opok

100% Welschriesling; 12% ABV

The 2018 Welschriesling vom Opok is medium gold in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity with the nose showcasing notes of ripe yellow apple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, savory green herbs, shaved ginger, dried pine, and wet stone. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of mango, yellow apple, a hint of pineapple juice, lemon, ginger, white wildflower, and limestone. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is my first ever Welschriesling, and is definitely a fun one to start with.

Price: $30. I think this is reasonably priced given its quality, complexity, and balance though I do prefer some of the other Werlitsch bottlings if I had to pick. The Ex Vero I was outstanding for around the same price or a few dollars more, and I loved both the Glück and Freude though they come in at a much higher price-point around $50.

Crisp and Incredibly Fun Austrian Amber Wine

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I recently reviewed two other bottlings from Weingut Werlitsch, first the 2017 Glück which is similar in profile to the wine I’m reviewing today and then the 2017 Ex Vero I.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Freude

70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Freude is pale to medium amber in color and slightly hazy. Given some time to warm up from cellar temperature and breathe, this blossoms into a gorgeous and complex wine. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, and the nose showcases aromas of orange marmalade, dried apricot, dried orange peel, honeysuckle, oregano, wet slate, brine, slightly under-baked bread, honey, and toasted almond. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of peach, mandarin orange, dried apricot, marzipan, dill, chamomile, honey, chalk, toasted almond, and unsweetened vanilla yogurt. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Absolutely outstanding.

Price: $55. I know this is not an inexpensive bottle, particularly for an amber/orange wine, though I think this offers tremendous value. Not only is this incredibly complex, well-balanced, and of extreme quality, it’s a very fun wine and I prefer this to the Glück I had recently.

Refreshing and Unique Austrian White Field Blend

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I recently wrote about the 2017 Glück from Werlitsch, which is a fun amber wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Ex Vero I

Field blend of Morillon (Chardonnay) and Sauvignon Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Ex Vero I is medium gold in color and transparent but slightly hazy. Per the back label, I gave this a lengthy decant which I found to be optimal around the 2 hour mark. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the gorgeous nose showcases aromas of yellow apple, white peach, white wildflower, dried garden herbs, popcorn kernel, gravel, and chalk. There’s also a good deal of reduction (gunsmoke, matchstick) and some flint on the nose which plays somewhat of a dominant role. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of yellow apple, pear, honeysuckle, seashell, wet stone, dried herbs, and saline mineral. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. Though this is a very different white wine, I feel comfortable calling it a great value. It’s incredibly fun while also maintaining a winning profile of intensity, complexity, length, and balance. Very excited to try this again in a couple years.

Chuggable Austrian Amber Wine

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking. The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines age typically for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Glück

50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Glück is medium amber in color and slightly hazy. I found this better after it warmed from cellar temperature, so I let it sit in the glass for a little while. The aromas are of medium intensity but the nose is rather complex, showcasing aromas of dried apricot, orange peel, bruised apple, yellow wildflower, honey, mild mushroom, grass, chalk, and saline mineral. Flavors are also of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of mandarin orange peel, apricot, crisp red apple, orange marmalade, honey, dried green herbs, sea salt, and chalky mineral. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with mouthwatering medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $47. I’m still relatively new into my exploration of amber wines, so I will refrain at this point from discussing an overall “value” perspective. However, this is one of if not the best I’ve had so far, and its quality, complexity, intrigue, and drinkability make it well worth the price for me.

Fun Austrian Blend With a Unique Family Background

Today’s Story: Gut Oggau

Gut Oggau is an exciting, relatively new winery in the small town of Oggau in Burgenland, Austria and it was established in 2007 by Eduard and Stephanie Tscheppe. Eduard comes from a winemaking background, having helped his father make conventional wines in Styria. Meanwhile Stephanie has a culinary background, with her family owning the Michelin-starred restaurant Taubenkobel. The couple purchased an abandoned 17th century winery and about 20 hectares (~49 acres) of vineyards, working tirelessly to restore and renovate the facilities which included a 200-year-old screw press. The vineyards were abandoned for about 20 years, so Eduard and Stephanie commenced their venture with biodynamic viticulture without having to worry about any lingering chemicals or treatments that may have been used before. Working with the varieties of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), and Gewürztraminer, Eduard and Stephanie craft wines in a minimally invasive and “natural” manner. All wines ferment spontaneously with natural yeasts, age in used barrels, and are bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with zero or minimal added sulfur.

I would be remiss if I did not discuss the interesting labels on these wines. As Eduard and Stephanie crafted their wines adhering to their biodynamic and natural philosophies, they realized that each bottling and each vineyard plot offered differing characteristics and personalities but still had a common thread to show they are “family.” Therefore the Gut Oggau wines are all part of a family tree, with Atanasius, Theodora, and Winifred making up the “young generation” and being more bold and energetic in style. The prior generation, or “the parents,” consists of Joschuari, Wiltrude, Emmeram, Timotheus, and Josephine with these wines characterized by riper notes and more body. Lastly the “grandparents” consist of Mechthild and Bertholdi, with the wines produced from vines up to 60 years of age and they are more traditional in style. Each label has a unique sketch for each fictional family member, and all have their own unique stories to share.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Timotheus

70% Grüner Veltliner, 30% Weissburgunder; 12% ABV

The 2019 Timotheus is medium gold in color and somewhat hazy. Aromas are of medium intensity, showcasing notes of tangerine, peach, apricot, mandarin orange, white wildflower, and slate. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of peach, apricot, dried green herbs, seashell, honey, white pepper, and saline mineral. This is dry and medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very fun and different, but also very, very good. One-third of the grapes ferment on the skins for about three weeks and the rest are directly pressed before they’re blended. The wine ages for about 12 months in used barrels before it’s bottled unfined, unfiltered, and with zero added sulfur.

Price: $60. Wines of this style are difficult to discuss in terms of value for me, for one thing because they are not “traditional” and two I haven’t had enough of the “natural” wines with some skin contact for comparison sake yet. However, I find this to be an incredibly fun, enjoyable, high quality, and intriguing wine and for these reasons it was worth the price paid for me.

Blaufränkisch With a True Sense of Place

Today’s Story: Weingut Moric

Weingut Moric (pronounced “Moritz”) is a highly regarded Austrian producer of Blaufränkisch, established in 2001 by winemaker Roland Velich. Roland is a staunch traditionalist, establishing Moric around the idea that very old vines, biodynamic viticulture, the climate of Burgenland, and minimally invasive winemaking methods could culminate into elegant and refined examples of Blaufränkisch at a time many of his neighbors sought the big, bold, powerful, and score-garnering wines of the times. Roland works most notably in Lutzmannsburg and Neckenmarkt (though his winery is in Grosshoflein), commanding exceptional yet difficult terroir for the variety to grow. Roland (and particularly the press) likens his drive to those crafting the finest Grand Cru Burgundies or the most legendary Barolos, offering a true-to-form Blaufränkisch with an immaculate depiction of its terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Blaufränkisch Reserve

100% Blaufränkisch; 13% ABV

The 2013 Blaufränkisch Reserve is opaque medium purple in color. This was fairly tight out of the bottle, so I decanted the wine for an hour before drinking. The nose is of medium intensity with aromas of brambly blackberry, black plum, black cherry, perfumed violet, licorice, leather, black pepper, crushed rock, charred wood, and allspice. Meanwhile the palate, also of medium intensity, showcases notes of black cherry, plum, blackberry, black raspberry, tobacco, dried green herbs, scorched earth, black pepper, dark chocolate, and smoke with iron on the finish. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium and unfortunately somewhat unripe tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) finish. This is much more complex than I was expecting, but the slightly unripe tannins do detract from the wine. It took them several hours to become less noticeable.

Price: $50. Admittedly, this is my first Blaufränkisch so I’m not entirely sure where it stacks up on a value perspective to other bottlings of the variety. That being said, this does seem to be a good representation of the variety from what I’ve read but the tannins on this do sadly drop it a notch. Perhaps I will try another vintage.

My Favorite Riesling Thus Far

Today’s Story: Bioweingut Johannes Zillinger

Bioweingut Johannes Zillinger is a roughly 350 year old winery located in Niederösterreich, Austria. Though Johannes took over the winery in 2013 from his father Hans, he started learning about winemaking at a very young age and grew an early appreciation for organic winemaking. Somewhat of a pioneer in Austrian winemaking, Hans turned organic in 1983 and this helped lay the foundation of Johannes’ view of the vineyards as a habitat that should not be “poisoned” with chemicals. In 2013, Johannes also turned to biodynamic farming which is much more strict than organic farming. For instance, all of his wines are spontaneously fermented, lightly filtered or unfiltered, and little or no sulfur is added only at bottling if needed.

Johannes Zillinger produces a broad range of natural wines, with annual production numbers coming in right around 100,000 bottles. With vineyards covering 18 hectares, Johannes makes everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling to Zweigelt with several blends and NV bottlings in between.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Numen Riesling

100% Riesling; 13% ABV

This Riesling, like all of Johannes’ wines, is spontaneously fermented. Further, the Numen Riesling is unfined, unfiltered, and there are no added sulfites. Though many people seem to be unfamiliar with natural wines, anything from Johannes Zillinger seems to be a great place to start.

The Numen Riesling is medium to deep gold in color, which kind of surprised me as most that I’ve tried are lighter. The nose is incredibly aromatic with aromas of peach, golden pear, yellow apple, meyer lemon, white florals, white pepper, petrol, and cream. Overall the nose provides a very exotic, slightly spicy and complex experience. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, peach, lemon citrus, green apple, white spice, jasmine, and mineral. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a long, dry finish.

Price: $50. This is quite possibly my favorite Riesling to date and I highly recommend trying it. Pair this with Chinese or Thai food, roasted pork, or Cajun food.