It’s been cold as an Alpine breeze here in New York and that got me thinking of mountain wines — red mountain wines to be precise. Now this is a bit of a departure for me; I generally prefer these wines when the weather is not quite so determined to separate me from the tip of my nose. But the folks who make these wines tend to face conditions at least as bad as the ones we’re experiencing here in NYC, and somehow they manage to get by, so I figure we ought to at least try.
The wines I chose to taste were from Austria, with two of my favorite mountain varietals on offer: blaufrankisch and zweigelt. While these two wines can be quite similar, I tend to notice their distinctions as much as their similarities. The climate and soil of Austria yields wines that tend to be higher acid, crisp, and crunchy with fine-grained tannins and a cool, reserved character in the fresh fruitiness they tend to exhibit. With zweigelt, that fruitiness tends to remind me a bit of syrah; floral with wild blueberry edges to the core of blackberry and raspberry fruit. Blaufrankisch, on the other hand, offers more complexity, some of which no doubt comes from newer oak, which is more commonly used with Blaufrankisch than with zweigelt. But even on it’s own the grape produces a wine with more spice and savory notes than the fruitier zweigelt.
If you haven’t had either of these varietals before, they’re definitely worth seeking out for a change of pace — also as an introduction to the style of red wines available from Austria and other mountain regions. They offer a more refreshing, different drinking experience than one typically gets from warm-climate wines, and are decidedly food friendly, perfect for simply-prepared and arctic weather-ready game, duck or beef dishes.
— Gregory Del Piaz, Snooth