“When it comes to Zweigelt, a light hand on the tiller is required… think Pinot rather than Pinotage, Valpol rather than Calpol,” writes Chris Wilson who discovers at a Zweigelt tasting at London’s Trivet that us Brits may not be landing the best examples of these wines on these shores. Dirceu Vianna Junior MW hosted the event and he is keen to ensure that we do chime with the grape – but that means us getting the best examples from the best regions.
“Importers keen to bring in an Austrian red wine often opt for a red from their Grüner producer, which is either a Pinot Noir or a Zweigelt from a region with more challenging growing conditions for the grape,” writes Wilson.
Billed as an exploration of the lesser-known Austrian red grape variety Zweigelt, this fascinating tasting and lunch at the impeccable Trivet restaurant in Bermondsey, London was educational and eye-opening in equal measure.
Focus was on wines from the Neusiedlersee DAC in the Burgenland, the easternmost state of Austria. This DAC is carving out a name as the go-to destination for premium Zweigelt, and it’s clear speaking to growers and winemakers that they are hoping to emulate the success of Grüner Veltliner on the international stage with Zweigelt.
The grape itself is a crossing of St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch, created in 1922 by Friedrich Zweigel, and it comes in many guises from floral and ethereal to inky black, tannic and punchy.
Producers were keen to point out that – in their opinion – many of the Zweigelt wines UK consumers have come across have not been the best examples of the grape. They argue that, following the success in the UK of Grüner Veltliner, importers keen to bring in an Austrian red wine often opt for a red from their Grüner producer, which is either a Pinot Noir or a Zweigelt from a region with more challenging growing conditions for the grape.
The bottom line – they say – is that much Zweigelt in the UK is a poor example of the grape. The mission is to change the thinking here, which is why as well as journalists there were a number of importers and sommeliers in the room. It was a buzzy tasting with an excitable audience, all keen to try something new.
The tasting was hosted by Dirceu Vianna Junior MW who gave a passionate overview of the region and the grape, and genuinely believes there’s a place in the UK market for Zweigelt. He thinks UK consumers should and will chime with the grape… if they are presented with the best examples from the best regions.
And so to the wines…
It was clear from the wines on show that this is a versatile grape, and – of course – one of the points of the tasting was to showcase its versatility. One of the standout wines was the only rosé wine on show, which goes some way to demonstrating where the grape’s strengths lie, certainly in the UK marketplace.
Lighter versions of the grape really shone; it’s these pretty, perfumed, even floral wines which are going to turn heads. The over-extracted, more butch styles were an awkward fit and when squared up with the ‘lighter touch’ wines they felt clunky, over-worked, even medicinal.
When it comes to Zweigelt, a light hand on the tiller is required… think Pinot rather than Pinotage, Valpol rather than Calpol.
Plucked from over 20 wines tasted on the day, below are a handful of Zweigelts which really worked – these are wines worth seeking out.
Artisan Wines ‘Pure’ Zweigelt Rosé, 2021
Pure by name, pure by nature. This is fresh and vibrant with a tight, sherbet-laced acidity, just a hint of tannic grip and a rounded, complete finish. Strawberry fruit bursts through the acid and a cherry drop note adds a layer of complexity. A delight.
Weingut Hannes Reeh, Zweigelt, Neusiedlersee DAC, 2019
Delicate nose of rose petals and perfume. Rose bush character on the palate, along with dried raspberry and red cherry fruit. Lean tannins, but there is some bite here and a lovely lingering texture. Creamy, perfectly weighted finish.
Markus Iro, Zweigelt, Neusiedlersee DAC, 2019
A crunchy, almost Grenache like wine. Lovely balance between fruit and savoury notes; raspberries, pomegranate and red liquorice are the standout characters. There’s some spice too, a touch of wood smoke and black pepper. Fresh and vibrant.
Seegut Lentsch, Zweigelt, Neusiedlersee DAC, 2019
Young winemaker Markus Lentsch has modernised the family’s wines in recent years and this is a very fresh and approachable take on Zweigelt. The 10% American oak adds a vanilla kiss to raspberry and redcurrant fruit. There’s smooth tannins and a even a hint of tomato leaf.
Allacher, Zweigelt Ried Salzberg, , Neusiedlersee DAC Reserve, 2019
Beaujolais Cru in style. This is fresh but structured and above all full of juicy red fruit. There’s cherry and red plum, lovely outstretched acidity and a creamy, tobacco-flecked finish. Zweigelt currently accounts for 25% of the estate’s production but winemaker Micheal Allacher says this will increase as interest in the grape grows.