Posted by: tomciocco | October 7, 2010

A BETTER LIFE FOR AN AUSTRIAN IN NEW JERSEY?

Back in 1922, at a viticultural institute just outside of Vienna, one Fritz Zweigelt created a cross of two fine Austrian wine grapes – Blaufrankisch and St. Laurent – with the hope of combining the former vine’s productivity, hardiness, weight and acidity with the latter’s velvety texture and intoxicating aromatics…Well, as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.

It may be too much to say that the project went “awry” since Zweigelt is planted widely and successfully in Austria, and in multiple locations throughout Eastern Europe, but by most wine folks’ estimation (mine included), this variety did not perfectly embody all of the best qualities of its parents as its human daddy had intended… That said, what Zweigelt is is a vivacious, if a bit rustic wine with intense, direct, and exotic fruit, that is really good with bold, stick-to-your-ribs grub.

Now admittedly what I’m about to say might sound like a clear case of damning with faint praise, and this is definitely not my intention, but this non-vintage Zweigelt made in a little town called New Egypt in New Jersey’s coastal plain, is one of the best examples of a wine made from a grape that I’ve never loved. Admittedly, this is an exceedingly narrow comparison since this wine from Laurita Winery  is the one and only New Jersey-made Zweigelt that I’ve ever tasted (for the record, Jen no likey this wine at all), but it wouldn’t be the first time in the history of winemaking that a vine variety once thought be second rate or even useless really showed its potential in a terroir far from its birthplace. The case of Malbec in Argentina readily comes to mind. What’s also pretty cool is that Laurita also grows and bottles Lemberger, which is just the name for Zweigelt’s dad (mom?), Blaufrankisch, in Germany…

So who knows, in twenty or thirty years, once the best clones, sites, and vineyard and cellar techniques are identified and refined, Ocean County Zweigelt wines might be on the tables of gourmands from Asbury Park to Klosternueberg.  

In keeping with the vaguely Eastern European theme, I served this wine with home made chicken and rice soup, and uncured hot dogs with kraut, and baked beans made from scratch…

Laurita Winery Zweigelt Non-Vintage, New Egypt, NJ

Just barely translucent blackish purple color. Wild and evolving nose of wild berries, cumin, tomato paste, damp earth, prunes juice, dill pickles, and duck sauce. The medium-bodied palate is nicely balanced and juicy, (though lacking perhaps just a bit of acidity) with intense and sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit and a surprsingly long finish. 

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Responses

  1. NJ Zweigelt? That’s wacky! I would think that our hot summers would make for a really tannic example of this grape. Good to hear that someone in NJ is having luck with something other than Chambourcin.

  2. What’s I found most interesting is this example was less “obvious” and seemingly place-driven than most Austrian Zweigelts I’ve tasted.

    Laurita also grows and bottles Blaufrankisch but they had none of the previous vintage to show or sell, and the new vintage was still in the cellar. I’d be very interested to taste this, since it’s a more “noble” variety than Zweigelt…


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