Pepper and Spice, and Everything Nice? Winzer Krems Zweigelt

austriaOK, I’d like to lay a bet. I’ll bet that if I took any given group of, say, 20 American wine geeks, only one of them would have any clue what ZWEIGELT is. Or maybe none of them!

It sounds like a German sausage. Or maybe a German automobile — “The new Zweigelt goes from 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and gets 40 miles to the gallon on the Autobahn.”

So what is it? Well, Zweigelt is the name of a grape grown in Austria. It’s a hybrid, created by crossing Blaufrankisch (a German red grape that’s not exactly a household name, either) with Saint Laurent (I thought it was a river, not a grape). Zweigelt, or Blauer Zweigelt, was engineered to thrive in Austria’s relatively cool climate.

I recently came across Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt St. Severin 2010, and explored it with some trepidation. Without any context clues except “cool climate red wine,” I was surprised to see the wine pour out deep burgundy colored and almost opaque. This was way more extraction than I’d expected, almost like a Petite Sirah.

The nose was also intriguing. I got some tart cherry fruit, but the really obvious aroma was black pepper. And I mean intense black pepper. This wine could make you sneeze! There was also a note of tar (yes, like in “road tar”).

The palate was a surprise after the build-up of the robust color and aromas. It was actually softer than the nose, and all those intriguing aromas came together with fairly elegant flavors of tart berries and smoke. The body was light to medium, more like a Pinot Noir than a Petite Sirah, and there was just enough acid to balance the fruit.

So how do they drink Zweigelt in Austria? Well, I know some of the foods that are common there — pork, potatoes and onions, and smoked sausage. So now it starts to make sense. If you drink this spicy, smoky red with the right foods — Antipasto with tangy cheese, smoked meats, salami, or grilled Bratwurst –  I think it will taste pretty darn good. One wine buddy even said, “This would be great with Chili!” Now there’s a concept — “Zweigelt, the new tail-gating wine.”

Zweigwelt may be hard to find, so try a store like Total Wine & More. If you can’t locate the Winzer Krems brand, you might find Hugl, another Austrian producer. Hugl Zweigelt is a more rustic, less refined presentation of the grape. Whatever you can find, give it a try so you too can say to your wine geek friends, “I’d like to bet you…”  Cheers!



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