We’re beginning with the wine grape Blaufrankisch. Kind of a mouthful, it’s pronounced “blaow-frahnk-ish”. Our tasting room customers are curious about this wine, because it’s one they’ve usually not heard of before. That’s because this grape has historically been basically unknown in most parts of the world, except in alpine regions of Austria and parts of Germany and Hungary. There, it is widely planted and recognized as a grape that can produce wines of merit. Today, there are significant plantings of the grape in Washington state, with smaller plantings in a few other areas of the country. Here, Blaufrankisch is a high-quality niche wine, and the grape has potential to become important for our region.

We chose to plant this lesser-known grape because its climate requirements seemed to be a very good match for our conditions here in South Jersey. In 2001 we planted 700 vines, and they do appear to like it here very much, producing steadily and dependably ever since. They yield about 3 – 4 tons per year, or about 2800 bottles. Along with bottling it as a varietal, we find it important as a blending wine. We add it as needed to “fill the gaps” in other wines, rounding out the flavors and adding color and structure. We don’t understand why more people don’t have Blaufrankisch in their vineyards.

Regular customers will know that for the first few years we called this wine Lemberger, which is another name the grape is known by in some areas of Germany. This is because when we first filed for label approval from the Federal government, the grape was so obscure that only the name Lemberger was approved for use at the time. Since then, the name Blaufrankisch, which is actually better recognized around the world, has been deemed acceptable, and we in turn changed the name on our labels as well.

The best Blaufrankisch wines will have good color and a deeply fruity aroma. Their flavor is densely fruity, with characteristic notes of blackberries, red cherries and red currants and also a bit of spicy pepper. A relatively high level of acidity and elegant tannin structure give them a great capacity for aging. These qualities are also what make the wine extremely useful for blending with other red wine grapes to make wines of more complex character.

We’ve found Blaufrankisch to be delightful with hamburgers, ham and lentil soup, pasta with tomato sauce, pork chops and more. Its structured tannins and good acidity allow it to pair nicely with meats and cheeses. Recommended cheeses include Gouda, Feta, Piave, Monterey Jack, Provolone and smoked cheeses. As a grape native to the Alpine regions of Austria, it pairs very well with the foods of the local cuisine, like bratwurst, wiener schnitzel, cheesey potato dishes, and goulash. It might make you want to yodel.

Perfect growing conditions for this grape would include a long, warm summer, as it buds early and ripens late. The wood is winter hardy, but late frosts in the spring will cause damage. This was the case for our vines this past spring. A frost in late April killed many of the tiny new flower buds on the vines, so the fall crop was very light, only about a quarter of the usual yield. Our 2012 Blaufrankisch varietal wine will be good, but unfortunately in short supply. Our vines seem to have recovered, and we hope for a more normal spring this year and a good crop in the fall.

Currently our medal-winning 2010 Blaufrankisch is available at the winery. It is a fine example of what the grape can become. We’re happy to do our small part to bring this wine into greater renown. We’ll be recommending it especially when we celebrate our Alpine Winter Weekend later this month, to pair with Viennese potato soup and Liptauer cheese.