The SOMM Journal

August / September 2017

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Page 95 of 148

{ }  95 Bernhard Stadlmann, an eighth-generation winemaker whose family has continuously cul- tivated Mandel-Höh for 170 years, is a benchmark producer and champion of the variety. In an interview for The Somm Journal, Stadlmann highlighted Zierfandler's importance in the development of Austrian wine culture. "Zierfandler is an old autochthonous grape from the Thermenregion," he told me, "cele- brated and served at royal courts throughout Europe and Russia. At the Exposition Universelle of 1855 in Paris [where the Bordeaux classification was established], a Zierfandler-based Gumpoldskirchen blend won the gold medal in the white wine category. After World War II, Zierfandler was among the first Austrian wines to be exported to the U.S. It is truly one of Austria's most noble grape varieties." Monika Caha, a New York importer of artisanal Austrian wines (including Stadlmann), concurred with a chuckle: "During the Austro-Hungarian Empire, peasants drank Grüner Veltliner. The Habsburg monarchy enjoyed Zierfandler." Also known as Spätrot, meaning "late ripening red" (its berries blush pale crimson before harvest), Zierfandler is a natural cross between Roter Veltliner (no relation to Grüner) and a Traminer-related variety. Stadlmann cautions that Zierfandler is difficult to cultivate, prone to botrytis and requires a long, dry ripening period. But in the right conditions (downslope winds to lick off moisture; calcareous, weathered brown soils; low precipitation; and lots of autumn sun), it can produce elegant yet well-structured wines with rich fruit and floral aromas, crystal - line acidity, vibrant salinity, and extensive aging potential. With just 82 hectares (203 acres) currently under vine, Zierfandler represents a fraction of Austria's 30,500 hectares (75,367 acres) planted to white varieties (Grüner Veltliner domi - nates with 14,376 hectares). Consider also the variety's tendency for low yields, and it is no surprise so little Zierfandler finds its way into the consciousness and dining rooms of som- meliers and consumers. Undeter red, a handful of producers led by Stadlmann and Johanneshof Reinisch, importers such as Caha and Sariya Jarasviroj Brown of Circo Vino and high-profile sommeliers like Pascaline Lepeltier from Rouge Tomate in New York City are striving to restore Zierfandler to its past glory by introducing it to new generations of wine lovers. "Zierfandler is an unsung hero with a great potential," Lepeltier told me via email. "It combines power and acid structure with noble aromatics of orchard fruit. The texture is superb, unctuous yet with tension in the backbone. It reminds me of Chenin Blanc. How can I not be interested?!" Jesse Becker, Master Sommelier and a Market Specialist for Winebow Group, says he enjoys Zierfandler's Rotgipfler, another specialty of the Thermenregion. It is a cross between Savagnin and Roter Veltliner and pro- duces aromatic wines with a distinctive spicy character and chalky backbone. PHOTO: AWMB /FABER PHOTO: AWMB /FABER Wines, including Zierfandlers, at the guided tasting of the wines of the Thermenregion wine-growing region during the Austrian Wine Summit in May. Benchmark Zierfandler: the single vineyard Mandel-Höh from Stadlmann.

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