Austrian reds are some of the most under appreciated wines out there, and in this season of roast beef and brisket, the Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt grapes in particular have a place at the table because they enliven heartier dishes, instead of trying to outweigh them.
And for some reason, many Austrian reds also have quirky, witty labels, demonstrating that they don’t take themselves too seriously. Why not get a laugh from what’s in the bottle before you taste what’s inside? At the holidays, we take any mirth we can get.
The Moric Blaufränkisch 2013 ($32) has a lovely cranberry profile, a fresh and bright acidity, with a peppery quality that may be courtesy the old vines it’s made from. The funny label says the wine “disdains flamboyance”—true, but I just like it because it tastes good.
The Feiler-Artinger Zweigelt 2013 ($20) is quite light, but has a raspberry flavor and an unusual earthy note that fires the imagination a bit. The cheeky label instructs us that it “will do surprising tricks with favors from the Tandoor and the Cucina Mexicana,” and that’s a bet I’d take.
A picture of an Angus cow isn’t what you expect on an Austrian wine label, but Meinklang Graupert Zweigelt 2012 ($20) also delivers unexpected taste: a very high-toned and bright taste but not tart, excellent strawberry character, very little tannin. (The winery keeps a herd of Angus on its property, explaining the mooing mascot.)
Weingut Heinrich makes two wines I’d recommend highly. Heinrich Blaufränkisch Leithaberg 2011 ($45) is full of rich, ripe cherry flavors, and it takes this grape up a few notches from the competition—if you like cru Beaujolais (wines from the top vineyards there), this might be a wine for you. It’s juicy.
The Heinrich Zweigelt 2009 ($25) is much darker, both in color and in the berry flavors—I now see why some have compared this grape to Zinfandel, that bold American favorite. There’s more tannin here, and at six years out, this serious wine has aged well and shows no signs of slowing down.
The label isn’t exactly funny—but it does use the word “autochthonal,” which is nerd-speak for indigenous.
Ted Loos is the Travel + Leisure’s Wine and Spirits Contributor. Follow him on Twitter at @looslips.