Reds from the Edges

Reds from the Edges
Thanks to the independents
Some unfamiliar grapes figure in these two excellent reds from the edges of old Europe, one from Austria, the other from Portugal. Not many of us, even if regular customers, will have heard of either the Blaufränkisch or the Alfrocheiro. The names of these grapes, excellent in their original areas, are not an advertiser’s dream (much easier to dream up a slogan for Merlot or Chardonnay).

But they survive, thanks primarily to the local winemakers and thanks to the independent wine merchants, of which we have a fair share in Ireland. They know, and more of their customers are coming to realise, that the bigger picture is made up of little gems whose names may not lend themselves to a catch-all slogan. Best of goods come in small parcels! (Not a bad slogan, come to think of it.)

Wohlmuth Aristos 2009 Burgenland (Austria), 13.5%, €20.59 Karwig Wines
You won’t find Wohlmuth in Hugh Johnson’s current handbook but, thankfully, you’ll find their wines in Karwig’s of Carrigaline. The Aristos, a blend of the local Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a product of the Neckenmarkt vineyard, one of a few owned by the Wohlmuth family, winemakers since 1803. The “most rigorous quality criteria” are applied while the terroir is regarded as ideal for the two varieties.

Austria is predominantly white wine country but it is a different story in the Mittelburgenland (close to the border with Hungary). Here the continental climate is ideal, especially for the juicy Blaufränkisch which also brings relatively high acidity to a blend.
Two thousand and nine was a good year in the area and it shows in this Very Highly Recommended wine. It is clean and bright with a medium red colour and aromas of dark berries. On the palate, you find the berries again, spice too, soft tannins and, yes, that balancing acidity, all the way to a long dry finish. Went well with steak the other night and the producers also recommended trying it with Lamb cutlets, also duck breast on lentils.

Flor de Viseu, Tinto Selection 2009, Dao (Portugal), 13%, €12.99-13.99, Wine Alliance stockists

Most people with a passing acquaintance of Portuguese wine will have heard of Touriga Nacional but Alfrocheiro, the main grape here, will no doubt raise a few eyebrows. Both are local grapes and popular in the Dao region.

The region, named after the local river, is the home of juicy friendly wines and this is one of them. You find red fruit aromas and a healthy looking ruby colour. The wine itself is warm, fruity and spicy. It is rather smooth with mild tannins, very engaging at all points of the palate and has a persistent dry finish. Very Highly Recommended.