Tasting: Ripe blackcurrant with floral and spicy notes. Pairing: braise beef, gouda
Grape: 50% Zweigelt, 40% Blaufränkisch, 10% Merlot
Merlot is a dark blue-colored wine grape variety, that is used as both a blending grape and for varietal wines. The name Merlot is thought to be a diminutive of merle, the French name for the blackbird, probably a reference to the color of the grape. Its softness and "fleshiness", combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, which tends to be higher in tannin.
Along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz Cabernet, Malbec and Petit Verdot, Merlot is one of the primary grapes used in Bordeaux wine, and it is the most widely planted grape in the Bordeaux wine regions. Merlot is also one of the most popular red wine varietals in many markets. This flexibility has helped to make it one of the world's most planted grape varieties. As of 2004, Merlot was estimated to be the third most grown variety at 640,000 acres globally.
Blaufrankisch is grown across central Europe and is primarily found in the central European countries of Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Slovakia. This variety was first documented in the 18th century in Austria. At that time, in what was then Germany, it had the name of Lemberger or Limberger, which was derived from the town of Limberg – today Maissau – in Niederösterreich. In Hungary known as Kékfrankos.It was used as a crossing partner for Austrian new breeds like Zweigelt, Blauburger, Roesler and Rathay. Blaufränkisch is found especially in the wine-growing regions of northern, middle and southern Burgenland as well as in eastern Niederösterreich.
Zweigelt is Austria's most popular dark-berried grape variety planted on over 16,000 acres. The cross was bred relatively recently in 1922 by Dr. Zweigelt at the Klosterneuburg research station. It is a cross between Blaufrankish and St. Laurent that combines some of the bite of the first with the elegance of the second. It is widely grown throughout all Austrian wine regions and can be made into a serious, age-worthy, exhuberantly fruity wine, although most examples are best drunk young.
Region: Neusiedlersee DAC, Austria
Vinification: The ‘Pitti’ is a blend coming from vines that average 12-15 years in age and are planted on sandy clay mixed with limestone; manually harvested, de-stemmed, left for 18 days on skins before fermenting in steel with natural yeasts for four days and on lees for three months. The wine is then aged for six months in steel and roughly filtered before bottling.
About the Winemaker: There is a simple and honest feeling in the wine and spirit of Gerhard Pittnauer which hails from his generosity and humility. Given the reins of his vineyard in the mid-1980’s after the unexpected death of his father, Gerhard, then 18 years old, had to train himself to make wine in the midst of scandal and chaos in the Austrian wine market. He chose to become a student of the broader wine world, and, in realizing the exceptionality of the land he farmed and of the indigenous grapes of the region, allowed himself to experiment with some missteps until he found his thesis. He set forth to ‘grow’ wine rather than to ‘make’ it in the cellar, from the autochtone varietals. He did so without any viticultural doctrine until he found that there was a consistent, common thread in the wines he loved to drink from France and elsewhere. If, he thought, these wines were amazing because of biodynamics, then he must do the same to achieve the pinnacle in his own wine.
So he tends 15 hectares, half of which he owns and half of which he rents, alongside his wife Brigitte to create what they call living wines. All work is done manually from composting to pruning. There is no calendar that drives them. Nothing is rushed: they believe in quality over speed. They taste for perfect ripeness, select the cleanest grapes, and begin the wine in the cellar in response to the conditions of the vintage. Gerhard and Brigitte are aware of the evolution of their tastes as well as the vineyard’s. They are students presenting the current findings. Not with proud declaration, but with excited experimental energy to get the best of what they have. So far, it is delicious research.