Markus Altenburger – Red 2014

Blaufränkisch and Plavac Mali were some of the first grapes I plunged into when starting to venture outside of my Californian safety net many years ago. It was however not the easiest grape for me to really love as where it’s grown is in generally cooler-climate regions where ripeness can be an issue. In good years, it can be a crisp, lively red that’s pleasant with meals due to a propensity to hold very proper amounts of acidity. In bad years, it’s just flatter than how this spoonjob thinks the earth is.

I revisit the grape from time to time and see that its beholding to the weather is still quite true and this is where we find a bottle by Markus Altenburger whose cellar is in Burgenland, essentially on the opposite end of the Lake Neusiedl from Pfneiszl who are just inside Hungary. Markus’s grapes for this wine come from his Jungenberg and Gritschenberg vineyards in Burgenland which are slate and limestone.

The lake generally has a positive influence on the region, moderating temperatures in what is most definitely a Continental Climate. There is also sun reflected off the water which helps with ripening. What it doesn’t help with is rain and in 2014, this was a disaster not just in Austria but across most of Europe. They apparently saw about 50% more than what was normal. Few regions were spared the untimely downpours although those that did like Burgundy, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero have seen very fine wines emerge.

You can immediately taste the vintage in this wine in the fact that ripeness was very difficult to achieve. I admire what Markus has managed to do with the wine however as it was very, very easy to make a scabby wine in 2014 but he’s managed to craft something that’s quite quaffable and pleasant yet is very much falling off in terms of profile. He’s intrigued me more than enough to try some of his other wines and vintages although I’ll probably have to pick them up in Austria as the entry point on pricing jumps a good deal more than what one drinking Spanish wine is accustomed to.

Red 2014
Dark ruby, minor rim variation. Tart young red cherry, red peppercorns, earthy, light cedar, cut grass. Very forward in the mouth, medium plus acidity but lacking in the mid palate, short finish. Pleasing and unencumbered but lacks persistence.
100% Blaufränkisch, 12.5% 15€