Austria is best known for its white wines – its Rieslings and its Grüner Veltliners. But lately, it has also started to get some recognition for its reds, in particular those made from the blaufränkisch grape. The name is a mouthful, but blaufränkisch (bl-ow-frank-eesh) is definitely a grape worth knowing, yielding wines that are robust and spicy yet shot through with terrific acidity and a refreshing zesty character. As such, they make exceptionally versatile food wines that work well with rich dishes on cold winter nights, but they will also pair with hamburgers or grilled chicken during a summer cookout. For a time, producers of blaufränkisch succumbed to the lure of new oak, which did not flatter their wines, but they now seem to have dialed back the wood, and the overall quality is steadily rising.
It is widely agreed that there is no finer source of blaufränkisch than Weingut Moric, which is located in the Burgenland region bordering Hungary. Using older vines and higher-elevation vineyards, winemaker Roland Velich turns out wines with a finesse that evokes comparisons to the best red Burgundies. The 2011 Moric Blaufränkisch ($30), which is his entry-level wine (Velich produces several different bottlings), is a great example of why people are so jazzed about Moric and about this once-obscure grape. The 2011 is a cool, elegant red with peppery dark fruit, a winsome floral note, excellent balance, and a deliciously tangy finish. It is not an in-your-face wine; there is a pleasantly restrained aspect to it, but it delivers a lot of pleasure going down. [$30; winemonger.com]