The Blaufrankisch Alter Berg (literally “old hill”) is from a 25 year-old vineyard in the Leithaberg range on the western shore of the Lake Neusiedl. Leithaberg is a relatively new area for Gernot Heinrich who became attracted to the area’s limestone soils. The Blaufrankisch was manually harvested at the beginning of October and brought into the cellar where it was fermented in oak vats. The wine was aged for 18 months in 500 liter French oak barrels.
Pair with pot roast, chicken empanadas or charcuterie.
Gernot and Heike Heinrich founded their winery in 1990 with 2 ½ acres of vineyard purchased from Gernot’s family. His early work in the family winery, like most of that generation, was purely an agricultural pursuit with goals more related to quantity production. Gernot’s parents had wished their son would choose a different path, because unlike him, they could not see the potential for great wines to be produced from this area.
Just over a decade later, the Heinrich’s were recognized with the prestigious Falstaff “Winemaker of the Year” award. The philosophy at the winery is as transparent and pure as their wines. Their initial challenges were no comparison to the joy and some measure of freedom it gave Gernot & Heike to make a fresh start for the area. That joy and bravery still drives them both today, as they look across Lake Neusiedl to Leithaberg for their next challenge.
LOCATION OF VINEYARD
The province of Burgenland lies on Austria’s central, eastern border. The climate is regulated by the last fingers of the Alps, which extend to the top of Lake Neusiedl, the other major influence in the area. It is in the two wine growing regions of Neusiedlersee-Hugelland located on both sides of the lake that most of the province’s wine is grown.
Three main vineyard areas comprise the Heinrich vineyard land: the Heideboden (gravel soils that stretch from Gols toward the shores of Lake Neusiedl); the cru sites of Parndorfer Platte (the last vestige of the Wagram ridge that extends from the Danube valley through Vienna ending near the Hungarian border); and the vineyards of the Leitha range (new to Heinrich, on the northwestern edge of the lake).
Early vintages were powerful and boldly tannic, aged primarily in new barriques, however, over the past decade the intensity of vineyard work has become more critical to the development of the wines. Hence, use of new barrels in the cellar has become modest. The new, ultra-modern winery, completed in 2002, provides the freedom of space and the tools to ensure that the fruit is translated into wines that are powerful, yet without hard edges — complex, yet delicate.
The winery is dedicated to promoting elite examples of classic varietals from the area like Zweigelt, St. Laurent and Blaufrankisch. As each year passes, the red wines of Austria become more refined and the winemakers more adept. These may still be foreign sounding to the US market; however, it is clear the quality of the wines produced here will need no special translation to be appreciated.