Thursday, April 3, 2014

Why won't you dance with me? I'm not no Lemberger!

Lemberger is a Austrian grape with an off-putting name that is not widely grown in the United States.

You have to try it!

Lemberger (LEM ber ger) is the signature black grape of Austria, where it is called Braufränkish. The "fränkish" part of the name refers to its cultivation by the Franks, a medieval confederation of Germanic tribes, who considered this grape to be of superior quality.

Lemberger is grown in Austria's Burgenland wine region, which is on the eastern border with Hungary. Any further north and the climate would be too cold.

Lemberger is popular in central Europe, where the grape is used in both blends and single varietal wines that often seeing some barrel aging. 

Here are a couple of good Austrian Lemberger producers. The labels can be confusing.  
"Trocken" means "Dry"

Some Lemberger is grown in the Finger Lakes area of New York, but the grape seems to thrive in Washington State's Red Mountain area, which is in the middle of the Washington/Oregon border.

You're going to have to hunt for this one. 

I found a Kiona Vineyards Lemberger at the West Seattle Thriftway. In the corner. On the bottom shelf. $15.

Keep looking - you gotta want it.  

But wait! Through the amazing powers of the internet you can buy it online, either directly from the winery or via Amazon.

Go click on the link and buy some. Shipping may take some time. 

I'll wait.




Ok, unwrap your wine from the packaging. Don't forget to recycle the box.

Notice how the label says Estate Bottled. This is a government regulated wine industry term for "in house".

Estate Bottled means that:
  • All the fruit is grown in the Kiona Vineyards and not purchased from someone else. 
  • The wine from that fruit is made by the Kiona winery and not made by someone else. 
  • The winery is located in the same viticultural area that the grapes were grown in. 

When you pour yourself a glass of this wine you'll notice the deep, but not completely opaque, purple color. 

Kiona grows their Lemberger grapes in Washington State's Red Mountain AVA, which is hot, dry, and notable for creating "beefier" red wines. Lemberger grown in this area seems to be a little bit deeper colored and fruitier than European Lemberger.

Lemberger is like Pinot Noir.
This Lemberger is dry and has medium body with high acidity, which is similar to Pinot Noir. In fact, Kiona Vineyard's marketing guy calls Lemberger a "Pinot Noir on steroids". While this comparison is easy to grasp, I think that it falls a little short of a true description of this unsung gem.

Lemberger is like Zinfandel.
I find Lemberger juicy and fruity, with refreshing acidity, and mild, almost nonexistent, tannins. This has all the makings of a great red wine to break out on the patio when you fire up the grill. In this aspect, Lemberger is like Zinfandel.

Lemberger is like Cru Beaujolais.
When I taste this wine, I get cherry and blackberry flavors with a big spicy dose of black pepper. This is a lively wine. Lemberger has big flavors with a very lush and velvety mouthfeel, but without the weight of a full bodied wine. I'd compare it to a Cru Beaujolais.
What sort of food pairs well with Lemberger?

Lemberger's high acidity and low tannins make it a very versitile food pairing wine, so there is another similarity to Pinot Noir.

Try Lemberger with salmon. The wine is bold enough to stand up to a strongly flavored fish, but the lack of tannins keep the wine from overpowering the main course.

Lemberger's peppery flavors will mirror the char on anything you cook on the grill, while the bold fruit will complement those flavors.

Lemberger's high acidity will help the wine pair with high acid foods. Tomatoes are a high acid food, so try pairing Lemberger with anything that incorporates tomatoes: pizza with a red sauce, pasta with a red sauce, or meat with a tomato-based barbecue sauce.

If you like Pinot Noir, you will find that Lemberger has many of the same qualities. 

If you prefer bolder flavored wines, you'll find that Lemberger has big flavors that are easy to get behind.  
If you want the easy drinkability of Zinfandel, Lemberger is right there with ya.

If you want something that reminds you of a Cru Beaujolais, but is from Washington and only costs $15 freakin' dollars, go hunt down some Lemberger.

And Lemberger also makes awesome Sangria.

No comments:

Post a Comment