Prieler Johanneshohe Blaufrankisch 2018
The Prieler estate, in Schützen on the western side of the Lake Neusiedl, is a historic old farm, once dedicated to many types of agriculture but now specializing in grape growing. Two generations of the Prieler family now run the estate: Engelbert and Irmgard, who in 1972 focused the estate on quality production of several grape varieties, mainly blaufränkisch and Burgundian varieties. Their son, Georg, now heads the estate and continues working to best express the unique terroir of the Leithagebirge.
Prieler’s 20 hectares are currently cultivated in vineyards between the Leithagebirge, the last outpost of the eastern Alps that protect the vines from the western winds, and the Lake Neusiedl, which tempers the hot climate of the Pannonian plain. Basking in 2000 hours of sunshine annually, North Burgenland is the sunniest region in all of central Europe, with far below average rain fall. Soils vary dramatically in this area around the Schützen Stein. Seeberg and Sinner vineyards contain fossil bearing limestone and are best suited, to Prieler’s outstanding Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. The iron-rich, brown loam of the Johanneshöhe on the slopes of the Leithaberg produces delicious blaufränkisch, while the Goldberg vineyard, filled with ‘glimmerschiefer’, or mica-schist, flecked with gold, produces one of the most important, world-class wines in all of Austria.
Prieler’s focus on blaufränkisch as well as Burgundian varieties such as chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot noir, which have a long history of cultivation in this part of Burgenland. The area around Vienna was cultivated by Cistercian and Franciscan monks, who founded monasteries along the Danube and brought these varieties from France and Germany. Silvia Prieler, with a PhD in biochemistry, brings international experience to the cellar including an interim at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy. In the vineyards, the Prielers prune rigorously, plant cover crops and pay meticulous attention to canopy management as their region receives so much sunlight. They make multiple, careful selections during harvest in order to control alcohol while still achieving physiological ripeness.
Inky magenta with aromas of violets, herbs and spices, Blaufrankisch first appeared in Austria in the 18th century and today is the second most planted red variety in Austria after its own offspring, Zweigelt. Blaufrankisch thrives in the warmer Austrian zones and while most of the global acreage remains here, the variety has travelled a bit outside of its homeland. Somm Secret—In pre-Medieval times grapes were divided into superior quality, those whose origins lay with the Franks, called “Frankisch,” and all others, which were deemed inferior. This well-revered grape took the name, blau (meaning blue or dark) plus, “Frankisch,” or Blaufrankisch.
The source of Austria’s finest botrytized sweet wines, Burgenland covers a lofty portion of Austria's wine producing real estate. It encompasses the smaller regions of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland. The latter two are most associated with their exceptional red wines. The region as a whole produces no shortage of important whites.
Neusiedlersee, named for the lake that it surrounds to the east, is home to a great diversity of grape varieties. The region’s most notable wines, however, are the botrytis-infected, sweet versions.
Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, which wraps the lake on its western side, includes the town of Rust, a historically esteemed wine community. Its close proximity to the lake’s fog and mist make it another source of some of the more prestigious botrytized wines. Neusiedlersee-Hügelland also produces fine Blaufränkisch, Pinot Blanc, Neuburger and Grüner Veltliner, though a label will usually name the more general, Burgenland, so as not to confuse it with its eastern cousin, Neusiedlersee, across the lake.
Blaufränkisch is well suited to and makes up over half of the vineyard area in Mittelburgenland. The region’s hills and plateaus, which are composed of variations in schist, loess and clay-limestone, produce high quality reds with interesting diversity.
Südburgenland, also known for its deep, complex and age-worthy Blaufränkisch, is beginning to turn out some alluring whites from Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc).