Grapelive: Wine of the Day March 20, 2018

2016 Peter Wetzer, Kékfrankos, Soproni, Hungary.
Sopron was once part of a greater region that included what is now Austria’s Burgenland home to fine Blaufrankisch, but part of Hungary since 1921, here the grape is known as Kékfrankos, this wild and remote area has a long Germanic tradition with many Swabian (Bavarian farmers mostly) settlers, who had a great influence in Sopron area. These early settlers were known as “Poncichter” (Bohnenzüchter in German) because they planted beans as cover crops, and for food, using the grape canopy to shade them from the long sunny days, this use of land led them to a more holistic approach to growing grapes and it still has spiritual connection to the small collection of new generation winemakers here, including Peter Wetzer, who is one of the best producers of stylish and natural Kékfrankos, he is a label to look for, I have been thrilled will each vintage I’ve had and this 2016 is just as impressive. Kékfrankos or Blaufrankisch in Austria and Lemberger in Germany is sometimes compared to Pinot Noir, but I find it more like the illicit love child of Cabernet Franc and Gamay who’s stepfather is from Burgundy! My two favorite versions are Georg Prieler’s Austrian example and Peter Wetzer’s from Soproni Hungary, both are excellent examples of varietal and terroir with the Austrian wine feeling denser/meatier and more powerful, while the lovely Wetzel seems more delicate perfumed and lighter in style. I was impressed with the vibrancy and textural grace in Wetzel’s new vintage, comes from the Kohlenberg and Harmler vineyards, where the soils are mixture of clay, red gravel, limestone, and loess, the vines age range is from 25-60 years old, this 2016 exceeds my hopes for such a wine with an inner dark flower bouquet and a light to medium bodied mouth feel that seems to gain dimension with your mood, making for an intriguing red. This natural and authentic Kékfrankos spent 18 months on the lees, it was native fermented in open top bins and barrel aged in used Hungarian oak, it’s all unfined and unfiltered as well to add to it’s terroir clarity. It’s a wine that adds a spicy, earthy tone and complexity on the palate with every sip, best with food, especially duck confit, there is layers of black cherry, red raspberry, a touch of bell pepper and mineral tones to revel in as well as a hint of cedar, licorice root, loam and a touch of leather. The winemaking is deft and clear, nothing overt, but still with an exciting presence in the glass, this is a lovely wine, pretty, fun and unique, to enjoy over the next 2 to 3 years.
($22 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive