2011 Weingut Prieler, Blaufrankisch, Liethaberg DAC, Burgenland, Austria.
It’s great to see Georg Prieler and his wines from Burgenland, Austria getting so much praise and outstanding ratings in recent years, I’ve been a long time fan of the Primmer wines and especially the Blaufrankisch and Georg’s awesome Pinot Blanc bottlings, like this 2011 Leithaberg Cru Blaufrankisch, which shows this grape in its best light. I first got introduced to Georg by Terry Theise and always enjoyed meeting him at Terry’s famous trade tastings featuring German and Austrian wines over the last 15 years and drinking Prieler’s Johannhole Blaufrankisch, one of the best values in Blaufrankisch, and his elegant Seeberg Pinot Blanc, a wine that will make you think you are drinking a fine white Burgundy. The Prieler estate, in Schützen on the western side of the Lake Neusiedl, in Burgenland is in a warm region on the Pannonian plain that has a vast array of soils and micro climates that sees as much as 2000 hours of sunshine per vintage. While I love the uniquely Austrian Blaufrankisch and the round and textural Pinot Blanc at Prieler, they have a quality set of Burgundian varietals, which have been in Austria for centuries, when Cistercian and Franciscan monks founded monasteries in the country bringing with them their favored Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay, both of which do exceptionally well here. This 2011 Leithaberg Blaufrankisch is one of the best I’ve tried from Prieler with a deep garnet color and a delicate floral bouquet leading the way to a richly flavored medium bodied palate that shows fine grained tannin and layers of blackberry, plum, cranberry and mulberry fruits along with warm loam, wild herbs, brown spices and hints of sweet kirsch. There is some similarities to Cabernet Franc, but the silken luxurious Liethaberg has a graceful Pinot Noir like mouth feel and it lingers brilliantly revealing its mineral tones and balanced class.

The 2011 Prieler Leithaberg Blaufrankisch comes from a special all organic hillside parcel with and and iron-rich brown loams over calcerous chalky soils that comes through in the character of this wonderfully entertaining red wine that was carefully hand crafted using gentle winemaking techniques. The Blaufränkisch bottlings from the Johanneshöhe get fermented raised in mainly large oak casks, though most single Crus see some smaller barriques to polish their texture and give some wood accents in just the right amount, adding a hint of smoke and softening the rough edges. Georg’s commitment to high quality is obvious and with the help of Silvia Prieler, who has a PhD in biochemistry, also brings international experience to the cellar, after her internship at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy, all of which shine in their tidy collection of white and red wine offerings. There is always a clarity and sense of place that come through in these wines and they never seem over done, these are really impressive efforts that should be on your radar, especially in great vintages, which 2011 was in this region on the eastern side of Austria, along with the string of current years that include 2013, 2016 and 2017 releases. The Blaufrankisch (aka Lemberger in Germany and in parts of America’s Pacific northwest) varietal, which was first seen in lower Styria, is a black-skinned (red) wine grape grown widely in Austria, mostly in Burgenland and also Hungary where it is known as Kékfrankos. This late ripening grape is distant cousins to Pinot Noir and Gamay with recent DNA testing showing that it is at least related to both of these varieties, as they are all descendants of Gouais Blanc. For those that have not had Blaufrankisch, I would highly recommend exploring the wines of Moric, Muhr (Niepoort) and in particular Prieler’s excellent examples of this signature Austrian red grape. The entry level Blaufrankisch at Prieler is a great starting point at under $25 a bottle, but for something extra special this Liethaberg Cru is worth chasing down.
($55 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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