Moric Blaufrankisch: Austria vs. Burgundy

Posted by CrushWine

"Elegant Blaufrankisch"

Sort of a jarring combination of words, isn't it? Austria's Blaufrankisch grape and the wines that it makes can fall under a number of descriptors. They can be broad and powerful, juicy, rustic and rugged. The best of them can be lots of fun to drink, but "elegant" is a word that would be used sparingly in regard to many of these wines.

Until now. Somehow, some way, Roland Velich is taking Blaufrankisch and shaping it into wines with incredible elegance and detail. His new estate, called Moric, is based almost exclusively around old-vine parcels of Blaufrankisch (up to, and over 100 years old) found in Austria's Burgenland. Whereas many winemakers in Austria have yet to find the balance between concentration and new wood, the wines of Moric have nailed it. As we tasted through the lineup of Herr Velich's Moric bottlings last month there was something about the fineness of these reds that reminded me very much of Chambolle-Musigny.

These 2006s glide over the palate like layers of satin, a finely knit texture of bright red fruit underscored with darker notes of cassis, dark licorice, dried grasses, eucalyptus, pulverized cooking spices, pepper, soy and earth with a very taut spine of polished minerals. There is a wonderful acidity here, a tension that provides lift for the very serious concentration these wines have.

While the village-level Neckenmarkter should be seriously considered by all fans of Burgundy, regular 2006 Blaufrankisch represents one of the top values in serious red wine from Austria or anywhere else.

Please keep in mind that these are traditional reds that showcase a balance of fruit married to earth and mineral - they are not fruit bombs! Comparisons are always very hard, but these wines have their heart in Burgundy. Those of you who enjoy the Chambolles of Hubert Lignier or the Volnays of de Montille and d'Angerville (to name but a few) should definitely consider Morics reds.

In other writings about the wines of Moric I have seen the comparison made to a blend of Syrah (think Northern Rhone) and Nebbiolo. Indeed the high-toned, exceedingly floral nose does strike a similar chord with the great traditional Barolos.

Joe and I are fairly convinced Moric is making perhaps the greatest reds in Austria at the moment. The 2006s are INCREDIBLE, displaying the monumental concentration of the vintage yet somehow also having a discipline and delineation.

We're not alone in this belief. The Moric Blaufrankischs have quickly established a cult following within Austria and beyond. At this point I've had a number of Burgundy collectors ask me about Morics wines - the word is getting out for sure.

Yes, while these 2006 Morics would be great reds for the holiday table, don't worry because they'll be drinking wonderfully all winter and for the next 2-5+ years. The village Neckenmarkter will most likely reward cellaring for 5 years or even longer. To bring these wines into their top form, please do decant them 2-4 hours before you want to drink them.

Moric has quickly become one of the most highly regarded red wine producers in Austria and with their minuscule production (less than 700 cases of the Neckenmarkter; about 2,500 cases of the regular Blaufrankisch) the few bottles that come to the U.S. are getting harder and harder to find. We have taken as big a parcel of these wines as we were allowed, but we expect to sell out quickly.

Click button below to see our real-time online inventory of the Moric's 2006 Lineup:

Roland Velich and the wines of Moric

Started in 2006, the wines of Moric are based on some extraordinary terroirs - the vines used for the Neckenmarkter are 25-50+ years old while the vines for the Lutzmannsberg Alte Reben are over 100 years old. Neckenmarkt is in the Middle Burgenland, with slightly higher vineyard
altitudes so the wines have the finesse of the more northern regions with the concentration and power of the southern regions. Yields here, with these old vines, are naturally miniscule and the winemaking is traditional and delicate, with natural yeasts and an incredibly deft use of new and neutral wood (unlike many of Moric's neighbors!).

Blaufrankisch, wah?

"Blaufrankisch" is not a word that drips elegantly off the tongue. (Most often, the wines made from the Blaufrankisch grape don't exactly glide across the palate either.) That said, this is arguably the most important red wine varietal in Austria. Its favorite spot in Austria is just south and east of Vienna, in a region known as the Burgenland. Known as Lemberger in Germany, and in the few places in the U.S. that it is grown, Blaufrankisch produces a wine of a dark, midnight blue hue and the wines can have immense depth and power to them with dark fruit, pepper and bramble notes.