Zweigelt? Zwei Not!

A recent issue of a food and wine magazine offered up several grapes to pinot noir lovers looking for more affordable alternatives. Among those proffered was Zweigelt, a red grape indigenous to Austria that is a cross of Blaufränkisch with Saint Laurent, created in 1922 by Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt. Although both Zweigelt and pinot noir grapes are red, for me, that is where the similarities end. That having been said, I highly recommend trying Zweigelt for a multitude of other reasons. Although it is often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot, I suggest tasting a bottle of the varietal in its pure form. You will be in for an affordable treat.

Last night I had the pleasure of tasting a 2008 Zantho Zweigelt at the hotel I am staying at in San Diego. Darker than pinot noir, the nose on the bright ruby red wine gave subtle hints of the fruit within; nothing too overwhelming. On the tongue, the wine started out smooth and fruity, with notes of red fruit, currants. I was expecting this to carry to a long, smooth finish. But the fruitiness gave way suddenly to a rather intense, spicy bite, slightly astringent, with a touch of tar. It was surprising, but extremely pleasant. Overall, it gave the sensation of beginning down a taciturn river, then unexpectedly hitting a waterfall. It was a wild ride and one I would take again.

Pairing Notes: I paired this wine with a palm and butter lettuce salad with quinoa and a lemony dressing, and pistachio-crusted salmon with wheatberries. Both dishes proved worthy companions to the wine. However, I would really like to pair this Zweigelt with slightly heftier dishes, including chicken and pork with some spicier seasoning, which I think would allow the wine to really shine.

Interesting Fact: The bottle and the Vino-Seal cork are decorated with a picture of the rare woodland lizard that lives in the village of Andau, originally named Zantho, in the county of Burgenland, from whence this wine hails.