© Stefan Gergely

Red Wine Grand Prix: The taste of youthful freshness

The red young wines from Austria are the harbinger for the big round of wines from the 2021 main vintage and the reserve wines.

The Grand Prix for young red wines from Austria is the harbinger for the big round of wines from the 2021 main vintage and the reserve wines. This fall the 44th Falstaff Red Wine Awards will be held, the long-established annual wine evaluation event in Austria, where the best wines of the country are honoured. The young wine competition, which was originally only offered for the largest variety in terms of volume, Blauer Zweigelt, has been greatly expanded over the past few years with two additional categories, namely single-varietal Blaufränkisch and cuvées.

Around 150 samples entered the race for the coveted trophies this year. The young wine Grand Prix focuses on the factors of fruit, freshness and drinking pleasure, while many possible variations are permitted in the ageing process, which can lead to the desired result. Conclusion: the 2022 vintage has produced a large number of very good red wines. We will come back to the details and the specific weather conditions later.

The winning wines in detail

Let's start the overview of the best wines with the largest starter group. The young Zweigelt wines are appreciated in Austria for their accessibility, elegant body and inviting cherry fruit - not to mention the fact that this category offers outstanding value for money. 85 wines competed in the Blauer Zweigelt 2022 category, with Nestor Neusiedlersee DAC ultimately emerging as the winner.

A relatively new project, that of Günther Neukamp and Thomas Stadler in Halbturn, has already attracted very positive attention at Falstaff with single-vineyard wines made from Pinot Gris and Cabernet Franc and is now also showing its skills with young red wines. Second place went to a real perennial favourite of the Falstaff jury, namely the Zweigelt Ried Goldberg from Werner Achs in Gols, while last year's winner, Zweigelt Unplugged from Hannes Reeh in Andau, took third place. The three top wines achieved 93 points, while nine others were awarded a high 92 points.

The group of Blaufränkisch wines is probably somewhat smaller this year due to the vintage. The winner is Weingut Pasler with its mineral-animating Blaufränkisch Ried Joiser Hoflagen. Only narrowly beaten, also with 93 points and this time in second place, was the Blaufränkisch Edelgrund from Paul Achs in Gols. Three wines with a score of 92 points had to be ranked. The Kranixfeld winery - the Fischl family from Mörbisch - emerged as the winner and ultimately came third in the ranking. The successful wine is the Blaufränkisch "Ochs auf Lerchenau" from the Mörbisch festival wine series.

In the growing group of red cuvées, the Christian Kirnbauer winery from Deutschkreutz won the Trophy for the first time. The fruity and elegant cuvée called Multi Kulti consists of local and international varieties, which together guarantee drinking pleasure. For the second time Michael Pasler from Jois showed his hand for young wines. His lime & slate takes second place. Third place goes to the Cuvée Ried Siglos from winemaker Silvia Heinrich from Deutschkreutz. All three wines on the winner's podium were awarded 92 points.

2022 - Year of harmony

To better understand the nature of young red wines, it is necessary to analyse the vintage that produced them in more detail. The character of the wines tasted clearly points in one direction: they are harmonious wines, showing good depth of fruit, round tannins, sufficient freshness and mineral nuances.

The varieties that can be drunk young are not quite as good as those from the outstanding 2021 vintage, but they are not far behind. In short, friends of the fruitier, more accessible style of red wine can look forward to 2022. Winegrowers still remember the 2022 vintage very well due to the unusual weather conditions, as it demanded their full commitment. Efforts that paid off in the end; perhaps even more so with the red wines than with the very good white wines.

The winter passed without sufficient rainfall and with relatively mild temperatures. Budding was quite late, towards the end of April. This was a good thing, as it meant that the dreaded late frosts were avoided. Due to the warm weather, flowering started rather early. Unfortunately, precipitation disrupted a brisk and regular process during this sensitive phase. In many regions the grape set was reduced naturally at an early stage. The summer months were then characterised by numerous hot days and, above all, extreme drought, the likes of which had hardly ever been seen before. However, the tide turned before the main harvest, around August 20. There was precipitation, which was quite heavy in some areas. These amounts of rain were a blessing. While sugar ripening was rather modest beforehand, the just-in-time rainfall triggered a veritable ripening boom. And so, at the beginning of September, gradations were suddenly recorded as in the excellent 2019 wine year. Due to the summer heat, the grapes bore small berries, which could now produce powerful red wines with ripe tannins and good structure despite lower acidity.

The conditions were therefore ideal for a great red wine vintage, especially as the ratio of pulp to skins of the very small-berried grapes was optimal. In addition, the nights were quite cool during the main harvest period, which guaranteed a pronounced aroma. The resulting juiciness and harmony characterise the young wines of the promising 2022 vintage. Probably the only major disadvantage of this vintage is the available quantities, which were reduced due to the trickling of the flowers and the heat of the summer.

The Red Wine Guide 2023/24, which will be published in November in time for the Falstaff Red Wine Gala at the Hofburg in Vienna, will once again be a helpful and reliable guide for prospective buyers.

Peter Moser
Peter Moser
Wein-Chefredakteur Österreich