Every wine lover knows that Austria produces world-class wine, as important a source for profound, age-worthy white wines as Germany or even France. Rightly so. The country's red wines, though, often get short shrift. But when Austrian reds – especially from the Blaufränkisch grape – are great, they can rival the Rieslings and Grüners as some of the best wines in the country, or even the world. There's no winemaker in Austria who achieves this kind of excellence as consistently and often as Roland Velich of Moric.
Today, we're pleased to offer a range of wines from Moric in Austria's Burgenland.
First, a quick geography lesson. The white wines that Austria is so famous for come from three valleys – the Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal – to the west of Vienna. Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and other white varieties make up the overwhelming majority of plantings here. But south and east of Vienna, bordering Hungary, is a region where red grapes are the most prized. This is the Burgenland. And while a whole host of red grapes grow in Burgenland, from international varieties like Pinot Noir and Merlot to the local Zweigelt and Sankt Laurent, the most important grape of the region is Blaufränkisch.
Blaufränkisch is a noble variety, a relative of Chardonnay, Gamay, and Pinot Noir. And when grown and made properly, Blaufränkisch can achieve the sort of complexity, elegance, and finesse these grapes are known for. "Complexity, elegance, and finesse" may as well be Roland Velich's slogan. His bottlings of Blaufränkisch strike a balance between pristine fruit, delicate structure, and a firm imprint of earth that can only call to mind red Burgundy.
Roland comes from a winemaking family, and worked for many years at his family's eponymous winery. But in 2006, driven by the goal of proving that Austria could make red wines to compare with Barolo and Burgundy, he set out on his own. With the Moric project, he focuses almost exclusively on vines of Blaufränkisch, farming some of the oldest (80-110yr old) pre-clonal vines in the country. His holdings center around the village of Lutzmannsburg, where the volcanic soils give the wines a deep core of dark minerality. Farming is organic and winemaking is hands-off: spontaneous fermentations, no fining or filtering, and very small amounts of sulfur. His winemaking is inspired by the great winemakers of the France and Italy. Velich himself thinks of his Blaufränkisch as Burgundy, with a touch of the Northern Rhône spice and sinew and the wild florality of Piedmont Nebbiolo.
These are some of the most unique and underappreciated wines in the world. If you are a lover of the classically great reds of the world, be it Barolo or Burgundy, you should take the opportunity to grab some of these.