Places to be Wine

Carnuntum crowns the Zweigelt

by Anna Ulrich

Speaking in terms of wine, Carnuntum – first and foremost – means Zweigelt. There is a good reason for this. And lately this rings even truer, because the winegrowers of Carnuntum are developing the variety more and more consistently toward the supreme discipline: monovarietal single vineyard wines. But this sort of thing does not happen overnight; it requires many years of focus, discipline and critical thinking.

Parallel to this, Carnuntum carried out an intensive geologic survey of the vineyards. In cooperation with the Austrian Geological Institute, vineyard sites were examined for their soil types, water conductivity and heat storage capacity, as well as their mineral constituents.

All this research led to an even stronger focus on single vineyard wines, which in turn led to membership in the Österreichische Traditionsweingüter in 2018. Nine vineyard sites in Carnuntum were classified as Erste Lage (1ÖTW) by this growers’ association. Some of these top sites offer particularly good conditions for growing Zweigelt. This makes Carnuntum not just the only region that produces Erste Lage red wines, but also means that Zweigelt has found its way into the major leagues.

Sharing knowledge and experience

Carnuntum has 906 hectares under vines. One quarter of the area – some 235 hectares – is planted to Zweigelt. Pursuant to developments in the 1980s and 90s, about half of this production finds its way into cuvées – blended mostly with Blaufränkisch or international varieties. Approximately 120 hectares of Zweigelt are bottled as monovarietal wine. The style of these wines has changed significantly in recent years. While powerful wines with a great deal of new oak were the darlings of the Austrian red wine scene twenty years ago, today one can observe a clear tendency towards more freshness, cool aromas and individuality of expression.

How much or how little yield is advisable with Zweigelt?

According to Carnuntum’s winegrowers, there is no patent formula. Each vineyard has to be assessed individually, especially in combination with the variables affecting the vintage years, which are becoming increasingly extreme. However, a few parameters can be drawn from many years of experience: with a yield of approximately 7,000–8,000 kilogrammes per hectare, lighter to medium-bodied wines will result, while with a reduction in yield to 4,000–6,000 kg per hectare, more powerful wines will be bottled. The irony of viticulture is that one must invest a great deal of time and effort in order to arrive at low yields. Yield reduction is achieved through intensive work with foliage canopy management, by thinning out whole clusters and those on side-shoots. Depending on the vineyard, different types of rootstock can contribute to balanced growth. Ideally, one will only harvest about 1–1.5 kg of grapes per vine – old vines are particularly helpful if one wishes to achieve appreciable concentration along with harmonious character. Especially in very dry summers, this reduction in yield is also advantageous in reducing the risk of shrivelled grapes.

Which vintages?

Since monovarietal Zweigelts have been bottled less frequently in the past, there are relatively few examples on hand that can effectively illustrate how the vintages develop. The oldest Zweigelts are currently around twenty years of age, and inspire participants at every tasting – not only the ‘great’ vintages, but also wines from years with cooler weather. According to the experience of the winegrowers, the following vintages are currently of great interest: 1999, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Vintages with cooler weather conditions up to June, followed by a dry August and September are generally to be preferred, winegrowers believe. They describe the most important representatives from the recent decade:

2009: warm vintage, powerful wines 2011: very high physiologic maturity, rich and nicely rounded wines 2013: elegant, somewhat cooler; fresh, fruity wines 2015: optimal weather, black wines with marked depth of fruit 2017: very warm wines, rich in extract 2019: fully ripe, beautiful fruit, very warm, good acidic structure

In matters of food and wine pairing, Zweigelt is a great all-rounder. In the classic area, it goes beautifully with Italian standbys such as pasta and pizza – everything with tomatoes. Powerful Zweigelt goes well with dark meat or roasted flavours.

Recommended drinking temperature is a maximum 18°C; even better cooled down to 15°C.

In 2018, nine vineyards in Carnuntum were classified Erste Lage (1ÖTW) by the Österreichische Traditionweingüter. Some of them have established themselves as marvellous terroirs for monovarietal Zweigelt:

About Rubin Carnuntum Weingüter

The Rubin Carnuntum Weingüter represent 37 winegrowers from Austria's Carnuntum winegrowing region. The group, originally founded in 1986, spent the following decades laboriously profiling the remarkable geological and climatic elements of their region. Those efforts crystallized in 2019 into an official Carnuntum DAC. One year earlier, in 2018, twenty members of the Rubin Carnuntum Weingüter joined the Österreichische Traditionsweingütern (ÖTW) as a group.

Rubin Carnuntum Weingüter
Fischamender Straße 12/3
2460 Bruck an der Leitha

Rubin Carnuntum Weingüter

Projektmanagerin Anna Ulrich
Anna Ulrich
Project Manager - currently on maternity leave

In numerous columns and two books, the native of the Pfalz region of Germany reported on local winegrowers. She would later earn a Master’s degree in Public Relations and Communications in Vienna. Since 2016, this child of a winegrowing family has supported Wine+Partners through projects and events for German and other international customers. After her maternity leave she works now with trinkreif, Gut Hermannsberg and the Rubin Carnuntum estates.