Zweigelt is a dark-skinned grape that has, since its development in 1922, become Austria's most widely planted red-wine variety. This high-yielding vine is now grown in almost every Austrian wine region from Bergland in the west to Burgenland in the east. Following its success in Austria, the variety is now becoming popular in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia. Small-scale plantings have also been trialed further afield, in Canada, Japan and England.
A crossing of Saint-Laurent with Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt was developed by Dr Friedrich 'Fritz' Zweigelt, the viticulturist after whom it is named. Since then, it has been crossed with several other varieties, notably with Cabernet Franc to create Cabernet Moravia and with Rathay to create Austria's little-known Roesler.
Because Zweigelt buds later than Saint-Laurent and ripens earlier than Blaufrankisch, it provides a kind of insurance policy in the vineyard. While the other two varieties are susceptible to harsh weather conditions (spring frost and autumn rain respectively), Zweigelt vines typically dodge these seasonal threats.
Wine made from the grape can be quite rich, but it is better known for its pepper and spicy qualities. The best examples show generous fruit flavors, usually centered on a red-cherry and raspberry core. The wines have the potential to cellar well if properly barrel matured, but most bottles are consumed within a few years of their release.
Although varietal Zweigelt wines are very common, the grape is also commonly used in blends. In Burgenland, it is combined with Cabernet and Merlot used to create an Austrian twist on the classic Bordeaux blend, or with its parent-variety Blaufrankisch for a purely Austrian blend. It is even blended with Pinot Noir on occasion.
Zweigelt was originally called Rotburger, but this led to confusion with the entirely distinct Rotberger variety (Geisenheim 3-37). In 1975, the influential Austrian winemaker Lenz Moser renamed it Zweigelt and the name has stuck.
Synonyms include: Blauer Zweigelt, Zweigltrebe, Rotburger.
Food matches include:
Europe: Stelze (roasted ham hock)
Asia: Vịt nấu cam (Vietnamese-style duck à l'orange)
Australasia/Oceania: Pesto and ricotta roulade