Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg
Fritz Zweigelt, the breeder and namesake of the variety, created it in 1922 by crossing Kékfrankos and Sankt Laurent in Klosterneuburg, Austria. It was initially called Rotburger but was later renamed in honour of its breeder. It was registered in the Hungarian national variety catalogue in the early 1980s; however, the variety was certainly known before this, especially in the western part of the country.
It is an early-budding and mid-ripening variety. It is generally trained on high cordon, and this is still the most widespread training method. It has relatively round, only slightly lobed leaves and medium-sized, densely packed clusters with large amounts of dark blue berries on each.
It is the most widely planted black variety in Austria, cultivated on 6,400 hectares and accounting for two-thirds of the world’s plantings of Zweigelt. It is an important variety in Lower Austria, with the loess and calcareous soils of the Weinviertel producing light, fruity wines. While around Lake Neusiedl, and especially on its eastern shore, it is the basis of the Neusiedlersee DAC (PDO) wines. The red wines from here are characterised by spicy, fruity, cherry notes, fresh acidity and medium tannins, without evident oak influence. It is also one of the most important varieties in the Carnuntum region, where it not only produces more basic wines, but there is also great emphasis laid on village and single-vineyard wines. Outside Austria, the variety can be found in neighbouring countries, such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as 1,600 hectares in Hungary. It is most widespread in the Kunság and Eger wine districts, while almost every tenth vine in the Sopron wine district is Zweigelt. It generally produces light red wines and rosés in the Kunság wine district, while in Sopron, there is a clear historical connection with the variety around Lake Neusiedl. This region highlights its qualities, producing easy-drinking wines that are vibrant ruby when young with notes of spice and red berry fruit and soft tannins. With age, however, it can develop depth and sweet spicy notes. It is also works well in blends and is a popular blending partner with Kékfrankos or other more tannic varieties.
The first thing that comes to mind about the variety is red berries in the form of cherry, sour cherry and plum, followed by a certain spiciness, even paprika. Wines are usually characterised by fresh acidity, medium tannins, body and alcohol. When young, it has an intense purple colour. Premium wines are also aged in barrique.
Zweigelt grape bunch and leaf
Zweigelt is an Austrian crossing. In Hungary, lighter styles are generally considered everyday wines; however, some winemakers are also making exceptionally high-quality, barrique-aged wines. Zweigelt is a very food-friendly wine and is appreciated by wine lovers all year round. Zweigelt rosé and lighter styles of red are great with tomato dishes, pasta, pizza, grilled vegetables, meat casseroles, ragout soups and Hungarian-style soups, especially spicy fish soup, while more full-bodied, aged Zweigelt makes a good partner for breaded or chopped liver, roast meat, meatloaf, venison stew or roast venison. Choose rosés and lighter styles of red from the latest vintage to best enjoy their fresh style. While high-quality Zweigelt can even benefit from a couple of years of bottle ageing before drinking. Always store in a cool place, at a constant temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat, to best preserve its aromas. Serve just below room temperature at 14-16°C in a tulip-shaped red wine glass. Ingredients that best match the flavour and texture of wines made from Zweigelt include root vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes, mushrooms, beetroot, aubergines, tomatoes, mature cheeses, goose, duck, game birds and offal as well as pork, veal and lamb dishes.