Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg

Cirfandli

Cirfandli

History

A variety that is certainly of Austrian origin, from the Thermenregion. It is likely to be a natural crossing between Roter Veltliner and Savagnin that may have occurred around Gumpoldskirchen. In Austria, it is also called Zierfandler or Spätrot, in reference to its late ripening and the colour of its pale red berries.

Viticultural characteristics

Its leaves are quite large and round and with a very hairy underside and blunt, uneven lobes. The clusters are relatively long, pyramidal and winged. The berries are densely packed, moderately large, thin-skinned and light red in colour. It is a medium to late-ripening variety with late budburst.  

Where it's grown

It is cultivated on 77 hectares in Austria and is found almost exclusively in the Thermenregion, where it is used to make monovarietal wines or blended to advantage with the region’s other variety, Rotgipfler, to produce so-called Spätrot-Rotgipfler wines. It is drought tolerant and thrives on calcareous soils. The variety is a sugar pump, so is also used to make sweet wines, some of which are botrytised, as well as full-bodied, rich, oily, high alcohol, dry single-vineyard wines.

It is cultivated on 25 hectares in Hungary and can be found almost exclusively in the Pécs wine district. It was first planted here in the 1800s and has fortunately remained here until this day, so it can be called a real speciality of Pécs. It thrives on calcareous, loess and loamy soils.

What its wine tastes like

Cirfandli is a real sugar pump and is also susceptible to raisining under certain conditions, so it is not uncommon for its wines to contain some residual sugar, made in an off-dry or even sweet style. However, due to the small acreage dedicated to the variety, extremely few wines are made from Cirfandli.

Cirfandli wines are usually deep straw or golden yellow in colour. They are characterised by delicate aromatic notes as well as spiciness, ripe apples and walnuts from its rich grapes. Their oily, rich texture is usually accompanied by high alcohol. Sweet styles may also boast notes of dried fruit.

Cirflandi grape bunch and leaf

Wine & food pairing

A deep colour, enticing rich texture and often some natural residual sugar may characterise wines from Cirfandli. Full-bodied Cirfandli is also delicious on cool winter evenings, while light versions are refreshing even on the hottest summer days. The variety is not overly assertive yet has a pleasant notes of fruit and spice that, combined with its oily texture, make the wine a great partner for spicy, Indian or Asian-style dishes. Sweet Cirfandli is a pleasant, versatile dessert wine, which also pairs well with more substantial sweets thanks to its nutty, dried fruit notes. Serve both dry and sweet Cirfandli at about 8-10°C straight from the fridge in a tulip-shaped white wine glass. Ingredients that best match the flavour and texture of wines made from Cirfandli, depending on wine style, include apricot, pear, ripe apple, coconut milk, fruity young cheeses, turkey, chicken, prawns and white fish. Wines with a touch of residual sugar pair well with Indian and Asian dishes, as their characterful, hot, spicy flavours complement the oily sweetness of the wine. For example, a coconutty prawn curry with fragrant rice is the perfect pair for an off-dry Cirfandli, while a sweet Cirfandli is a good partner for fruit bread or gingerbread biscuits.

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