28 May 2024 / Geri Ádám Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

Home of Kékfrankos: Sopron

Sopron is often called the capital of Kékfrankos. The variety's triumph dates back to the period after the phylloxera epidemic. Nowadays, a wide variety of Kékfrankos wines are produced in the wine district, most of which are perfectly suited to gastronomy. It is therefore worth getting to know Sopron's 'northern style' Kékfrankos and the wineries that produce them.

In the Sopron Wine District, grapes are grown on around 1,300 hectares. Of these, 600 hectares are planted with Kékfrankos, while the second most widespread grape variety in the area is Zweigelt, covering 130 hectares. Hungary's most western wine-growing region can therefore be called the home of Kékfrankos. This was a result of the phylloxera epidemic that hit Hungary in the last years of the 19th century. Kékfrankos was already found almost everywhere in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, evidenced by its unique names in regions like Klosterneuburg, north of Vienna, in Croatia, and around Sopron. In Sopron, it was called Burgundi at the time and was less important, as white grapes, particularly Zöldveltelini, were the dominant variety before the phylloxera outbreak.

 


The white grapes destroyed by the grape rootworm were then replaced by red grapes, mainly Kékfrankos, in line with local tastes of the time. This debunks the legend that the name 'Kékfrankos' (meaning blue franc) originated from Napoleon's armies, who supposedly paid for high-quality wine with the more valuable blue franc. Nevertheless, Kékfrankos is now the number one grape variety in both the northern Sopron district, which includes Lake Fertő, and the southern district of Kőszeg.

 


The soil of the Sopron hills consists of crystalline gneiss and mica schist, later overlain by gravel, clay, limestone, and loess. Sopron is one of the country's most arid and coldest wine-growing regions, leading to the saying, "In Sopron, either the wind blows, or the rain falls, or the bells ring." Due to the soil and climatic conditions, the wines produced here are so-called northern style, characterized by austere, acidic Kékfrankos wines.


Most Sopron Kékfrankos wines are fermented in steel tanks, with some batches, such as rosés, not even aged in wooden barrels. A significant proportion of the Kékfrankos made for red wine is still aged in wood, typically in small barrels. The end result is usually a medium-bodied wine with medium alcohol and tannin content, characterful acidity, and predominantly spicy red berry fruit (cherries, sour cherries) aroma and flavor. Sopron cuvées often blend Kékfrankos with Zweigelt or Merlot for softening and Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon for additional tannin.
Only a small number of wineries produce vineyard-selected Kékfrankos, which represent the top of the range. Steigler and Luka wineries make dedicated wines from the Steiner vineyard, Ráspi winery from the chalky barren vineyard in Fertőrákos, and Franz Weninger, who is also active in Austria, from the Stein Sperner and Frettner vineyards.


The most notable wine-growing area of the much smaller and lesser-known district of Kőszeg is Vas-hegy (meaning Iron Mountain), bisected by the border. Imre Garger is a prominent winemaker on the Hungarian side, and his Kékfrankos wines are very popular among knowledgeable consumers. His Kékfrankos selection typically produces lively, acidic wines, moderately rich in tannins, showcasing the variety's spicy character.

 


Due to its versatility, Sopron Kékfrankos is an excellent gastronomic wine. Depending on the style, it pairs well with practically all the ingredients the forests and fields of the area offer. The rosés and lighter red varieties are excellent with roasted vegetables, grilled mushrooms, and soups. Fuller-bodied, longer-aged varieties pair well with liver, stews, and game meats, especially venison and venison stew. Finally, Sopron Kékfrankos should be tried with the bean dishes that are a local specialty. These dishes honor Sopron's former German-speaking population, who planted beans among the vines to make the most of the land. The German word "Bohnenzüchter" was adapted to "poncichter" in Hungarian, a term still used in the town. Choosing a bean dish to accompany your Kékfrankos offers a special experience and pays tribute to these people.

 

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