Zweigelt is a cross of Saint-Laurent and Blaufrankisch. It was created in 1922. The popularity of this variety is evident in the fact that it can be found in all Austrian wine regions, with the best examples from Burgenland and especially the Neusiedlersee.
The classic Austrian Zweigelt unplugged is deep-colored with rich, vibrant flavors of spiced raspberry and cherry. While the best examples can be stored for up to ten years, most are best enjoyed within a few years of their release.
The varietal Zweigelt wines of this grape are quite common. However, they are also used frequently in blends. Combining it with Cabernet and Merlot creates an Austrian twist to the Bordeaux Blend. It is also often paired with Blaufrankisch, its parent-variety Blaufrankisch, to create a pure-blooded.
Zweigelt can also be used to make sweet wines. Stroheim from dried grapes or Ice wine is the most expensive Zweigelt wine. These aren’t just for Austrian vineyards. At least one high-end Zweigelt Ice Wine is made in Canada’s Okanagan Valley.
Zweigelt was created by Dr. Friedrich “Fritz”, who initially called it Rotburger. This confused with a completely different variety (see Rotberger), which was created around the same period in Geisenheim. This duplication wasn’t resolved until 1970, when Lenz Moser, an Austrian winemaker, renamed Dr. Zweigelt’s variety “Zweigelt”.
Zweigelt is a truly successful cross. It has desirable traits from both its parents (see Saint-Laurent, Blaufränkisch). It gets its vibrant, Pinot-like cherry aromas from Saint-Laurent and the ability to make elegant, silky wines. It has inherited a good amount of spiciness from Blaufrankisch.
The Zweigelt grapes are a combination of both parents, who can produce wines with deep purple-crimson color. This is why the best Zweigelt wines have a dark and brooding appearance. This makes it tempting for winemakers to overcrop Zweigelt vines.
The result is wines that are acceptable in color but have diluted flavors and aromas. While yields have been kept under control by Austria’s stringent wine laws, there are still significant differences between Zweigelts made from higher-yielding vineyards or those produced by quality-conscious producers.