Gruner Veltliner’s red siblings – Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

On a recent trip to the winelands of Austria, we paid homage to Gruner Veltliner, the local white wine hero. (See earlier blog which covers our visit to Niederösterreich and the wine regions of Kamptal, Kremstal and Wachau.)

However, Austria has many other unique wine secrets and no less so than in Burgenland, situated south of Vienna in the easternmost part of Austria, adjacent to the border with Hungary. Here, the seemingly endless Pannonian plain stretches beyond the horizon, and the geography is as far removed as can be imagined from the Alps-dominated ‘Sound of Music’ landscape of western Austria.

The historic region of Burgenland, Austria’s oldest wine region, is known for its climate of hot continental summers. Although there is some snow in winter, many parts of Burgenland receive over 300 days of sunshine a year.

The release this month of the Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch 2015 is an apt time to revisit our journey last year to this red-wine heartland of Austria, where indigenous varieties such as Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt and St Laurent thrive.

Neusiedlersee, Burgenland.

Neusiedlersee, Burgenland.

The viticultural focal point of the region is the vast, shallow steppe lake, Neusiedlersee, which helps contribute to the mild climate by storing heat and facilitating a long ripening season. The lake’s humidity also promotes the spread of noble rot in certain areas, resulting in magnificent sweet dessert wines.

Burgenland is divided into four wine-growing areas: Neusiedlersee (Neusiedlersee DAC), Neusiedlersee-Hugelland (Leithaberg DAC), Mittelburgenland (Mittelburgenland DAC) and Sudburgenland (Eisenberg DAC), each with its own diverse terroirs.

Each wine area has its own charming central town or village such as Gols, Rust, Deutschkreutz and Eisenberg.

The charming village of Rust

The charming village of Rust


Detail of stork's nest in Rust

Detail of stork’s nest in Rust

Burgenland atmosphere

Burgenland atmosphere

The road through Sudburgenland

The road through Sudburgenland







When we visited Burgenland in August 2015, it was at the tail-end of a heatwave that had climbed to 40 degrees in certain parts, and the days were still blisteringly warm in the mid to high 30’s during our visit. Since not all hotels in Austria have fully-functioning air-conditioning, this was sometimes an issue when transporting and storing wine, but fortunately we always managed to make a plan and we were able to make use of the Austrian Post Office’s excellent wine service to ship many cartons of delicious Austrian reds all the way back to Australia.

During our earlier adventure though the Gruner winelands of the Niederösterreich, we had visited many of the top wineries personally in order to taste their range. In Burgenland, however, we found that some of our best tasting experiences were to be found in the local wine tasting centres which house hundreds of wines from all the local wineries.

Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz,

Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz,

These wine centres included the WeinKulturHaus in Gols, the Selektion Vinothek in Eisenstadt, the Vinatrium Cellars in Deutschkreutz, and the Vinothek in Eisenberg. At these venues one can enjoy a wine flight or pay to taste a specific number of wines from different producers.

Recommended examples of top regional producers include Pittnauer, Heinrich, Kollwentz, Moric, Gesellmann and Hans Igler.


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How cool are our cool nights!

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

January 2016 is possibly going to pan out to be one of the warmest January’s on record in South Australia – just waiting for the meteorological team to make their call.

Fortunately here in the Adelaide Hills, we have a secret weapon. It’s called ‘Cold Nights Throughout the Year’. Not only does it make my life more bearable in summer when heatwave-days melt away to positively chilly nights, but it is also one of the defining features of the terroir for our Adelaide Hills wine region.

The grape growing region of the Adelaide Hills is defined as being ‘Cool Climate’ not because we have particularly cold days in our summer growing season, but because of these cold nights. What this night time chilling effect achieves is a considerable reduction in our mean 24 hour temperature recordings which are calculated as a mean of the summation of all the recording over a 24 hour period. Clearly, the more frequent the daily recordings, the more meaningful will be the mean.

Temp logger in Gruner Veltliner block

Digital temperature logger used at Hahndorf Hill

My trusty little digital temperature logger takes a recording every five minutes of the day for the full month of January, which permits me to calculate the Mean January Temperature (MJT) at our site in Hahndorf.

On the morning of the 1st of February I dash down to my weather station to collect the logger and plug it into my desktop and trawl though the January temperature data. There are 8928 individual recordings for the month of January plus a handy chart that graphically logs the temperature changes for the period.

Temp logger for Gruner Veltliner at Hahndorf hill winery

Double click on graph to enlarge

Note that there were 14 days in January 2016 that had maximums exceeding 30˚C which is indicative of how warm January was this year. There were also 10 mornings that dropped to temperatures below 10˚C, with the lowest being 5˚C on the morning of 17th January at 6.14 am.

The difference between the day’s maximum recorded temperature and the day’s minimum recorded temperature is called the diurnal variation – the drop between the highest recorded day temperature and the lowest recorded morning temperature.

The diurnal variation between the maximum of 35˚C recorded at 16.44 on the evening of 17th January, and the minimum of 7˚C recorded on the morning of 18th January at 06.34 is a whopping 28 degrees. This phenomenon of significant diurnal variations in summer is something that the Adelaide Hills has in abundance.

And the outcome of all these calculations? Well, our MJT for 2016 was 19.8˚C which is distinctly warmer that previous years, but still falls into the broad definition of Cool Climate grape growing, courtesy of the cold nights. Perfect for Gruner!

(To find out why cool nights are so significant with regard to growing wine grapes, please go to last year’s blog below:

The secret behind Gruner Veltliner success in the Adelaide Hills

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gruner Wanderlust

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

In August this year Marc and I made another pilgrimage to the great winelands of Austria. The purpose was to immerse ourselves in their amazing wine, food and tourism experiences.

We were extremely lucky, all along the route, to be able to meet up with most of the winemakers at their cellar doors and to chat in depth about their wines. Their wisdom and insights were illuminating and their hospitality was endearing. Perhaps we were simply fortunate to trap these winemaking bears in their caves, as it was just a few weeks prior to the onset of harvest and they were possibly all just sitting around, kicking their heels and waiting for the action to begin.

First stop was the Kamptal wine region which is our favourite Gruner Veltliner producing region. Here the wines can have great finesse and complexity, and yet be lively and refreshing.

Langenlois town centre

Langenlois town centre

The centre of this region is the ancient wine city of Langenlois which has been renowned for quality wines since the late 11th century. The modern-day tourism theme for this ancient city is ‘Wine, Food and Flowers’ and it is embraced very seriously by all the locals who all contribute in small or fantastical ways with wonderful displays of flower gardens, pots and window boxes in every nook and cranny of the town.

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FlLangenlois town centre

rsz_flower_pot_4Flowers of Langenlois

The Wine and Food aspect is inextricably connected to this historic region, but its epicentre is now represented by the über glamorous hotel and wine centre known as the Loisium Wine & Spa Resort, which is situated on the edge of the city.

The Loisium designed by American deconstructionist architect Steven Holl

The Loisium designed by American deconstructionist architect Steven Holl

If you had any doubt about the wine-history cred of this city, all you need do is take a fascinating tour of the labyrinth of underground wine cellars and tunnels that are several hundred years old and which crisscross at 15 – 20 m beneath the city for many kilometres. This is where wine was made and stored and enjoyed for many generations.


Inter-connecting underground cellars and wine tunnels of ancient Langenlois

Another extraordinary wine tourism experience recently established in the Kamptal is the ‘Wine Walk’ that starts just beyond the gate of the Loisium Hotel and meanders for about two hours through the surrounding hills and vineyards. It is designed to be both informative and entertaining with frequent rest points that feature either information about the terroir and the vines, or strikingly whimsical constructions such as wind harps, giant quirky sculptures and elaborate shacks nestled near the vines where you can find pre-ordered bottles of chilled, sparkling wine awaiting your pleasure.

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Giant pruning secateurs

Giant pruning secateurs

Earthworm sculpture

Earthworm sculpture

Giant grape berries

Giant grape berries






Wine Walk Langenlois - wine bottle telescopes

Wine bottle telescopes

Sparkling wine shack

Sparkling wine shack

Relax and soak up view

Relax and soak up view






The Kamptal wine region has seriously elevated itself to one of the most innovative and enjoyable wine tourism experiences possible.

Favourite Gruner Veltliner producers from this region include Bründlmayer, Jurtschitsch, Rudi Rabl and Loimer.

Next stop was the medieval city of Krems which is about an hour’s drive from Langenlois, and is situated on a lazy curve of the Danube River. This is also one of Austria’s top Gruner Veltliner regions and has the added advantage of being conveniently close to the third, and arguably most prestigious Gruner region of Austria, the Wachau.
KremsKrems is a charming walled university city with gracious, shady, tree-lined streets. Favourite Gruner producers in the Kremstal wine region include Nigl and Bert Salomon who has a cellar door and vineyard in the centre of the city.

A convenient drive from Krems, along the meandering Danube, is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Wachau wine region. Ancient ruined castles cling to the steep hills that overshadow the river and dramatic wine terraces tumble down to the river’s edge. This is an enchanted land that also plays host to some of the most respected Gruner Veltliner producers in Austria.

PX Pichler flash new winery

PX Pichler’s flash new winery

Favourite producers in the Wachau are Knoll, PX Pichler (whose cellar door was completely sold out of Gruner Veltliner) and Franz Hirtzberger.
Another worthwhile winery destination in this region is Domäne Wachau, which has a great selection of styles of Gruner Veltliner from many different and varying vineyards in the region. We were delighted and surprised to see a bottle of our own Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner tucked up amongst their collection of empties from their favourite Gruner Veltliner producers from around the world.

Domain Wachau's trophy shelf

Trophy shelf at Domäne Wachau includes our own HHW GRU Gruner Veltliner

After one week’s adventure based in this premier Gruner growing region, we reluctantly departed to continue our exploration of the red wine regions that are situated south east of Vienna, towards the border with Hungary. This will be described in the next GRU Files instalment.



Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adelaide Hills – the confirmed capital of Gruner Veltliner in Australia!

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Last month a Gruner Growers Group (GGG) meeting was held at Hahndorf Hill cellar door.  The main purpose of the meeting was to taste some examples from top Austrian Gruner producers and also to review all the Gruners produced from the 2015 Adelaide Hills vintage.

Hahndorf Hill Gruner Veltliner tasting Oct 2015

Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner tasting, Hahndorf Hill Oct 2015

I can happily report that it was a long and interesting morning. After tasting the flight of seven imported wines, we then proceeded to sniff and swirl our way through no less than 21 examples of Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliners.
There are now 17 Gruner producers who make wine from Adelaide Hills fruit, with several making more than one style – hence the 21 wines.

Hahndorf Hill Gruner Veltliner tasting Oct 2015

Glasses await Gruner – Tasting Oct 2015 Hahndorf Hill

It is very gratifying to see how this variety has evolved and expanded in the Adelaide Hills with so many excellent examples of different styles of this wine.

Within six years of this variety being introduced to the region, there is now far more acreage of Gruner V planted in the Adelaide Hills than in the rest of Australia combined. It is also now the most planted of the so-called white alternative grape varieties in our region, with the exception of Viognier (which has been around since the late 1980’s). As a consequence of this, the Adelaide Hills wine show is now the first regional wine show in Australia to have a dedicated Gruner Veltliner category included in its schedule.



List of Austrian wines tasted:
Weingut Am Berg    Kellerberg Grüner Veltliner  2014  – (12.5% alc)  – Kamptal region
Weingut Bründlmayer   Berg Vogelsang Grüner Veltliner 2013 – (12.5% alc)  – Kamptal region
Jurtschitsch    Lamm Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Reserve – (13.5% alc)  – Kamptal region
Weingut Hirtl   Kirchberg Grüner Veltliner 2014 – (12.5% alc) – Weinvertel region
Weingut Knoll   Loibner Grüner Veltliner Steinfeder 2014 (11.0% alc) – Wachau region
Weingut Franz Hirtzberger Honivogl Gruner Veltliner Smaragd 2014 (13.5% alc) – Wachau region
Weingut Bründlmayer  Vincent Spiegel Reserve Gruner Veltliner 2013 (13.5% alc) – Kamptal region

Current list of Gruner producers who use Adelaide Hills grown fruit:
Alan & Veitch
By Jingo
Catlin Wines
CRFT wines
Hahndorf Hill Winery
Henschke Wines
K1 Wines / Handcrafted by Geoff Hardy
Longview Vineyard
Main & Cherry
Mt Bera
Nova Vita
Pike & Joyce
Smidge Wines
The Pawn Wine Co.
Tomich Wines

Hahndorf Hill Gruner Veltliner tasting Oct 2015

Aftermath – Gruner tasting at Hahndorf Hill

Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gruner Veltliner and friends

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Nine years have now passed since our first imported cuttings of Gruner Veltliner arrived on Australian soil and since then, much wine has passed under the bridge.

We have continued to expand and consolidate our Gruner Veltliner clonal selections with further imports of plant material – but we have also reached out to embrace other exciting Austrian varieties.

Timeline so far:
Blaufrankisch has been a staple variety here at Hahndorf Hill vineyards since the vines were planted nearly 25 years ago. Then came the first batch of Gruner Veltliner material which we imported in 2006.

In 2012 we produced our first Zweigelt as the Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé, and we have now finally completed the picture with our first St Laurent material being released from quarantine earlier this year.

St Laurent vines at Hahndorf Hill - friends of Gruner Veltliner

Is this the first St Laurent to be placed in Australian soil?

To celebrate all these exciting new developments, we held a staff-training tasting this month with the focus being on Austrian varieties.

Gruner Veltliner tasting Hahndorf Hill


To start with, there were three flights of Gruner.

The first flight included three new 2015 vintage examples from Geoff Hardy and Hahndorf Hill from the Adelaide Hills.
The second flight was made up of a trio of 2013 Gruners : Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner, Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner from the Kamptal in Austria, and a very interesting Italian version, Manni Nossing – a Gruner Veltliner from the South Tyrol in Italy. This producer is situated high in the Italian Alps in a region that is close to the Austrian border.
In the third flight were two aged Gruners: Lark Hill Gruner Veltliner 2009 from the Canberra District, and Ott Fass4 Gruner Veltliner 2009 from the Wagram region in Austria.

Manni Nossing Gruner Veltliner

One of the wines tasted in the Gruner flights.

It was great to see how interesting and vibrant the new vintage wines were already performing and everyone was especially impressed with the Italian version from Manni Nossing. The two aged Gruners both showed up very well with good residual citrus freshness surrounded by interesting and mouth filling bottle-age characters.



Then there was a flight of two Zweigelt wines – the first being the Hahndorf Hill 2015 Zsa Zsa Zweigelt Rosé followed by a Pittnauer Zweigelt 2007 from the Burgenland region in Austria. The Rosé showed great charm with typical cherry and gentle spice components, whereas the full-bodied Pittnauer was muscular, savoury and with oodles of red fruit.

This was followed by two examples of Blaufrankisch: the Hahndorf Hill Blueblood Blaufrankisch 2009 (screwcap), and the Moric Blaufrankisch 2009 (cork) from Burgenland. The HHW Blueblood was extremely youthful with lovely blue fruits and cherry, gentle spice, juicy acidity and excellent structure. The Moric had the remnants of a powerful, earthy /savoury nose but unfortunately was considerably corked.

HHW Blueblood Blaufrankisch & Moric Blaufrankisch

HHW Blueblood Blaufrankisch & Moric Blaufrankisch

The final wine was another example from Pittnauer – their Saint Laurent 2009.

St Laurent (also known as Sankt Laurent in Austria) is considered to be an indigenous Austrian variety that possibly originated in Alsace. It’s also considered to be a Pinot Noir cross, with the other parent not yet having been identified. This exotic parentage is very apparent in the tasting of the Pittnauer version, with the wine showing all the hallmarks of a high quality red Burgundian but with the added charm of a gentle Rhone-like spiciness.

Can’t wait to get some of our own St Laurent into a bottle!

(PS: It is interesting to note that the other famous Austrian variety mentioned above, Zweigelt, is a cross between Blaufrankisch and St Laurent.)



Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gruner Veltliner’s blue sibling – Blaufränkisch

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Ever since Gruner Veltliner has begun to charm the palates of the world’s oenophiles, so has the interest in Gruner’s blue sister, Blaufränkisch, grown and evolved.
It was as if this dark beauty was waiting, like the Sleeping Beauty, to be splashed with a kiss from handsome Gruner, and thus awaken to astonish her admirers with her own haunting loveliness.

Blaufrankisch grapes

Blaufrankisch grapes

Blaufränkisch, as it is known in its native Austria, is a red wine grape that is grown across Central Europe and historically it has enjoyed a long history in this part of the world. In the days of Charles the Great (742 – 814 AD) the word ‘frankish’ was often attached to grapes that were perceived as superior and produced the best quality wine. Since ‘Blau’ means ‘blue’ in Germanic languages,  Blaufränkisch can therefore be translated to mean ‘blue grapes of the Franks’.

According to legend, Blaufränkisch vines were first introduced into Austria in the 10th Century, and the first official documentation of the variety was made in the 18th Century. The wine was reputedly one of the favourite choices of Napoleon and Bismarck.

It is also grown in significant amounts in Germany and Hungary, and in smaller amounts in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The high regard in which this grape is held in Eastern Europe has led to it being described as “the Pinot Noir of the East”. According to British wine journalist Jancis Robinson, the variety’s popularity and extensive acreage denote it as “the quintessential middle-European red winegrape”.

In Germany, the grape is known as Lemberger or, alternately, Blauer Limberger. The name Lemberger derives from the fact that in the 19th Century the grape was imported into Germany from Lemberg in Lower Styra, in present-day Slovenia, which was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The German climate is generally too cool for this late ripening variety other than in the southern province of Württenberg, where at present there are approximately 1200ha of Lemberger under-vine.

In Hungary, the grape is known as Kékfrankos where it forms part of the famous ‘Bull’s Blood’ blend, but it is also bottled as a single varietal. The best examples tend to derive from the area around Sopron, close to the Austrian border.

The grape is also grown in Washington State in the US, where it is known as Lemberger, and has developed a loyal following among the locals. One reason for finding this variety here is its ability to survive the harsh winters that can be a feature of the region.

It is in Austria, however, where Blaufränkisch enjoys its highest status and finds its truest expression. Blaufränkisch is grown extensively in the state of Burgenland which lies in the eastern corner of the country, adjacent to the Hungarian border. Having recently toured Burgenland, I can confirm the huge dominance that this variety commands in the region, where nearly one out of every two vines in the 3000ha of vineyard is planted to Blaufränkisch. In this region the climatic conditions are considered to be warm due to the moderating influences of the nearby Neusiedlersee lake and the warm winds from the east. The climate is characterised by a cold winter with little snow, a hot, dry summer and a long, mild autumn.

DNA analysis has shown that one of the parents of Blaufränkisch is a lesser-known variety called Heunisch, whereas the other parent is unknown. Blaufränkisch itself parented a successful variety in 1922, when it was crossed with St. Laurent to produce the Austrian red variety called Zweigelt.

In Austria, the most acclaimed examples of Bläufrankisch tend to come from the sub-region of Mittelburgenland, clustered around the villages of Deutschkreutz, Lutzmannsburg and Neckenmarkt, as well as from the area surrounding the historic village of Rust on the Neusiedlersee.

Vignerons growing Blaufränkisch in modern-day Austria tend to pay considerable attention to maintaining excellent canopy management and producing low yields. The end result is wines that have achieved great acclaim both in their native country and in the international arena.
The barrique-aged Blaufränkisch wines are medium to full-bodied with great natural acidity and a generous but gentle tannin structure. The fruit flavours tend to be in the range of blueberries, red cherries, spices, liquorice and raspberries. The sound colour, tannins and raciness of the grape encourage the most ambitious Austrian producers to lavish new oak on it and to treat it like Syrah.

Since Austria has much warmer and sunnier summers than Germany, the result is wine with much higher natural alcohol levels, accentuated by Austria’s decidedly lower average yields in the vineyard.

While many Austrian producers in Burgenland prefer to use Blaufränkisch as a single varietal, others choose to blend it with other local popular varietals, such as Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Blaufrankisch in the Adelaide Hills

As far as I am aware, Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills is currently the only producer of this variety in Australia, although other plantings have taken place in Victoria and Tasmania. We inherited the Blaufrankisch vines when we purchased the property in 2002. The vines were originally planted over 20 years ago by the previous owner, who was originally from Württenberg in Germany, and who was delighted to be able to source some Blaufrankisch plant material from within Australia.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to establish any clonal details or any information about the rootstock upon which it was grafted. The material is virus infested which results in an extravagant display of orange and red hues in autumn. Fortunately, the colour change of the leaves only occurs after harvest and, therefore, does not in any way impact on the plant’s ability to ripen the berries. In fact, before propagating a new block of Blaufrankisch, we were on the verge of arranging for some material to be ‘cleaned’ of this virus when we were paid a visit from a German professor of viticulture who had a special interest in the variety. He had tracked us down as the only producer in Australia and was keen to see how the vines were performing.

One of the first questions he asked was whether we had the ‘red-leafed’ virus infested clone or the ‘green-leafed’ virus-free clone. He then explained that he believed the virus-infested Blaufrankisch produced a much better quality wine because of the additional flavour nuances and the natural control of the yields. So the end result is that our new block of Blaufrankisch has retained its wonderful autumnal hues!

Blaufrankisch vine at Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hiulls Wine Region

Blaufrankisch vine at Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hiulls Wine Region

In 2013 I imported two further clones of Blaufrankisch – one from Davis in USA and the other from Austria. We will be working with these new clones once they are released from quarantine.

Blaufrankisch tends to be naturally vigorous and needs to have its yields controlled by strict and conscientious pruning. It buds early – about the same time as Chardonnay – but ripens late. As with Chardonnay, the flower clusters appear early and these blossoms are very sensitive and susceptible to coulure. For the past few years, we have harvested our Blaufrankisch in mid to late April, usually before our Shiraz.

It is important, I feel, to note that although this variety is classified as a cool-climate red, it requires a specific type of ‘cool-climateness’ – one that is defined by ripening days that have significant diurnal variation. In other words, it needs solidly warm to hot days balanced by significantly cool nights. Without the warm days, I suspect, this variety could produce wines that lack its typical appealing plushness and gentle richness.

Canes – The vine has very neat, rigid, upright canes which work perfectly with our VSP system. This characteristic aids canopy management, but does show an increased susceptibility to storm breakage.

Leaves – The leaves are large and handsome with few lobes and teeth and the leaf plate is smooth, showing a deep green colour. The leaf petioles are thick and long. This causes them to break easily which is a significant advantage of canopy management. I have found the leaves to be fairly susceptible to powdery mildew.

Berries and bunches – The berries are relatively large and loose, giving the bunch the form of a long, distended triangle. The thick berry skin provides good colour and densely layered tannins, and also allows the fruit to withstand the pressure from botrytis longer than other varieties.
Each bearing cane will generally have two bunches – one rather large bunch and a second smaller one. In very hot years with high sugar concentrations, the Blaufrankisch berries tend to shrivel slightly without becoming raisins.
The grapes have thick and long stems that become wooden fairly easily. For this reason, bunch stem necrosis occurs infrequently.

Soils – Although Blaufrankisch has been shown to grow in most soil types, the typical fruit and deep colour of this variety are best expressed when grown in slate, loam or chalky loam soils. I suspect that this variety, if planted in the appropriate terroir in Australia, could be coaxed into producing wines of great elegance and suppleness.

Blaufrankisch makes a great food wine that is tailor-made for Australia’s vibrant food culture. It is a superb addition to any table and works especially well with duck, venison, lamb, rare beef – and my personal favorite is rare-ish pan-grilled salmon! Since the Adelaide Hills – like Burgenland – enjoys warm summers with extended, slow ripening into cool autumns, I have confidence that the region can produce an exciting New World style of this varietal. The Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch has indeed achieved numerous awards over the past few years, including multiple trophies and gold medals at both national and international wine competitions. The latest gold medal awarded to the Hahndorf Hill Blaufrankisch was at the Berliner Wein Trophy 2015 in Germany.

Hahndorf Hill 'Blueblood' Blaufrankisch

Hahndorf Hill ‘Blueblood’ Blaufrankisch from the Adelaide Hills, South Australia

If the Austrian wine industry is anything to go by, Blaufrankisch has a terrific future. It is currently enjoying a golden renaissance with a buoyant local market and positively-surging export markets. Much of this success rests with Austria’s indigenous white grape, the fresh and trendy Gruner Veltliner. At Hahndorf Hill Winery, we imported three clones of Gruner Veltliner from Austria in 2006 which passed through quarantine and which were planted at our Hahndorf Hill vineyard. A further three clones of Gruner were also imported in 2009 and these were also planted in our new Gruner vineyard.

In addition to Blaufrankisch and Gruner Veltliner, Hahndorf Hill is also the first producer of Zweigelt in Australia and we have also imported cuttings of St Laurent, another Austrian beauty. It does therefore seem that Hahndorf Hill has steadily evolved over the past few years to become a small representative of Austrian grape varieties in the southern hemisphere. In reality, it gives us great pleasure to develop, grow and dance with these beautiful natives from the north!

PS: You may have noticed that when I refer to Blaufrankisch in the Australian context, I have purposefully omitted the umlaut above the ‘a’ – the reason being is that in the Land Down Under, I maintain that the umlaut has fallen off …

The content of this article was originally written by Larry Jacobs and published in the Wine Industry Journal > VoL 24 no. 5 > September /October 2009, and has been updated.

Blaufrankisch in au

Blaufrankisch vines in autumn glory at Hahndorf Hill in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The secret behind Gruner Veltliner success in the Adelaide Hills

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

In five short years, growers and producers of Gruner Veltliner in the Adelaide Hills wine region have achieved some extraordinary outcomes with their favourite new alternative variety. There are already at least a dozen labels produced in the region (*see details below) and currently the Adelaide Hills has by far the largest plantings of this exciting aromatic white variety than any other wine region in Australia. In fact, it has more acres of Gruner than all other Australian wine regions combined.

Many of these producers have already accumulated awards and generated favourable reports from commentators both locally and abroad, and the region continues to collaborate and strive towards bigger and better things.

So what is this secret ingredient behind the Gruner success in the Hills? Well, below is a story about technology and temperature that reveals one of the key factors in the production of quality Gruner Veltliner in our region.

Playing a role in quantifying this key factor is my nifty new digital temperature logger. It’s about the size of medium-sized cigar and is pretty robust and waterproof.

Temp logger

This is technology at its simple best, since all I am required to do is activate it, pop it into my handy little vineyard weather station – and it will start recording.  At the beginning of this January (2015) I did exactly that and programmed the little wizard to record every five minutes of the full month.

On the 1st February I excitedly retrieved the little logger, downloaded the data and did some calculations. I needed to calculate the mean daily temperature during the month of January, which is the important ripening month for grapes in the southern hemisphere. (The equivalent month in the northern hemisphere is the month of July.)

My calculations showed that the daily Mean January Temperature (MJT) for January 2015 in Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills was 18.5˚C. This is more or less what I had expected, since the Adelaide Hills is considered to be one of the coolest of the major wine regions on mainland Australia.

In order to be considered ‘cool climate’ in grape growing terms, there is a general view held by many people in the industry, that the MJT should be 19˚C or less. A MJT of 18.5˚C therefore puts the Adelaide Hills firmly in the cool-climate camp, given that 0.5˚C on a ‘mean temperature calculation’ over a period of one month is quite a considerable amount of temperature.

Here is a review of the composite temperature graph that was created by these regular five minute recordings.

New Diurnal

Double click on image to expand

Firstly, it is interesting to note that the highest temperature recorded was on 2nd January and reached an impressive 41.5˚C at 4.03pm.

The coldest morning was 6.5˚C on the morning of 1st January and again on the 30th January, with seven other cold points during the month of at least 7˚C to 8.5˚C. The average minimum achieved over the 31 day period was 11.15˚C.

However, what is most striking is the recording of the huge diurnal variations  (difference between maximum and minimum temperatures) achieved over various 24 hour periods. For example, on the 2nd January, at 4.03pm, the impressive maximum of 41.5˚C was achieved. However, at 3.30am the following morning, the minimum of 11.5˚C was recorded. This is a difference (a diurnal variation) of no less than 30.0˚C which is extraordinary for any wine producing region. Note the numerous other examples of significant diurnal variation recorded over the 31 day period.

Indeed, it is this propensity for huge diurnal variations of temperature during our summer ripening period that actually is responsible for the Adelaide Hills wine region’s cool-climate credentials – and is the secret to its Gruner success. The summation of these huge and dramatic temperature variations define our ‘cool-climateness’ (to coin a word) which can be described as being produced by a combination of warm days and cold nights. This is distinct from a cool climate region which is defined by moderate days and cool nights, or a maritime cool climate region that would be defined perhaps by moderate days and moderate nights.

splitting hairs images

Hair splitting.

Why all this hairsplitting? Well it all lies in the acid test, so to speak!

Acids manufactured in the vine leaves and the grape berry are extremely critical for sustaining the correct pH within the berry. The most important acids by volume are malic acid and tartaric acid and they are largely responsible for maintaining this acidic environment to ensure that all the cellular and metabolic functions within the maturing berry are optimally carried out. In addition to this, it is these very acids that have other vital functions during the winemaking processes once the berry has been harvested, crushed and the juice extracted. For example, the acids prevent bacterial spoilage of the grape juice during wine making processes, help prevent oxidation of the wine and sustain good colour in red wine, amongst other things.

Specific climatic conditions that prevail in the vineyard are the most important factors that either make or break acid within the grape berry. During hot climatic conditions, the levels of these grape acids are reduced when they may be consumed within the berry by the process of alcoholic respiration. This process provides emergency energy for the berry during hot weather and is an evolutionary process designed to spare the glucose in the berry for the survival of the seed. Malic acid is more severely affected in this way than tartaric acid. During cooler weather, acid levels are less reduced by this process.

The final surplus or deficiency of acid in the grape juice has a profound effect on the quality, the perception, the taste and the mouth-feel of the wine. It is this tight balance between deficiency and excess of malic acid in particular, that has very important quality consequences for wine and especially for aromatic, high acid white varieties such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Gruner Veltliner.

If there is a deficiency of malic acid, the wine will be flat and lacklustre or if there is too much malic acid, the wine could appear to be excessively green and sour and lack complexity. A balanced amount of malic acid, on the other hand, will specifically enhance taste perception by prolonging the release of  flavour components and thereby extending the period that the palate’s taste receptor cells are stimulated by these flavour compounds. This prolonging of the flavour compounds also allows the different flavours in the wine to hang around in the palate for a longer period, thereby resulting in a better blending of the different flavours for the senses.

And herein lies the nub of cool-climate viticulture – but especially a cool climate that is defined by warm days and cold nights.

Fruit quality and malic/ tartaric acid balance are best when ripened under warm days and cold nights, according to work done at Purdue University, USA.

Conversely, grapes ripened in a long, hot region with excessive, persistent heat, will result in juice with poor balance between the sugar, the low acid, high pH, poor colour, poor flavour and aroma.

Equally, grapes ripening in a cool area with a short growing season and insufficient heat (especially daytime temps <21˚C) will result in low sugar, high acid, low pH, and unripe herbaceous flavours.

Since a good, natural balance of these acidic components will especially influence the quality in white aromatic varieties, it is not surprising that wine regions that share the blessing of having a cool climate defined by significant diurnal temperature variations include the Loire Valley, Austria’s Wachau region, the Mosel of Germany, California’s Santa Cruz Mountain – and the Adelaide Hills wine region of South Australia.

Wachau wine region

Wachau wine region

Something else that has been especially gratifying has been the wonderful co-operation and collaboration between the various Gruner growers in the Adelaide Hills and the amazing interest and support from the wine industry and public alike. Many thanks to you all!

* Alphabetical list of current Gruner Veltliner labels in the Adelaide Hills wine region:
By Jingo
Catlin Wines
CRFT Wines
Hahndorf Hill Winery
K1 by Geoff Hardy
Nova Vita Wines
Pike and Joyce
Smidge Wines
The Pawn Co.
Tomich Wines


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Diurnal variation temperature, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Gruner Veltliner celebration – Asian Persuasion

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Each year the Adelaide Hills Wine Region launches its CRUSH wine festival to promote the wonderful cool climate wines from our region.

For the first time at CRUSH – and for the first time in Australian wine history – a masterclass of Australian-grown  Gruner Veltliners was held to celebrate this wonderful new variety’s ascent in the Adelaide Hills.

In five short years, the Adelaide Hills now has more plantings of Gruner than anywhere else in Australia – in fact all the combined Australian plantings outside of our region do not even come close to the current acreage of Gruner Veltliner in the Adelaide Hills.

The top six wines awarded at the Adelaide Hills Wine Show 2014 were selected to participate in this event, which was held in a beautiful dining area at the Mount Lofty House resort in Crafers. Chef Girard took advantage of Gruner Veltliner’s amazing ability to pair with all manner of Asian cuisine and created an extraordinary menu that incorporated six beautifully crafted treats, each one matched to a specific wine. And so ‘Asian Persuasion – a Gruner Veltliner Degustation’ was born.

The degustation menu together with the matched wines: Menu Gruner Veltliner masterclass


And here is a pic of the beautiful lobster dish that was matched to the The Pawn ‘Austrian Attack’ Gruner Veltliner 2014:Gruner Veltliner masterclass Adelaide Hills Wine Region

Finally, a pic of the sensational Barramundi treat served with the Tomich Hill Gruner Veltliner 2014.Gruner Veltliner masterclass Adelaide Hills Wine Region

I can report that each one of these wines performed beautifully and were a credit to this variety and our region. The food-pairing exercise was both pleasurable and inspiring as was the extraordinary synergy between each wine and its matching dish. Perhaps the most exhilarating – and potentially terrifying – match was the CRFT Gruner Veltliner 2014 that was selected to go with the final item on the menu: a beautiful lemon curd tart served with coconut snow, baby basil and mango. Despite fearful anticipation, this was a match-made-in-heaven with the lemon curd managing to consolidate this beautiful wine from every direction and pulling it all together in a delightful melange of flavour, texture and pleasure.

Hats off to the Mount Lofty House team and especially Chef Girard for making this such a successful day!


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, cool climate wine, Gruner Veltliner, Hahndorf, roses, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gruner dreamin’ 2015

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

Well, the year of 2014 AD is drawing to a close and it looks as if the vineyard has had a very happy year indeed! Good canopies all round and – lo and behold – we have some fruit this year! Last year Mother Nature proved to be very stingy, with fruit yields of less than one tonne per acre across most blocks. So it is with great appreciation and delight that I spy healthy little bunches of grapes wherever I look – probably at about just under the three tonnes per acre yield, which is about perfect. (Exception being the Shiraz which again this vintage will have yields of below two tonnes per acre.)

Gruner Veltliner at Hahndorf Hill Adelaide Hills

Acres of beautiful Gruner Veltliner

The Gruner Veltliner looks gorgeous! Lovely acres of green Gruner with fresh, healthy canopies and the interesting thing is that bunch sizes seem to have averaged out quite modestly this year. This is in contrast with our first two vintages in 2010 and 2012 when we had surprisingly large bunches and as a consequence had to drop a huge amount of fruit early in the season to ensure modest yields. Perhaps now that these vines are going into their seventh year they are becoming more settled and balanced.

Gruner Veltliner bunches Hahndorf Hill

Close up of little Gruner Veltliner bunches Hahndorf Hill

So all in all, a very exciting vintage 2015 to look forward to!

I’d like to wish you all a great holiday season and all the very best for 2015! May all your dreams come true!

Dreaming of Gruner Veltliner Adelaide Hills wine

Dreaming of Gruner Veltliner


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, St Laurent, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill cellar door

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Hahndorf Hill Winery
  Adelaide Hills

We’re getting ready to release the new vintage Gruner Veltliner wines at Hahndorf Hill, so to sharpen our palates we put together a tasting of 12 excellent examples of Gruner Veltliner wines from Austria (Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal), from Australia (Adelaide Hills) and from New Zealand (Marlborough).

Hahndorf Hill evening Gruner Veltliner tasting

Hahndorf Hill Winery cellar door August 2014


The 16th August produced a beautiful evening with the chilly winter air kept at bay by the wood fire and the warm company that included all the Hahndorf Hill team members and the wine making team from Lodestone Winery, under the helm of Michael Sykes.



Below is a summary of the tasting:

Blind Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill August 2014

Blind Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill August 2014

Flight 1:
2013 Handcrafted by Geoff Hardy Gruner Veltliner – Adelaide Hills
2014 Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner  – Adelaide Hills
2014 Hahndorf Hill White Mischief Gruner Veltliner – Adelaide Hills

Flight 2:
2013 Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner -Adelaide Hills
2013 Pike & Joyce Gruner Veltliner – Adelaide Hills
2013 Hahndorf Hill GRU 2 Gruner Veltliner -Adelaide Hills

Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill August 2014

Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill August 2014

Flight 3:
2012 Tinpot Hut Gruner Veltliner – Marlborough
2012  Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner -Adelaide Hills
2011 Knoll Loibner Gruner Veltliner (Federspiel) – Wachau

Flight 4:
2008 Loimer Gruner Veltliner – Kamptal
2008 Salomon Von Stein Gruner Veltliner Reserve – Kremstal
2007 Loimer Langenlois Spiegel – Kamptal

Wines tasted at Gruner Veltliner tasting Hahndorf Hill August 2014

Wines tasted at Gruner Veltliner tasting Hahndorf Hill August 2014

It was great to see all the New World examples comfortably rubbing shoulders with the Austrian versions and particularly exciting to see how well the aged versions had developed. This age-ability of Gruner is something that the wine authorities in Austria take great pains in marketing to the world and I can fully appreciate why!

Can’t wait to have an ‘aged’ Hahndorf Hill Gruner – and given that 2015 will be our  sixth vintage of this exciting variety, we should be rewarded soon!

To register for pre-release allocations of our 2014 GRU Gruner Veltliner and for further Gruner information – please go to

Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill with Michael Sykes (left)

Gruner Veltliner tasting at Hahndorf Hill with Michael Sykes (left)


Posted in Adelaide Hills, Adelaide Hills Gruner Veltliner, Adelaide Hills wine region, Blaufrankisch, cool climate wine, Gruner Veltliner, Gruner Veltliner Australia, Hahndorf, Uncategorized, wine, Zweigelt, Zweigelt Australia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment