By Larry Jacobs, Co-owner, Hahndorf Hill
The celebrations at Hahndorf Hill were a bit like a new baby arriving into the family. After many years since importing the plant material in 2014, passing it through two years of quarantine, and then propagating the precious material into the vineyard, we finally had our first Saint Laurent harvest in 2020. It has now been bottled and will be further aged in our underground cellar at Hahndorf Hill for a few more years before being released.
This Austrian variety has a very interesting history. Falstaff – Austria’s wine bible – claims that it originally came from France where it was grown in the Alsace region. Then, just prior to it being completely wiped out in the great Phylloxera outbreak, some cuttings ended up in Austria where they found a home at the Klosterneuburg Monastery – Austria’s oldest winery and also the world’s first school of viticulture.
This is where the story of this beautiful variety really starts to develop. It is here at the monastery where Saint Laurent gets embraced by its new carers and starts to be adopted by vignerons within Austria. It was always thought that this exciting variety could possibly be related to the noble Pinot Noir grape because of similarities in the bunches, the leaves and the style of wines produced. But it is only within the past two years that Saint Laurent has definitively been anointed as the actual daughter of Pinot Noir, via extensive genetic research carried out at the Klosterneuburg viticultural school.
This is why we have decided to call our wine The Foundling. This intriguing story of this variety fulfills all the mythological criteria of the foundling-infant who gets abandoned on the steps of the monastery, where it is enthusiastically embraced and nurtured in its new home. And then, after growing up, finally discovers that she is indeed a princess after all!
In Austria, the most well known region for this variety is the Thermenregion, with the top producers centered around the charming villages of Tattendorf and Teesdorf. These cool areas are where Austria, unsurprisingly, also produces its top Pinot Noir wines. Here, in its spiritual home, this beautiful and elegant variety is known as Sankt Laurent.
The grapes were originally named after St. Lawrence’s Day – August 10th – the day when this variety begins to change colour. Saint Laurent is also abbreviated as St. Laurent in some areas.
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