Once upon a time, the Village Explainers of the Holy Roman Empire set down a classification of Eastern European grapes. In this classifix were sectioned the grapes according to their virtues into two groups, fränkisch and hunnisch—with fränkisch being the nobler of the two.
This noble grape variety first appeared in Austria in the 18th century, and later arrived in Germany under the alias Lemberger. In the state of Württemburg the grape is widely planted, the fourth-most popular—although a couple years ago I turned Württemburg upside-down trying to find a Lemberger that was nearly as good as many of the current Blaufs from Burgenland, although I did find a couple nearly as expensive. The Hungarians call the variety Kékfrankos, the Bulgarians Gamé—which added to the confusion that it was possibly none other than the great grape of the Beaujolais—in Croatia it’s Frankovka and Burgund Mare in Romania. In ampelographic circles since 1875, Blaufränkisch is the official name. American producers customarily pick one of the two Teutonic tags—and the enterpreneurial Jed Steele nicknamed his Lemberger Blue Franc, another take on telling the tale.
Blaufränkisch likes easy weather and to be protected from the wind. It grows happily in a variety of soils, but will very easily convey their character all the way into bottle and beyond—can be “made” into wine that is light or hearty, with or without the influence of cooperage. We are just now learning how well Blaurfränkisch from Burgenland can age—and that growers who desist from heavy-handed wine-“making” often produce bottlings that are fully expressive while showing less than 13% alcohol. Fairly prolific, the Blaufränkish likes to get an early start on things each year, so can on occasion fall victim to spring frost. Susceptible to mildew and downy mildew, the rather thick skins are resistant to grey rot, which allows the variety to hang till relatively late. Good growers are careful to limit their yields, as the variety can reach 200 hectolitres/hectare in deep soils.
Roland Velich, of the Moric Estate, likens the characteristics of the Blaufränkisch—which he more commonly crops at less than 40 hecto/hectare (and half of that for the Old Vines bottlings)—to a common thread running through Syrah from the Northern Rhône, Pinot Noir from Burgundy, and Nebbiolo from Piedmont.
Monovarietal Blaufränkisch takes the table as a nearly ideal companion to ragouts and stews, from Hasenpfeffer to Venison it shows a special affinity for the culinary appearances made by former forest-creatures.
Blanc doux, Blau Fränkisch, Blau Fränkische, Blauer Limberger, Blaufränkische, Blaufranchis, Blaufranchisch, Blue French, Burgund Mare (Rumänien), Cerne Skalicke, Cerne Starosvetske, Cerny Muskatel, Chirokolistny, Cierny Zierfandler, Crna Frankovka (Kroatien), Crna Moravka, Fernon, Fränkische, Fränkische schwarz, Franconia (Italien), Franconia nera, Franconia nero, Franconien bleu, Franconien noir, Frankinja, Frankinja modra, Frankovka, Frankovka cerna, Frankovka crna, Frankovka modra, Imbergher, Jubiläumsrebe, Gamay noire (irrtümlich), Gamé (Bulgarien), Karmazin, Kék Frankos, Kékfrank, Kékfrankos (Ungarn), Lampart, Lemberger, Limberg, Limberger, Limberger blauer, Limberger noir, Limburske, Maehrische, Modra Frankija, Modra Frankinja, Modry hyblink, Moravka, Moravske, Muskateller schwarz, Nagy burgundi, Nagyburgundi, Neskorak, Neskore, Neskore cierne, Noir de Franconie, Oporto, Orna Frankovka, Portugais lerouse, Portugais rouge, Portugieser rother, Pozdni, Pozdni skalicke cerne, Schwarz Limberger, Schwarze Fraenkische, Schwarzer Burgunder, Schwarzgrobe, Serina, Shirokolistnyi, Sirokolidtnyj, Sirokolstnii, Skalicke cerne, Starovetsky hrozen, Szeleslevelü, Teltfürtü Kékfrankos, Vaghyburgundi, Velke bugundske und Vojvodino