When two talented, successful winemakers start a joint project to create a brand of inexpensive wines, the results often deliver a lot of deliciousness for the price. Witness this peppery, cherry-and-cassis-flavored, soft-textured 2010 Zantho Zweigelt, a red from dynamic Austrian duo Josef Umathum and Wolfgang Peck.
The two vintners launched a line of wines with the brand name Zantho a decade ago, producing them at a cooperative winery in southeastern Austria’s Burgenland region. It lies in the village of Andau, known originally by the name of Zantho. The native lizard found in the areas vineyards inspired the image on the label.
At his eponymous winery not far away, Umathum adheres to biodynamic viticulture and makes killer reds from Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. He oversees the vine side of the Zantho project. The winemaker is Peck, cellar master of the 50-year-old cooperative, one of the most up-to-date in Austria. Most of the wines, both whites and reds, are made from indigenous grapes.
The red wines Americans don’t know
White is what first comes to mind when people think of Austria. Great Grüner Veltliners and Rieslings were my introduction to the country’s wines. But I urge people to get to know the reds from Burgenland, too. The sunny, mild climate in the Seewinkel area where Zantho is made, is the driest and hottest in Austria, and is noted for plush reds, especially Zweigelt. Barely known in the U.S., this grape is a cross of two other varietals — spicy, complex, vibrant Blaufränkisch, and fruity, smooth, soft and mellow St. Laurent. It’s the most planted red grape in the country.
None of the Zweigelts I’ve tasted has had the kind of serious complexity of great Blaufränkisch. In some ways, they remind me of good Beaujolais. They’re lighter reds that often taste best when slightly chilled and have a similar juicy, sappy, fruit character.
Although the 2010 Zantho doesn’t make a big terroir statement, it does give plenty of attractive, uncomplicated pleasure. On a hot summer night when you feel like a good red, this wine will go with just about everything.