Dusk in the vineyard at Balf, looking
down towards lake Neusiedl
In 1992 Weninger began a collaboration with Hungarian
winemaker Attila Gere, forming the Weninger and Gere winery in Villány
in Southern Hungary. From the start these wines were highly successful
and this prompted the purchase of further vineyards.
With a climate that’s somewhat warmer than that in
Burgenland, the wines are deep, dark and full: they are highly sought
after in Hungary, which is where most end up being drunk – just one
in five leaves the country.
jr who runs the Balf operation
Since 1997 Weninger have also owned a winery and
vineyards in Balf, near Sopron. This is just over the border from
their winery in Horitschon, overlooking lake Neusidl. They own 20
hectares of two vineyards, Spern Steiner and Frettner.
Because of the proximity of the Balf vineyards and
winery, we crossed the border to take a look, and taste some wines.
The vineyards seem ideally situated, on a gentle slope looking down
towards Lake Neusidl (much of which is marshland – great for birds).
With Hungary’s proximity to Austria, it’s interesting to see the
slight two-way tension prompted by its entry to the EU. The Austrians
are worried about Hungarians taking their jobs (they’ll work for
less); the Hungarian concern is that wealthy Austrians will buy all
their choice properties (and vineyards?). Thus there are rules in
place that mean it’s not quite as free and open as relations between
EU countries were meant to be.
Franz senior has taken the bold step of putting 23 year
old son Franz Reinhard Weninger in charge at the Balf winery and
estate. It’s still early days here, and it will be interesting to
see how the winemaking develops with time. The signs are promising.
on the vine, and an experimental ferment inside a new barrique.
Weninger-Gere Cabernet Franc 1999 Villany, Hungary
Open, herby minerally edge to the fruit on the nose, showing some
evolution. The palate is open and evolved with bright clarety
herb-tinged fruit and an earthy edge. Drinking well now, and
reflecting Villany’s warm climate. Very good+ 88/100
Weninger Classic Soproni Kékfrankos Spern Steiner
Dark, spicy fruits on the nose which is savoury and firm. The
palate shows a good, spicy concentration of plump savoury red and
black fruits with a nice minerally edge, together with bloody, meaty
hints. Firm tannins and good acidity. A lovely fresh, clean food wine.
Very good+ 88/100
Weninger Pinot Noir Soproni Frettner 2002 Hungary
Sweet luscious fruit aromas on the nose with a subtle herbiness.
Very ripe and full. Very full ripe palate with luscious fruit but with
a sting in the tail by way of the high acid and tannins. A striking
wine with a slightly hard finish. Very good+ 87/100
Weninger Soproni Frettner 2002 Hungary
This is a blend of Syrah, Merlot and a bit of Kékfrankos. It has
a dark fruits nose with some spicy depth. The palate is richly fruited
with a tarry, spicy, minerally character. Quite savoury and structured
but with nice forward dark fruits. A savoury food wine. Very good+
Weninger Syrah Soproni Spern Steiner 2002 Hungary
Planted in 1998, and 2000 was the first harvest. Lovely open ripe
liqouricey nose which is expressive and alluring. Slightly meaty dark
fruits dominate. The palate is rich and ripe with elegant spicy fruit
and good acidity, with some dark chocolate character. Appealing and
full. Very good/excellent 92/100
Weninger Merlot Soproni Spern Steiner 2002 Hungary
Ripe, sweet, slightly tarry nose. The palate is concentrated and
lush with dark spicy fruits. Quite a big modern style, but still
expressive with reasonable acidity. Satisfying and deep; modern but
good. Very good/excellent 90/100
Weninger Merlot Soproni Spern Steiner 2000 Hungary
Open rounded nose of sweet fruit with some tarriness and a nice
herbiness. The palate is quite herbal with ripe, fleshy fruit and a
nice minerality. Very good+ 89/100
Weninger Cabernet Franc 2002 Hungary
Just two barrels made, this has a varietally true, and lovely,
leafy edge to the ripe blackcurrant fruit. The palate is elegant with
a subtle herbal character and bright blackcurrant fruit. Expressive.
Very good/excellent 91/100
Weninger Selection Kékfrankos Sperner Stein 2002
Very expressive herby, spicy red fruits on the nose, which is
savoury and expressive, with hints of tarriness. The palate has vivid,
expressive fruit with high acid structure. Fantastic stuff: midweight
and elegant. Very good/excellent 93/100
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