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Austrian wines
Part 4: Weninger in Hungary

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.

Franz Weninger 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.

Kefrankos 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 2002 Hungary
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+ 89/100

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 Hungary
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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