2010 Christian Madl "Önothek" Rosé Dry ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle
2010 Christian Madl "Önothek" Rosé Dry ©Kevin Day/Opening a Bottle

Zweigelt Gets Serious

300 Words (Or So) on an Austrian Sparkling Wine That Defies Expectation

3 min read

I have never paid much attention to Zweigelt (and no, that is not because it is the absolute last grape in the alphabetical roll call). What exposure I’ve had to Zweigelt’s wines has either been in the form of blends, where any “Zweigeltness” was buried under the tones of other grapes, or juicy but short-lived natural wines whose jagged edges and funky notes left me with little intel on what this little grape can do.

I was left asking: when was the last time I encountered a varietal sparkling wine that offered this kind of balance throughout that wasn’t Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier?

Then along came this traditional-method sparkling Zweigelt from Austrian winemaker Christian Madl, whose winery is a stone’s throw away from the Czech Republic in the Weinviertel DAC. I was left asking: when was the last time I encountered a varietal sparkling wine that offered this kind of balance throughout that wasn’t Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Pinot Meunier?

(Cue the Jeopardy! theme song and my pained expression when no answer came to me.)

“Önothek” is thrilling and unpredictable, yet dead set on accomplishing its goals. One would expect certain flavors with a rosé of this ilk: think berry-patch fruit and crisp, razor’s-edge acidity. But through and through, Madl’s “Önothek” surprised me with a heady mix I can only relate to three things— super-ripe strawberries, lime peel and rye bread. That might sound wacky, but I could not shake how wonderful and enticing these flavors were together.

Whether this was “Zweigeltness” or not is probably inconsequential. The grape name doesn’t appear on the label, and as this fascinating article by Valerie Kathawala points out, the grape’s name carries a heavy stigma within Austria.

Until then, seek this — and other Austrian sparkling wine — out on your next stock-up run. I’ve tasted a few lately, and generally speaking, they’re every bit as precise and satisfying as champagne.

2010 Christian Madl “Önothek” Rosé Dry

Christian Madl 2010 "Önothek" Rosé Dry ©Kevin Day/Opening a BottleWeinviertel DAC, Niederösterreich
Grapes: Zweigelt (100%)
Alcohol: 12%
Opinion: ★★★★ 3/4 (out of five)
Food-friendliness: Impeccable
Value: As expected

   

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A beginner might like … seeing how the standards of a traditional method sparkling wine rosé shift on the palate. The strawberry tones are denser, the acidity seems to be more citric and green, and lastly, that crunchy, lees-influenced bread note feels darker. All of that without sacrificing quenchability.

A wine obsessive might like … the knowledge that all of Christian Madl’s wines are hand-riddled. Does that impact taste? Likely not at all, but it is still a sign of hands-on care and precision to detail that speaks volumes about the producer. I am keen to sample more of his work.

 

Note: This wine was provided as a sample by the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Learn more about our sample policy.

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