Deep within the Austrian province of Burgenland lies the tiny village of Andau, which was first known as Zantho as far back as 1488. The region's gravelly soil, rich in iron and minerals, is ideal for producing premium red wine, especially the area's two most important red varieties: St. Laurent and Zweigelt. Zantho is home to a rare genus of woodland lizard, too, and now the name of one of Austria's hottest new wineries.
Zantho is a fledgling venture, starring Josef Umathum, Austria's undisputed master of the rare but difficult to cultivate St. Laurent varietal and his equally astute partner Wolfang Peck, a specialist with Zweigelt. Both men are regarded as two of Burgenland's finest winemakers and they started Zantho in conjunction with the Andau winegrower's cooperative. They founded Zantho in 2001, christening their enterprise with Andau's original name. They placed an image of the village's other main attraction, a rare woodland lizard that has become synonymous with the village as well as the winery, solidly on the label. Yet, what may be scarcer these days than the Zantho lizard is the availability of Zantho's Zweigelt and St. Laurent wines. Recently, several highly complimentary reviews have caused a wellspring of interest in Zantho's wines and strained allocation for this budding winery. However, we were fortunate to procure just enough of Zantho's delicious 2006 Zweigelt to slake the thirst of our membership. We trust you will enjoy this gregarious Zweigelt as much as we do.
Zweigelt and St. Laurent
Zweigelt (pronounced TSVYE-gelt) is an indigenous Austrian varietal. However, its appearance in the world of wine is relatively recent. Zweigelt was created only in 1922 by an Austrian scientist named Fritz Zweigelt. The grape is a cross between two indigenous Austrian varietals, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. Zweigelt was originally referred to as rotburger, but its name was changed to honor its creator – and for that we are all thankful. Today, Zweigelt is the most highly cultivated and sort after red grape variety in Austria. And by nearly all accounts, Zweigelt produces the finest red wine in Austria as well. In excellent vintages such as 2006, Zweigelt shines with juicy, ripe fruit and a warm, huggable structure that other indigenous varietals struggle to match.
St. Laurent is another indigenous Austrian grape variety, even though it is likely a far distant relative to Pinot Noir of Burgundy fame and fortune. Interestingly, Umathum's single vineyard St. Laurent, which hails from his own 45-acre estate, has been compared to Chambertin, the great Grand Cru red Burgundy that remains one of France's most treasured viticultural legacies. However, St. Laurent does not always reach its pinnacle of quality in every vineyard because it is so difficult to grow. It requires special attention in the winery – something Umathum and Peck know something about – in order to extract the utmost from the vine's persnickety temperament. However, in the right hands and when all goes well, St. Laurent furnishes a rare treat.