If you’re a wine connoisseur, then it’s likely you’re already familiar with the term “Lemberger”. However, while you might know a lot about the wine it helps produce, you probably don’t know much about Lemberger grapes.
Grown primarily in Germany, Lemberger grapes are known by many names throughout the world (I.E. Blaufränkisch in Germany, Nagy Burgundy in Hungary, and Franconia in Italy).
Grown in large quantities, despite the fact that they are prone to many vine hazards, Lemberger grapes can produce many different types of red wines; from those that age extremely well to those that should be enjoyed as soon as they’re purchased.
To help you gain a better understanding of what Lemberger grapes are and what types of wines they help produce, we’ve put together this guide:
What Are Lemberger Grapes & Where Did They Come From?
The origin of the name Lemberger actually derives from the area from which the wine was imported — the municipality of Lemberg, located in Lower Styria.
The grape was first recognized in 1862, but it wasn’t until 1875 that Blaufränkisch became an officially sanctioned name. Two years later, the wine made its debut import to Germany, from Lemberg, and was dubbed the Lemberger grape.
Initially, the grape was considered to be cloned from the Gamay grape variety since the two shared such similar characteristics. However, DNA tests were performed which proved otherwise. From there, experiments were done, crossing the Lemberger with various other grapes to produce new and unique varieties.
Not all of these attempts were successful, but some of the more notable results include A Colon, from crossing with Dornfelder (1929); Rubintos, from crossing with Kadarka (1951); and Reberger, from crossing with Regent (1986).
Lemberger Grapes in The US
Due to the Lemberger’s ability to stand up well to winter weather, it has been plentiful in the New York Finger Lakes region, as well as Washington state. Winters in these areas tend to be similar to those in the Lemberger’s homeland of Austria and Germany.
Seventy acres of the grape can be found in the Finger Lakes, where it is also referred to as Blaufränkisch. Washington state is a bit newer to the Lemberger and has just over fifty acres. Because of the hardiness of this grape variety, there was even consideration of making the Lemberger the state’s flagship variety.
Lemberger Grapes in Canada
Boasting even more extreme winters than the northern United States, Canada has found success with the robust qualities of Blaufränkisch. Both coasts proudly grow this grape variety as it compliments their “cool climate and long growing season” according to Nova Scotia winemaker Josh Horton.
At Lightfoot & Wolfville where he serves as head winemaker, their Terroir Series Kékfrankos is notorious. The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia has been planting Blaufränkisch since 1930 and has half a dozen wineries that continue to do so to this day.
Lemberger Grapes in Australia
The love of Blaufränkisch traveled from Germany to Australia in the early 1980s thanks to an immigrant who planted it at the Hahndorf Hill Winery in the Adelaide Hills. The area has since become the prime region for the Lemberger grape, as winery owners, such as Hahndorf Hill’s Larry Jacobs, have continued to plant more.
Austria has also played a part in sharing Blaufränkisch with the Australians. Mac Forbes brought his knowledge from the Carnuntum region to Yarra Valley, along with some massale selections, which he has planted in the vineyard. Lemberger lovers will have to wait patiently for availability.
How Lemberger Grapes Are Grown
Although the Lemberger grape is known for flourishing in the winter, there are still precautions that need to be taken to keep the crop healthy. Tiny buds make their first appearance early in the spring, yet they take their time ripening, typically not until the latter part of the season.
While in the early stages, these buds are still fragile and need to be protected from frost by strategically planting them in areas that see more sunshine. There is also a risk of overcrowding and moisture causing mildew, so it pays to keep a watchful eye, lest the quality of the crop be negatively impacted.
The hardiness of the Lemberger grape shows in the intensity of the color and flavor of its resultant wines. Not one to be shy, the wine grabs your attention with its peppery spiciness and heady aroma of spiced black cherries. The boldness of Lemberger wine makes it ideal for blending, as it often combines to create an ideal level of acidity that is favored by many wine lovers.
Unfortunately, it is a little less predictable when it comes to oak fermentation. Some have noted success with the aging process, while others have found it to negatively affect the flavor.
About Lemberger Wines
Austrians are endeared to Lemberger wines for their distinguishing flavor and aroma. They also appreciate that it’s easy to grow in their cold winter climate and it’s widely available. For wine drinkers, it truly is a treat that must be experienced at least once in a lifetime!
Pairing Lemberger Wine With Food
Finding the right food to compliment Lemberger wines is fairly simple. Robust cheesy or salty flavors pair well with the acidity of this variety. Enjoy the wine with cheese balls, smoked cheeses, or grilled cheese. A vegetable platter that is lightly salted or a bowl of salted peanuts would also go nicely with the Lemberger wine.
We hope this guide has helped you learn a bit more about Lemberger grapes, including the history behind them and how they’re grown. If you’ve never given Lemberger wine a try before (and you’re of legal age to drink alcohol) we recommend picking up a bottle and trying some with the food pairings listed above.
Personally, I love Lemberger wine and enjoy the semi-acidic taste they typically provide. However, if you enjoy a sweeter wine, I recommend going with something else. Here’s a list of some of the sweetest wines available.
If you want to learn about other types of grapes, be sure to keep up to date with our blog here at Minnetonka Orchards as we’ll be covering other grape varieties such as Concord grapes, Moon grapes, Champagne grapes, White grapes and more!