Zierfandler is a light-skinned grape variety that is indigenous to Austria's Thermenregion, just south of Vienna. These days, the variety is grown almost exclusively there, and is usually blended with Rotgipfler to form a traditional wine known as Gumpoldskirchener.
Zierfandler also goes by the name Sp?trot ("late red" in German), which refers to the blush that forms on the grapes just prior to harvest. The variety is one of 22 white varieties sanctioned for use in Austrian quality wine. Zierfandler is a natural crossing of Roter Veltliner and an unidentified variety that is thought to be of the Savagnin family.
Zierfandler's high sugar content and late-ripening fruit can create powerful, spicy wines with exotic aromas, and high acidity levels mean that the wines can be vinified both as rich, dry white wines or as lusciously sweet dessert wines. It is often considered the best of the two key Thermenregion varieties, and wines made from Zierfandler have good cellaring potential.
The variety occupies some of the better sites on the sunny hills of Thermenregion (an area where the Austrian staples of Riesling and Gruner Veltliner do not thrive as they do in cooler areas like Wachau). Winds from Hungary warm the region's vineyards throughout the growing season, giving the late-ripening berries plenty of time to reach ripeness before harvest. In warmer vintages, however, high alcohol levels can be a problem.
A few hectares of Zierfandler can be found across the border in the Hungarian region of Pecs, where the variety is known as Cirfandli. It was from these vineyards that Hungarian growers shipped a selection of grape varieties off to California in the 19th Century, leading historians to believe that, due to a labeling mix up, the classic black Californian variety Zinfandel probably takes its name from Zierfandler.
Synonyms include: Sp?trot, Cirfandli, Czirfandli.
Food pairings for Zierfandler wines include:
- Mushrooms in white sauce with dampfnudel dumplings
- Hainan chicken rice
- Risotto with asparagus