Anything but a typical varietal, now is the time to try American-grown Blaufränkisch, a native Austrian grape that’s notoriously fickle, sensitive to terroir, and one that prefers higher heat to reach optimal ripeness.
California’s Field Theory is one of only two domestic producers making wine from the grape, and the brand’s Pomar Junction Vineyard in the Central Coast’s Paso Robles region provides the proper conditions for Blaufränkisch to shine, yielding compelling notes of clove, pomegranate, and rosewater in the glass. Beyond Blaufränkisch, growers here are accustomed to working with rare wine varieties like Portugal’s Touriga Nacional and Italy’s Aglianico, both virtually nonexistent in this part of the world.
While Austria is renowned for its whites, the country’s reds have yet to make much of a splash here in the States. Which is why many will likely be unfamiliar with Blaufränkisch, a grape that displays the fruitiness of Grenache, with the subtle spice of Pinot Noir. Look no further than Field Theory’s take, which plays vibrant on the tongue, dancing with cinnamon and cayenne thanks to a six-month slumber in oak. Even still, the wine’s body remains light — a classic characteristic of the varietal, often labeled the Pinot Noir of the East. It doesn’t hurt that its alcohol content is a touch lower than some might expect, hovering at around 13.4 percent.
In a state rife with Cab, Chardonnay, and Pinot, Field Theory sets itself apart, guided by the slogan “Curious Varietals from Unfamiliar Places.” And the Blaufränkisch is a sensational departure from the norm: unique enough to arouse conversation and curiosity, yet it maintains enough familiarity to make it approachable for the typical pinot fan.
Mushrooms, roasted peppers, grilled chicken, salmon and feta are all foods that accentuate the wine, but buyer beware: you will inevitably find yourself craving more blau, and there’s only so much to go around.