It's perhaps perfectly fitting that Austrian/ Germanic grape varieties grow at Hahndorf Hill Winery, as our boutique vineyard is located at the edge of historic Hahndorf village, the oldest-surviving German settlement in Australia.
Blaufrankisch was the first Austrian variety to be planted and developed at Hahndorf Hill nearly 35 years ago. It was introduced by the then owner, a German immigrant. A decade later, Hahndorf Hill was taken over by ourselves - Larry Jacobs and Marc Dobson. It was precisely the presence of the existing Blaufrankisch vineyard that led us to explore and investigate the cultivation of other Austrian varieties.
We were encouraged in our plans and endeavours after multiple visits to Austria's wine producing regions that included numerous discussions with local vignerons and winemakers, plus the exploration of many of their wines. Following the comparison of regional data, it seemed that the Adelaide Hills could be well suited to the growing of many of the main Austrian grape varieties. Not only do the soils of our region share similarities with many of Austria's wine regions, but the climate during our growing season, as characterised by warm days and cold nights, is almost identical to that found in many of the Austrian winelands.
Two decades later, Hahndorf Hill has become the home to Gruner Veltliner, Zweigelt and Saint Laurent - in addition to the original Blaufrankisch plantings.
Blaufrankisch, Australia's first Austrian varietal wine
The Blaufrankisch vines at Hahndorf Hill vineyard were planted nearly 35 years ago and the fruit was used to produce the first Austrian varietal wine to be made in Australia. The vines are planted on a south-western slope of well drained soils that consist of loamy-clay top soils that are richly embellished with iron stone and quartz. The sub soils consist of deep red clay.
These Blaufrankisch vines have settled well into our vineyard and produce wines that are typical of what this noble variety can offer, featuring delicious blue-black fruits and a juicy and vibrant acidity. With their abundance of fine, gentle tannin and natural acidity, these wines age particularly well with the best vintages showing great elegance and tertiary complexity after 10 - 15 years of bottle maturation.
Introducing Saint Laurent - the beautiful and bohemian daughter of Pinot Noir
Hahndorf Hill is the first Australian grower and producer of Saint Laurent, an Austrian red grape variety with an enigmatic background.
Saint Laurent's origins are shrouded in mystery, but it is speculated that this variety originated from Alsace and arrived in Austria in 1863 at the Klosterneuburg Monastery, which was a great viticultural and winemaking centre. Here the winemaking monks cared for and nurtured these Saint Laurent cuttings into new vineyards in Austria. Meanwhile, back in France, all Saint Laurent plants were wiped out during the great phylloxera outbreak.
Over the years, this mysterious yet beautiful variety was fully embraced by Austrian wine fans, who lovingly adopted it as a 'true Austrian variety'. As more Austrian growers fell in love with this variety, they could not help noticing that there were many similarities between Saint Laurent and that most noble of all red grapes, Pinot Noir. The Saint Laurent wines were invariably described as being fuller and perhaps more bohemian than Pinot Noir.
It is only in the past few years that DNA studies carried out at the Klosterneuburg Monastery viticultural school have proven conclusively that Saint Laurent is indeed the genetic 'daughter of Pinot Noir', but their research has been unable to identify the second parent.
This is why we have decided to call our wine The Foundling Saint Laurent because the story of its origins fulfills all the mythological criteria of the foundling-infant who, of uncertain parentage, gets abandoned on the steps of the monastery, where it gets embraced, nurtured and adopted into a new home. And then, after growing up, finally discovers she is indeed a princess after all!
The debut release of this unique variety has been 9 years years in the making. Two different clones of Saint Laurent were imported from Austria in January 2014 and after a successful quarantine period of over two years, the material arrived at its new home at Hahndorf Hill vineyard in the Adelaide Hills.
Like Pinot Noir, Saint Laurent can be a 'heart-break' grape in the vineyard. It is a variety that needs a well-drained site with deep soils, but even under perfect site conditions can be prone to low yields, is frost sensitive and is very sensitive during flowering. However, if one gets this all right, the rewards can be great.
For the first years, while the new vineyard at Hahndorf Hill was being established and the vines were developing vigour and balance, the fruit was not used to produce our Saint Laurent label. Our debut vintage under the Foundling Saint Laurent label was finally produced in 2020 and is being released towards the end of 2022. This vintage has already been awarded Gold Medals at two prestigious international wine shows in Europe.
Zweigelt finds a home at Hahndorf Hill
In 1922 Friedrich Zweigelt, who was Director of the School of Viticulture and Horticulture in Klosterneuburg near Vienna, created the variety Zweigelt by crossing two other Austrian red varieties, St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch.
In 2012 Hahndorf Hill became the first Australian winery to produce a wine made from Zweigelt and it is now used in our Zsa Zsa Zweigelt label. This is a perfumed, medium-bodied red with typical cherry and spice flavours that is the perfect accompaniment for both red and white meats and all tomato-bases cuisines. It has a very special affinity for both raw and cooked tomato dishes.
Perfect soil for our Austrian red varieties
The soils at Hahndorf Hill vineyard have an extraordinary range of diversity, as indeed is the case in many parts of the Adelaide Hills region, which is blessed with some of the most ancient soils on the planet. It is estimated that its sediments were deposited between 500 and 870 million years ago.
Whilst our Gruner Veltliner is nurtured by loamy topsoils that are rich in red-blue slate, our red varieties that consist of Blaufrankisch, Zweigelt, Shiraz and now also St Laurent, have all been planted in ancient clay-loam topsoils that are brimming with ironstone, over red clay subsoil. The ironstone appears as small-sized structural aggregates that are polyhedral, lenticular or blocky - as per the opposite image. This combination of ironstone and clay is perfect for our red varieties, and especially for the Shiraz and the Blaufrankisch, as it helps to express a gentle spiciness in these wines.
Discover more about Austrian red grape varieties
Keen to learn more about Austrian reds? Click on the links below.
Austria's global red
The Rise of Blaufränkisch Wine
An introduction to Blaufrankisch and Grüner Veltliner
The spread of Blaufränkisch
Austria's Red Wines are Ready for Prime Time
Blaufrankisch is Austria's terroir red
The Glorious Grapes Defining Austrian Red Wine
Everything You Never Knew About the Wines of Austria
The reds of Burgenland
The big deal about Blaufrankisch
Austria's native reds
Austrian wines you should try
The amazing wines of Burgenland, Austria
The Art of Austrian Wines