Thrill or Swill: Zweigelt

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Vineyards in Austria
Austria is well-regarded by wine cognoscenti as a source of extremely fine riesling and the iconoclastic signature white, grüner veltliner. Austrians are a proud bunch, and only about 20% of the nation's vinious produce escapes their borders. Of that, a whopping 3% -- or only 0.6% of Austria's total production -- reaches these shores.

Despite its wholly justified reputation as a producer of world-class white wines, Austria turns out a respectable amount of tasty reds as well. The U.S. sees even fewer of these, but thankfully for those of us on a budget, many of the reds that do arrive are on the value end of the scale. Super-importer Terry Theise and Austrian (German, too) specialist Bill Mayer are the best sources.

Today, we put a 1-liter value-priced zweigelt to the test.

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Dave Nelson
2008 Berger Blauer Zweigelt Niederösterrreich, Austria ($13 - The Wine Merchant)

Deep, clear crimson. Simply stunning nose of lightly-macerated, perfectly ripe tart cherries. There's just a hint of spice too. So pure and well-chiseled to taste, it almost brings a tear to the eye. But then it's so damn delicious that you can't waste time crying and just take huge, joyous mouthfuls and revel in the beauty of this wine.

Bless the Bergers' hearts for putting this in 1-litre bottles because 750ml just wouldn't be enough. Terrific, pure, life-affirming juice at any price. Flat out stealing at $13 a litre.

The Verdict: Thrill

Zweigelt is the most widely-grown red grape in Austria but has only been around since 1922, when a Dr. Zweigelt created it by crossing two other local grapes. It's generally a workhorse grape, but when treated right, like today's example, it can make compelling wine for everyday drinking.

Today's wine was also the first we've opened that had been sealed with a crown cap. For the uninitiated, that's the technical term for the kind of cap found on your beer bottle. Based on this sample, it's obviously capable of preserving really good wine and yet another way to avoid any issues with cork taint.

"Thrill or Swill?" aims to expand wine drinkers' horizons -- including Gut Check's. If you have been curious about a grape or wine and want Gut Check to try it, let us know via the comments thread. If we can find it (and if we can afford it), we'll buy us a bottle, yank the cork and report back.

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