Clark Wine Center

Bldg 6460 Clark Field Observatory Building,
Manuel A. Roxas Highway corner A Bonifacio Ave,
Clark Air Base, Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Philippines 2023
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Austrian wine lovers really come to respect and appreciate pure Blaufränkisch

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My friend John’s people, on his mother’s side, come from the Austrian province of Carinthia, in the foothills of the Eastern Alps. Their old house in the town of Friesach has a root cellar with a shelf of local wines. “If it’s a white, I can begin to get excited,” John said when I visited. The whites, it’s true, mostly turned out to be fresh and sappy and worked as a good foil for the plum dumplings with chanterelles and the snails that crawled around the property. The reds, well, they were another story. Many tasted sparingly acidic, thin, and steamy; swirling them in the mouth felt like chewing a mouthful of twigs and unripe berries. These were the kind of wines that said, look elsewhere. And, for the most part, I did.

Most Austrian wines resemble the Austrians. They aren’t about frivolity and lightness and obvious pleasures. They’re rarely cheap. Instead, they require the application of patience and thought in order to be understood. They are wines for adults. Even Riesling, the most familiar of the country’s varietals, has neither the Gothic lift and pinpoint focus of the German versions nor the breadth and viscosity of the Alsatians. What are these wines like? If we’re to rely on adjectives, I’d try subtle, inward, stolid, mysterious. And that brings me to Blaufränkisch.

Last month I was happy to be invited to Gramercy Tavern for a Blaufränkisch tasting organized by the writer David Schildknecht. My experience with the grape was minimal and the little I did know I hadn’t particularly liked. Here’re some things I learned: A) Its name dates back to the time when most people and things in Middle Europe were classified as either “Hunnish” or “Frankish.” The Franks had a better publicity department. B) Blaufränkisch is considered Austria’s most promising red. C) All but a handful of the best examples come from Burgenland, a region southwest of Vienna that looks like a gopher doing push-ups. Once known as German West Hungary, it’s home to the hottest and sunniest summers in Austria. D) Attempts to impress the winemakers with stories about my visit to their country made them titter politely; it turns out that Carinthia is not exactly renowned for its wine. E) Like Nebbiolo, Pinot Noir and few others, Blaufränkisch is at heart delicate rather than powerful, marries felicitously with oak, tends to improve with age, and can be unusually expressive of the site and climate where it’s grown. And some of it, as it turns out, is fascinating and delicious.

High-quality Blaufränkisch is a work-in-progress. “Only in the late ’90s did Austrian wine lovers really come to respect and appreciate pure Blaufränkisch,” says Schildknecht. “The focus has come as Austria has become increasingly supportive of her own wines and at the same time increasingly active in exporting.” The newness of the project showed in the different approaches used by the winemakers in attendance. Like certain vintners of new-wave Valpolicella, Josef “Pepi” Umanthum adds shriveled grapes to beef up the ripeness and sweetness of his wines. While his is the Blaufränkisch most likely to appeal to fans of big Zinfandels, the approach struck me as counterproductive and steroidal. The charming, self-effacing Sylvia Prieler brought promising, hard-edged reds that, for me, were overpowered by the flavors of small oak barrels. Uwe Schiefer, a pioneer of serious Blaufränkisch, opened wines that, on the other hand, reveled in the grape’s savory flavors, a facet that promoters of the varietal are understandably eager to downplay. After all, vegetal notes are commonly seen as a liability in red wines; for me, they’re an important part of Blaufränkisch’s appeal. (Think of Cabernet Franc.) Schiefer’s ‘07 Reihburg tasted of dried tomatoes and fennel with the stewed notes of an old-school Sicilian red; it came off as loopy and original as an Alice Neel portrait.

The lunch was intended to show off only the most ambitious Blaufränkisch and many of the wines poured turned out to be expensive. Roland Velich of Moric (pronounced Moritz)—probably the best known among the Blau-gers—brought two single-site examples, both ‘02s from old vines in Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsburg. They were elegant, restrained, complex and stony, already classic somehow, with the leanness and smokiness of Syrah from the Northern Rhône; perhaps not surprisingly, in the current vintage these retail for around $110. Luckily, Velich’s basic bottling from ‘07 can be found for just under $30 and is nearly as pretty, albeit conceived on a more modest scale. I also admired the biodynamic wines of Paul Achs, especially his Blaufränkisch Heideboden ($28); it smelled like a clump of violets growing in damp soil and may have been the least typically Austrian in its exuberance and lighthearted take on the grape.

My far-and-away favorite among these wines came not from Burgenland at all, but from further north, in Carnuntum. When Dorli Muhr decided to forsake PR for a tractor, she travelled widely looking for a suitable plot and even bought land in Tuscany. Eventually she returned to her childhood province and, along with her husband Dirk Van Der Niepoort, of the famous port shipping family, began to work a patch of Blaufränkisch she’d inherited on the steep slopes of Spitzerberg in the foothills of the Western Carpathian mountains. The two are no longer married but their wines show no trace of struggle. The most commonly dropped term at the tasting may have been “Burgundian;” sure enough, the Muhr-Van Der Niepoort ‘07 Spitzerberg was the palest and lightest wine of the bunch, with a texture as delicate as only the very best Burgundies. A glance at the other writers in the room was enough to see that it was among nearly everyone’s favorites. The Spitzerberg costs a very fair $45. For a measly $22, Muhr’s Carnuntum—a fuller yet still ethereal Blaufränkisch—will probably show you more of what good Burgundy is about than a comparably priced bottle from the Côte d’Or. I even poured it for my friend John; he couldn’t remember tasting a better red from Austria. “Most wine drinkers would call this watery and thin,” Dorli Muhr told me, tasting the Spitzerberg. “It’s been my experience that few individuals truly appreciate finesse.” If you count yourself among them, try one of these wines.


Clark Wine Center was built in 2003 by Hong Kong-based Yats International Leisure Philippines to become the largest wine shop in Philippines supplying Asia’s wine lovers with fine vintage wines at attractive prices. Today, this wine shop in Clark Philippines offers over 2000 selections of fine wines from all major wine regions in the world. As a leading wine supplier in Philippines, Pampanga’s Clark Wine Center offers an incomparable breadth of vintages, wines from back vintages spanning over 50 years. Clark Wine Center is located in Pampanga Clark Freeport Zone adjacent to Angeles City, just 25 minutes from Subic and 45 minutes from Manila.

Wines from Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Loire, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Alsace, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, Chile and Argentina etc. are well represented in this Clark Wine Shop.

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