Blaufränkisch, an Austrian red-wine grape first documented in the 1700s, is gaining advocates in New Jersey. “It’s a cool-climate grape that loves to dig into hillsides of rich, clay-based soils, especially those with high iron content,” says Mike Beneduce, of Beneduce Vineyards in Pittstown. “New Jersey has a lot of sites ideal for the grape, and I think we can make a more successful version here than anywhere else on the East Coast.”
After analyzing a century of data, Beneduce concluded that the terroir of his family’s property most closely matches that of Burgenland, Austria, where the grape grows natively. Made from blaufränkisch, Beneduce’s 2015 Row’s End Dry Rosé won a 92-point rating from renowned critic James Suckling; the 2017 vintage won Best Rosé from the Garden State Wine Growers Association. Now Beneduce is increasing the acreage devoted to blaufränkisch, which can withstand cold temperatures and resists rot.
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Fewer than six Jersey wineries currently produce blaufränkish, but those that do are bullish on it. “The wine is medium body, complex with nice tannin structure,” says Jim Quarella, founder of Bellview Winery in Landisville. “It can be drunk young and also has good aging potential.”
“At first glance,” says Brian Tomasello of Tomasello Winery in Hammonton, “our 2019 vintage looks like it will make a superb wine.” For Beneduce, the grape “has beautiful balance between dark, brooding fruit and savory aromas, sometimes leaning toward a smoky-bacon note that makes it killer with all kinds of food.”