What is an Oxymoron


An oxymoron, for those in need of brushing up, is a figure of speech that unites two things that don’t seem to go together. “Jumbo shrimp,” for instance; or “a plastic glass.” Language geeks may be delighted to know that “oxymoron” is a Greek word that means, well, “sharp dull,” a word that contains an example of itself.

There are all sorts of oxymoron in the world of wine. Some might argue that even “White Zinfandel” makes the cut. For purposes of today’s discussion, though, let’s look at “Austrian red,” a seeming oxymoron for this wine region that doesn’t take up a huge amount of shelf space in most wine shops, and that devotes the lion’s share of that limited space to its excellent whites, primarily Grüner Veltliner plus a good ration of Riesling.

The marketplace warps reality to some extent, as Austria’s wine production actually breaks out about 70 percent white and 30 percent red, a substantial difference still, but hardly one that places the reds in rarity territory. But the whites get more critical and media attention, and I would guess that the balance in U.S. imports is more like 90 to 10.

Oxymoron information

Still, the reds – a bit of the familiar Pinot Noir and the less well-known Blaufränkisch, Blauer Portugieser, Sankt Laurent and the subject of today’s attention, Zweigelt – are well worth exploring and, in spite of their oxymoronic nature, not impossible to find.

Zweigelt (pronounced “Tsvy-gelt”) is a relatively modern cross between Blaufränkish and Sankt Laurent, named after Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt, the grape scientist who developed it in 1922. It was designed for commercial wine, with a relatively short growing season – late to blossom in spring, early to ripen for harvest – which enables it to thrive even in marginal climates where frost comes early in autumn and stays late in the spring. (It’s no coincidence that Zweigelt is also grown in Ontario, Canada, and New York’s Finger Lakes region.)

Today’s tasting, Huber 2009 Austria Zweigelt, is a good example of the grape’s character, showing good red-fruit aromas and flavors enhanced by nuances of white pepper and stony minerality. You’ll find my tasting report below.

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