This week we’re defining not a wine term, but a wine itself.
So what is Lemberger? If you’re thinking it sounds German, you’re right. Want an even harder German word to try and pronounce? Try this one on for size: Blaufränkisch.
That’s the name of the red grape variety that is also referred to as “Lemberger.” Which, according to Wikipedia: “The German name Lemberger derives from the fact that it was imported to Germany in the 19th century from Lemberg in Lower Styria in present-day Slovenia and then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”
The grape itself is a late-ripening variety that is typically rich in tannins and can offer a spicy character. It’s fairly prevalent in Eastern Europe, and has been said to be called the “Pinot Noir of the East” because of how widely planted it is.
Interestingly here in North America Washington is one of the few major wine regions that has significant plantings of Lemberger. This is mainly in the Yakima Valley, but also on the Olympic Peninsula. Smaller amounts are also grown in New York, Colorado, Ohio and Virginia.
I first tried Lemberger at last year’s Kitsap Wine Festival. Kiona Vineyards and Winery had it as one of their samples. I had it again this year and was reminded of what a versatile wine it is. It can be paired with everything from steak to pizza.