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Zierfandler grapes

by | May 31, 2017

Zierfandler is a type of grape used for preparing white wine, notably in the Thermenregion of Austria.

It is even commonly known as Spärot (which is “late red”) as it usually turns into a red colour before the harvest begins.

At times Zierfandler is sold with a blending variety of wine called Rotgipfler, but it is more preferred by the consumers as a single varietal wine.

The traditional wine prepared by blending Rotgipfler and Zierfandler is called as Gumpoldskirchener.

These wines are known for their exquisite sweet and elegant taste as well as aroma. They contain a balanced acidity level with a nutty essence of almonds and pistachios. These wines taste well with increasing age.

Wine grape varieties

In Austria, from about 98.24 ha in the year 2005 only 0.3% constituted the Austrians’ vineyards.

About 85.03 ha was situated in Thermenregion. Traditionally, these grapes were used for blending purposes along with Rotgipfler in this area.

Hence, these wines were famous as Spärot-Rotgipfler which was a speciality in the Gumpoldskirchen located in the southern part of Vienna.

There are several names that Zierfandler can be referred with. Some of them are Cirifai Riros, Cirifan, Cirifai, Kesoei Piros, Raifler, Nemes Cirfandli, Roth hensch, Rother Zierfahndler and many more.


Many believe that Zierfandler is a result of a cross between two varieties called Traminer and Vietliner.

It supposedly had a very accidental origin channelling it back to a Croatian grape that were accumulated by the Habsburg monarchy located in Vienna.

A horticulturist named George Gibbs from Long Island received many shipments of this variety of grapes from an Imperial nursery during the 1820s among which one was known as the “Black Zinfardel of Hungary”.

Though it does not lead back to Zierfalder, Webster brought the view that Zinfardel is not an ideal reference as it corrupts a Hungarian word (Tzinifándli or Czirifandli) which has been taken from the German script (Zierfandler).

As Zierfandler and Zinfandel are very different from each other, the mixing up of the labels is extremely misleading.

Thus, Zierfandler is predominantly grown as Cirfandli in Hungary and as Zerjavina in Slovenia.

Zierfandler is also grown in the well known sites that constitute the sunlit hills of Thermenregion (it is the area where the staples consumed in Austria, namely Gruner Veltliner and Riesling cannot be grown because they sustain in temperatures that are comparatively cooler, as in Wachau).

Winds that are carried from Hungary warm up the vineyard regions which helps in stimulating the growth process of the vineyards.

This in turn results in providing the necessary time important for the late-ripening berries to ripe before reaching the harvesting season. However, during war vintages, high content of alcohol can pose a problem.

Among the 22 varieties of white wine sanctioned for usage in the Austrian quality wine, Zierfalder falls as one. It is an unidentified variety that has been suggested to belong to the Savagnin family.


It is an interesting feature of the grapes that they turn red at the time of ripening when their sides gets exposed to the sun.

These grapevines take quite a significant amount of time to ripen, which makes them more susceptible to noble rot.

The leaves are 3-5 lobed and comparatively larger. The grape bunches are at times winged along with being large and conical in shape.

The grapes of this variety have very high sugar content. As the wines made out of Zierfandler take quite a lot of time to ripen, they are excellent for preparing spicy wines that bring along exotic aromas.

The high acidic nature of the grapes helps in the vinification of not only dry and rich white wines, but also succulently sweet dessert wines.

Among the two main varieties of wine grapes produced in Thermenregion, Zierfandler is known to be the best as it has a fine cellaring potential.

Food Pairing

Among the various vegetarian dishes available, Zierfandler goes along with quite a few. Different continents prefer consuming different cuisines with this particular variety of white wine.

In Europe, it is quite famous for pairing with dumpling, along with mushrooms dipped in white sauce. In Asia, any rich and spicy vegetable preparations with aromatic rice are preferred.

Blue cheese risotto is quite famous for consumption along with Zierfandler in Australasia or Oceania.

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Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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