Zweigelt, a cross of Saint-Laurent and Blaufrankisch, was created in 1922. It is the most commonly planted red-wine grape. The classic Austrian Zweigelt unplugged is deep-colored with rich, vibrant flavors of spiced raspberry and cherry. While the best examples can be stored for up to ten years, most are best enjoyed within a few years of their release.
Varietal Zweigelt wines can be very popular, but the grape is also used in blends. This grape is often blended with Cabernet and Merlot to make an Austrian version of the Bordeaux Blend. It is often paired with Blaufrankisch, its parent variety, for an Austrian-style blend that is pure-blooded but not too incestuous.
Zweigelt can be used to make sweet wines. Zweigelt is used to make strohwein, which is a wine made from dried grapes. These aren't just restricted to Austrian vineyards. At least one high-end Zweigelt Ice Wine is made in Canada's Okanagan Valley.
Zweigelt was invented by Dr Friedrich Zweigelt, originally called Rotburger. This caused confusion with a completely different variety (see Rotberger), which was created around the same period in Geisenheim. This duplication wasn't resolved until 1970 when Dr. Zweigelt's varietal was renamed "Zweigelt” by Lenz Moser, an Austrian winemaker.
Zweigelt is a truly successful cross. It has the desirable traits of both its parents (see Saint-Laurent, Blaufränkisch). It gets its vibrant, Pinot-like cherry aromas from Saint-Laurent and the ability to make elegant, silky wines. It has inherited a good amount of spiciness from Blaufrankisch. The Zweigelt grapes are a combination of both parents, who can produce wines with deep purple-crimson color.
This is why the best Zweigelt wines have a dark and brooding appearance. This makes it tempting for winemakers to overcrop Zweigelt vines. The result is wines that are acceptable in color, but have diluted flavors and aromas.