Tannin: Low to medium
Acidity: Medium to high
Age: Best to drink while young, although oaked examples can age for several years.
Aka: Called Sankt Laurent in Germany and known as Svatovavřinecké in the Czech Republic.
St. Laurent (ZANKT LAU-rent) is a good quality grape variety whose homeland is Austria, although it may actually have originated in France. It gets its name from Saint Laurent’s day on August 10th when the véraison process begins as the grapes start to change color from green to red.
St. Laurent is generally believed to be a seedling of Pinot Noir, with which it shares many characteristics and morphological similarities. Although this relationship is not entirely certain, it does appear to be a cross between Pinot Noir and another grape variety. So far, attempts to identify the other parent have not been successful. Together with Lemberger (Blaufränkisch), St. Laurent is a parent of Zweigelt, Austria’s most planted red grape variety (see Zweigelt entry in the Fruity style).
Despite the fact that St. Laurent is a particularly difficult grape to grow, and yields are low, plantings in Austria have doubled since the turn of this century. This reflects an increased emphasis on quality in Austrian wine and a renewed interest and passion for superior indigenous grape varieties. The standard of Austrian wine and winemaking is now one of the highest in the world and is deserving of a great deal more attention.
The wines St. Laurent makes can be quite intriguing and delicious, with silky textures and soft tannins. Aromas of flowers, stewed berries and spice are followed by flavors of juicy cherry, raspberry, plum and blackberry with dark chocolate and earthy notes on the finish. Wines produced from old vines can be especially good, displaying more sensuality, minerality and depth of character.
They make an interesting alternative to red Burgundy (made from Pinot Noir). Oak is sometimes used, but contact needs to be light. Some wines can mature in bottle and display additional flavors, but as a rule they are best drunk while young. It is often used for blending with other varieties such as Zweigelt and Pinot Noir.
St. Laurent may be difficult to find, but if you chance upon a bottle don’t miss the opportunity to try this rewarding grape variety.
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