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The St. Laurent Grape

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About St. Laurent

(Synonyms: Blauer Saint Laurent, Chvartser, Laourentstraoube, Laurenzitraube, Laurenztraube, Lorentstraube, Lorenztraube, Lovrenac Crni, Lovrijenac, Lovrijenac Crni, Saint Laurent noir, Saint Lorentz, Sankt Laurent, Sankt Lorenztraube, Sant Lorentz, Schwarzer, Schwarzer Lorenztraube, Sent Laourent, Sent Lovrenka, Sentlovrenka, Shentlovrenka, Shvartser, St. Laurent, Svati Vavrinetz, Svatovavřinecké, Svatovavrinetske, Svatovavrinetzke, Svätovavrinecké, Svaty Vavrinec, Szent Lörinc, Szent Lörinczi, Szent Loerine, Szentlörinc, Vavrinak)


St. Laurent grapes Map showing Austria and the Czech Republic

St. Laurent is a red-wine grape believed to have arisen in Bordeaux, but which migrated through Alsace and Germany to centeral Europe, its current home, where it is today grown in significant quantities in Austria and its neighbor to the north, the Czech Republic. It is not yet well known outside those regions, but is generally considered one of the dozen and a half or so of world-class red-wine grapes (those in boldface in the varietals list to the left of the page).

The grape is generally thought to be an offspring of Pinot Noir (with the other parent yet unknown), with which it shares many characteristics—indeed, it is often bottled as a blend with Pinot Noir. Broadly speaking, one might say that St. Laurent is a slightly more robust and slightly less subtle wine than Pinot Noir, tending toward wines of strength rather than PN's delicacy; but it is not unknown for even experts to occasionally confound the two types.

Austria (much like Switzerland in this respect) makes many good to excellent wines rarely seen outside its borders, because their producion and consumption are nearly equal; only quite recently has there been much interest in exporting their wines. Thus, St. Laurent wines are still rather scarce in the U.S., which is rather a shame. (Incidentally, Austria also produces some fine Pinot Noirs.)

St. Laurent wines tend to be strong on dark fruit flavors (especially cherry), with pronounced but soft tannins and good, acid-balanced structure. There is a modern tendency to heavy use of oak in vinifying St. Laurent, though many winemakers think it an ill idea.

Factoid: St. Laurent is one of the parents (along with Blaufräankisch, aka Lemberger) of the now-popular variety Zweigelt.

Some Descriptions of St. Laurent Wines

  • Wine Monger

    "The St. Laurent sports juicy berries, velvety tannins and it is often quite mouth-filling. Its color leans towards a deep, dark red. St. Laurent wines tend to be fruity and multi-layered, and with just a little bit of age, a St. Laurent wine can develop an exceptionally smooth texture. However, it is the wine's bright sour-cherry aromas and flavors, which are typically offset by subtle tartness, that has its fans raving."

  • Snooth

    "St. Laurent is a grape that is full of prounounced dark fruits such as black berries, sour cherries and prune complimented by beet root and dark chocolate notes. The wines this grape produces are velvety with subtle tannins. The grape is quite similar to Pinot Noir as Pinot Noir is one of it's parents (the other is unknown.)"

  • Noteworthy Wines

    "Wines of St. Laurent show dark-red colour, sometimes with violet reflections. On the nose, enthusiasts should expect ripe cherry, black current, and even oak characteristics (like chocolate, vanilla or cedar shavings, assuming it's oaked). The tannins with St. Laurent can be all over the map. If it's harvested early, the wine will show more like a Pinot Noir, with light tannins and tastes more on the cranberry side of the fruit profile. If harvested later or during a warmer summer, tannins will be more developed and may even come off as boxy and tight. Young wines tend to have relatively high acidity levels. They make a good match with red meat and strongly flavoured cheeses. We also find that St. Laurent . . . goes with a wide array of most meats 'less than red meat', including wild game, comfort foods and any meat that is rich with fat and flavour profiles. . . . St. Laurent wines are of medium to full body. After aging in bottle, the aggressive character will change into crispness and then finally into a velvety smoothness."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Saint-Laurent wines tend to be dark purple in color, structured yet silky with a characteristic dark-cherry flavor (similar to Pinot Noir). Blackberries, smoke and spice are also commonly exhibited. The wines benefit from oak aging and show good aging ability."

  • Fringe Wine

    "Therry Theise, in one of his wine catalogs, describes St. Laurent as 'Pinot Noir with a "sauvage" touch', and John Schriener writes that 'it comes across as a Pinot Noir wearing hiking boots', both of which pretty much sum up my feeling on the wine as well. I had actually written in my notes that the wine was like a brooding, meaty Pinot Noir but denser and darker. For fans of gamier, meatier Pinot Noirs, St. Laurent is a can't miss, especially considering the price that most of them sell for. "

  • Austrian Wine

    "St. Laurent delivers dark, sturdy and fruity red wines with morello cherry notes. They are of high quality and have good ageability. "

  • Hans Reinisch, quoted in the Wine Cellar Insider

    "St. Laurent is one of the most fascinating and valuable red wine varieties because it is capable of uniting the power and spice that one would expect of the Rhone with the elegance and delicacy of Burgundy. These attributes in combination with the climatic and geological preconditions in Austria result in unique, elegant and inimitable wines that demonstrate all the virtues of the variety and terroir." [It is well worth reading this entire long article on St. Laurent wines.]

  • Chicago Tribune

    "If you could cross, in your mouth and on your palate, both pinot noir and syrah, you'd have a good approximation of the aromas, flavors and texture of Austrian wine made from the grape St. Laurent. . . Its thick skins give St. Laurent red wines good depth of color and they finish with a tangy, clipped zing — a nice foil for many a food. Another red wine that it resembles, especially at table, is Piedmont's barbera."

Some St. Laurents to Try

(About this list.)

Because this variety is not well known in the U.S., there is, by and large, little written about it, and the dearth of quotable comments on most of the wines listed below demonstrates that. If you want to be in on what's trending, St. Laurent is as good a place to start as any.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Weinbau Sattler St. Laurent, $15 - $23.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This Sattler is a stunning summer red; its pleasant fruit and berry nose is totally carried into the taste with rose petal and cherry pie. The creaminess is from malo lacto fermentation -- yum! --and the light tannic structure lends a nice vibrancy in the mouth. 90 points.

    It was worth it. After giving it about 20 or 30 minutes in the refrigerator to bring it down to cellar temperature, we opened it with a dinner of spicy pasta. The wine had alluring aromas of dark fruit, iron and earth. It felt tightly wound on the palate, with lots of dark fruit, some spice and a laser focus from start to finish. The Sattler family clearly knows how to coax the best out of this finicky variety. . . This fine expression of St. Laurent shows how well he knows the terroir. It's a serious wine, made with some serious love. Summary—2010 Sattler St. Laurent: Unwaveringly focused, with big, dark fruit and a healthy dose of earth and spice. A good pairing with beef, and a fine value. Grade: A-

    Grade=Outstanding. This incredible, medium-bodied red is juicy with bright red fruits and baking spices. Definitely for all you Syrah fans out there.

    A blast of reductive funk quickly blew off after opening to reveal crunchy blueberry compote and boysenberry fruit with a peppery twist of spice. Very much in line with my notes from last year. There's a dash of volatile acidity too, though far from enough to render the wine unpleasant. Indeed, this isn't clinically perfect vino. But there's more than enough charm here to render a few blemishes forgivable. Deep, vibrant red with very soft tannins, this is wine driven primarily by the freshness of its fruit allied with and carried by bright, snappy acids. Think of the difference between eating a store bought pie, made with syrupy, cloying, canned filling, and a pie made by your grandmother or a good, old school bakery, from fresh fruit. Or think of eating ripe wild berries versus the tamed down versions propagated by commercial fruit growers. There's plenty of sweetness but also a distinctly tangy character. That structure makes this an eminently food friendly wine

    In the glass it appears deep purple with aromas of blueberry jam and blackberries with a slight gaminess. It's lush on the palate with soft tannins and round feel but it's noticeably lacking the acidity I associate with cool climate reds. The fruit is slightly lifted and I suspect that the grapes for this wine were slightly overripe. This particular St. Laurent was fun and easy drinking yet I am not sold on it being such a hot grape to plant in areas where you can actually ripen pinot noir. With less ripeness and more acid it would have been something I'd pick up again. It's a grape that every self declared wine geek should try and I'm satisfied that I added it to my palate portfolio.

    We like to think of St. Laurent as we do top-notch Beaujolais: Fruity and fun most of the time, but, like this bottling or [another maker's], unexpectedly complex and structured. Lovely.

    In the glass, the St. Laurent was of a lighter red color, similar to a pinot noir. In the nose it was quite alcoholic, with plum and strawberry aromas. It smelled a bit unripe. In the beginning, this lighter bodied wine had a smooth mouthfeel to it, but soon peppery and bitter aromas came in that were increased by a significant amount of acidity. Add to that some burnt notes and the wine seemed quite unbalanced to me. When re-tasted later, the wine showed a bit more fruit (berries) and had a decent finish, but also seemed rather thin.

    This was very much a surprise. Much more lush than previous St. Laurent I have tried - this one made me question that it was truly Austrian. Succulent ripe fruit and silky tannins with an herbal undertone that amplifies as it opens in the glass. Like mashed berries (strawberry and blackberry) with black plums over arugula with a dusting of fresh thyme. Such a pleasant wine - so lovely with lamb, and great with spice. Can't wait to get another bottle!

    Deep, nearly opaque purple. Musky aroma with ripe fruit and dry wood notes. Light to medium bodied with loads of fruit (mostly cherry) with precise acidity framed by a broad dry oakiness with a hint of spices and cedar. Long finish of fruit and dry, spicy wood. Mild to moderate tannin. As my first Austrian red wine, this has been another pleasant surprise. I purchased it because the variety has been compared favorably with Pinot Noir. While I find that it is somewhat reminiscent of Pinot Noir, it is made in a different style that emphasizes ripe fruitiness that reminds me more of Oregon than Burgundy. While intensely fruity with a pleasing oakiness, this also lacks the earthiness and complexity (and funk) of Burgundy. However, on its own merits it is a well-made, enjoyable wine that is well suited to everyday drinking at a very attractive price point. A Terry Theise selection. Very good value.

  • Zantho St. Laurent, $15 - $17.
    (Offered by only a surprisingly small number of retailers.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    In the glass, the wine was a deep purple ruby color that was nearly opaque at the core with a narrow crimson rim. The nose was nicely aromatic with savory, meaty aromas, sweaty leather, Asian spice and plummy fruit. On the palate, the wine was on the fuller side of medium with fairly high acidity and low tannins. There were earthy meat and wet leather flavors with black plum and stewed cherry fruit. There were also notes of Asian spice and black pepper. As the wine opens up, the meaty, savory aromas dissipate a bit and the fruit flavors step more into the forefront and the fruit character shifts to more towards the cherry end of the spectrum. . . [T]he wine was like a brooding, meaty Pinot Noir but denser and darker. For fans of gamier, meatier Pinot Noirs, St. Laurent is a can't miss, especially considering the price that most of them sell for.

    One of the more famous Austrian wineries, with a memorable lizard on its labels, Zantho is sandwiched between the Neusiedlersee (Neusiedler Lake) and Hungary. The warm, dry climate here provides ideal conditions for growing St. Laurent, according to the Zantho representative. St. Laurent is "quite a diva in the vineyard", he continued, noting it's "very sensitive to humidity and rot". It seems Zantho catered to her needs — their St. Laurent had loads of big, dark fruit, velvety tannins and a white pepper finish.

    Dark in color with a mild varietal Pinot noir nose. On the mid pallet the wine displays some earthy notes, and some rustic notes. The wine is on the lighter side of medium in length on the finish with some nice dryness. I would give it an 88-89.

    Inky, dense purple in color. Mighty youthful from my nose's perspective. Scents of black & red cherry, blueberry and some black pepper. Nothing wrong with a little youthful exuberance. In the mouth, Zantho is quite well-mannered. It's medium-bodied (13% alcohol) with just-barely-noticeable tannins and crisp acidity. The dominant flavor is a fresh fruity-spicy combo that doesn't go overboard. Some say the wine is Pinot-like. I, however, was reminded of a young Rhône blend. Either way, it's tasty

    Reminded me of a tangy Pinot Noir, with plenty of juicy red cherry and red plum fruit laced with touches of mineral and baking spice. Not overly complex, but tasty.

    A soft and rounded wine, packed with typical juicy blueberry flavors. The wine has bright acidity, its tannins melting into the fruit. 88 points.

    The grapes come from the wine-growing area of Neusiedlersee, which is characterized by very dry, stony and mineral soils. This area is one of the hottest and driest regions in Austria and provides ideal conditions for the vine St. Laurent, a grape that is highly aromatic and is of the same family as Pinot Noir. This particular wine is medium-bodied with good clean flavors of red fruits with a subtle mineral finish.

    A nose of blueberry, black cherry, raspberry jam and currants. This dark berry–driven wine is a nice find from Austria with blueberry/raspberry-jam flavours and bramble-spice notes backed up by good acid and medium tannins.

  • Winzerkeller Andau St. Laurent, $15 - $17.
    (Reasonably available, but very little discussed on line.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    With this wine, I get aromas of blackberry, raspberry, red cherries, cooking spices, anise, and pepper. The wine is dry, barley tannic, moderately acidic, moderately sapid. The wine is medium bodied and has a savory finish.

    The 2008 Zantho (Winzerkeller Andau) St. Laurent is a wonderful example of this highly aromatic grape variety of the same family as Pinot Noir. Josef Umathum cultivates the grapes along with the lizards (Zantho) that occupy the vineyards and Wolfgang Peck makes the wines at Winzerkeller Andau.

  • Wimmer-Czerny St. Laurent, $18.
    (Both scarce and very little discussed on line.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Some of my favorite Austrian reds have been from St. Laurent, a grape in the same family as pinot noir. Less playful than blaufränkish, it is nevertheless capable of producing richly fruity wines that also showcase great depth and restraint. You've got to seek out the elegant, richly textured Wimmer Czerny. If you love great pinot noir, this will be your new best friend.

    This is an Austrian red made from the St Laurent grape. It had a cherry odor and a plummy, medium bodied flavor. It was also quite tart, and would pair well with duck, rabbit, or cheese.

    My first St. Laurent, this one is certainly different- like taking all the mature sexiness out of a Pinot Noir and replacing it with a cheery, youthful exuberance. The nose is bright with cherry, date and soy sauce flavors while the medium bodied palate has a bright acidity, some smoky fruit and a moderate amount of soft tannin which lingers on the finish. I suppose this mirrors most the youthful Beaujolais.

  • Meinhard Forstreiter St. Laurent Reserve, $19 - $25.
         ($19.94 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    I haven’t tasted too many St. Laurent but I have tried the ones from Meinhard Forstreiter. St. Laurent is said to be a hard grape to grow, just like its relative Pinot Noir. It is sensitive to frost and hard to grow. In fact, it is only grown on some 800 hectares in all of Austria but it is a true gem. . . The St. Laurent is made from 50 year old vines. It is full bodied and elegant wine with roasted notes, soft tannins and berry fruit aromas and flavors.

    The wine has aromas of dark berries, bitter chocolate, herbs with coffee roast aromas. Its body is well rounded with soft tannins, ripe fruit and beautifully balanced acidity.

    ♣ International Wine Review, 89 points

    Clear garnet red with funky, earthy red fruit aromas tinged with smoky mocha. Black plum fruits with a chocolaty mid-palate finish with a whiff of smoke.

    This is among the tastier St. Laurent bottlings. It has a nose of light plum and red berry with smokey notes. The palate is nicely flavored with vanilla, smoke, and dark red cherry fruit. It has round tannins and a sweet long finish.

    [T]he 100% St. Laurent (the name of the grape), Reserve, Forstreiter, 2005, Kremstat was a new varietal for me. It was light yet it had some depth, minerality and a subtle fruitiness.

    Forstreiter St. Laurent Reserve 2008, a berry- and chocolate-complexioned red from Austria that’s one of many affordable, cuisine-appropriate wines.

  • Reinisch St. Laurent, $18.

    Some quotations and facts:

    This was an extremely enjoyable bottle. It is aged in big 3000 liter barrels so there is no oak-taint in this wine. Instead of wood aromas, this is sappy, full of dark berry scents, very fresh and quite like a serious Beaujolais except darker in its fruit profile. It is wonderfully energetic on the palate. Crunchy acidity counters the fresh and primary fruit making this a very moreish drink. Lovely.

    This was an extremely enjoyable bottle. It is aged in big 3000 liter barrels so there is no oak-taint in this wine. Instead of wood aromas, this is sappy, full of dark berry scents, very fresh and quite like a serious Beaujolais except darker in its fruit profile. It is wonderfully energetic on the palate. Crunchy acidity counters the fresh and primary fruit making this a very moreish drink. Lovely.

    ♣ Wine & Spirits 92006 vintage), 90 points

    Sanguine-tasting, with notes of savory herb to the dried berry and roasted plum flavors. Hints of portobello mushroom and dark chocolate mark the finish.

    [Google-translated from Finnish & adapted:] The wine is quite tight and an only lightly transparent black and red; the edges of the wine are of a brighter blood red. The nose is quite mature and dark, but at the same time of a bewildering array of Pinot-like aromas: sweet dark berries can also be found among the low-key raspberries, cherries, and a hint of Burgundian rusticity. In addition, the multi-dimensional scent is also distinguished by low-key development, hints of allspice, and an initially quite intense dull chocolaty oak quality, which, however, dissipated altogether in about fifteen minutes. The flavor is ripe, of jam without the sweetness, that is, fresh, crushed raspberry and blueberry flavors, even some blackberry. Support all felt quite strongly, pepper spiciness to folding and delicately loamy aromas. Mouthfeel is mature and moderately abundant of expression, despite being quite tart, pleasantly upright, and slightly dusty - I wonder if the wine was unfiltered, or only lightly filtered? Gentle and fairly low-key tannins. After a bit, the wine will taste of tannin, with a light, wooden bitter after-taste. It is delicately smoky with earthy aromas. The wine is slightly rough and warm. On the whole, the St. Laurent vom Steinfeld is soft and easy, but at the same time of quite a distinctive character, an elegant red wine that brings to mind a strong hefty Pinot Noir without it being a dude - even if the wine is ripe and juicy, it's not even close to the New World style of over-ripe and juicier Pinot Noirs. This wine is of the fresh Pinot Noir posture and acidity, but at the same time with dark fruity ​features that are not found in Pinot Noir.

    Tart cherry, cinnamon, red berry nose; tart plum, red berry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish. 91 points.

    Another new grape, to me, was Sankt Laurent, featuring in red wines from further south. Two good examples from Thermenregion were [another maker] and Johanneshof Reinisch, vom Steinfeld, 2008 which was strawberries and cream with pepper.

    A thin wine, driven more by the bitter tannins than by fruit. There is some pleasant red berry flavor, but it is light, with final bright acidity.

    Dark transparent ruby. Dark cherry and plum with soft spice. Medium-grained tannins with a damast satin mouthfeel. Dark berries and chalky tannins linger long on the finish.

For a Splurge

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