A short guide

Austrian Wine: Regions & Grape Varieties

The diversity of Austrias wine-growing regions and the unique quality of vintners and vine varieties make Austrian wines a delightful complement to any meal. Go on to read more about this in our small Austrian Wine Guide.

With roughly 48,000 hectares (ha) of cultivated vineyards, 32,000 registered winemakers and 6,500 estates that bottle on-site, Austria’s wine industry focuses more on quality than on sheer quantity. Top wines are estate-bottled, while other growers generally supply their crop to local production cooperatives or the country’s wine cellars.

WINE REGIONS AND AREAS

Austrian wine producers are found overwhelmingly in the eastern part of the country, in the states of Lower Austria, Burgenland, Steiermark and Vienna.

The four official wine regions, as defined by Austria’s wine law, vary significantly in size:
44,560 ha Weinland Austria (consisting of the states Lower Austria and Burgenland)
3,290 ha Steirerland (Styria)
680 ha Vienna
20 ha Bergland Austria (the states of Upper Austria, Salzburg, Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg)

Lower Austria (30,000 ha) and Burgenland (14,560 ha) are each separate wine areas (controlled appellations of origin) and there are another 16 throughout the country. The two highest categories, Qualitaetswein and Praedikatswein, earn the right to bear the area of origin on the label.

THE SOIL
A wide variety of different soils can be found within each wine growing area, which helps explain the diverse character of Austrian wines. In the Weinviertel and Danube Valley, for example, loess predominates, while Krems, Langenlois and Wachau vintners most frequently encounter primary rock. In the Thermenregion, loam and limestone are the most common types of soil, while the terroir in Vienna, Carnuntum and Burgenland is quite divers: slate, loam, marl, loess and pure sand. In Styria, brown earth, conglomerate and volcanic soils predominate.

THE CLIMATE

Austria’s wine growing regions are located in a temperate climate zone similar to the one found in the French region of Burgundy, at a latitude of 47–48° N. Summers are generally warm and sunny, while the fall can be quite mild with cool evenings.
The yearly rainfall in the eastern part of the country amounts to 400 millimeters. In Styria, it can reach as high as 800 millimeters or more. The major climatic influences on Austria’s wine growing regions are the Danube River and Lake Neusiedl. The river’s waters reflect sunlight and protect adjacent wine areas from drastic air temperature swings, while the lake’s environs are ideal for growing the varieties used in Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeeren­auslesen (prized dessert wines). The majority of Austrian vineyards are located at an elevation of roughly 200 meters. One exception is Lower Austria, where wine growing extends to 400 meters. The country’s highest altitude vineyards are found in Styria, at some 560 meters above sea level.

Weinviertel: Austria’s “Praised Land of Wine”

15.892 ha
Austria’s largest appellation is the Weinviertel, where romantic, cellar-lined streets and the ubiquitous Gruener Veltliner (GV) thrive. The area stretches from Retz,
in the northwest, to the outskirts of Vienna. Besides GV, it turns out excellent Welschrieslings, Pinot blancs and Rieslings, while the town of Poysdorf is known for its sparkling wines. Other Weinviertel specialties include the red varietals, Zweigelt and Blauer Portugieser.

Famous wine from the area:
Weinviertel DAC – the spiciest wine in the region.


Kamptal: Cool valleys yield aromatic wines with finesse
3.868 ha
The Kamptal is situated on the confluence of the rivers Kamp and Danube. The area’s unique microclimate of warm days and cool nights yields ideally ripe fruit. In conjunction with the excellent terroir, it lends a unique character to the appellation’s wines. The whites feature spicy aromas, fine acidity and crystal-clear minerality. Top red wines aren’t as prevalent as top whites, but the better ones, with their luscious berry aromas and delicate fruit, rank among Austria’s best. Langenlois, Gobelsburg, Zoebing and Strass are all renowned for their wines. Gruener Veltliner (GV) in particular flourishes in the hillside terrace vineyards, in weather-beaten gneiss and granite soils. Loess and loam predominate on the gentler eastward facing slopes. Pinot blancs , Chardonnays and up-and-coming red cuvées.

Famous wine from the area:
The powerful GVs and Rieslings.


Kremstal: Centuries of tradition unite with modern innovation

2.175 ha
This area’s name reflects the central importance of Krems, one of Austria’s oldest winemaking cities. Romantic, narrow streets and historically significant architecture stemming from the late gothic, renaissance and baroque periods abound. The history of Krems goes hand in hand with the history of viniculture. A wine museum and the local wine college of Kloster Und provide excellent insight to the city’s rich past. Krems is also home to a school of viniculture (founded in 1875). Other well-known wine producing towns include Goettweig, Furth, Gedersdorf, Rohrendorf and Senftenberg.

Famous wine from the area:
Fruity Gruene Veltliners and Rieslings.


Wachau: Steep terraces, noble varieties and monumental wines
1.390 ha
The fascinating landscape and towns along this narrow stretch of the Danube Valley are listed as part of the World Cultural Heritage. Two of the most imposing cultural monuments are the Melk Monastery in the western Wachau and the city of Krems to the east. Along the Danube, centuries-old wine terraces enhance the area’s natural beauty. Meticulously restored historic buildings and homes, particularly in the favorite tourist destinations of Spitz, Weissenkirchen, Joching and Loiben,
dominate the local architecture. Another jewel that’s not to be missed is the historic town of Duernstein, with an impressive hillside castle ruin and Abbey Church. The Wachau is a favorite destination of hikers and cyclists, particularly in the springtime, when the many local apricot trees are in full bloom. Of course, one of the best ways to enjoy the scenery is to take a meandering cruise on the Danube.

Famous wine from the area:
The Gruene Veltliners and Rieslings.

Donauland: Spicy wines from the slopes above the Wagram River
2.732 ha
The Donauland is blessed with
ideal geological conditions, and the wines from the environs of the Wagram River Valley are proof. The local vineyards are situated
on an imposing glacial fault scarp that formed during the last ice age. The ideal terroir stretches for many kilometers along the nearby Danube, and includes such towns as Kirchberg, Fels and Feuersbrunn, and the ice wine mecca of Gross­riedenthal. One of Austria’s most historic winemaking centers, Klosterneuburg, lies in the eastern portion of this controlled area. The town is home to a famous school and research facility, and to the largest privately owned estate in all of Austria, the Chorherrenstift (Klosterneuburg Abbey).

Famous wine from the area:
Gruener Veltliner and Roter Veltliner (a specialty white, despite the name).


Traisental: Charming wines with excellent depth
682 ha
Though it may be the smallest controlled area of Lower Austria, Traisental is long on winemaking tradition. In fact, archeo­-lo­gical finds dating to the bronze period prove that wine was cultivated in the area long before Roman times. Today, the winemaking towns of Inzersdorf, Nussdorf, Getzersdorf and Reichersdorf lie snuggled amongst picturesque hillside vineyards. Traismauer on the banks of the Danube River is known not only for its wine, but also for the town’s significant cultural heritage. Visitors and locals alike enjoy hiking the trails that lead through the scenic vineyards, followed by a relaxing stop at one of the area’s numerous Heurigen (wine taverns). The region’s boutique winemakers, who frequently have only one small terrace of vineyards to cultivate, turn out some remarkably crisp and fruity white wines with lots of finesse.

Famous wine from the area:
Gruener Veltliner and Riesling.


Wien: “Heurigen“ tradition and modern top wines

680 ha
Winemaking has most likely been practiced in Vienna since the city was first established: Both the Celtic inhabitants of Vedunia and the Roman military camp of Vindobona left traces of viniculture. The oldest recorded vineyards in the city date to 1132 AD, with most hilly parts of town practicing viticulture by the Middle Ages. In 1784, Emperor Josef II launched the Heurigen tradition by decreeing that local vintners could serve homemade fare along with their wines. The city’s subsequent development did crowd out many of the early vineyards, but a good number have since been recultivated. Today there are some 300 vintners operating within the city, as well as approximately 150 rustic Buschenschanken (taverns similar to Heurigen), with half the latter qualifying for the controlled quality designation of “Der Wiener Heurige”.

Famous wines from the area:
Gruener Veltliner, Pinot blanc and Riesling, but also Zweigelt (a red) and Pinot noir.


Carnuntum: Historic sites and modern power wines
891 ha
The controlled area of Carnuntum borders the Pannonian Plain and is named after an important Roman garrison, whose ruins by the Danube draw many visitors. The region’s top vintners are generally found in Prellenkirchen, Goettlesbrunn and Hoeflein. Traditional and modern winemaking techniques are on display in Prellenkirchen, with a wine museum, cellar road and wine education trail. Whereas Carnuntum was long over­shadowed by the country’s more established wine regions, the area has most recently advanced from insider’s paradise to the industry shooting star. Climate, terroir and a focus on quality are the local secrets. The fruity, powerful wines, especially the monumental reds, have placed Carnuntum squarely on the international map.

Famous wines from the area:
Zweigelt and Gruener Veltliner.


Neudiedlersee: Powerful wines from the sunny lakeshore
8.326 ha
Driving from Vienna toward the south­east, one cannot help but notice the distinctive change in scenery as the Hungarian Puszta (Great Plain) and Lake Neusiedl (which gives the area its name) draw near. The eastern shore of the lake, known as Heideboden, features a warm, dry climate and permeable soil – conditions that yield powerful, highly praised white and red wines. To the north lies the slightly higher Parndorf Plate, whose southerly facing vineyards yield rich, highly complex reds. Seewinkel, with its sandy soil and numerous lakelets, features an ideal microclimate for Botrytis Cinerea (“noble rot”), which permits the vinification of incomparable dessert wines.
The Lake Neusiedl area’s vast natural potential is further augmented by a new generation of top vintners, who are dedicated to realizing it to the fullest.

Famous wines from the area:
Zweigelt, the many fruity whites and, in particular, the luscious dessert wines


Neusiedlersee-Hügelland: Breathtaking quality across the board: white, red and sweet wines
3.911 ha
This picturesque region to the west of Lake Neusiedl features amazing depth of quality in white, red and dessert wines. It is known to produce very classy Chardonnays, Sauvignon blancs and Pinot blancs - the latter on par with the world’s very best. The rocky slopes near the town of St. Margarethen yield stunning reds, while lakeside vineyards turn out formidable dessert wines.
No wonder, then, that local vintners regularly earn top national and inter­national honors in all wine categories. Breitenbrunn, Purbach, Oggau, St. Margarethen, Donnerskirchen, Rust, Schuetzen, Moerbisch and Eisenstadt are just some of the important towns.

Famous wines from this area:
Blaufraenkisch, Zweigelt, any white (particularly Chardonnay) and a specialty: Ruster Ausbruch.


Thermenregion: Historic wines with a bright future
2.332 ha
Located just south of Vienna, this appellation is named in honor of the thermal baths that stood here during antiquity. Many of the vineyards are visible to train passengers heading out of Vienna on the southerly route.
The latter explains why the Thermenregion has been nicknamed “Suedbahn” by Viennese locals, who are frequent guests in the wine taverns of Gumpoldskirchen, Traiskirchen, Sooss, Guntramsdorf, Tattendorf and Perchtoldsdorf. “Leut­geben” (the right to dispense wine) was first granted to local vintners in the 13th century.

Famous wines from the area: Zierfandler, Rotgipfler, St. Laurent and Pinot noir.


Mittelburgenland: Racy red wines, like the characterful Blaufraenkisch
1.877 ha
South of Lake Neusiedl lies the hilly and well forested controlled area of middle Burgenland. Horitschon, Deutschkreutz, Neckenmarkt and Lutzmannsburg are
the local winemaking giants. Deep, heavy sand and loam soils with excellent water retention ability provide just the right
terroir for the region’s characterful, tannin rich wines. Some estates have the advantage of cultivating very mature vineyards of up to 80 years old, whose lower crop yields deliver outstanding wines. The appellation’s deserving nickname of “Blaufraenkisch Land” makes it clear which variety is tops in this red wine bastion.

Famous wines from the area:
The “perfect” Blaufraenkisch.


Südburgenland: Idyllic landscapes, expressive red wines
448 ha
Locals aptly refer to the smallest separate wine region in Burgenland as the “Wine Idyll.” South Burgenland, which remained under the dominion of the Hungarian Crown well into the 20th century, is known for its mild, Pannonian climate: long, sunny days, but not exceedingly hot. Today, the area’s best vintners belong to Austria’s vanguard of red wine pioneers. They specialize in indigenous varieties - particularly the red Blau­fraenkisch. The region’s top wines frequently come from older vine­yards, supported by a terroir that is rich in iron. They are very characterful, with an added spicy note from the soil. Another local specialty is Uhudler, a simple, refreshingly tart Rosé that is popular in the town of Heiligenbrunn. Most vineyards are concentrated around the Eisenberg (“iron mountain”) and the towns of Deutsch-Schuetzen and Rechnitz.

Famous wines from the area: Blaufränkisch.


Südsteiermark: Rustic charm, romantic hills and racy wines
1.741 ha
With its steep hills, idyllic farms, relaxing wine taverns and storybook views, the southern part of Styria is one of the most attractive wine regions in all of Europe. Besides plenty of rustic rural charm, the vineyards and taverns dotting the steep hillsides offer excellent wines with plenty of profile. Local vintners have a reputation for making outstanding whites, and several have extended this reputation internationally. Tourists flock to Styria year round, but those who like roasted chestnuts, sweet grape must or the fermented version - called Sturm - make sure to come in the fall. The area’s most popular winemaking towns are Gamlitz, Ehren­hausen, Kitzeck, Spielfeld and Leutschach. A top school for vintners, with a very long, reputable tradition, is located in Silberberg.

Famous wines from the area:
Crisp Sauvignon blanc, Morillon (Chardonnay), fresh Welschriesling and the aromatic Muskateller.


Westteiermark: Home of Schilcher (Blauer Wildbacher)
432 ha
The controlled wine area of western Styria is the country’s most idiosyncratic: A vital farming region set against a backdrop of idyllic hills and unspoiled natural treasures, with virtually the entire wine output limited to a single type: Schilcher. A Rosé whose color varies from salmon to onion peel hues, the varietal used bears the name Blauer Wildbacher.
The defining characteristic of the wine is a very pronounced, racy acidity that is easy to fall in love with after the second sip. For quite some time, the wine was consumed primarily by local farmers, but it eventually achieved cult status in Graz and Vienna. Ligist, Stainz, Deutschlandsberg, Schwanberg, Eibiswald, Gross St. Florian and Wies are the area’s best known wine producing towns.

Famous wines from the area: An easy choice: Schilcher, the regional specialty.


Süd-Oststeiermark: Volcanic cliffs and spicy wines
1.119 ha
Bizarre cliffs formed during an earlier period of volcanic activity add excitement to the friendly landscape of southeastern Styria. As for the local vineyards, they
too benefit from the volcanic terroir, especially in combination with the relatively cool climate. The resulting wines feature a very distinctive spicy note and bountiful aromas. The area’s vintners have found the perfect blend of traditional and modern winemaking techniques, with Sauvignon blanc and Morillon (the Styrian designation for Chardonnay) - both frequently barrique-aged - heading the list of up-and-coming quality whites. The town of Kloech, an enclosed winemaking region near the Slovenian border, has long specialized in producing rose-scented Traminers. Other winemaking “islands” include the towns of Weiz and Hartberg to the north, Gleisdorf and the recultivated vineyards of the historic Riegersburg Castle near Fuerstenfeld. Feldbach and Kapfenstein in the southern part of the controlled area also deserve mention. Four dedicated wine routes make most of the estates easily accessible by car.

Famous wines from the area: Aromatic Traminer, Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Morillon (Chardonnay).


Cultivated Grape Varieties
The diverse microclimates and terroirs found in Austria could theo­retically support the cultivation of several hundred different grape varieties. To keep things within
reason, the national wine authority has officially authorized only thirty. The following are the most important varietals grown by Austrian vintners (the vineyard area for each variety is shown in parentheses, as a percentage of total national vineyard area):

WHITE WINES [75 %]:
Grüner Veltliner [36 %]: indigenous Austrian variety; the wines have a distinctive, fruity bouquet with a bit of spice that’s referred to as Pfefferl; fresh and lively
Welschriesling (not related to Riesling) [9 %]: delicate aroma with hints of apple; light wines of lesser structure with elegant acidity
Weißburgunder (Pinot blanc) [6 %]: compact, with a nutty aroma; powerful and harmonious
Riesling (Rheinriesling) [3,4 %]: elegant, multifaceted fruit aromas; racy and delicate with classic fruit
Neuburger [2,3 %]: well balanced; discrete, nutty aroma; soft structure with good body
Chardonnay (also Morillon or Fein­burgunder) [0,9 %]: racy fruit notes of green apples; fresh, steely wine with fine acidity
Sauvignon blanc (also called Muskat-Sylvaner) [0,7 %]: elderberry bouquet and grassy spice; typical varietal character

Austria’s multifaceted wine land­scape also includes other white varie­ties, including - but not limited to - the following:
Bouvier • Fruehroter Veltliner • Muskat Ottonel • Roter Veltliner • Grauburgunder (Pinot gris, also called Rulaender) • Traminer • Zierfandler • Rotgipfler • Gelber Muskateller

RED WINES [25 %]:
Blauer Zweigelt (Rotburger) [8 %]: full-bodied, powerful wines with compact fruit (sour cherry and cherry) and a fine spiciness
Blaufränkisch [5 %]: full-bodied and powerful with good acidity and tannin structure; complex fruit and a velvety finish
Blauer Portugieser [5 %]: fruity and mild; low in acid and alcohol content
St. Laurent [0,9 %]: velvety dry with excellent fruit; mouth-explod­ing, but pleasantly soft tannins
Blauer Burgunder (Pinot noir) [0,7 %]: round, velvety and harmonic; rich in extracts

Some of the other significant red wine varieties cultivated in Austria include the following: Blauer Wildbacher (Schilcher) • Blauburger • Cabernet Sauvignon • Merlot

Austrian Wine Law and Quality Standards

Austria’s wine law is based on European Union legislation and includes four fundamental pillars of quality: strictly controlled appellations of origin, a maximum per hectare yield, explicitly defined quality categories and a standardized quality control regimen. Austrian Landwein, Qualitaetswein and Praedikatswein are each limited to a yield of 9,000 kilograms (or 6,750 liters of wine) per hectare. To earn the designation Qualitaetswein or Praedikatswein, the wine must be controlled twice by state laboratories. A state control number and red-white-red seal of authenticity appears on the bottle label of wines that qualify.

All quality categories for Austrian wine are delineated in terms of must weight (sugar content), as measured using the Klosterneuburger Mostwaage (KMW) scale.

Geographic origin as a measure of quality:
The stringent national law permits vintners to indicate Austria as the country of origin on bottles of Tafelwein, but no regional information. Landwein, the next highest category, must carry the name of one of the country’s four official winemaking regions: Weinland Oesterreich (Lower Austria and Burgenland), Steiermark (Styria), Wien (Vienna) or Bergland Oesterreich. The highest two categories, Qualitaets- and Praedikatswein, qualify to indicate the name of the originating wine area (appellation) on the label.

Autor: ichkoche.at

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