Austria may not be the most well-known wine producing nation. However, this beautiful and charming country boasts many fine wines including some of the best botrytis sweet wines and Ice wines in the world.
During the twentieth century Austrian wine became a high-volume, industrialized business, with much of it being sold in bulk to Germany. In the 1980’s the Austria’s wine industry suffered immensely involving a scandal over diethylene glycol, a chemical that is commonly found in antifreeze, which was imparted to the wine to give it sweetness and body. Although the amounts of glycol were less dangerous than the alcohol in the wine, and only a few middlemen were involved, exports collapsed and some countries banned Austrian wine altogether.
For the past two decades the Austria’s wine industry has undergone a highly impressive turnaround. With stricter new regulations and a generation of innovative winemakers, Austrian wine is gaining a strong market position both domestically and internationally.
There are currently 16 wine regions throughout the country. The following is a brief description of each region along with their grape varieties.
Regions that display DAC stand for Districtus Austriae Controllatus, a government-controlled guarantee of origin and quality.
Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this picturesque wine growing region produces some of the country’s top wines. It consists of 1,350 hectares of lush vineyards, mostly on steep terraces along the Danube Valley. Most prized are the Grüner Veltliner and Riesling varieties.
This old wine producing region is known for its high-quality, minerally white wines, mainly Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. As well, some dense and expressive red wines are also produced here.
Kamptal derives its name from the river Kamp. The region mainly produces white wines from Grüner Veltliner and Riesling grapes.
Traisental is Austria’s youngest wine region with approximately 800 hectares of vineyards. It combines impressive wines made from two grapes varieties, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling under the DAC designation.
Previously known as Donauland, Wagram is divided into two zones. North of the Danube, the Wagram mainly produces young and light white wines from Grüner Veltliner. South of the Danube, close to Vienna, is the historic town of Klosterneuburg, home to the Benedictine monastery and wine college founded in 1860.
Weinviertel is Austria’s largest wine region located between the Danube and the Czech Republic border. The region was first to adopt the Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) appellation status. Notable grape varieties in this area include Grüner Veltliner, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Welschriesling, and Zweigelt.
In recent years, Carnuntum has begun to establish a reputation for well-balanced red wines made from Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah representing the international varietals. As well, many of the wineries make a regional specialty called, “Rubin Carnuntum“, with the symbol of the Roman Heidentor, or Heathen’s Gate, on their label.
Located just south of the city’s capital, Thermenregion consists of approximately 2,600 hectares of vineyards. With a favorable climate and a broad spectrum of fertile soils, all kinds of exquisite wines are made here including world-class white, red and sweet wines. Region specialties are the Zierfandler (Spätrot) and Rotgipfler varieties.
Neusiedlersee is located on the eastern shore of the vast, shallow Lake Neusiedl. It is home to some of the world’s best sweet wines such as Beerenauslesen (BA) and Trockenbeerenauslesen (TBA). The region also produces a local sweet specialty called “Strohwein”, wine made from sun-dried grapes rich in sugars and aromas.
At the foot of the Leithagebirge, west of the Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl), is the Neusielersee-Hügelland region. The chalky soils help to produce well-balanced white wines. Blaufränkisch, the leading red grape variety matures into fine terroir wines like the Leithaberg DAC. The speciality sweet dessert wine Ruster Ausbruch is also produced here.
Mittelburgenland is the country’s largest red wine producing region with 2,100 hectares of vineyards. The dominant grape variety is the Blaufränkisch, known for its aroma of wild berries and pronounced spicy character.
Südburgenland is Austria’s smallest wine region with about 500 hectares of vineyards. This area is particularly known for its superior, full-bodied reds, matured in oak barrels. The superb Blaufränkisch with its rich, tannic bouquet is the main red produced here, but the area also boasts excellent Zweigelts, Blauburgers, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots.
Wien is one of few places in the world to have vineyards within the city limits. The region comprises of 700 hectares of vineyards and includes an excellent range of white wines such as the quintessential Gemischter Satz (field blend), Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Chardonnay. Some precious reds are also produced in the area.
This unique region consists of small wine islands, located primarily on the slopes of extinct volcanoes. It offers a particularly wide range of grapes, for white wines are Welschriesling, Morillon (Chardonnay), Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Gelber Muskateller (Muscat), Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Red wines feature Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, and Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir). The wines possess spicy and mineral aromas due to the geological conditions of the area.
Austria’s most southern wine growing region, Südsteiermark comprises of 1,741 hectares of vineyards. The region is known for its fresh, aromatic wines, especially for Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon (Chardonnay), Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc) and Gelber Muskateller (Muscat).
Southwest of Graz lies ancient vineyards which mainly produce a specialty rose wine called “Schilcher”. Made from the indigenous Blauer Wildbacher grape, genuine Schilcher carries an official emblem of a white horse, after the Lipizzaner’s bred in Piber for the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.
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Suzanne Urpecz, creator and editor of The Hungarian Girl. Click on my About page for more info.