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AUSTRIA

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Overview

Austria is a small country located in Central Europe, known for its Alpine landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and diverse cuisine. Wine has been produced in Austria for centuries, and the country is home to many unique grape varieties that produce delicious wines.


HISTORY

Wine has been produced in Austria for more than 2,000 years, and the country has a long and rich winemaking history. The Celts and Romans introduced winemaking to Austria, and by the Middle Ages, wine production had become an important industry in many parts of the country.


In the 18th and 19th centuries, Austria became known for its sweet dessert wines, which were in high demand throughout Europe. During this time, the wine industry experienced a period of growth and expansion, with many new vineyards being planted and new winemaking techniques being developed.


However, in the late 19th century, a devastating outbreak of phylloxera, a disease that attacks grapevines, wiped out many of Austria's vineyards, causing a significant decline in the country's wine industry. It took several decades for the industry to recover, but by the mid-20th century, Austria had re-established itself as a major producer of quality wines.


In recent years, Austria's wine industry has experienced a renaissance, with a renewed focus on producing high-quality, terroir-driven wines. The country has embraced sustainable and organic farming practices, and many winemakers are experimenting with new grape varieties and winemaking techniques.


REGIONS

Austria has four main wine regions, each with its own distinct terroir and grape varieties. Let's take a closer look at each region:


Lower Austria: This is the largest and most important wine region in Austria, accounting for more than half of the country's total wine production. Lower Austria is situated along the Danube River and is home to several sub-regions, including Wachau, Kamptal, Kremstal, and Traisental. The region is known for producing high-quality white wines, particularly those made from the Grüner Veltliner grape variety. Other important grape varieties in Lower Austria include Riesling, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.


Wachau: This is perhaps the most famous sub-region of Lower Austria, known for producing some of the country's finest white wines, particularly those made from the Grüner Veltliner and Riesling grape varieties. The Wachau is a steep, terraced valley with a unique microclimate that allows the grapes to ripen slowly, producing wines with high acidity, minerality, and a distinct sense of place.


Kamptal: This sub-region is located to the northwest of Vienna and is known for producing high-quality white wines, particularly those made from the Grüner Veltliner grape variety. The Kamptal is a hilly region with a range of different soils, from loess to primary rock, which gives the wines their unique character and flavor profile.


Kremstal: This sub-region is located to the east of the Kamptal and is also known for producing high-quality white wines, particularly those made from the Grüner Veltliner grape variety. The Kremstal is situated on the banks of the Danube River and is characterized by a mix of different soils, including loess, sand, and gravel.


Traisental: This sub-region is located to the southeast of the Wachau and is known for producing high-quality white wines, particularly those made from the Riesling grape variety. The Traisental is a relatively new wine region, having only been established in 1995, but it is rapidly gaining recognition for the quality of its wines.


Weinviertel: This sub-region is located in the northeastern part of Lower Austria and is known for producing white wines, particularly those made from the Grüner Veltliner grape variety. The Weinviertel is the largest wine region in Austria and is characterized by a mix of different soils, from loess to sandy loam.


Burgenland: This region is located in the eastern part of Austria, bordering Hungary. Burgenland is known for its red wines, which are produced from grape varieties such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent. The region is also known for its sweet dessert wines, which are produced from botrytized grapes. Burgenland is divided into three sub-regions: Neusiedlersee, Mittelburgenland, and Südburgenland.


Neusiedlersee: This is the largest wine region in Burgenland and is known for its sweet wines made from the botrytis-affected grapes, as well as its red wines, which are made from varieties such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and St. Laurent.


Mittelburgenland: This is the second-largest wine region in Burgenland and is exclusively dedicated to the production of red wines. It is known for its Blaufränkisch wines, which are rich in tannins and have a spicy, peppery flavor.


Südburgenland: This is the smallest wine region in Burgenland and is located in the southern part of the state, bordering Slovenia. It is known for its fruity red wines, which are made from varieties such as Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Eisenberg: This is a small wine region located in the southeast of Burgenland, and it is known for its high-quality red wines made from the Blaufränkisch grape variety. The wines produced here have a distinct minerality and acidity, which make them stand out.


Styria: Styria is one of the smallest wine regions in Austria, located in the southeast of the country, bordering Slovenia. This region is located in the southeastern part of Austria, bordering Slovenia. It is known for its white wines, particularly those made from the Welschriesling grape variety. It is known for its cool climate and steep, hilly vineyards that produce wines with crisp acidity, vibrant fruit flavors, and a distinct mineral character.The region is also known for producing high-quality Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Blanc wines. Styria is divided into three sub-regions: Südsteiermark, Weststeiermark, and Vulkanland.


Südsteiermark: This is the largest wine region in Styria and is known for its white wines, which are made from varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon (Chardonnay), Gelber Muskateller, and Traminer. The wines from this region are known for their high acidity, bright fruit flavors, and intense mineral character.


Vulkanland Steiermark: This is a smaller wine region located in the southeast of Styria, near the border with Slovenia. It is known for its volcanic soils, which give the wines a distinct mineral character. The wines from this region are made from varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon, and Blauer Wildbache (a local red variety).


Weststeiermark: This is the smallest wine region in Styria and is located in the west of the state. It is known for its Schilcher wines, which are made from the Blauer Wildbacher grape variety. These wines are light, refreshing, and have a distinctive pink color.


Vienna: This is the only wine region in the world located within a major city. Vienna is situated along the Danube River and is known for its unique Heuriger wine taverns, where locals and tourists can enjoy the local wine and traditional Austrian food. The region is known for its white wines, particularly those made from the Gemischter Satz grape variety, which is a field blend of several different grape varieties. Vienna is also known for producing high-quality red wines, particularly those made from the Zweigelt grape variety.


Wien (Vienna) - The largest wine region in Vienna, which includes the vineyards on the hillsides of the city. It is known for its fresh and fruity white wines, which are made from varieties such as Grüner Veltliner,Riesling, and Chardonnay, as well as red wines made from varieties such as Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch.


Nussberg - This is a steep hill on the northeastern outskirts of Vienna that is known for its high-quality white wines. The vineyards here are planted on terraces, and the soils are composed of limestone and shell-limestone. The wines produced here are elegant and complex, with a distinctive mineral character.


Bisamberg - This is a hill located on the northern outskirts of Vienna, known for its dry white wines made from Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Chardonnay. The wines from this region are known for their fresh, citrusy flavors and lively acidity.


Donauland - This region is located to the northeast of Vienna and is known for its red wines, particularly those made from the Zweigelt grape variety. The wines from this region are rich and full-bodied, withflavors of dark fruit, spices, and a hint of earthiness.




SEKT

The grapes used to make sekt are typically the same as those used for still wines, such as Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, and Pinot Noir.


In terms of style, Austrian sekt can vary from light and fruity to rich and complex. The style is often influenced by the grape variety used, as well as the winemaking techniques employed by the producer. For example, a sekt made from Grüner Veltliner may have citrus and green apple flavors, while a sekt made from Pinot Noir may have red fruit flavors and a fuller body.


Austrian sekt is also known for its high quality. Austrian winemakers place a strong emphasis on producing sekt using only the highest quality grapes, and many producers use organic and biodynamic farming methods. The traditional method used to make sekt is also a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, which contributes to the high quality of the final product.


In terms of quality levels, Austrian sekt is classified based on the level of sweetness and the length of aging. The quality levels are as follows:

  • Klassik: This is the entry-level quality level for Austrian sekt. These wines are typically aged for a minimum of nine months and are often dry or off-dry.

  • Reserve: Reserve sekt is aged for a minimum of 18 months and is typically made from higher quality grapes. These wines may be dry or slightly sweet.

  • Große Reserve: This is the highest quality level for Austrian sekt. These wines are aged for a minimum of 30 months and are made from the highest quality grapes. They are often complex and can be dry, off-dry, or sweet.


VARIETAL

Grüner Veltliner - This is the most widely planted grape variety in Austria, and it is known for producing fresh, fruity, and acidic white wines with a distinct mineral character. Grüner Veltliner wines can range from light and crisp to full-bodied and complex, and are often characterized by flavors of green apple, citrus, and white pepper.


Riesling - This is another popular grape variety in Austria, particularly in the Wachau region. Austrian Rieslings are typically dry, with high acidity and flavors of green apple, citrus, and stone fruit. They are known for their complexity, with a rich minerality and a long finish.


Blaufränkisch - This is a red grape variety that is particularly popular in Burgenland. Blaufränkisch wines are typically full-bodied and complex, with flavors of dark fruit, spices, and a hint of earthiness. They are often characterized by their high tannins and acidity, which give them a long aging potential.


Zweigelt - This is another red grape variety that is widely planted in Austria. Zweigelt wines are known for their fruity flavors of black cherry, raspberry, and blackcurrant, as well as their soft tannins and easy-drinking style.


Sweet wines - Austria is also known for its sweet wines, particularly those made from botrytis-affected grapes. These wines are typically made from Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and other white grape varieties, and are known for their rich, honeyed flavors and high acidity.


AGING REQUIREMENTS

The aging requirements for Austrian wine can vary depending on the wine style and the specific appellation. However, there are some general guidelines that can be followed to ensure that you are storing and aging your Austrian wines properly.


White wines - Most Austrian white wines are meant to be enjoyed young and fresh, within 1-3 years of the vintage. This is particularly true for wines made from Grüner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc, which are known for their lively acidity and fresh fruit flavors. However, some white wines, particularly those made from Riesling and Chardonnay, can benefit from additional aging. These wines can be aged for up to 5-10 years or more, depending on the vintage and the specific appellation.


Red wines - Austrian red wines, particularly those made from Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt, are known for their structure and aging potential. These wines can be aged for 5-10 years or more, depending on the vintage and the specific appellation. The tannins in these wines soften over time, allowing the fruit flavors and aromas to become more pronounced.


Sweet wines - Austrian sweet wines, particularly those made from botrytis-affected grapes, can be aged for decades or even centuries. These wines are known for their rich, honeyed flavors and high acidity, which allow them to age gracefully over time. They are typically bottled in smaller sizes, such as 375ml or 500ml, which allows for easier aging and serving.


When storing and aging Austrian wines, it is important to keep them in a cool, dark, and humid environment, such as a wine cellar or refrigerator. The temperature should be consistent, ideally between 10-15 degrees Celsius (50-59 degrees Fahrenheit), and the humidity should be around 70-80%. It is also important to store the wine bottles horizontally, to ensure that the cork remains moist and does not dry out.

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