AUSTRIAN WINE

Austrian wines are highly valued worldwide. Crafted by vintners connected to their land, they excel in blind tastings. They’re marked by a unique tension from challenging conditions, native grapes, rich culture, sustainability, and distinct flavours.

Austria’s exceptional wines owe much of their quality to the country’s unique geographic location. Despite sharing a latitude with Burgundy’s renowned wine – growing region, Austria’s central position in Europe sets it apart. Nestled between the mild, damp Atlantic climate and the more extreme continental Pannonian climate, Austria experiences significant temperature swings. Its summers and autumns are marked by warm, sunny days and cool nights, fanned by northerly winds. These conditions are key to developing aromatic wines that manage to blend freshness, full – bodiedness, and distinctive character.

What truly stands out is that Austria boasts a rarity. These wines deliver both refreshing, intense flavors and dense, light hearted character. This combination finds its roots in Austria’s exceptional climate and terroir. It’s this perfect harmony that sets Austrian wines apart on the global stage.

 

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AUSTRIAN WINE HISTORY

Austrian Wine In Roman Era

Starting from 200 BC, Celtic tribes united to create the Noricum kingdom, engaging in a profitable trade with Romans. They traded their high-quality iron weapons for Roman protection. Noricum became part of the Roman Empire in 16 BC. In the following century, vineyard expansion was extensive, prompting Emperor Domitian to destroy existing vineyards and forbid new ones in 92 AD. Around two hundred years later, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus reversed this decision, promoting the establishment of vineyards in Pannonia, a vast plain covering eastern Austria today.

Starting from 200 BC, Celtic tribes united to create the Noricum kingdom, engaging in a profitable trade with Romans. They traded their high-quality iron weapons for Roman protection. Noricum became part of the Roman Empire in 16 BC. In the following century, vineyard expansion was extensive, prompting Emperor Domitian to destroy existing vineyards and forbid new ones in 92 AD. Around two hundred years later, Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus reversed this decision, promoting the establishment of vineyards in Pannonia, a vast plain covering eastern Austria today.

The oldest winery in Austria, Wachau.

Decline And Rebirth Of Austrian Viticulture

During the 5th century, Saint Severinus of Noricum pioneered vineyards near Mauntern an der Donau, marking the Wachau region’s initial planting. By the century’s close, the Romans departed Noricum, leaving behind forsaken vineyards. Over the ensuing three centuries, the area faced invasions from the Goths, Slavs, and Baiuvarii.

In 862, a fresh danger emerged: the Magyars, moved westward by stronger forces in the east. By 896, they dominated the Hungarian Plain, launching attacks on French territories that severely harmed viticulture. However, in 955, King Otto I of Germany triumphed over the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld, initiating a gradual recapture of the eastern lands.

Upon the formation of the Margraviate of Austria in 976 and the arrival of the House of Bamberg in Vienna, the area’s significance and cultural prominence began to expand. During the 12th century, Vienna emerged as the epicenter of culture within the German-speaking realm. Notably, this period marked the first instance where the residents of Vienna were granted the privilege of owning vineyards. In 1327, Vienna’s Dorotheergasse saw the birth of Seitzerkeller, a unique establishment. It’s a type of pub, known as a “Trinkstube” in German, where the owner serves wine from their personal vineyards.

Vienna City Hall

Austrian traditional Trinkstube

Austrian Wine From The 16th Century to Our Days

Until the 16th century, Austria possessed over 150,000 hectares of vineyards, three times the current amount. Concurrently, sweet wines from Rust gained favor among royals. The Thirty Years’ War left Germany impoverished, but eastern Austria remained largely unaffected.

However, the 17th -century Turkish Army’s arrival harmed Viennese viticulture, leading to vineyard destruction, price declines, and ongoing diminishment of planted areas.

Following the era of Napoleon, during the Biedermeier period, a prosperous middle class emerged, exhibiting a fondness for fine cuisine and wine. However, the period of prosperity would be brief. The vine-destroying pest, phylloxera, emerged in Austrian vineyards, causing the demise of a quarter of the region’s grapevines.

Wine making process

One of the oldest viticultural institutes in the world, Klosterneuburger Weinbauinstitut, established on 1860 in Lower Austria

The new generation of vintners adopted a fresh approach centered on reduced yields and heightened quality. Gradually, Austrian wine transformed, reshaping global perceptions among consumers and experts. A phoenix-like revival ensued. Today, Austrian wines are famous globally. While Austrian sweet wines remain a niche, the majority are superior dry varieties. 

AUSTRIAN WINE MAKING

Austrian wine stands out in Europe for its strong focus on quality. This translates to wine enthusiasts discovering expertly crafted artisanal wines available at prices that offer outstanding value, spanning the entire range from everyday wines to premium selections suitable for aging.

Nowadays, 23,000 dedicated wine producers oversee the Austria’s wine making, primarily consisting of small family owned wineries with a centuries-old tradition. The country boasts authorization for 35 grape varieties. While white wines continue to dominate, accounting for 63% of vineyard area, red wines are steadily gaining ground. Following Austria’s flagship wine, Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, a relatively young red wine variety created in 1920 by Professor Friedrich Zweigelt, has secured the second most significant position.

Austrian sweet wines receive constant praise for their vibrant palate, lingering sweetness and intense acidity, frequently accompanied by the unmistakable presence of Botrytis cinerea, also known as noble rot. The fresh and aromatic whites are a feast for the palate, especially when they are made of Grüner Veltliner, the most signature grape of Austrian wine making. Discover the rich history of Austrian sweet wines here.

While Austria might not be your first choice for red wine, it’s rapidly building a strong reputation. Red grapes such as the spicy Blaufränkisch and luscious Zweigelt thrive producing juicy fresh red wines with an array of fruit aromas.

AUSTRIAN WINE REGIONS

The most important wine growing regions are located in the eastern part of the country, as here the climate is more favorable for the grapes. Nevertheless, you can also discover wine cultivation throughout all the rest of Austria.

Niederösterreich 

Known also as Lower Austria, Niederösterreich is located in the northeastern part and is the largest wine region of Austria. The most regarded subregions as Wachau, Kamptal and Wagram are situated here. The majority of vineyards consist of deep soils. Climate here is cool but dry with warm days and cool nights. This temperature variation gives the wines from this region their distinctive structure, freshness and lively acidity. 

Burgenland

Burgenland is the easternmost region, located in an hour from Vienna. It is famous for its plains and hills, sunny and warm summers. Here most of the vineyards are growing on sandy soils and gravel. Hot continental climate gives an opportunity to make the country’s most complex whites, rich reds and deliciously sweet wines in this area. 

Steiermark (Styria)

This picturesque wine region, located in the south of Austria, boasts stunning landscapes, rolling hills, and diverse terroirs that play a crucial role in crafting high quality wines. The region’s climate, influenced by the Pannonian and Alpine climates, is conducive to producing crisp, aromatic, and well balanced white wines. Here, the vineyards often situated on steep slopes along river valleys, benefit from excellent sun exposure and drainage.

Vienna (Wien)

The Vienna wine region, located within the city limits of Austria’s capital, Vienna (Wien), is a unique and historic wine producing area. Vienna is the only world capital that boasts significant vineyard areas within its city borders. The region benefits from a mild climate and diverse terroirs, allowing for the production of a wide range of white and red wines.

Austrian GRAPES

Grüner Veltliner

Grüner Veltliner is the signature native white grape of Austrian. It earned its fame at the end of the 20th century. The quality and style of the wines these grapes produce highly depend on the area it grows and the yield control. These wines often feature notes of green apple, citrus, white pepper, and a characteristic hint of white pepper or spice. Grüner Veltliner can range from light and zesty to more full – bodied, making it suitable for a variety of dishes.

Müller-Thurgau

Müller-Thurgau is a white grape variety known for its fruity and aromatic wines. It was created in the late 19th century in Germany by crossing Riesling and Madeleine Royale grapes. Müller – Thurgau wines are light to medium – bodied, with flavors of apple, pear, and floral notes. They are often easy – drinking, with a touch of sweetness, making them approachable for a wide range of wine drinkers. 

Riesling

Riesling is a white grape variety that produces highly aromatic and expressive wines. Although it is native to Germany it shows its unique character in many other terroirs of the Old and New Worlds. Austrian Rieslings often exhibit a mineral quality. Some of the best examples come from the Wachau, Kremstal, and Kamptal regions. Austrian Rieslings are considered some of the finest in the world and can be enjoyed both young and with aging potential.… read more

Zweigeld

Zweigelt is a red grape variety created in Austria. It is famous for producing medium – bodied red wines with flavors of red and black fruits, along with subtle spice notes. Austrian Zweigelt wines are approachable, versatile, and easy – drinking, making them popular for everyday consumption. They are often enjoyed young and can be slightly chilled, making them suitable for a variety of occasions and food pairings.

Blaufränkisch

Primarily grown in Austria, this grape makes red wines known for their deep color, medium to full body, and flavors of dark fruits such as dark berries and plums. Blaufränkisch wines often have spicy and herbal notes, along with a pleasant acidity. People can enjoy them when young but also see them develop more complex flavors over time due to their aging potential. These wines can easily pair with dishes that makes them popular in both Austria and and other regions of Central Europe.

Pinot Noir

Austrian Pinot Noir, known as “Blauer Spätburgunder,” produces red wines that are elegant, delicate, and fruit-driven. Austrian Pinot Noir stands out for its red fruit flavors, such as cherry and red berries, often with earthy and herbal notes. In comparison to some other Pinot Noirs, Austrian Pinot Noir tends to exhibit a lighter body, while still having an excellent balance of acidity and finesse… read more

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