Austria

Austria

In the heart of continental Europe lies Austria, a reasonably small wine producing country that is enjoying a period of growth and higher standing amongst wine lovers around the world.

Austria’s most famous export is Gruner Veltliner, a white grape variety found almost exclusively in their traditional wine regions. It produces generally full bodied, dry white wines that stylistically range from the very rich and gastronomic, to crisp, mineral and savoury. Alongside Gruner Veltliner, Austria is regarded for its unique interpretation of the aristocratic Riesling variety. Fuller bodied and more powerful in general than their German counterparts, Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry, pair cleanly with food and tend to age remarkably well. The best examples of both varieties are found in the heartlands of Wachau, Wagram and Kremstal, all in Niederosterreich; the largest wine growing region in the country. It encompasses eight separate sub-regions that stretch from Wachau in the west to Carnuntum in the east. In true continental style, winters are harsh and cold but summers are generally hot and dry. Most of the best white wine vineyards are moderated by proximity to the Danube river. In particular, Wachau is UNESCO world heritage approved, and famed for its beautiful steep terraced vineyards that flank the Danube valley. Here, as in Wagram and Kremstal, the top Rieslings (usually the most concentrated and intense) are designated “Smaragd” while the more moderate examples are called “Federspiel”, and the lightest “Steinfeder”. It is not all about white wines though. Austria is experiencing a quality boom with their reds and the best Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt based wines are finally finding favour in the export markets. Burgenland has long been the most famous red wine producing region in Austria, located in the warmest, southern reaches of the country. As a very general rule the soils here tend to be clay and loam dominated and the vineyards are planted at reasonably low elevations. For a long time, fairly uninteresting, rustic indigenous red grape varieties have dominated the production but the creation of specific appellations with stricter controls over planting, yields and wine production has facilitated a rise in the overall standard from the mid-late 2000s onwards. The most up-and-coming and exciting of the red wine producing regions is probably Carnuntum, on the eastern fringes of Niederosterreich bordering Vienna to the west and spreading east towards the Slovakian border.