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.
Burgenland is unlike anywhere else in Austria. Well known for its rugged Alps and the excitement of Vienna, Burgenland sits on the edge of the Pannonian plain - so whilst Austria’s wine experience begins in Vienna, it certainly doesn’t end there.
Carnuntum is one of the lesser known regions of Austria when compared with the mighty Wachau and Wagram. However, it is likely Austria’s most exciting and dynamic area of red wine production today. Zweigelt is widely planted, as is Blaufrankisch, and quality conscious growers are getting to grips with wines that combine fruit richness and full ripeness with the bright, crunchy alpine aromas that make cool-climate Austrian wines so attractive. Unlike the broad reaches of Burgenland, the Carnuntum vineyards are more mountainous with a complex range of soils, including sand, gravel, limestone and dense loam. Although the summers are warm and dry, most of the top vineyards are in close enough proximity to the Danube to benefit from its cooling influence. The Spitzerberg vineyards in the eastern part of the region are widely seen as the most propitious terroirs and its fabulous red wines are the driving factor behind Carnuntum’s rise from relative obscurity over the last decade. White wines are playing an increasingly important role, and around the village of Prellenkirchen Gruner Veltliner is particularly successful, digging deep into the mineral rich soils to produce wines of savoury, saline complexity as opposed to the more gourmand, fruity examples found elsewhere.
The region formerly known as Donauland is a viticultural region on the banks of the Danube River in northeastern Austria. Wagram's growing conditions are ideal for the country's iconic Grüner Veltliner, which produces rich and full-bodied white wines with a characteristic creamy texture.