The Wine of Austria and Its Regions

With millennia of grape-growing history and hundreds of years of winemaking experience, one would expect Austria to be a more well-known wine-producing country in the globe. With France and Italy dominating the public picture of European winemaking in the United States, it is easy to ignore the extraordinary wines produced in Austria. There is a strong emphasis on the production of white wines, with Gruner Veltliner accounting for more than a third of all vineyards in the region. Another possible explanation for this error is that Austria hasn’t paid much attention to international varieties in the past. As an alternative to riding the hype train, the great bulk of high-quality production is concentrated on local grape varieties.

The Wine of Austria and Its Regions

Gruner Veltliner and Riesling are the white grape types most often planted in Austria, respectively. Gruner Veltliner is one of the world’s most approachable white wine styles, and it is made from a variety of grapes. This dry, light and refreshing wine is generally characterized by tastes of citrus and a subtle herbaceous aspect, among other things. Gruner is usually a young wine that should be consumed immediately; however, there are exceptions, with some very well-made wines capable of aging gracefully for 10+ years. Most Austrian Rieslings are fully dry, unlike many of their German counterparts, which is not the case with many German wines. Riesling, as a whole, can age exceedingly well. Some top Austrian riesling producers even age their wines for extended periods before releasing them. To give an example, Nikolaihof ages the ‘Vinothek’ for 17 years before releasing it, after which it can quickly be aged for another two decades after that. Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch are the two most important red grape varieties globally. Zweigelt, a descendant of Blaufränkisch, produces a light red wine with a unique cracked pepper aroma comparable to that of Syrah and is a good match for food. Blaufränkisch creates a slightly more supple and robust wine, with a distinct crimson and black fruity flavor, as opposed to other varieties. In the case of Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, it is customary to consume them when they are young to fully appreciate their fruity flavor.

An ominous cloud hangs over Austria’s winemaking heritage, and it’s not entirely without reason. In the middle of the 1980s, a large proportion of the wine produced came from overworked vines. As a result of the overproduction, the wines were thin and even a slight watery inconsistency. A small number of Austrian winemakers were experimenting with the addition of diethylene glycol, an anti-freeze compound, to their wines to boost their quality. This undoubtedly gave the wine more body, but not in the sense that the vast majority of winemakers wished to be identified with their wines in the first place. As the story unfolded, it immediately became a source of national embarrassment, prompting the winemaking industry to act swiftly to institute stringent rules. As a result of these efforts, Austria today has some of the most strict testing laws and regulations in the world, ensuring a more pure product that is focused on producing higher-quality wine. Even today, that speck of silver lining in the black cloud continues to benefit customers.

Wachau

The Wachau wine is one of the most electrifying white wines produced globally. This may be the most well-rated growing region in the nation. Only in Wachau a labeling system exists that is distinct from the rest of Austria. The terms Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smaragd are permitted by producers on their labels. In essence, these labels inform consumers about the ripeness of the grapes when they are harvested. Steigenberger wine has the lowest level of potential alcohol in its grapes when harvested, followed by Federspiel and Smaragd, which are the ripest wines in the group.

In the regions of Kamptal and Kremstal

These two districts are next to one another and are situated along the Kamp and Krems rivers, which drain into the Danube. It is common to see labels that have the word Reid prefixed to the name of a vineyard on them in these places. This phrase is used to indicate that the wine contained within was made solely from grapes cultivated on a single vineyard, comparable to the term “estate” used in California to identify a single vineyard. Riesling and Gruner Veltliner are produced in both locations. Gruner, in particular, reaches its zenith here, emitting a strong scent of white pepper that is particularly noticeable.

Thermenregion

The Thermenregion, located immediately south of Vienna and continues south through the hills along the edge of the Vienna Woods, is a popular tourist destination. Due to the numerous hot springs found across the area, the region was given its name. In terms of volume, the region is primarily known for its white wines, but the territory’s southern regions also produce high-quality Sankt Laurent and Pinot Noir. The most often planted white grape varieties in Austria are the indigenous Rotgipfler and Zierfandler, which are both made as varietal wines and blended wines.

Burgenland

This is a reasonably huge region that is made up of six distinct areas that are primarily known for producing red and sweet wines, among other things. The majority of the vineyard area in the southern regions of Burgenland is dedicated to Blaufrankisch, with a few smatterings of Zweigelt thrown in. High-class sweet wines from the Neuseidler See region in Burgenland’s northernmost region dominate the region’s fantastic wine scene, located around the lake. Botrytis Cinerea thrives in the high humidity created by the lake. Botrytis is a fungus that dehydrates grapes, concentrating the sugars. It is found in the vast majority of the world’s best sweet wines, responsible for dehydration (French Sauternes, German TrockenBeerenauslese, and Hungarian Tokaji). The villages of Illmitz and Rust, located on opposite sides of the lake, are two of the world’s most essential dessert wine-producing regions. As a result of the Botrytis, the wines are deliciously sweet with a note of savory.

Austrian Culinary and Wine Traditions

Although Austria is well-known for its schnitzel and sausages, its culinary offerings are pretty diverse. While paprika is not nearly as fiery as some peppers (such as habanero, cayenne, and ghost pepper), it does offer enough of a kick to meals that call for a bright, energetic wine to complement the dish’s vibrancy. Freshwater fish, wild game, and organ meats are often utilized items in traditional Austrian cuisine, and they all pair well with the region’s white wines. As you become acquainted with the rich cuisine of Austria, you will begin to understand why the wines produced there are so significantly influenced by white varietals and lighter reds. The cooking can be relatively prosperous, necessitating the consumption of high acid Rieslings. As a result, it pairs perfectly with a little richer Gruner Veltliner to complement some of the flavors in this dish. The sauces accompanying the more decadent meat meals frequently pair well with a lighter-bodied fruity red wine like Zweigelt. When one thinks about Austria, the typical wine adage “if it grows together, it goes together” comes to mind, particularly appropriate.

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