READING BETWEEN THE WINES:
If you are new to the flavors of Austrian wines, the range of styles and quality currently available is better than ever, so there’s plenty to try.
— Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator
Austria is slowly coming into its own in the international wine market. In the past few years, the country has made great strides in not only quantity but quality, introducing a new classification system similar to that of France and Italy in 2003. This system is bound to keep quality climbing higher.
Most of all, its wines boast a variety of styles, characters, and terroirs. While Austria is really white wine country, like other worldly relatives, its vintners have been busting out more than a few great reds.
Fans of Austrian whites love to sip the dry to sweet variations, particularly the eclectic Riesling. The Blaufränkisch and Blaufränkisch blends front the red wine scene. Exports of Austrian’s finest have been steadily increasing each year, which can only mean the interest is peaking. Get it while you can!
MAJOR AUSTRIAN WINE REGIONS
Austria’s wine producing regions cover the country far and wide. The major regions in Austria are Burgenland, Niederösterreich, Steiermark, and Vienna.
The top grapes used in Austria are as follows:
These reds are grown mostly in Mittleburgenland, which is Austria’s warmer red wine region. The Blaufränkisch grape delivers fruit forward light-bodied reds with black cherry and spicy oak nuances.
The number two produced red grape in Austria, the Blauer Zweigelt beams full-bodied wines with deep red color and red and black currant flavors.
This spice girl with a hefty name pops up all over Austria’s vineyards. The Grüner Veltliner grape makes a medium- to full-bodied bright white that echoes the essence of citrus and pear.
The Riesling wine series swings between refreshing and sweetly acidic to dry and citrusy. Look for incredible ageing quality in the sweet noble versions.
HOW TO ORDER/BUY
Since Austrian wines are unique to Austria or at least the names of them are, even seasoned wine drinkers have a hard time choosing from its wine lists. So aspiring Austrian wine lovers ought to get familiar with the Austrian terminology and label information, crazy as it may seem. See the “Legal Quality Code” section below for the labeling requirements, but start here to get to know some of the terminology.
Where to start:
When in Austria, start in a Heurigen. That’s a wine tavern!
• Red lovers: Try a Blaufränkisch, St.Laurent, or Zweigelt
• Pinot Noir lovers: Try a Spätburgunder
• White lovers: Try a Grüner Veltliner
• Pinot Blanc lovers: Try a Weissburgunder
• Pinot Gris lovers: Try a Grauburgunder
• Chardonnay lovers: Try a Morillon
• Dessert wine lovers: Try a Bouvier, Riesling, Strohwein, or Ausbruch
CHOOSING AN AUSTRIAN WINE
Various Mittelburgenland Producers
|Christine & Franz Netzel||Josef Pöckl|
Various Niederösterreich Producers
|Johann Mullner||Leopold Sommer|
|Kurt Angerer||R&A Pfaffl|
|Alois Zimmerman||Freie Weingärtner|
|Loibner Oberhauser Smaragd||Johann Topf|
|Peter Dolle||Sighardt Donabaum|
Various Burgenland Producers
|Harald & Christine Kraft||J & E Holler|
|Paul Triebaumer||Rebhof Sommer|
|Schlosskellerei Halbturn||Weinbau Kraft|
LEGAL QUALITY CODES
Austria has specific laws in place to strictly control wine quality and ensure each wine’s origin, authenticity, and style. Austrian wine law standardizes wine labels with regard to:
4. Quality designation, determined by the sugarcontent of the grape according to the Klosterneuburger Mostwaage (KMW) system:
• Prädikatswein – “Certified” wine.
• Qualitätswein – Wine of quality.
• Tafelwein – Table wine.
5. Alcohol content
6. Residual sugar
7. Official control number
In 2003, Austria launched a new appellation system called Districtus Austria Controllatus (DAC), which is similar to France’s AOC system. The goal of this system is to simplify the current system that gets a little cuckoo with complicated sugar weight classifications. The DAC breaks Austrian wine labels down to the important aspects like flavor and character.
To be donned with DAC classification, wines must have the following:
1. A minimum of 12 percent alcohol.
2. A clean, crisp, peppery-spice character.
3. No discernable wood flavor.