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Introduction to Austria

Austria was plagued by scandals in the 1980s (nobody mention anti-freeze!), but it is finally coming back into the mainstream again. Due to much stricter laws – most importantly regarding yields (i.e. the number of grapes grown per acre) – the wines are also much improved. Wines in Austria are not allowed to be sweetened. The Austrians drink most of the wine produced in Austria, so the best is generally not exported. However, some of the decent wines do get out: you just have to look for them!

Around 40% of all grapes grown in Austria are Grüner Veltliner. This grape can produce a variety of white wines: from crisp and refreshing with hints of spice (in youth), to honey and toast flavours (in aged wines). Other grapes grown in Austria include:

  • for whites: Welschriesling (not related to Riesing);
  • for reds: Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt, Saint Laurent (similar to Pinot Noir).


The classification system is similar Germany’s, but there are two additional categories:

  • ‘Ausbruch’ – which is between BA and TBA
  • ‘Strohwein’ (or ‘Shilfwein’) – which uses grapes that have been laid out on straw during winter to concentrate flavours.


There are four wine regions in Austria: Niederösterreich, Burgenland,  Steiermark, Wien. Within these areas, there are 16 sub-regions:

Niederösterreich (near Slovakia)

Most known in export market. Most notable sub-regions are Kamptal, Wachau, Kremstal. Some very fine wines being made from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

Burgenland (near Hungary)

Great sweet wines and good reds. Most notable sub-regions are Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgunland, Südburgenland.