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Austria – land of wine

Thanks to strict laws and control measures, the quality of Austrian wines produced in recent decades has improved enormously. Nowadays Austrian winemakers no longer produce cheap wines for mass consumption, but a diverse range of characterful fine wines.

History

After the Celts, the Romans were the first to cultivate vines in Austria. Austrian winemaking achieved its greatest reach in the 16th century when the competition from Hungary disappeared following its occupation by Ottoman Turks. Austria also had to deal with an outbreak of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century. Trials with grafting vines to resistant American rootstock and research carried out at the Klosterneuburg viticulture school eventually proved successful. In 1985 a major wine scandal broke in Austria. Since then, new much more stringent wine laws have helped the country regain its good reputation.

Geography

The landscape and climate in western Austria are heavily influenced by the Alps.

Growing areas

Austria has four winegrowing regions: Burgenland on the border with Hungary, Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Steiermark (Styria) and Wien (Vienna).

Wines and grape varieties

White wines account for 75% of wine production. Grüner Veltliner is the most widely planted grape variety. Other white varieties include Welschriesling, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Pinot blanc and Riesling. The proportion of reds is increasing, chiefly from Zweigelt, Rotburger, Blaufränkisch, Blauer Portugieser and other grape varieties.

Vineyard area and production volume

52 000 hectares, 2.3 million hectolitres per year.

Lower Austria

Reputation

Lower Austria accounts for over 60% of Austria's wine production.

Geography

The eight winegrowing regions in Lower Austria are Carnuntum, Kamptal, Kremstal, Thermenregion, Traisental, Wachau, Wagram and Weinviertel. Each of these areas has a different climate and therefore varying vine growing conditions.

Wines and grape varieties

A wide variety of grapes are vinified. The area is dominated by white wine, first and foremost Grüner Veltliner. Other white varieties include Weissgipfler, Müller-Thurgau (Rivaner) and others. Red varieties are Blauer Portugieser, Zweigelt and others.

Producers

There are around 18 000, mostly small, wineries along with some well-known winemakers' cooperatives.

Vineyard area and production volume

30 000 hectares, 1.5 million hectolitres per year.

Burgenland

Reputation

Burgenland is a venerable wine region with an excellent international reputation. Its nobly-sweet white wines from Rust used to compete with Tokaji for the honour of most distinguished sweet wine.

Geography

Burgenland's four subregions are Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland.

Wines and grape varieties

Best known for sweet wines, including the famous "Ruster Ausbruch", a more intense type of Beerenauslese. Many red wines are made from Blaufränkisch and other blue grape varieties.

Producers

Approximately 10 000, mostly small, wineries.

Vineyard area and production volume

14 500 hectares, 770 000 hectolitres per year.

Styria

Reputation

Wines of excellent quality have been produced in Styria for many years.

Geography

Lying in the south of Austria, Styria is home to beautiful luscious green valleys. The region is divided into the three winegrowing areas of Weststeiermark, Südsteiermark and Südoststeiermark (western, southern and southeastern Styria respectively).

Wines and grape varieties

The speciality here is the pale red wine called Schilcher which is made from the Blauer Wildbacher grape. In general, a typical Styrian white wine is dry, fruity and aromatic and is usually produced as a single-varietal. Not much red wine is produced. Pinot blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Welschriesling and Chardonnay (known as Morillon in Styria, where it has been grown for over a century) are the predominant varieties used for white wines.

Producers

4 000 small to medium-sized winegrowers.

Vineyard area and production volume

Approximately 3 300 hectares, 185 000 hectolitres per year.

Vienna

Reputation

Vienna is the only capital city in the world with a significant winegrowing area. It produces mainly dry white varietal wines. The typical Viennese Heuriger is traditionally made from a blend of several varieties known as a "gemischter Satz". Different grape varieties are grown together in the same vineyard. 680 hectares are under vine.

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