Shake Up Your Wine Experience with These Incredible Austrian Wines
Austria may be the most undiscovered food and wine lovers’ paradise in the world. In and around Vienna are some of the most cutting-edge restaurants and highest quality wineries anywhere in the world.
Sure, it is easy to think of Austria and be reminded of Schnitzel, cabbage, and beer.
While you can get schnitzel and a beer, this country has so much more to offer. It’s fabulously rich with a culture of music, food, wine, coffee, skiing, and more. In fact, my last wine trip there was one of the most exciting and eye-opening wine trips of my life.
The food, wine, and enthusiasm of the wine communities were remarkable.
Austria has a 4000-year history of viticulture, but it wasn’t until the mid-’80s before they started making high-quality wine for world consumption. Surely the wine producers of today hate to be reminded of the “anti-freeze scandal” of 1985 which accused certain winemakers of adding diethylene glycol to their wines to impart sweetness and body.
Once the media and public found out that diethylene glycol is commonly found in antifreeze, the Austrian wine industry completely tanked. Yet, there was good to come of this scandal.
As producers rebuilt the image and quality of Austrian wines they created a foundation that has put them at the top of the heap with regard to laws and regulations, innovation, quality, investment, and technology.
In fact, go to the Wines from Austria website at www.winesfromaustria.com and see the unbelievable depth of educational materials available.
Additionally, the Wines of Austria organization subsidizes many groups of wine professionals every year to get over to the wine-growing regions and taste the wines. It’s this type of investment that has allowed Austrian wines to make massive progress in a short period of time.
The Best White Wines of Austria
What grape comes to mind when thinking of Austria? Perhaps Gruner Veltliner since it is the most widely planted and most important white grape in Austrian wine production.
This typically dry, melon and pear-scented wine shows hints of savory tones like lentil and white pepper. However, this grape is capable of greatness and can range in style from light and lean to rich, intense, and exotic.
It all depends on the region and the style of the producer. Most of the value Gruner Veltliner wines will fall into the category of light, and crisp.
Other white varieties of note would include Riesling which is dry, minerally, and delicious. Grapes like Welschriesling, Weissburgunder, Neuberger, Roter Veltliner, Rotgipfler, and Zierfandler are all delicious in their own right, but less known in the US.
If you are an adventurous wine buyer and like the dry wines of Alsace or Germany, I highly recommend that you seek out some of these wines.
The Best Red Wines of Austria
Some of the red wines of Austria include; Zweigelt, Blaufrankish, Pinot Noir, and Blauer Portugieser. Many of the Austrian red grapes are hybrids or a crossing of two varieties. Zweigelt (a crossing of Blaufrankish and St. Laurent) is the most widely planted and is capable of making outstanding wines as long as the yields remain relatively low.
Blaufrankish has fewer plantings country-wide, but in the region of the Mittelburgenland, this grape truly hits its apex. Pinot Noir from the Thermen Region can be exciting and a delicious alternative to the high-priced wines of Burgundy.
The Austrian wine labels may still trouble the average wine buyer, but try to be adventurous and understand that it’s all pretty simple. The actual classifications mirror those of Germany (which is not exactly easy), but the wines are dryer in style.
There are, of course, the exotic and deliciously sweet wines from the shores of Lake Neuseidl on the border of Hungary. This shallow body of water provides the perfect climate for the botrytis cinerea spore to grow on the grapes which extract moisture and concentrate the sugar.
Generally speaking, it’s typically easy to find a delicious, crisp, refreshing GrunerVeltliner or Riesling from the Kremstal, Kamptal, Wagram, Traisental, or Weinviertel regions. The Wachau has its own three-tier classification system: Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smaragd.
The style of wine goes from lightest to fullest, with the must weights and alcohol levels being higher going from Steinfeder to Smaragd. Again, all of these wines are dry with a very pronounced granitic mineral tone and ripe tree fruit character. They can be unbelievably delicious and exciting to enjoy with food.
The Main Wine Regions of Austria
There are four main wine regions of Austria which are split into 16 districts. They are; Lower Austria, Burgenland, Vienna, and Styria. Most of the Gruner Veltliner and Riesling comes from this area along the Danube River, just to the west of Vienna.
The Burgenland is known for both its high-quality red wines made from Blaufrankish and the sweet wines of Neusiedlersee. Vienna has 621 hectares planted within the city limits of the capital, most of the viticulture is on the outskirts of the city limits. Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc are some of the usual favorites in this area. In the south, we find the wines of Styria.
This area has very volcanic soil and is tucked up to the borders of Slovenia and Italy. It actually looks more like Italy than the rest of Austria. There is no Riesling or Gruner Veltliner produced in Styria, rather this region produces outstanding Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling, Gelber Muskateller, and Pinot Blanc.
The wines of Styria are taught, fresh, and have a savory saline style to them. They are delicious with seafood, vegetables, and lighter fowl.
In a time where value is paramount to most consumers with regard to their wine purchases, Austria offers an exciting new world of reasonably priced options. More so than ever before, the white, red, and sweet wines of Austria are being produced at a world-class level.
In general, they are fresh, flavorful, and dry in style, and provide something different to enjoy. Austrian wines are spectacular compliments to cuisine. If you find yourself in the area of Vienna be sure to look for the famous Heurigen, traditional family-run inns that offer the home-grown food and wine of that particular region or winery.
This is a delicious way to truly experience the culture of Austrian food and wine.