Austria has a surprisingly long history of winemaking, with recorded records dating back to the 12th century. Since the beginning of the 1990's, Austria has implemented some of the strictest wine classifications laws in the world. Wines are categorised as follows: The Austrian Flag.
The lowest quality, termed a "jug" wine.
Another jug wine, but of slightly better quality. The region of production is also specified.
Again, a wine from a specific region, but also using authorised grape varieties.
Of similar quality to Qualitaswein, but the grapes are further ripened.
Slightly better quality than Qualitaswein, but these wines are all officially inspected, and have a corresponding reference number and seal. They are also graded in six orders of ripeness, from the least, Spatlese, through Auslese, Eiswein, Beerenaulese, Ausbruch, to Trockenbeerenauslese.
A variety of further information is present on all Austrian wine labels. This includes (in order from the top of the label down);
An identification number.
A guarantee that the grapes used are entirely Austrian.
The name of the originating appelation.
The vintage and grape variety.
The quality level of the wine.
The alcohol content.
Sweetness levels, with the following categories:
Trocken - the wine is completely dry.
Halbtrocken - less than 0.9% residual sugar. This level of "sweetness" is still effectively undetectable by taste.
Halbsuss - between 0.9% and 1.8% residual sugar. In these, the sweetness will begin to become detectable.
Suss - over 1.8% sugar, from those wines which are fairly sweet to even full pudding wines.
This guide is divided into the four main regions; Burgenland, Lower Austria, Styria and Vienna.
The region is dominated by the red Blaufrankisch grape variety. The wines it produces are dry, rich in tannin and full of character. White grapes constitute about 30% of production. Other varieties include Zweigelt, Welschriesling and Weissburgunder.
This region initially develpoed a reputation for excellent sweet wines, after which a number of excellent dry, full bodied red and white wines followed. Varieties from nearby regions are further improving the output. These include Pannobile, Seewinkler Impressionen and Pannonischer Reigen.
This small region specialises in Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. The region also houses Austria's only Wine Academy.
This is Burgenland's smallest producing area. The leading red variety is Blaufrankish, which is velvety, gentle and dry. White examples tend to be fruity and fresh.
The climate of this small area is ideally suited for red grapes. A third alone is made up from Blaufrankisch and Portugieser. Whites, however, are also well represented by White Burgundy and Welschriesling.
On 2,814 hectares, vines are cultivated mostly on loess soil.
Grüner Veltliner is the main variety, with Riesling and
Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) also of high quality. The soft
and spicy white Frühroter Veltliner is a speciality, and there
is growing interest in the red wine culture.
A long, hot, sunny period in the climate here makes for excellent Gruner Veltliner wine, which has good ageing potential and a peppery bouquet. The Riesling also has a pronounced acidity.
The wine-growing area totals 2,438 hectares. Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the main varieties growing on primary rock and loess. Chardonnay is increasing. A speciality is the spicy Rote Veltliner. Some wine-makers are producing excellent red and sparkling wines.
The main varieties are the Neuburger and Weissburgunder, all low in acidity. Approximately a third of the area is cultivated with red varieties such as Portugieser, Zweigelt, Blauburgunder and Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, Zierfandler and Rotgipfler, when blended, become a Spatrot-Rotgipfler.
This region is almost entirely white wine producing. The main varietys are Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, although excellent examples of Neuburger, Chardonnay and Weissburgunder exist.
The Pulkautal valley produces noble reds and very crisp, fruity whites. Nearby is the Austrian centre for sparkling wines. Vineyards in the hills tend to produce fresh and fizzy whites, compared to the flowery nature of more southerly wines.
Traminer is a speciality here - the volcanic soil results in a full bodied wine. The predominant white is Welschriesling, the red is Zweigelt.
The largest of this regions producing areas, the speciality is again white wines; Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller, Chardonnay, Weissburgunder and Welschriesling.
Vienna itslef has a small but significant wine producing business. The main variety is Gruner Veltliner,in addition to other whites such as Neuburger, Traminer, Chardonnay and Riesling. Reds, although less common, are equally as good with examples such as Blauburger, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon.