Explore Austria Through Its Outstanding Wine Regions
Although it's a small country, Austria makes scintillating world-class wines that tantalise the curious palate. That Austria's wines are so stellar is no surprise; its quality control laws are among the strictest in the world. With exceptional terroirs which give rise to wines of every colour and style, Austria is unequivocally a wine country to get to know.
Due to the amazing ski fields and mountainous scenery of the west, Austrian winemaking is limited to the eastern portion of the country, north and south. Niederosterreich is the largest region for quality wine in Austria with 28,000+ hectares of vines and within it are several smaller regions which some wine lovers may recognise.
Quite possibly Austria's most famous wine region, Wachau is a place of breathtaking beauty. The Danube winds its way through the Wachau, helping to moderate vineyard sites and creating a notable shift between day and night time temperatures. This means the grapes get good and ripe during the day but cool evenings help preserve the all-important acidity. This essential aspect of terroir is complemented by geologically diverse soils. Gneiss, granite, and loess make up the terraced vineyards' soil composition, allowing vines to dig deep into the earth and develop grapes with concentrated flavour.
Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the region's stars and serve as an ideal starting point for getting to know Wachau.
Although not as much of a household name as Wachau and only 20 minutes east by car, Kamptal is rapidly establishing itself as one of Austria's top regions. Kamptal receives hours of sunshine. As a result, its wines are ripe and generous on the palate but possess a wonderful freshness courtesy of cool evenings.
Again, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are the wines to try from Kamptal. Winemakers also make delightfully spicy, complex bottlings of the red Zweigelt grape which are well worth seeking out
To the south of Austria, bordering Slovakia and Hungary, is the region of Burgenland. The second largest wine-producing region in Austria this is the home of red and sweet wines. Red wines to look out for include the famous Zweigelt and also full-bodied rich Blaufrankisch wines that ripen well in this warmer southerly region away from the mountains.
Sweet wines are particularly a specialty around the Neusiedlersee lake. The lake providing perfect morning fog conditions for the famous Botrytis fungus to work its magic producing highly concentrated white grapes.
Grapes to Know
Like its northern neighbour Germany, Riesling is a big deal in Austria. Austrian Riesling is riper than its German counterparts, with a more pronounced stone fruit aroma and flavour. The grand majority of Austrian Riesling is dry, although some sweeter versions are made. In terms of prestige, Austrian Riesling is held in equal esteem by connoisseurs, critics, and really anyone who enjoys quality wine.
Grüner Veltliner is Austria's other major white grape. Full of white pepper spice, a slight green note, and a touch of citrus, Grüner Veltliner offers a refreshing minerality and makes a marvellous partner for vegetable dishes. Its spiciness also makes it a brilliant pairing with many Asian cuisines, including difficult-to-pair sushi.
If you're a Pinot Noir drinker, you'll love Zweigelt. This beautifully hued red is Austria's most planted red grape. Hints of juicy raspberry and red cherry are seasoned with a spiciness that makes Zweigelt a truly gorgeous wine to drink through the week.
Prefer a more robust red wine? Then the Blaufrankisch red wines of southern Austria are for you. Dark berry and cherry flavours, prominent acidity and a medium-to-full body are typical of this variety, home in Austria. A great dinner party wine Blaufrankisch is sure to impress even the most finicky of guests.
Not convinced? Pop open a bottle and pour yourself a glass and try telling us we're wrong. With their unmistakable quality, Austrian wines are fantastic for all occasions. If dry, mineral-driven whites or spiced berry reds are among your favourite wines to unwind with, Austria should be next on your list of wines to try.