The Austrian wine industry has undergone a renaissance following the scandals of the mid 1980’s when a few rogue producers were caught ‘enhancing’ their wines with essentially harmless but illegal substances. This marketing disaster ultimately worked to advantage in that it forced the authorities to set up tighter regulations. This encouraged the country’s wine producers to take a hard look at what they were doing; out went low quality bulk production, in came squeaky clean wines of real quality and character, establishing a new identity for Austrian wines. The aromatic dry whites made from Austria’s principal grape variety, Grüner Veltliner, still lead the way but there are many others worth looking out for, including some delightfully gentle reds, notably those made from a comparatively new variety, Zweigelt. View our selection.
Austrian wine regions
A large vine growing region to the east of Austria near the Hungarian border. Best known for its sweet wines, many of which come from the shores of Lake Neusiedlersee where the misty conditions create ideal conditions. Good reds are made from one of Austria’s indigenous red grapes, Blaufrankisch.
This northern Austrian valley is formed by the River Kamp, a tributary of the Danube, which gives the region its name. The steep sandstones slopes, part of which is known locally as ‘Heiligenstein’ or ‘Holy Rock’ due to the intense heat that it creates, enables the grapes to ripen well, but at night the influence of river and cool breezes from the north allow some respite. Riesling is widely planted and also Grüner Veltliner. The valley broadens out as the river reaches the Danube and here there are some red grapes cultivated.
Austrian grape varieties
Blaufrankisch: the second most widely grown red variety in Austria. Also cultivated widely across Central Europe especially in Hungary where it is used to make Egri Bikavér, and in the USA, where it is called Limburger. Produces rich and spicy wines.
Grüner Veltliner: Austria’s star variety, grown widely throughout the country and also in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the right position, and when yields are kept low, capable of making something dry, fresh, slightly spicy, and intense. Higher yields produce wines that are light, easy drinking.
Zweigelt: a relatively new red vine crossing, of Blaufrankisch and St Laurent, which has become the most widely cultivated red grape in Austria. Plantings are now second only to Grüner Veltliner overall. It is spreading to other countries, including England, largely on an experimental basis. Produces wines with gentle tannins with warm soft red fruit flavours.
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