Despite its cool climate and the relatively tiny dimensions of land under vine, Austria is characterized by a long winemaking tradition and produces excellent white wines, very interesting reds and among the best sweet wines of the world.
Due to a rather small production, these wines tend often to be unknown to the general public or wrongly compared and confused with the German ones. Actually Austrian climate is warmer than the German, so grapes can reach a higher level of maturity, with the result that the Austrian wines are more full-bodied, robust and alcoholic. The climate, although presenting regional differences, generally favours white wines, with Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Traminer and Müller Thurgau as the most planted varieties. The most peculiar characteristics of these wines are their delicate aromas and vibrant acidity.
Archaeological discoveries confirm that the Celts introduced vine cultivation in Austria around 700 BCE. Their former dwellings were discovered in the Zagersdorf Village in Burgenland, a wine-producing area. By 1 BCE, the Romans began extensive cultivation and plantings around the River Danube and in the wine region of Carnuntum. Their influence continued through 800 CE when the Carolingians colonized the area. During the Middle Ages, the Austrian wine business reached its highest level. Scholars speculate that during that time the area used for the cultivation of the vine was at least 10 times higher than today.
During the Napoleonic wars, the vineyards of Austria suffered extensive damage; however, viticulture resumed its development thanks to fervent botanical experimentation.
In 1985 the Austrian wine industry was hit by a scandal as it was discovered that much of the wine was adulterated with diethylene glycol, a harmless but illegal substance, added in order to increase the structure and the sweetness of the wine. Nonetheless, the damage caused to the reputation of Austrian wine because of this scandal led to the establishment of strict wine laws so that they are now considered among the most stringent in the world.
Of the almost 20 Austrian wine regions, Wachau is undoubtedly the most famous, located west of Krems and being as well a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here fantastic white wines from Grüner Veltliner and Riesling with great aging potential are produced.
Weinviertel, on the other hand, is the largest Austrian wine region, located between the Danube and the Czech border. It produces mainly light and fresh white wines predominantly from Grüner Veltliner.
Another important area of wine production, Burgenland stretches along the border with Hungary. Thanks to a predominantly mild climate here conditions are ideal for red and botrytized wines.
One of the most interesting and most recent wine regions, Kamptal wines develop along the river Kamp north of Wachau, and it’s home to some famous vineyards and wineries.
Around the capital, the Wien wine region extends for 600 hectares of vineyards where production has been focused on easy to drink `tavern style` wines for quite a long time, but it has recently turned towards higher quality vintages.
Finally Kremstal, Wagram, Carnutum and Thermenregion complete the list of the most relevant Austrian wine regions with a good production of mainly white wines.