Grape vines existed well over sixty million years ago. During the post glacial warm period (10,000 – 5,000 years ago), the vines made their way along the River Danube up towards the northern west parts of Europe. Homo sapiens discovered and cultivated the same wild vine that we know today as being the common European grape vine.
The Celts and most probably their Illyrian predecessors begin to cultivate the vine in a primitive form and vitis vinifera grape pips dating from the Hallstatt cultural period, were discovered in former Celtic dwellings in the wine-producing village of Zagersdorf in Burgenland. In Lower Austria, further evidence of grape pips dating from the Bronze Age also suggest that vines were cultivated in the Traisental region, as well as, at this time in Stillfried and the March in the Weinviertel.
The Romans start extensive planting of grape vines and cultivation of the vine reaches our latitude, with evidence found along and around the River Danube, as well as close to the Neusiedlersee, Südburgenland and in the region of Carnuntum in Lower Austria and Flavia Solva in Südsteiermark.
AD 276 - 282
Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus repeals Emperor Domitian's ban on vine plantings north of the Alps and takes his troops to the Pannonian plains and authorises the planting of new vineyards.
The Romans finally relinquish their governance of the Province of Noricum, and in the following period of mass migration, a vast amount of the vines are abandoned.
Karl der Große, or Charlemagne, issued his “Capitulare de Villis“, which gave detailed information on viticulture, vines and wine law. During the course of the Carolingian colonialisation, viticulture was consistently encouraged in the regions to the east of France, leading to a cadastral map of vineyards, as well as the replanting of more beneficial grape vine varieties.
AD 890 – 955
Viticulture suffers a drastic setback following the Magyar invasion.
10th - 12th Century
In this century the Cistercians introduce Burgundian viticulture methods into Austria via the Stift Heiligenkreuz and Freigut Thallern monasteries in Thermenregion. Meanwhile, Bavarian dioceses and abbeys settling along the Danube, begin to clear and cultivate the river and tributaries, and build vineyard terraces in the Wachau. At this time, monasteries cultivated the vineyards, such as the Bavarian Niederaltaich, Herrieden, Tegernsee and Metten Abbeys are responsible for cultivating the vineyards, as well as Freising, Passau and Regensburg Dioceses, along with the Archbishop of Salzburg, who also owned territory in the region.
Vienna enjoys a viticultural boom after the House of Babenberg is relocated to the capital city. The Viennese citizens are allowed to purchase vineyards, leading to many parts within the inner city becoming cultivated vineyards.
The Seitzerkeller, owned by the Mauerbach Charterhouse, moves to the Dorotheergasse in Vienna, and subsequently over sixty cellar rooms are converted into drinking parlours, or so called “Trinkstuben“, where the proprietor serves his own produce.
Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, declares a 10% wine tax, known as the “Ungeld“, and introduces laws in favour of landlords and imposes an array of tolls allowing towns and territorial princes to charge for the transit and import of wines.
15th - 16th Century
During this century the total area under vine in Austria reaches its zenith, and vast vineyards stretch along the Danube from Vienna to Upper Austria in the west, and down towards Semmering in Styria, as well as in Salzburg, Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg, with as much as three times the vineyard acreage found today.
Queen Maria of Hungary granted the vintners from the town of Rust the privilege of branding a capital 'R' onto their wine casks, as an early form of Protected Designation of Origin.
The Royal Esterhàzy family vineyards produce the first documented noble sweet dessert wine (most probably a Trockenbeerenauslese) from the village of Donnerskirchen, Burgenland. Regarded as the Lutherwein, Prince Paul Esterházy purchased a large vat of the wine in 1653, and the same wine was enjoyed for over 300 years, the last drop being allegedly poured in 1852.
Johann Rasch (1540-1612) from the Schottenstift (Scottish Abbey) in Vienna, publishes his well known work “Von Baw, Pfleg und Brauch des Weins“ as the author of the first viticulture and wine book in the German language.
Production of wine curbs due to religious conflict, the siege of the Turks, high taxation and the upturn in beer production.
The town of Rust on Lake Neusiedl pays the immense sum of 60,000 Gulden and 500 pails of Ausbruch wine to become a Free Imperial City.
Maria Theresia (reigned from 1740 to 1780) and her son Joseph II (reigned from 1780 to 1790) revitalise viticulture and during this period, renovation and research into the cultivation of vines and wines begins.
The Josephinische Zirkularverordnung Decree of 17 August 1784 allowes every person to serve and sell own produce, including wine, at any time of the year and at whatever given price („die von ihm selbst erzeugten Lebensmittel, Wein und Obstmost zu allen Zeiten des Jahres, wie, wann und zu welchem Preis er will, zu verkaufen oder auszuschenken“). This is therefore the beginning of the famous Buschenschank legislation, and the first step towards the 'Heurigen' and 'Buschenschänken' in Austria.
Baron August Wilhelm von Babo founds the first viticultural and oenoloigcal school and research centre in Klosterneuburg, which is passed into the management of the State in 1874, and has been known as Höheren Lehranstalt für Wein- und Obstbau (Federal College of Viticulture, Oenology and Fruit) since 1902. This is officially the oldest viticulture school in the world and many similar institutes emerged from this model throughout the Monachy.
First sightings of Oidium (powdery mildew) in 1850 and Peronospora (downy mildew) in 1878 in vineyards. The unheeded introduction of phylloxera in 1872 destroyed extensive vineyard acreage and viticulture livelyhood in Austria.
Ludwig Hermann Goethe becomes Managing Director of the Agricultural Association, set up to protect Austrian viticulture, and publishes pioneering documentation into viticultre and origins of vine varieties in our latitude.
The first Austrian wine law is enforced, listing what is permitted by law for the production of wine, and prohibiting the fabrication of artificial wines.
Following the breakup of the Habsburg Monachy, Austria's vineyard area is reduced some 30,000 hectares right up until the 1930's (compared with 48,000 hectares prior to the outbreak of the First World War)
Professor Friedrich Zweigelt, later Director of the Höheren Bundeslehr- und Bundesversuchsanstalt für Wein-, Obst- und Gartenbau college in Klosterneuburg, Niederösterreich, successfully crosses the indigenous varieties St. Laurent and Blaufränkisch, and creates Austria's most significant new variety, the Blauer Zweigelt.
The Ministry of Agriculture passes a new viticultural law prohibiting the planting of new vineyards as well as hybrid direct producers. This represents a prime example of the strong protectionist nature of the agricultural policies during the First Republic.
Lenz Moser, the wine pioneer from Rohrendorf, publishes his groundbreaking book “Weinbau einmal anders“ (a new approach to viticulture), that argued against most of the traditional viticultural methods. The fairly rapid conversion to the 'Hochkultur' during the 1950's trellising system led to a mechanised and rationalisation of viticulture, coupled with a notable increase in yield. In the eighties, as much as 90 percent of the acreage under vine was trained using the 'Hochkultur' system.
The wine scandel unleashes an unprecidented price reduction of tank wine after the it was discovered that Austrian wine has been adulterated by the illegal additive diethylene glycol. Consequently, export sales of Austrian wine virtually diminish overnight and within a year, the new, stringent wine law is introduced, to supervise and inspect Austrian wine.
The Austrian Wine Marketing Board is established, to specifically promote the image and sale of Austrian wine.
The Austrian 'Weinakademie', the first recognised WSET school to teach to diploma level in the German language, is established in Rust. The centre offers a wide range of courses and programmes aimed at promoting wine culture. Today, over 1,000 seminars and 20,000 participants attend these courses annually, making it Europe's largest wine school.
Following Austria's entry into the European Union, the European Community Wine Legislation is acknowledged.
2000 bis 2008
EU measures are introduced to promote and financially support wineries, yet at the same time, subsidies are handed out to encourage the voluntary grubbing up of vines, to curb surplus production.
Regional wine committees, promoting wine on a local level, is established with close cooperation with the Austrian Wine Marketing Board. Their purpose is to improve the communication and sales of the produce in their regions, as well as to supervise agricultural contract issues, quality measures. Their role is significant in defining a regional typicity for the wine style and its promotion and publicity, in their specific region. The National wine body also supervises and liases with the local committees.
An amendment in the wine law allows a wine displaying regional typicity, as defined by the regional committee, to apply the term DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) to the name of the wine producing region. Only these wines, examined and approved by the State commission control number and a further requirement for regional typicity, are allowed to print e.g. Weinviertel DAC, onto the label. Non-defined varieties or other styles are marketed under the larger wine producing region, e.g. Niederösterreich.
The London blind tasting of Grüner Veltliner versus Chardonnay from prominent international producers, is organised by Jan-Erik Paulson and hosted by Jancis Robinson MW and Tim Atkin MW. From over 30 wines, the top four places are given to Austrian Chardonnays and Grüner Veltliners, with a further 3 wines ranked in the top ten. Similar tastings in Vienna, Tokyo and Singapore, which included sought after wines from Ramonet, Louis Latour, Jadot (Burgund), Gaja (Piedmont), Mondavi (California) and Penfolds (Australia), led to similar results.
The first official DAC wine displaying regional typicity and origin, the dry Weinviertel DAC Grüner Veltliner, is released with the 2002 vintage.
Austria's first red wine to gain DAC status is the Blaufränkisch from Mittelburgenland (2005 vintage). This time, the DAC wine showing regional typicity and origin is released in two categories, the Klassik and Reserve wines.
2007 - 2009
The release of the 2006 vintage witnesses further wines of origin, Riesling and Grüner Veltliner Traisental DAC. Likewise for Kremstal DAC from the 2007 vintage, and Kamptal DAC from 2008, both varieties are available in classic and reserve categories. Weinviertel DAC Reserve is available from the 2009 vintage.
From 1 September 2010, two further wines of origin from Burgenland are available. The Leithaberg DAC (white from 2009 and red from 2008 vintages) as well as Eisenberg DAC (Blaufränkisch, Klassik from 2009 vintage, Reserve from 2008 vintage).
In March 2012, the Neusiedlersee DAC designation of origin goes into effect. With this, Zweigelt from the region is named as the origin-typical grape variety. Reserve level wines can be composed of a cuvée blend that is Zweigelt-dominated. The new designation of origin applies to wines made as of the 2011 vintage.
From the 2013 vintage Wiener Gemischter Satz became Austria's ninth DAC designation of origin.
Introduction of the Three-tier Quality Pyramid “Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin”, Sekt g.U. (Klassik, Reserve, Grosse Reserve [Grande Reserve])
Schilcherland DAC (former Weststeiermark) becomes Austria's tenth DAC wine-growing region.