Sekt g.U. from Austria – protected designation of origin, certified quality

2015 will go down in the Sekt history as a milestone for the Austrian Sekt sector. Under the leadership of the Austrian Sekt Committee, founded just in 2013,
and with the energetic participation of the Sekt producers, the structure of a three-tier quality pyramid for Austrian Sekt has been established. The top category in the pyramid is on a par with the highest standards maintained by the world's leading sparkling wines - such as Champagne or Franciacorta – and in certain aspects, even surpasses them.

This proposal was agreed upon by the National Committee, and submitted to the Agricultural Minister, who gives it force of law by means of decree in 2016.

In principle, the regulation applies that “Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin” (“Österreichischer Sekt mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung”) may be offered on the market exclusively in connexion with the supplemental terms “Klassik“, “Reserve“ or “Grosse Reserve” (Grande Reserve), under the appurtenant conditions laid down by decree. In this, the product designation will be composed from the category designation (“Qualitätsschaumwein” or “Sekt”), the name of the protected designation of origin (federal state and – where applicable – municipality or district thereof) and the term “Protected Designation of Origin” (“geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung”). The term “Hauersekt” (tirage, disgorgement and expedition performed by the grape grower) may additionally be used.

New three-tier pyramid emphasizes grape origin and maturation on lees

The picture shows the three-tier Quality Pyramid, © AWMB
Three-tier Quality Pyramid, © AWMB

The first level "Klassik" establishes stricter minimum requirements for Austrian sparkling wine of quality. Above all, it requires that the grapes must have their origins in one of Austria’s federal states, as well as stipulating a minimum period of nine months spent on the lees independant of the production process. As of the second level "Reserve", Sekt must be produced according to the traditional method of bottle fermentation. The grapes and base wines must be grown and vinified in one of Austria’s federal states, and a maturation period of at least eighteen months on the lees is prescribed. In the top category of bottle-fermented Sekt "Große Reserve", the grapes may be harvested only from a single winegrowing community (such as Poysdorf, Langenlois, Gols or Gamlitz), whereby vineyard site designations become possible as well. After a minimum of thirty months bottle-fermentation and maturing on the lees, Sekt in this category may first be released to the market three years after the harvest.

The individual levels incorporate additional standards focussed upon ensuring quality, including viticultural practices, hand harvesting, level of packing, size of yield and gentle pressing. Criteria governing the base wines as well as inspection and monitoring of the quality levels will be developed and established in the next few months. These will be accompanied by a marketing strategy – designed in cooperation with the Austrian Wine Marketing Board – to effectively institute these new categories. The marketing strategy will be based on the embedding of this stringent, quality-oriented policy in the Austrian Wine Law, planned for 2015.

Level 1 – Klassik

• grapes harvested in one Austrian federal state. Base wine vinified and second fermentation conducted in Austria
• released to the consumer not before 22 October of the following year
• maximum alcohol content of 12.5% indicated on the label
• minimum 9 months maturation on the lees
• all methods suitable for sparkling wine production allowed
• all styles/dosage-levels/colours (white, rosé, red) permitted
• no indication of origin more specific than Austrian federal state
• vintage designation permitted
• grapes processed according to the Austrian Wine Law

Level 2 – Reserve

• grapes harvested and pressed in a single Austrian federal state
• produced by means of traditional bottle fermentation
• released to the consumer not before 22 October of the second year following the harvest
• minimum 18 months maturation on the lees
• level of juice extraction 60%
• no indication of origin more specific than Austrian federal state
• no vineyard/commune designation
• vintage designation permitted
• Sekt must be finished brut, extra brut or brut nature
• no blending of red & white wine to yield rosé
• grapes must be harvested by hand
• whole-cluster pressing

Level 3 – Grosse Reserve (Grand Reserve)

• grapes harvested and pressed in a single municipality
• released to the consumer not before 22 October of the third year following the harvest
• minimum of 30 months maturation on the lees
• made exclusively by means of traditional bottle fermentation
• level of juice extraction 50%
• vineyard designation from registered sites permitted
• vintage designation permitted
• Sekt must be finished brut, extra brut or brut nature – maximum residual sugar 12 g/l
• hand-harvesting (maximum packing level 35cm)
• pressing: basket press or pneumatic press
• no blending of red & white wine to yield rosé
• grapes must be pressed in their district of origin, though grape-must may be transported (as in Champagne)
• currently no upper or lower limits regarding alcohol content
• whole cluster pressing


Additional differentiation possible at this level, including the special claim "everything from one source” (comparable to RM  - récoltant - manipulant - in Champagne).

* In connection with boundaries (municipality/jurisdiction), a detailed solution is still being worked on for the problem of a municipal boundary being crossed (e.g. between Vienna and Klosterneuburg) even though the distance between the vineyard and the press house is relatively small.
The parameters for the sparkling base wine at each of the three levels, as well as details on testing and monitoring (key term: state-certified quality) are still being worked out and will be added in the coming weeks.

Examination by the Federal Viticultural Authorities

Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Klassik, Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Reserve and Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Grosse Reserve may only be offered for sale after their marketability has been officially determined by the Federal Office for Viticulture in Eisenstadt or the Higher Federal Technical College and the Federal Agency for Production of Wine and Fruit in Klosterneuburg.

Specific indicativ Symbol "Österreichischer Sekt geschützter Ursprung"

Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Klassik, Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Reserve and Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin – Grosse Reserve may only be transferred to the consumer or poured at the place of distribution when the bottle is provided with the indication “Österreichischer Sekt geschützter Ursprung”( “Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin”).