In Austria, there are 36 grape varieties – 22 white and 14 red – officially approved for the production of Qualitätswein (quality wine) or Qualitätswein with a special level of ripeness and/or method of production (Prädikatswein – sweet wine) and Landwein. The proportion of red wines by area planted has doubled over the past two decades and now represents one third of Austria's vineyards, which total 46,500 hectares.
Austria offers excellent sites for growing internationally known varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Muskateller, Traminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. But even more important is the precious portfolio of domestic grape varieties, with Grüner Veltliner at the top of the list. This white variety alone accounts for almost one third of Austria’s plantings. In addition to Grüner Veltliner, other white varieties such as Neuburger, Rotgipfler, Zierfandler and Roter Veltliner – as well as the red varieties Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch, Sankt Laurent and Blauer Wildbacher – are highly respected and, in fact, treasured once again.
Genetically, many grapes have Traminer and Heunisch as parent varieties. Traminer, one of the oldest European varieties, likely descends from wild vines that grew during antiquity. Heunisch is the name for a variety family that may have been brought by the Magyars from Hungary to Austria, where it quickly spread. At least 75 of the varieties known today have Heunisch in their family tree - for example, Chardonnay and Riesling.
Knowledge about viticulture and grape breeding have a long tradition in Austria. In fact, it has long been supported by the Federal Institute for Viticulture and Pomology at Klosterneuburg, which celebrated ist 150th birthday in October 2010. It is the oldest wine-growing school in the world. The department for grape breeding is managed by Dr. Ferdinand Regner, an internationally recognized expert. His research in grape variety identification, with the help of DNA analysis, has earned outstanding recognition worldwide.