Home of the Schilcher
The Weststeiermark is the home of Schilcher, or to call it by its correct name, the Blauer Wildbacher. The variety is predominant planted in the 500 hectares of vines, and the local winemaking families surprisingly produce a wide range of styles, from the racy Schilcher rosé with its crisp acidity, to deeply coloured red wines with gripping tannins as well as charming sparkling wines. There is very little known about its origin, yet it has become an internationally recognised regional speciality.
Principal grape variety
Blauer Wildbacher, Sauvignon Blanc, Weissburgunder
Leading viticultural towns
Stainz, St. Stefan ob Stainz, Deutschlandsberg
Despite being the smallest wine-growing region in the Steiermark, there is evidence that the Weststeiermark was once home to viticulture as early as the ancient Illyrian Celts, and later by the Romans. The vineyards stretch up the steep inclines in a long and narrow tier, some vines growing at a height of 600 metres above sea level, from the foothills of the Koralpe and the Reinischkogel mountains to the border with Slovenia in the south.
The undulating shape of the terrain help to protect the vineyards against prevailing winds. The direct path between Ligist in the north, via St. Stefan ob Stainz and down towards Deutschlandsberg and Eibiswald in the south is depicted by deep valleys, steep inclines, and countless quaint and picturesque 'Kellerstöckeln', referring to the small cellar huts dotted in between the vineyards. A drive through the pretty wine-growing villages of Greisdorf, Gundersdorf, Wildbach and Wies offers great views and tasty wines. The geology in the Weststeiermark is also quite different from its neighbouring regions, and the rocks mainly consist of old gneiss and mica schists. The climate is described as illyric, with warm and humid Mediterranean and southeastern European influences, and relatively high rainfall.
These natural elements help to form the individual style of the local wines; a style that is omnipresent in the region as the Schilcher. The source for this quirky and increasingly popular rosé wine is the Blauer Wildbacher, an ancient grape variety that was originally regarded as a rather rustic peasant wine, with harsh and aggresive acidity. Talented winemakers have slowly brought the best out of the Schilcher, which ranges from a wonderfully fruity, refreshing aperitif to a refined, lingering dessert wine. The red wines should also not be disregarded, and despite their rarity, these individual style of wines help to enrich Austria's wide selection of terroir wines.
The Schilcher is a magnet for wine tourists, and this unmistakable character of wine is a genuine ambassador for one of Europe's most unspoilt and picturesque wine landscapes.