Even given the great diversity of Austria’s wines, they tend to exhibit a consistent characteristic that distinguishes them from those of other nations: an aromatic freshness, coupled with complete physiologic ripeness of the grapes. There is simply no other place on Earth where refreshing wines are so concentrated and substantial, or where the opulent wines exhibit such grace.
Of course, there are many regional differences stemming from the diversity of soil types and varying microclimatic conditions. However, Austria can be divided into four main climate zones (the Danube region, Weinviertel, Pannonian region, and Steiermark), which affect the core character of the wines produced there – and three of these climate zones intersect at Vienna.
The Danube Region
Between Vienna in the east and the Wachau in the west, dense Grüner Veltliner and Riesling wines dominate the scene. These wines bear the influence of warm Pannonian air blowing across the Wagram region into the Danube’s tributary valleys (the Straßertal, Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental, etc.) before it passes through the narrow Wachau valley, where the Danube has spent thousands of years carving deeply into the primary rock of the Bohemian Massif.
Austria’s northernmost wine-growing region, the Weinviertel, is home to “peppery” Grüner Veltliner wines. The Weinviertel has clearly defined boundaries – the Manhartsberg to the west, the Danube to the south and the Austrian/Czech border extending along the north and east. This, alongside the region’s great size and numerous microclimatic and geological differences, means that the Weinviertel clearly sets itself apart from other regions.
The pannonian region
To the south-east of the Austrian capital, the character of the wines is shaped by the almost relentless influences of the warm Pannonian climate. In contrast to other regions, wines from Carnuntum, the Thermenregion and Burgenland are usually characterised by a fuller body. The Pannonian region is where Austria shows off its prowess at red wine production, with full-bodied Zweigelt wines being the dominant variety between Carnuntum and the Seewinkel area.
The typical freshness of Austrian wines reaches its culmination in the beautiful hilly countryside in the south of Styria: the wine-growing region Steiermark. Nowhere else in the world are wines produced with such light-footed precision, aromatic brilliance and a robust piquant character – evidence of the contrast between warm days and cool nights in this region.
Although viticulture in Austria is concentrated in the two major wine-growing areas of the Weinland (the Danube region, Weinviertel and Pannonian region) and the Steirerland (the wine-growing regions in Styria), there are also vineyards scattered throughout the Bergland wine-growing area (the federal states of Carinthia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg). The character of these wines is substantially influenced by the Atlantic climate and the nearby Alps.