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 – diversity in soil structure and the variable microclimatic conditions. There are four primary climate zones (Danube Region, Weinviertel, Pannonian Region and Steiermark) that articulate themselves in the character of the wines – and three of these intersect at Vienna.
European climate influences
The Danube Region
From the Wachau in the west to Vienna, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling with firm structure are the dominant expressions. These wines bear the influence of warm Pannonian air wafting across the Wagram into the side-valleys of the Danube (Strassertal, Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental...) and finally through the narrow valley of the Wachau, carved deeply into the primordial rock of the Bohemian Massif by the Danube River over countless thousands of years.
The Weinviertel, Austria’s northernmost winegrowing region, is home to the ‘peppery’ Grüner Veltliner. Because of its great size and clearly established boundaries – the Manhartsberg in the west, the Danube to the south and the Austrian/Czech border extending from the north to the east – the Weinviertel, with its numerous microclimatic and geological differences is a law unto itself.
The pannonian region
Southeast of the Austrian capital Vienna, the continuous influences of the warm Pannonain climate help define the character of the wines. In contrast to other areas, a fuller, rounded sense of body characterises wines from Carnuntum, the Thermenregion and Burgenland. The Pannonian area is where Austria shows off its prowess in red wine production, and the full-bodied Zweigelt is dominant from Carnuntum to the Seewinkel.
The Steiermark, or Styria, has a very special culinary identity, with wine as its highlight. The typically Austrian freshness reaches its apotheosis in the landscapes of the hilly countryside. Nowhere else in the world are there wines of such smooth precision, aromatic brilliance and robust piquancy.
Although the wine industry in Austria is concentrated in the two major winegrowing areas Weinland (the Danube area, Weinviertel and the Pannonian area) and Steirerland (the winegrowing regions in the Steiermark), we also find vineyards scattered throughout Bergland (in the federal states of Carinthia, Upper Austria , Salzburg, Tyrol and Vorarlberg). The character of these wines has been influenced substantially by the Atlantic climate and the nearby Alps.