Qualitätswein (quality wine) is a traditional Austrian term that is used to mean “wine with a protected designation of origin”. These designations of origin refer to the country’s generic and specific winegrowing regions.
European wine law differentiates between three main groups of wine:
- Wine with no specific geographical indication (referred to in Austria as “Wein” [wine] or, previously, as “Tafelwein” [table wine])
For “Wein”, the only permitted origin indication is: Austria
- Wine with a protected geographical indication (referred to in Austria as “Landwein”)
For “Landwein”, permitted origin indications are: Weinland, Steirerland, Bergland
- Wine with a protected designation of origin (referred to in Austria as “Qualitätswein”)
Based on the Austrian origin marketing strategy, Qualitätswein is classified as either “generic” or “specific” with further differentiation between DAC and non-DAC wines.
Variety & scope
The nine generic Qualitätswein regions are named after Austria’s federal states and correspond to the full geographic area of the state (with the exception of Steiermark). The most significant generic winegrowing regions are Niederösterreich (Lower Austria), Burgenland, Steiermark (Styria) and Wien (Vienna). Within the framework of the designations of origin for generic Qualitätswein regions, winemakers are able to fully explore the scope of stylistic diversity of their region. The only limitation is the list of 40 permitted grape varieties for the production of Qualitätswein. Consumers enjoy a fascinating diversity of wines in this category, ranging from fresh and fruity wines made from aromatic grape varieties to high-quality branded wines and iconic cuvée blends.
Establishing the typicity of a region’s wines
Within Austria’s generic winegrowing regions, there are also a number of “specific” winegrowing regions. These regions work to create a strong profile based on terroir wines with specific origin typicity. As a first step, the region’s key representatives define the focal varieties and regionally typical wine styles. Once this process has been completed, the region can apply – via the Regional and National Wine Committees – for DAC status from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, which then becomes valid by decree. If a region is subject to a DAC decree, wines from this region may only use the region’s name as the designation of origin on the label if they meet the typical stylistic features defined for that specific region. Qualitätswein made from other grape varieties can still be marketed using the name of their state’s generic winegrowing region (the federal state in which it was produced).
Austria currently has 18 specific winegrowing regions:
- 8 in the generic winegrowing region of Niederösterreich:
- 6 in the generic winegrowing region of Burgenland:
- 3 in the generic winegrowing region of Steiermark:
- Wien is an exception in that it is simultaneously a generic and specific winegrowing region.
16 specific DAC winegrowing regions
If a specific region believes that it has a clear focus with its wine and that only one or a few specific grape varieties and types represent the region, then use of that specific region’s name can be limited to just those particular types of wine.* A DAC status is a clear commitment from winemakers to respect the typicity of a region’s wines. After all, the region often shapes the style of the wines much more than the variety of grape or sugar content.
*Exceptions to this are the regions of Wien and Rust, where the winegrowing method (Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC) or the wine style (Ruster Ausbruch DAC) are rooted in the region in such a way that these descriptive terms have been legally protected.
So far, 16 of the 18 specific winegrowing regions (as at October 2020) have confirmed their focus on regional typicity with a legally protected DAC status. Only wines that meet the defined criteria for that particular DAC are allowed to feature the name of the region on the label:
- Carnuntum DAC:
- Eisenberg DAC: Blaufränkisch
- Leithaberg DAC:
- Mittelburgenland DAC: Blaufränkisch
- Neusiedlersee DAC: Zweigelt
- Kamptal DAC: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling
- Kremstal DAC: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling
- Rosalia DAC:
- Ruster Ausbruch DAC: one or more white Qualitätswein grape varieties of Ruster Ausbruch style and quality
- Südsteiermark DAC: Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, Morillon, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gelber Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer
- Traisental DAC: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling
- Vulkanland Steiermark DAC: Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, Morillon, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gelber Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer
- Wachau DAC:
- Weinviertel DAC: Grüner Veltliner
- Weststeiermark DAC:
- Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC: a minimum of three white Qualitätswein grape varieties grown in and produced from the same vineyard (i.e. field blend)
2 specific winegrowing regions with focal varieties
Only two of Austria’s 18 specific Qualitätswein winegrowing regions have not established DAC status for their regionally typical wine (as at October 2020). Winemakers in these two regions can theoretically use their region’s name as the designation of origin for any style of Qualitätswein made using the 40 permitted grape varieties. In practice though, the flagship wines marketed by these regions fall within only a few focal varieties.