The Leitha Range is home to the good all-rounders. Hardly any other wine-growing region has such a variety of wine types as those grown on the 2,878 hectares of vineyards on the western banks of Lake Neusiedl. Leithaberg DAC wines can be red or white, and always display the minerality, dynamic tension and vibrancy that is typical of the region.
Leithaberg is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world. It is located on the Burgenland side of the Leitha Range, west of Lake Neusiedl, and has 2,875 hectares under vine. The discovery of grape seeds as burial objects in a Celtic burial mound from the time of the Hallstatt Culture in Zagersdorf (8th century BC) provides some of the oldest evidence of viticulture in Central Europe. The vineyards sloping down toward Lake Neusiedl and containing countless almond, cherry and peach trees are characteristic of this area.
The dry wines all reflect the influence of the soils on the slopes of the Leitha Range, where lime-rich strata are frequently interspersed with acidic, crystalline slate and gneiss. The shell limestone – around 15 million years old – lends the wines a slightly salty note and an elegant character, while the slate imparts the desired tension and backbone. In terms of the climate, the warm winds of Lake Neusiedl ensure that the grapes achieve the key level of ripeness, while the mountains lend night-time coolness, which is expressed in the wines through their fruitiness, freshness, finesse and vibrancy.
The designation Leithaberg DAC is used to market the most regionally typical wines from here. White Leithaberg DAC wines can be produced from Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Neuburger or Grüner Veltliner; cuvée blends of these varieties are also allowed. Red Leithaberg wines are produced from Blaufränkisch grapes. Although these are matured in wooden casks, any notes of wood should remain discreetly in the background, underpinning the character, elegance and tension of the wine, rather than overcasting it. White or red Leithaberg DAC is always mineral-driven and relatively dense in character (alcohol content stated on the label should be 12.5%, 13% or 13.5% abv). In addition, in the area west of Lake Neusiedl, a wide range of other varieties and styles are produced, which are marketed under the “Burgenland” designation of origin.
With its many excellent wineries and producers, this region is also a top destination for wine tourism. Many of the cultural events here are linked to wine here, such as those hosted by the state capital of Eisenstadt with the famous Esterházy Palace, Mörbisch with its lake festivals, Sankt Margarethen with its music festivals in the ancient Roman quarry, and the Austrian Wine Academy in Rust.
Encompasses the political district Eisenstadt and vicinity, the free cities Eisenstadt and Rust, the communities Jois and Winden, as well as some vineyards in the municipality Neusiedl am See.
- White: Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Chardonnay, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner or a cuvée of these varieties
- Red: Blaufränkisch
- Leithaberg DAC without more specific designation of origin (designation of village or Ried (single vineyard)): Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 1 February in the year following the harvest
- Leithaberg DAC with more specific designation of origin (designation of village or Ried (single vineyard)):
min. 12.5% vol.
- White: dry
- Red: max. 2.5 g/l
The oldest forms of rock here are the acidic slate and gneiss of the Austroalpine nappes, which form the central part of the Leitha Range and the substratum of the highest vineyards between Breitenbrunn and Donnerskirchen, as well as individual vineyards around Eisenstadt and Oslip. The most distinctive rock in the region, however, is the Leitha limestone. This limestone developed in the calm, shallow waters of the warm sea that lapped at the edges of the Leitha Range between 16 and 11 million years ago, forming small reefs in this area. Leitha limestone is a pale, firm algal limestone, which contains substantial remnants of marine creatures, such as shells, snails and sharks. In contrast, the hills of Rust are characterised by quartz-rich, sandy gravel, which is somewhat older. Separated by a tectonic displacement from the Leitha limestones, two very different parent rocks lie right next to each other here – the one resulting in acidic soil in the vineyards, and the other in calcareous.
The vineyards lower down the hillsides lie on the loose, mostly calcareous silts, sands and gravels of the Pannonian basin, as well as on loam, marine clay and gravelly fluvial deposits.
White Leithaberg is an extremely versatile dining companion, a congenial partner to fish and poultry dishes that feature a touch of the savoury – paprika, for example. With asparagus as well, one finds many very elegant regional ambassadors with a bit of bottle age to be marvellously complementary. The mineral character of the red Leithaberg DAC asks for pan-seared steaks, venison fillets or ragouts, rack of lamb or a pink duck breast.
The Town of storks & noble wine
On the west bank of Lake Neusiedl, the Free City of Rust is one of Austria’s most traditional wine-growing towns. Along with regionally typical, mineral-driven red and white Leithaberg DAC wines, the town is reputed for its legendary sweet wine, the Ruster Ausbruch, which has been protected by DAC regulation since the 2020 vintage.
Nestled in the Leithaberg wine-growing region and exposed to Lake Neusiedl to the east, the town of Rust has a mere 2,000 inhabitants yet a rich history in wine. As early as the Middle Ages, the winegrowers of Rust benefited from a wide trading network – that stretched to Bavaria and even as far as Poland – for selling their excellent wines. In 1524, Queen Maria of Hungary granted Rust’s winegrowers the privilege of burning a large “R” into their wine casks as an early form of designation and protection of origin. The excellent reputation of the sweet Ruster Ausbruch wine ensured prosperity in the city and ultimately even contributed to Rust’s official ascendancy. In 1681, the citizens bought the title of “Royal Free City” from Emperor Leopold I for the price of 60,000 guilders and 500 Eimer (about 30,000 litres) of Ausbruch wine.
Viticulture still continues to play a central role in Rust today. This town is home to the Austrian Wine Academy and long-established family-run estates that produce distinctive white, red and sweet wines. While the soils in the north of the town, characterised by the Leitha limestone, furnish an excellent basis for Blaufränkisch and Pinot varieties, the typical, quartz-rich “Rust gravel” in the south tends to produce delicate, mineral-driven whites. These white wines are also produced from the rare, traditional Furmint grape, which was once the most important variety in Burgenland and is currently experiencing a renaissance. Similarly to the rest of the Leithaberg region, Rust’s climate is characterised by Pannonian influences, the temperature-regulating effect of Lake Neusiedl and the cooling downslope winds of the Leitha Range. If fruit is allowed to fully ripen, wines display spice, minerality and finesse. Dry wines from Rust have been marketed under the Leithaberg DAC designation of origin since the 2020 vintage, provided that they meet the requirements of the corresponding regulation. The town’s greatest treasure, however, remains the Ruster Ausbruch – an internationally reputed nobly sweet wine that looks back on centuries of tradition. This speciality has been protected by its own DAC regulation from 2020 onwards. In essence, Ruster Ausbruch DAC corresponds to a Trockenbeerenauslese. It is produced using Qualitätswein grapes grown exclusively in the Free City of Rust, which have been affected by the Botrytis cinerea fungus and have shrivelled on the vine.
The name “Ausbruch” comes from the laborious hand-selection of suitable berries, in which the desired berries are literally “broken off” the cluster. These wines are characterised by an intriguingly fine contrast between sweetness and acidity. Ruster Ausbruch is never overly corpulent, despite its high degree of concentration, making it a very versatile food companion.
Wines that are not marketed under the Leithaberg DAC or Ruster Ausbruch DAC designations may still be labelled with “Burgenland” as their designation of origin. This includes the abundant portfolio of dry wines, as well as unique sweet wines such as Auslese and Beerenauslese.
In addition to its wine, Rust draws visitors with the charm of its historic town centre, whose chimneys provide a nesting site every year for visiting families of storks. Between March and August, these migratory birds are such a landmark in the town that Rust is nicknamed the “City of Storks”. Tourist attractions also include a wide range of leisure activities around Lake Neusiedl and top culinary addresses in the town and its environs.
the wine must be vinified exclusively from grapes grown within the municipal limits of Rust.
Submission for the Federal Inspection Number
from 1 April in the year following the harvest
Minimum must weight
min. 45 g/l
Hand harvesting mandatory!
Geologically speaking, the town of Rust is particularly interesting. Quartz-rich “Rust gravel” and sands predominate to the south, while the north is characterised by somewhat younger Leitha limestone. Leitha limestone was created in the calm, shallow waters of the warm sea that washed around the crystalline bedrock (now, the core of the Rust ridge) between 16 and 11 million years ago. This sea formed small reefs in the area and provided a habitat for a wealth of marine fauna. The Rust gravel and sands can be traced back to an older river, which transported quartz, quartzite, gneiss and mica schist from the rising Alps, and deposited them here as rounded pebbles and sand. Separated from the Leitha limestone by a tectonic shift, Rust contains two very different parent rocks, side by side – meaning that a vineyard with acidic soil can lie right next door to one with calcareous soil. At lower elevations towards the lake, the vineyards lie on colluvial loam and recent marine clays.
Like the dry wines of Rust, the Ruster Ausbruch is a very versatile food companion. Of course it harmonises with classic Austrian pastries and international desserts, but for the adventuresome individual, a truly exciting universe of flavour combinations opens up: fowl liver, blue cheese, spicy Asian dishes, even a hearty ragout or a steak can be paired and complemented with the sweet liquid gold of Rust, offering incomparable culinary experiences.