For many years now, archaeologists have been digging up evidence of ancient Roman culture from Carnuntum’s soils. While the ground is indeed rich in history, the region’s vines provide modern-day treasures, particularly in the form of regionally typical red wines produced from Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch. Likewise, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Grüner Veltliner also deliver white DAC wines of impressive character.
The Carnuntum wine-growing region stretches eastward from Vienna to Austria’s border with Slovakia. The vineyards extend south of the Danube across three hilly areas: the Leitha Range, the Arbesthaler Hills and the Hainburg Mountains. Named after the Roman military installation and the administrative city that grew around it, Carnuntum offers ideal conditions for viticulture with its heavy loam and loess soils, as well as some sandy, gravelly vineyards.
The Pannonian climate with its hot summers and cold winters, together with the nearby river Danube and the temperature-regulating Lake Neusiedl, helps to create a harmonious microclimate that enables grapes to reach full ripeness. The young generation of winegrowers were quick to recognise this potential and use it as leverage to lead the region to excellence – especially with regard to attractive red wines that combine fruitiness and elegance. These wines are modern in style, yet still individual and true to their origins.
In 2019, Carnuntum was finally able to establish its DAC status. Consequently, only wines that express typicity of origin may be labelled with the name of the wine-growing region. Carnuntum has also adopted the three-tier origin pyramid of Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein (“villages” wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine). Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch (the latter focussed around the Spitzerberg in the east) distinguish themselves particularly amongst the red wine varieties. Cuvée blends may contain up to a third of other red Qualitätswein grape varieties, such as Sankt Laurent, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
The Carnuntum DAC designation also includes well-structured and powerful white wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Grüner Veltliner are permitted as regionally typical monovarietal wines. As with red DAC wines, white cuvée blends may also contain up to a third of other white Qualitätswein grape varieties.
Any wines that do not correspond to the Carnuntum DAC profile of regionally typical wines are allowed to be marketed under the “Niederösterreich” designation of origin. The region’s strategic direction with respect to tourism is every bit as progressive as their wines, and this proves to be an essential factor in promoting wine sales. Nearby highlights include the gloriously restored Marchfeld palaces, the interactive Carnuntum Archaeological Park and the Danube-Auen National Park, not to mention the Slovakian capital of Bratislava, which is a great opportunity to acquaint visitors to the region with the splendour of Carnuntum wines.
Wine villages such as Göttlesbrunn, Höflein and Prellenkirchen – also known for their many cosy Buschenschank taverns – have always been attractive destinations for day-trippers, especially because of their proximity to Vienna. Carnuntum’s gastronomic scene is also becoming increasingly popular. Regionally typical wines are always at the top of wine lists here as they are an excellent pairing for the local cuisine.
- White: Chardonnay, Weissburgunder, Grüner Veltliner (cuvées must be composed from a minimum 2/3 of these varieties, and the rest from Qualitätswein varieties)
- Red: Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch (cuvées must be composed from a minimum 2/3 of these varieties, and the rest from Qualitätswein varieties)
- Ortswein: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number for white wine from 15 March and for red wine a of 1 November in the year following the harvest
- Riedenwein: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number for white wine from 15 March and for red wine as of 1 November in the year following the harvest
Red wine: min. 12% vol.
Origins for Ortswein (communes of multiple villages)
Between the Leitha Range and the Hainburg Mountains, vineyards lie on deposits from the Paratethys sea and Lake Pannon, while vines on the Arbesthaler Hills and around Prellenkirchen are rooted in ice-age terrace gravels from the former valley floors of the Danube. The sedimentary deposits from the former sea and lake primarily consist of loose, sandy and marly or silty and clayey sedimentary deposits containing various levels of carbonate, although these sediments can occasionally be gravelly.
The deposits of the Danube terraces are sandy, quartz-rich gravels. All these sediments are covered extensively by calcareous, dolomitic, silty loess or slightly more clayey, frequently decalcified loess and loam. The Leitha limestone on the edge of the Leitha Range was formed about 16 million years ago as it was deposited on the shores of the sea in the Vienna Basin. Vineyards near Hof and on the Ungerberg lie on this Leitha limestone. The deepest, innermost section of the Hainburg Mountains is formed from a type of granite, which penetrated the existing gneiss and today forms the substratum of the mountainside vineyards of Berg. The granite is covered by calcareous, dolomitic carbonate rocks from the Mesozoic, which form the rock faces above Hundsheim and the peak of the Spitzerberg.
Carnuntum DAC wines prove to be versatile companions to fine dining, ranging from traditional Austrian to adventuresome international cuisine. The white wines – with their attractive balance between body and structure – are ideal companions for more authoritative vegetarian preparations, fish dishes and a variety of pasta possibilities, whether it be pasta al pesto, spaghetti alla carbonara or the Austrian favourite Schinkenfleckerl (a native shape, with ham and onions, often baked with cream or cheese). And of course the red wines from Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch make formidable accompanists for meat dishes of all kinds: from the classic Zwiebelrostbraten to the delicate ‘low and slow’ BBQ, to a perfectly grilled steak.