The Weinviertel may be a familiar name to all Austrian wine lovers, but awareness of Lower Austria’s largest wine-growing region is also growing internationally – the region covers an impressive 13,911 hectares and produces a substantial variety of wines. The main driver behind this success is Grüner Veltliner, especially in the form of Weinviertel DAC and Weinviertel DAC Reserve or Große Reserve, which express the full extent of their regional typicity.
Austria’s largest specific wine-growing region (14,001 hectares) extends from the river Danube in the south to the Czech border in the north, and from the Manhartsberg ridge in the west to the Slovakian border in the east. The Weinviertel is anything but one homogeneous region. Due to a combination of various factors – especially climatic influences and geological conditions – the region can be subdivided into three different sections. As a result, the flagship Grüner Veltliner is joined by a handsome fleet of other grape varieties also grown here.
Wine lovers visiting the western Weinviertel should definitely pay a call to two viticultural enclaves which are located in the countryside around Retz. Extensive cellar complexes lie beneath the Old Town in Retz, serving as a clear reminder of the historical importance of the wine trade. Here, the dry microclimate has always favoured red wine production. In the Pulkau valley around the towns of Jetzelsdorf and Haugsdorf, and in the elongated Mailberg basin, fruity Zweigelt and Blauer Portugieser flourish. A highlight for white wine lovers is another viticultural enclave around Röschitz, whose granite soils and primary rock enable Grüner Veltliner and Riesling to develop a remarkable finesse.
Winegrowers in the north-eastern part of the Weinviertel around Poysdorf mainly produce spicy Grüner Veltliner, along with fresh Welschriesling and rich Pinot whites. The limestone cliffs of Staatz and Falkenstein mark the Weinviertel’s northern border with Moravia, creating excellent conditions for fruity, mineral wines. The villages of Herrnbaumgarten and Schrattenberg, located in a basin north of Poysdorf, are predestined for producing expressive red wines. Also worthy of note for classic Weinviertel DAC wines is the wine-growing municipality of Wolkersdorf, just north of Vienna, as well as the hillsides of the Bisamberg, which produces notable piquant Rieslings.
Further to the south-east, on the edge of the Marchfeld plain, between Auersthal and Mannersdorf, the influence of the Pannonian climate zone manifests itself clearly. This, combined with the microclimate along the Morava river, creates perfect conditions for growing somewhat more rounded Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Pinot, as well as the aromatic Traminer grape – the spectrum of which spans right up to the top levels of Prädikatwein.
Despite this diversity, Grüner Veltliner still remains the flagship variety in the Weinviertel. Planted on more than 7,000 hectares here, this represents half of Austria’s stock of the vine, as well as nearly half of the entire world’s! Even though soils vary within the Weinviertel and wine villages are a significant distance apart, all the Veltliner from this wine-growing region is recognised by its characteristic “pepperiness”. Notes of green and white pepper – and even black pepper in more mature wines – combine with a fruity bouquet and fresh acidity. This characteristic trio has defined the parameters of the regionally typical Weinviertel DAC since the 2002 vintage – the first protected designation of origin for wine in Austria. Since the 2009 vintage, the fresh Klassik has been joined by the dense, full-bodied Weinviertel DAC Reserve. The “Große Reserve” designation was first permitted in 2020 and applies to wines that fulfil all the conditions of a Reserve wine and have been left to mature over a longer period of time.
- Weinviertel DAC: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 1 January in the year following the harvest
- Weinviertel DAC Reserve: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 15 March in the year following the harvest
- Weinviertel DAC Grosse Reserve: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 1 November in the year following the harvest
- Weinviertel DAC: fruity, spicy, peppery; with no notes of botrytis or oak
- Weinviertel DAC Reserve & Grosse Reserve: dry, powerful, spicy; subtle notes of botrytis or oak are permitted
The designation “Weinviertel” is also to be mentioned on the label, which does not have to contain all mandatory information (front label, if there is a back label), possibly without the addition “DAC”.
At the edge of the Waldviertel, vines grow on acidic granite soils of the Moravicum zone, which has been weathered down to a quartz-rich sand. To the east, there are two basins formed from unconsolidated rocks. These basins are separated by the ridge of the Leiser Berge and the pale, hard limestone cliffs of the Waschberg zone. The central part of the Weinviertel also includes flysch with calcareous sandstone and marl on the Bisamberg in the south, with mostly acidic, quartz-rich sandstones and clays on the eastern edge of the Korneuburg Basin. To the west of the Waschberg zone lies the Molasse zone, comprising sands, gravels and clayey silts.
Two distinctive features of this zone are the diatomaceous horizons and the wide gravelly ridge formed by the ancient Danube. The area to the east of the Waschberg zone is part of the Vienna Basin, and also predominantly comprises loose, mostly calcareous rocks such as gravels, sands and clayey silts. Solid limestone and calcareous sandstone crop out in a few places inside the two basins. More than half of the vineyards here lie on loess, which is rock dust that settled here during the ice ages. Loess built up on top of ancient rocks in layers of varying thickness, providing lime-rich soils on top of an acidic substratum.
The Weinviertel DAC is an ideal wine to serve alongside many dishes from the classic Austrian repertoire – from cold cuts in the wine-tavern to pasta with ham, cheese and onions – and of course with Wiener Schnitzel. It also shines with many bistro classics and dishes with a Mediterranean twist. Reserve wines, on the other hand, will also go perfectly with sophisticated and creative dishes, as well as spicy recipes from the Asian cookbook.