Without a doubt – there are winegrowing regions where more powerful wines with more abundant alcohol are vinified. But in the whole world there are to be found no more refreshing and brilliant wines – thus in an elegant way typical of their origins – as in the south of Austria’s federal state Steiermark.
Each of the three designated winegrowing regions in the Steiermark offers its own local speciality. In the west, the spicy rosé called Schilcher dominates the scene, one of the most distinctive terroir-wines imaginable. In the Sausal region and along the idyllic Southern Styria Wine Trail, the aromatic varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Gelber Muskateller call the tune. Then, towards the southeast the region known as Vulkanland Steiermark, the trio of aromatic varieties is rounded off with Traminer, a real treat for connoisseurs. The most widely planted variety is the Welschriesling, with its green apple bouquet, a refreshing, quaffable sort of a wine with far more fans than many wine critics care to consider.
If one’s taste runs to more opulent wines, the Pinot family offer more complexity and fuller body, particularly the Weissburgunder from the carbonate-rich soils. Likewise, Chardonnay (known here as Morillon) and Grauburgurgunder.
A new era for wines of the Steiermark has been rung in with the 2018 vintage. All three of its winegrowing regions have been elevated to DAC-status: Vulkanland Steiermark DAC, Südsteiermark DAC and Weststeiermark DAC. Wines typical of the individual regions, including Schilcher in the Weststeiermark, are now arranged on three levels: Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein (local or ‘villages’ wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine).
The new system of origins is designed to consciously emphasise the merits of Styrian wine: the traditional diversity of grape varieties remains preserved, whereby on the level of Ortswein and Riedenwein, the focus will be placed upon the locally prevalent leading varieties. The date of market release, 1 March or 1 May has been determined so that the wines have adequate time to develop their regionally typical character, and to specifically display their potential on the local and vineyard levels.
Each new vintage in the Steiermark is celebrated with a light-bodied young wine called the 'Junker', which debuts during the first week of November. In March of the year following the harvest, the dry Gebietsweine are released. Wine lovers must be patient and wait a little while longer for the Ortsweine and the grand Riedenweine. Styrian producers are maturing these wines ever more slowly and with greater care, so that authentic Styrian class will become synonymous with world class.