Südsteiermark is reputed for fresh, fragrant wines, especially those produced using the region’s flagship variety, Sauvignon Blanc. With 2,788 hectares under vine, however, Südsteiermark accommodates a wide assortment of other grape varieties, including Welschriesling, Morillon (Chardonnay), Gelber Muskateller and Traminer. Despite this being one of Europe’s most picturesque viticultural regions, the extremely steep gradient of most vineyards make winegrowing here a significant challenge.
The range of grape varieties in Südsteiermark is just as multi-faceted as the wine-growing region’s soils, which range from sand and slate to marl and limestone. The humid Mediterranean climate is what determines the vines’ long annual growth cycle, while the cool nights promote the development of rich aromatics that lend the white wines incredible nuance and grandeur. This applies as much to the lithe, fruity young wines – such as Junker, which is the “forerunner” of the new vintage –, as it does to the region’s most characteristic white wines marketed under the protected designation of origin, Südsteiermark DAC.
Typically regional Südsteiermark DAC wines are classified – like their counterparts in Weststeiermark and Vulkanland Steiermark – into three categories: Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein(“villages” wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine). The additional “Reserve” designation is used to denote wines that have been matured for a longer period of time. All Steiermark DAC wines must be harvested by hand. Sauvignon Blanc, in particular, has enjoyed outstanding success and worked its way up to the top of the league. Today, Südsteiermark produces world-class Sauvignon wines. About one fifth of the area under vine in this region is dedicated to this variety; the regionally typical spectrum ranges from fresh, fragrant wines to superior, extremely elegant Sauvignons that are an undeniable reflection of their terroir. It is not surprising, therefore, that this variety leads the pack in terms of approved DAC grape varieties. Together with Welschriesling, Pinot Blanc, Morillon (Chardonnay), Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gelber Muskateller and Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc forms the basis for the spectrum of Südsteiermark DAC wines. Particularly in the areas around Eichberg, Leutschach and Gamlitz, Gelber Muskateller is one of the prominent grape varieties. Riesling is the speciality of Kitzeck im Sausal, which is home to Steiermark’s steepest and highest vineyards (with gradients of more than 100%) and highest vineyards (up to 600 metres above sea level). Pinot lovers are well-served here, particularly around Ehrenhausen, where the lime-rich soils deliver substantial Morillon (Chardonnay) wine, amongst others. Certain Ried names – such as Czamillonberg, Grassnitzberg, Kittenberg, Nussberg, Obegg, Sernauberg, Kranachberg and Zieregg – are immediately associated with the leading wines that they produce.
An extremely open-minded community of winegrowers who have gathered first-hand experience of winegrowing around the world is the guarantee behind the long-term success of Südsteiermark wines. The viticulture school in Silberberg also supports this success, providing the next generation of winegrowers with the theoretical and practical qualifications they need. Steiermark’s top wines have now become mainstays on the wine lists of local establishments and are also attracting a lot of attention at an international level. Archduke Johann (1782–1859) – a pioneering winegrower who adopted what was, for the time, a “European” approach to viticulture and whose influence is still felt in the region today – would be proud of the new generation of Südsteiermark’s winegrowers.
- Südsteiermark DAC: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 15 January of the year following the harvest, Welschriesling from 1 December of the harvest year
- Südsteiermark DAC with indication of municipality: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 1 April of the year following the harvest
- Südsteiermark DAC with vineyard designation: Submission for the Federal Inspection Number from 1 May of the year following the harvest
- Südsteiermark DAC: max. 4.0 g/l; Riesling and Traminer must correspond to the designation “dry”
- Südsteiermark DAC with indication of municipality: max. 4.0 g/l; Riesling and Traminer must correspond to the designation “dry”
- Südsteiermark DAC with vineyard designation: max. 4.0 g/l; Riesling and Traminer must correspond to the designation “dry”
- Südsteiermark DAC: Designation of origin (including “DAC”) must be indicated on the main label (label with all required information) and the front label. The indication of the harvest year is mandatory.
- Südsteiermark DAC with designation of municipality: Appellation of origin (including “DAC”) and the name of municipality are mandatory on the main label (label with all required information) and the front label.
- Südsteiermark DAC with vineyard designation: Designation of origin (including “DAC”) and the vineyard name must be indicated on the main label (label with all required information) and the front label.
- Qualitätswein with the designation of origin “Steiermark” may not include a more detailed geographical designation than “Steiermark”.
Primary grape varieties for Ortswein
The Sausal mountain range, with its steep vineyards, is made up of phyllitic clay schist with layers of greenschist and quartzite from the Austroalpine nappes. These slightly softer consolidated rocks can also be found on the hillsides around and to the north of Silberberg, and on the Nestelberg and Rirpenegg. On the Grillkogel, there are also visible occurrences of limestone and clayey, gravelly lime from the Palaeozoic.
The majority of vineyards in Südsteiermark grow on coarse-grained, alluvial gravel (some of which has cemented into conglomerate), on marls, clayey silts and sands (referred to as the Styrian “Schlier”), on conglomerates and gravel from the Kreuzberg formation and on sands and marls from the Weissenegg formation. The latter units are formed from sediments that the Paratethys sea deposited in the Styrian Basin some 18 to 15 million years ago. They vary greatly in grain size and lime content. Pure limestone, similar to Leitha limestone, can be found in certain areas between Wildon and Graßnitzberg.
Südsteiermark DAC wines are versatile food companions. This is true for regional specialties in the typical Buschenschank (the local traditional wine tavern), for Styrian fried chicken or the classic Styrian carp with root vegetables and horseradish. Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling, Weissburgunder and even Muskateller all match up perfectly with those dishes, while an opulent Morillon is brilliant alongside roasted Sulmtal chicken. But one can also find wines from the Südsteiermark DAC all over the globe, appearing on the wine lists of top restaurants. The great Sauvignons, especially, prove their class in this rarefied environment as accompanists to various styles of cuisine – no matter if fish, vegetables or (in special combinations) even red meat provide the basis.