The Südsteiermark is synonymous with fresh, aromatic white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc. On 2,563 hectares of planted vineyards, there is plenty of room however, so a wealth of other varieties, from Welschriesling to Morillon (Chardonnay) and Gelber Muskateller to Traminer. The viticulture here is amongst Europe's finest, with its charming scenery, yet it also includes some of the hardest and most challenging terrain, because most of the vineyards are planted on extremely steep inclines.
The soil structures in the Südsteiermark are as diverse as the grape varieties, ranging from sandstone and slate to marl and limestone. The warm and humid Mediterranean climate encourages a long and drawn-out vegetation cycle for the vines, with cool nights that develop finely tuned aromatic profiles, which impart a wealth of nuance and a sense of nobility to the white wine varieties. This is also true of the graceful and fruit-forward young wines – the ‘Junker’, which offer a foretaste of the new vintage – a well as for the regionally-typical white wines that are released to the market bearing the protected designation of origin ‘Südsteiermark DAC’.
Sauvignon Blanc in particular has achieved consistently high marks in recent years, and today, the Südsteiermark’s signature variety enjoys critical acclaim through the world. It is thus no wonder that this variety leads the field of permitted DAC varieties: along with Welschriesing, Weissburgunder, Morillon (Chardonnay), Grauburgunder, Riesling and Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc forms the foundation of the Südsteiermark DAC wines and their sustainable success. Here the winegrowers are open-minded, making a point of regularly visiting other international winegrowing regions or taking work-experience placements at wineries all over the world. The modern viticulture & oenology school in Silberberg strives to prepare aspiring winegrowers for their chosen profession with all necessary qualifications, by means of theory-based courses, practical skills training and work experience.
The Südsteiermark is worth a visit in all seasons, yet particularly during the autumn months, with a gentle drive on the signposted wine roads, either along the Styrian-Slovenian border, or up towards the Sausal region, west of the main town of Leibnitz. The idyllic towns of Ehrenhausen, Gamlitz, Leutschach and Kitzeck are well worth a visit, where at the level Ortswein one encounters the leading DAC varieties Gelber Muskateller in Leutschach and Morillon in Ehrenhausen. The resonant names of single-vineyard sites such as Czamillonberg, Grassnitzberg, Kittenberg, Nussberg, Obegg, Sernauberg, Kranachberg or Zieregg awaken associations with the analogous elite wines.
Some of these great wines may be found on international wine lists from top restaurants around the world, yet they are all available in the local restaurants. The Archduke Johann of Austria, who originally pioneered and actively promoted viticulture in the region, was well ahead of his time with his European, forward thinking vision, and he have would been certainly be proud of 'his' wine producers today.