It is the pockets of vineyards planted on the rich and fertile slopes, characterised by remarkable deposits from long-extinct volcanoes, which give the vinous landscape of the Vulkanland Steiermark its magical touch. Its 1,524 hectares of vines are cultivated in a concentrated fashion around the winegrowing towns of Klöch, St. Anna am Aigen and Straden. The Traminer, with its enticing, highly aromatic bouquet is a regional speciality, and the majority of the wines are sold in the wine taverns (Buschenschank) or the estates’ cellar doors.
For many centuries, the region was the centre of an ongoing borderland dispute, hence the presence of imposing castles and fortified towns sitting proudly on basalt clifftops. Of course the borders are open nowadays, and the former castles of Riegersburg, Schloss Kapfenstein and other venues offer an attractive ambience for an array of cultural and culinary events, with the local wines also playing a role.
A remarkable variety of wines are cultivated in the winegrowing region Vulkanland Steiermark, ranging from Welschriesling and the Pinot family – Morillon, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder (Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris respectively) – to Gelber Muskateller, all sorts of Traminer, Sauvignon Blanc and even small parcels of Riesling on the white side. These all establish the basis for Vulkanland Steiermark DAC. At the level of Ortswein, locally leading varieties fall into place, such as Traminer in Kloch or Grauburgunder in Straden. Interesting red wines, particularly those vinified from Blauer Zweigelt, round out the wine-rich palette of the Vulkanland, and are marketed with the designation of origin ‘Steiermark’. The essential element these wines all have in common is a fine, mineralic spiciness, which can be traced back to the region’s distinctive geologic character.
Four wine trails lead through the thrilling landscape of hills, while the Vinothek in Sankt Anna features wines from all over the Steiermark, offering a good overview. Other destinations of note for tourism include the warm springs spa resorts located along the volcanic fault line. The most significant winegrowing towns are Bad Radkersburg, Feldbach, Gleisdorf, Hartberg, Kapfenstein, Klöch, Riegersburg, St. Peter, Straden, Tieschen and Weiz.
In the north of the region, the Ringkogel vineyards near Hartberg reach a peak of 650 metres above sea level, amongst Austria's highest cultivated vines. The climate is described as illyric, meaning that the continental effects of the hot and dry Pannonian climate meet the warm and humid Mediterranean influences. The majority of the vines are cultivated on warm soils of volcanic tuffs, basalt, sand, loam and weathered schists and gneisses.
The Styrian Vulkanland is one of Austria's most unspoilt tourist destinations. Its delightful, perfectly signposted themed hiking routes, guide visitors through the magical landscape, to then perhaps make a stop at a friendly Buschenschank, to taste the local wines and regional specialities, especially the homemade Styrian pumpkin seed oil.