Essentials Series: Austrian Wines
Similar to its neighbor Germany, Austria is known for their white wines. Although the country has been producing wine for thousands of years, its reputation was tarnished in 1985 when a toxic chemical called diethylene glycol (commonly found in antifreeze) was being used by some Austrian wineries to sweeten their wines.
It was found when German scientists discovered the chemical in German made wines, meaning those wineries were illegally blending with the Austrian ones. The scandal completely collapsed Austria’s wine exports and put Austrians and Germans in jail.
Since then, Austria has been making wine chemical-free and successfully getting their wineries back on track. Like Germany, the nation is known for dry white wines, as well as a couple reds. The most popular is a slightly sweet one called Grüner Veltliner, a crisp white that contains delicious peppery, citrus notes. Then there’s Zweigelt, the second most planted grape in all of Austria, a red wine that is highly acidic and lower in tannins and full of cherry and raspberry flavors with some peppercorn bite.
Blaufrankisch is another of Austria’s finer reds with deep, dark fruit flavors like blueberry and blackberry, plus a unique earthiness. Finally, we come to the Riesling, which is common around the world but Austria is one of the best producers of the white wine. The Austrian Riesling is far from sweet, as they’re usually quite dry, especially in comparison to the German Riesling, and full of fruit flavors. Finally, there is Austria’s resident sweet, white wine, the Gelber Muskateller.
Austria boasts about 20 different wine producing regions, although many are very small and only produce one or two varietals. Below are some of the biggest regions:
- Vienna: Not just one of Austria’s largest cities, Vienna is also one of the largest wine producing cities in the entire country. Home to about 1,800 acres of vineyards, Vienna produces about 85% white wines like Riesling, Grüner Veltliner, and Sauvignon Blanc.
- Burgenland: Sitting in the Easternmost part of Austria, Burgenland is the home to the perfect climate for growing the noble Blaufrankisch reds and the true Austrian sweet whites. The region sits on the large Lake Neusidl, which helps to create those magical, misty moments, perfect for growing grapes.
- Styria: Among the three regions within Styria grow three drastically different grapes. The west houses the spicy Schilcher Rosé. The Sausal region grows the classic Sauvignon Blanc with unique twists of lime and red currant, as well as the Gelber Muskateller.
Austrian wines are hard to characterize, as the country’s varying climates create unique environments for different grapes.