Austria has been producing wine since the fourth century B.C. when the Celts first planted grapes there. Later on, those vineyards became part of the vast Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, like those in France, Germany and Italy vineyards fell under the care of monks. Modern Austria began in 1919 after World War 1 as an economically unstable nation. Wine was mass-produced, slightly sweet, and not particularly good. This became the state of wine production for many years until a scandal in 1985where some corrupt wine brokers tried to sell cheap wine as more expensive wine, by adding diethylene glycol to it. This was the end of demand for cheap Austrian wine, and since then a dramatic turn toward high quality wines has been the standard.
Now Austria’s wine laws are the strictest in Europe. They stipulate precise amounts of sugar content and alcohol levels. Wines are tested scientifically and issued a number.
The four major wine regions are; Lower Austria, Burgenland, Styria, and Vienna. Austria is mostly a white-wine producing country; 80% of its wine is white. There are a total of about thirty-three grape varieties, of which only about sixteen are prominent. Some top producers occasionally blend grape varieties, however most wines are made from a single grape.
White grapes are Gruner Veltliner (uniquely Austrian), Furmint, Morillon, Muskateller, Neuberger, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Riesling X Sylvaner, Samling, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Wiessburgunder and Welschriesling.
Red Grapes are Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir), Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Laurent and Zweigelt.
Quality levels are based on ripeness of the grapes at harvest. Beginning with Tafelwein and Landwein, then Qualitatswein, Kabinett and the top category, Pradikatswein. Within this category, there are six sub groups beginning with Spatlese, then Auslese, Eiswein, Beernauslese, Ausbruch and finally Trockenbeernauslese. You might be getting the idea by now that Austrians take the ripeness of their grapes very seriously.
I hope you will try some of the amazing white wines of Austria. At their best, they combine power and elegance.
This month’s white Wine of the Month is Vinum Cellars, 2013 Chenin Blanc, from Clarksburg, California. It has balanced acidity, with citron lemon, key lime, apple and fig, with a tropical fruit finish.
Our red Wine of the Month is Filosur, 2013, Malbec, from Mendoza, Argentina. This wine has vanilla, and cocoa notes, dense dark berry flavors and a smooth finish.
Wine Club members come in and pick up your bottles before they’re gone!
Sommelier Maynards Market and Kitchen