Austrian Wines

Monday, August 6th, 2007 at 12:00 am

austrian wineAustria is slowly becoming recognized in the international wine market. The quality of wines in the region has risen over the past decade. Austria has been home to a major production of sweet wines back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It provided a cheap alternative to the more costly sweet wines made in Germany.

But the Austrian wine industry was badly hit in the year 1985, when a scandal caused a lot of wineries to get bankrupt. Winemakers were accused of adding diethylene glycol, a poisonous alcohol, to dessert wines to further sweeten them.

Because of this blow to the wine industry, the Austrian government enacted a strict set of wine regulations. The country now follows Legal Quality Codes or specific laws to control the quality of wine and to ensure each wine’s authenticity, origin and style.

These standardized wine laws and information are seen in wine labels. Thus, the quality of wines in Austria has continued to improve and its marketability has worked further into the neighboring countries.

White wines make up a larger portion of Austria’s wine production, with different varieties cultivated in almost two-thirds of its vineyards. The country’s dry, white wine gets the most attention with the Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s most abundant grape variety with a unique and expressive quality. The Austrian Riesling is also a premier white grape in the region, thereby producing some of the finest Riesling wines in the world.

The red varieties are not to be left out. Among the reds, the Blauer Zweigelt is the most widely planted red grape, cultivated in 16 wine areas spread across the country. Blaufränkisch is the second most important red grape, but comes in as the most exciting local variety.

Austria experiences a range of different climates thus having several wine regions all over the country. Each region has diverse wine styles, which include mostly sweet wines and also some good reds. The four major Austrian wine regions are Burgenland, Niederösterreich, Steiermark, and Vienna. Lower Austria or Niederösterreich accounts for more than half of the thousands of hectares of vineyard lands that cover the country.

Concentrating not just on quantity but on quality as well, the country has also introduced a new classification system. Some of the names of Austrian wines are unique to the country. Such grape varieties as mentioned above are unfamiliar and are generally hard to pronounce. So it is also best to get acquainted with Austrian terms and label information to get to know their wines better.

One way to learn some Austrian wine list terminologies is to drop by a Heurigen or wine tavern. Wines in Heurigens are served in one form or another. For first time visitors to the country, pass by one Heurigen after another to sample Austrian wines in a variety of ways, and also to savour some local Austrian dishes.