Austria: World Class Wine Producer
Among real connoisseurs, Austrian wine is one of the finest in Europe. It still is a bit of a secret well hidden, but local Austrian wines, especially the white wine, are excellent and one of the absolute highlights you have to try while visiting here.
Its history dates far back in time, as the first real vineyard here was constructed by Charlemagne here. An economical boom of Austrian wine took place in the 16th century, but the Thirty Years War and a heavy taxation made it very hard for wine producers to survive solely on their wine production. In the late 18th century, an imperial decree named and initiated a tradition that is still in place in Austria today: the "Heuriger", our famous wine taverns. This decree allowed winemakers to produce and sell both homegrown/made food and wine to their customers.
In Vienna you can find the Heurigen everywhere today, and all locals go there in the warmer months where they can sit outside in the vineyards and enjoy locally grown wine. Most of them are situated mainly in the "Grinzing" district, just north of the inner city. Make sure you pay a visit to these traditional wineries while in Vienna! It is still seen that some customers bring their own food and consume it with a glass (or a few) of homemade wine, especially in the smaller Heurigen, however, the delicious homemade food offered by the house is definitely the best option, especially if you want to try some of the best Austrian specialties!
Unfortunately, during the 19th century, innumerous biological invaders ruined Austrian wine, already at the grapes’ roots. These fungal diseases caused the collapse of Austrian viticulture -many wines lost their taste and structure. Another impact to local wine production was much more recent: the end of the 20th century. Austrian wine producers started putting little amounts of diethylene glycol in their wines to add sweetness and increase the body to the wine. This "antifreeze" scandal resulted in exports breaking down and some countries forbid Austrian wine import altogether.
However, all this turned out to be good news for local production in the end: Although it took several decades for the wine production to recover, it allowed lower quality grapes to be replaced by better ones. This Renaissance for Austrian vineyards resulted in new and innovative practices in viticulture. Today local wine producers are young, dynamic, very high quality conscious and they took the opportunity to specialize on the latest trends in winemaking (such as biodynamic cultivation among others).
But… What is special about Austrian winemaking? Here, in contrast to most of the wine-producing countries around the world, the vineyards are very small and use most of their wine for local or regional consumption. But, most of all, the size of the vineries assures that the wine produces is of extremely high quality. This is joined by the fact that most wine producers in Austria work their land and grapes manually. This practice is particularly characteristic of Lower Austria, where most of the vineyards raise on terraces that have been built many decades ago. Given the preference for small rather than mass production, export of Austrian wine is fairly uncommon and it is hard to get outside of Austria. Ordering Austrian wine in the restaurants around town is an absolute must!
The best local wines are white ones such as Pinot Blanc, Gemischter Satz, Rheinriesling or Grüner Veltliner; recently we have also managed to produce some excellent and award winning red wines such as the Blaufränkisch or the Zweigelt.
Have a look at a selection of Austria’s best wines here.
Our Tip: The best and most efficient way to get an excellent overview of what Austria’s wine production offers is a visit to the top wine specialists store Wein & Co. Not only do they have the best selection of Austrian and international wines right there in the store, but also excellent sommeliers that will be able to recommend you exactly what you are looking for. The best part: Wein & Co is also one of the most popular wine bars in town – the store is always part of a real cool and trendy bar. This is what locals do: they choose a bottle of a new top wine right there, have the barman open it, order some great food with it, and if you are really enthusiastic you order a case immediately that will be shipped home for you (also internationally). Needless to say that their online shop is really worth having a look at!