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Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Description to Austria

In Austria, viticulture has been practised since the time of settlement by the Celts almost 3,000 years ago. The Burgenland municipality of Zagersdorf and the Lower Austrian municipality of Stillfried in the Weinviertel are considered the oldest wine-growing communities in Austria. In both places, grape seeds were found that date back to 700 and 900 BC respectively and can clearly be assigned to the species Vitis vinifera. The lifting of the ban on planting vines outside Italy by Emperor Domitian (51-96) by Emperor Probus (232-282) had a positive effect on viticulture. This was the beginning of an orderly viticulture in the Roman provinces of Noricum (Upper and Lower Austria) and Pannonia (Burgenland). In the almost 200-year-long turmoil of the migration of peoples from the end of the 4th century, viticulture came to a virtual standstill due to many devastations.

Österreich - topographische Landkarte

A revival only took place again from the 9th century under the influence of Emperor Charlemagne (742-814). The Benedictine and Cistercian orders can be credited with special services to viticulture. In the Middle Ages, the monasteries of Göttweig Abbey (Kremstal), KlosterneuburgAbbey (Wagram), Melk Abbey (Wachau) and Heiligenkreuz Abbey (Thermenregion) were the main pillars of viticulture. The Dinstlgut (Wachau) also made a significant contribution. The oldest Austrian winegrowing regulations with rules on working hours and fixed penalties for grape theft were issued by the Habsburg Duke Albrecht II. As early as the Middle Ages there was also a division into wine quality classes.

In the 16th century, viticulture in Austria reached its peak, the area under vines was at least three times as large as today (50,000 ha) with around 150,000 to perhaps even 200,000 hectares. Salzburg's Mönchsberg was planted with vines, as were the slopes of the Semmering. There were vineyards near Linz (Upper Austria), near Salzburg and on a large scale in Carinthia and Tyrol. And the capital Wien is literally built on vineyards. The wine book by the clergyman Johann Rasch (1540-1612) describes in detail the viticulture, cellar techniques and drinking culture of the time. However, the rise of beer, high tax burdens and the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) brought about a decline in the 17th century. The main problem was the tax, also known as Ungeld, which was raised from 10% to 30% in just twelve years. This led to many vineyards being grubbed up and wheat or other products being grown instead. Now, inferior grape varieties were preferred and cheap mass wine was produced from them.

Under Maria Theresa (1717-1780), decrees were issued for the utilisation of cheap wine. Many vinegar distilleries, schnapps distilleries and mustard production from grape must were established. Under Emperor Joseph II. (1741-1790), a written decree was issued on 17 August 1784 permitting the sale of one's own fechsung even in one's own house. He thus laid the foundation stone for the Heuriger. The 19th century saw a number of catastrophes. An extreme cold spell, fungal diseases introduced from America and, as a negative highlight, phylloxera devastated entire wine-growing regions. The pest probably arrived in Austria in 1867, when August-Wilhelm Freiherr von Babo (1827-1894), director of the Klosterneuburger Weinbauinstitut founded in 1860, was given American vines from Germany.

A milestone in Austrian wine history was set by Robert Schlumberger (1814-1879). In 1846, he introduced his "Vöslauer white sparkling wine" produced according to the méthode champenoise, which became a great success. After the Second World War, the old structures were changed through rationalisation and mechanisation. The conversion to the new vine training of so-called high culture by Lenz Moser III. (1905-1978) in Rohrendorf near Krems in Lower Austria made it possible to use the most modern equipment. The use of diethylene glycol caused a wine scandal in 1985. However, this led to the introduction of stricter laws and above all controls in Austria, which contributed decisively to the improvement of quality. In 1993, the project certification of vines was started with the aim of improving quality in the long term by analysing and selecting the healthiest possible vines.

Climate and soils

Austria is characterised by a continental Pannonian climate. There are cold winters and hot, dry summers with a long vegetation cycle. Warm, sunny summer days with often cool nights and mild autumn days are typical for most wine-growing areas. Annual precipitation averages 400 millimetres in the east, and in Styria it can even be 800 millimetres or more. The Danube and its two tributaries Krems and Kamp as well as Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland have a very positive influence on the climate. On the shores of Europe's second largest steppe lake, grapes of the Ausbruch, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (or Ausbruch) predicate levels often ripen in late autumn. Due to the often very low temperatures from December to January, considerable production of ice wine is also possible in the east.

The altitude is mostly about 200 metres, in Lower Austria up to 400 metres, the highest vineyards are in Styria up to 560 metres above sea level. The wine regions are mostly located in temperate climates without extremes, roughly on the 47th and 48th parallel; comparable to the French Burgundy. The soil types are quite different. In Lower Austria, loess predominates in the Weinviertel and the Danube Valley, primary rock in the Krems Valley and the Wachau, and limestone in the Thermenregion. In Burgenland the soils consist mainly of slate, loam, marl, loess and sand, and in Styria of brown earth and volcanic soils.

Österreich - generische Weinbaugebiete

Wine-growing areas

Austria is divided into three wine-growing regions (until 2009 there were four with Wien ). These are Weinland (with the generic wine-growing regions Burgenland, Lower Austria and Wien), Steirerland (Styria) and Bergland (remaining federal provinces). All nine federal provinces are generic wine-growing regions, the largest four are divided into specific wine-growing regions (e.g. specific WG Wachau in the generic WG Lower Austria). All wine-growing regions are located in the European wine-growing zone B (Germany largely in A). From the 2002 vintage onwards, the origin-specific DAC system was introduced. The following hectare values are from different years (2015 to 2017), but the farm numbers are all from 2015:

WINEGROUP
Wine-growing region
OPERATIONS
2015
HEKTAR
2015-2017
HEKTAR
2009
ALL-AUSTRIA 14.133 46.515 45.908
WEINLAND (Burgenland, Lower Austria, Wien) 11.874 41.104 41.582
Burgenland 3.229 13.100 13.842
Eisenberg DAC (formerly Südburgenland) 708 515 499
Leithaberg DAC (formerly Neusiedlersee-Hügelland) 924 3.097 3.576
Mittelburgenland DAC 358 2.104 2.118
Neusiedlersee DAC 1.339 6.675 7.649
Rosalia DAC 515 450
Lower Austria 8.269 28.145 27.128
Carnuntum DAC 282 906 910
Kamptal DAC 823 3.907 3.802
Kremstal DAC 747 2.368 2.243
Thermenregion 693 2.182 2.196
Traisental DAC 451 815 789
Wachau DAC / Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus 502 1.344 1.350
Wagram (formerly Donauland) 926 2.720 2.452
Weinviertel DAC 3.791 13.858 13.356
without wine-growing region 54 45 -
Wien DAC 276 637 594
STEIRERLAND(Styria) 2.085 4.633 4.242
South Styria DAC 623 2.563 2.340
Vulkanland Steiermark DAC (formerly Südoststeiermark) 1.199 1.524 1.401
Western Styria DAC 261 546 501
without wine-growing region 2 0,3 -
BERGLAND (Rest of Austria)
Carinthia, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vorarlberg
174 140 80

Österreich - spezifische Weinbaugebiete

Winegrowing enterprises and production volumes

The figures refer to surveys in 2017 (BKI and ÖWM) compared to 2009. The number of farms has extremely decreased from 45,380 with an average farm size of 1.28 hectares (1987) to 20,181 with 2.26 hectares (2009) and finally to 14,133 with 3.2 hectares. The number of small farms (with sales volume below 5,000 litres) has almost halved. Many small winegrowers with a vineyard size of one hectare or less have sold their land to larger farms or given up cultivation. The number of efficient farms over 30,000 litres has risen from around 970 to 1,450. The number of producers bottling quality wine has fallen from just under 6,500 farms to around 4,000 farms. 2.486 million hectolitres of wine were produced, of which 1.649 white wine = 66% and 0.837 red wine = 34%. The long-standing trend from white wine to red wine has not continued (see also under wine production volumes).

Vineyards and grape varieties

In Austria, 26 white wine and 14 red wine varieties are defined as quality wine grape varieties, which may be used for all quality types. The designations Weißer Burgunder, Grauer Burgunder, Blauer Burgunder, Rheinriesling and Blaufränkisch are not permitted for "wine with and without grape variety/vintage" in order to exclude confusion by supposedly indicating regions of origin (Burgundy, Rhine, Franconia). Instead, however, the designations Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling are permitted for these wines. Furthermore, there are additional permitted grape varieties for these wines.

The largest area under vines was in 1980 with 59,432 hectares. From then on, the white wine areas were continuously reduced and the red wine areas expanded. This trend has recently been stopped. Austria is a typical white wine country, special red wine regions are Central and Southern Burgenland, Western Styria and Thermenregion. In 2017, vineyards covered a total of 46,515 hectares of planted vineyards (in 2009 it was 45,908). Of this, red wine varieties account for 15,370 hectares = 33% (15,770 ha) and white wine varieties 31,145 hectares = 67% (30,138 ha). There were no major changes compared to 2009. The Grüner Veltliner, with 6.3% also the largest increase of all varieties, is the undisputed leader with almost one third of the total area and almost half of the white wine varieties. Among the red wine varieties, Zweigelt dominates followed by the varieties Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser. The top 5:

Österreich - die Top-5-Rebsorten

Grape variety - österr
Main name
officially permitted in Austria
Synonyms
Colour Hectare
2017
%-Ant
2017
Hectare
2009
Grüner Veltliner Weißgipfler white 14.423 31,0 13.518
Zweigelt Blue Zweigelt, Rotburger red 6.426 13,8 6.476
Welschriesling - white 3.338 7,2 3.597
Blaufränkisch - red 3.009 6,5 3.225
White Riesling Riesling, Rhine Riesling white 1.986 4,3 1.863
White Burgundy Pinot Blanc, Klevner white 1.971 4,2 1.995
Müller-Thurgau Rivaner white 1.788 3,8 2.102
Chardonnay Morillon (Styria) white 1.618 3,5 1.431
Blue Portugieser - red 1.263 2,7 1.622
Sauvignon Blanc Muscat Sylvaner white 1.248 2,7 933
Muscat Yellow M., Red M. / Muscat Blanc white 864 1,9 527
Blauburger - red 742 1,6 903
St. Laurent - red 732 1,6 778
Merlot - red 724 1,6 649
Common set white - white 671 1,4 807
Blue Burgundy Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir (Blauer Spätburgunder) red 616 1,3 649
Cabernet Sauvignon - red 589 1,3 594
Neuburg - white 497 1,1 652
Blue Wildbacher - red 459 1,0 450
Frühroter Veltliner Malvasia white 367 0,8 424
Scheurebe Seedling 88 white 357 0,8 398
Muscat Ottonel - white 357 0,8 360
Traminer Gewürztraminer, Red T., Yellow T. white 284 0,6 321
Roesler - red 238 0,5 161
Grey Burgundy Pinot Gris, Ruländer white 226 0,5 222
Bouvier - white 220 0,5 234
Roter Veltliner - white 195 0,4 193
Common set red - red 156 0,3 51
Syrah Shiraz red 153 0,3 137
Rotgipfler - white 119 0,3 105
Goldburger - white 98 0,2 150
Zierfandler Late red white 78 0,2 85
Cabernet Franc - red 75 0,2 56
Sylvaner Green Sylvaner white 38 0,1 43
Rathay - red 35 0,1 9
Furmint - white 11 - 9
Jubilee Vine - white 6 - 13
and. white varieties - white 388 0,8 155
and. red varieties - red 155 0,3 9
WHITE SORT 31.145 67,0 30.138
RED SORT 15.370 33,0 15.770
TOTAL 46.515 100 45.908

Wine categories / quality levels

The EU wine market regulation valid from 2009 brought fundamental changes to the quality levels. The new EU-compliant designations PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and PDO (Protected Origin) were banned in Austria in order not to confuse consumers and the old designations Landwein and Qualitätswein/Prädikatswein were retained. The three levels are (the first two are considered one):

  • Wine without a narrower indication of origin (formerly the now forbidden term table wine)
  • Wine with grape varieties and/or vintage indication
  • Country wine (use of PGI is not permitted)
  • Quality wine and Prädikat wine (use of PDO is not permitted)

Wine without indication of variety and/or vintage - Wine from Austria:

  • maximum three times the average yield per hectare
  • no other cultivation and production rules
  • wine faults such as slight hump are permitted to a small extent

Wine with indication of variety and/or vintage - Wine from Austria

  • free from defects in appearance, smell and taste
  • Maximum yield per hectare 9,000 kg grapes or 6,750 l wine (see below under yield)
  • at least 3.5 g/l total acidity
  • Quality wine grape varieties as well as other varieties regulated by country-specific ordinance
  • Indication of varieties exclusively for quality wine grape varieties indicated above
  • Minimum alcohol content 8.5% vol
  • maximum enrichment 2%

Country wine

  • Grapes from one wine-growing region; only this is permitted as origin
  • Maximum yield per hectare 9,000 kg grapes or 6,750 l wine (see below under yield)
  • only quality wine grape varieties
  • at least 14 °KMW Must weight
  • Alcohol content max. 13.5% vol. for white wine, max. 14.5% vol. for red wine
  • at least 4 g/l total acidity
  • Sweetening to a maximum of 15 g/l

Quality wine

  • positive sensory and analytical test = state test number
  • Grapes from one wine-growing region (origin for DAC is specific wine-growing region, other quality wines only generic wine-growing region)
  • Production in the wine-growing region of the wine-growing area or adjacent region
  • only quality wine grape varieties
  • Maximum yield per hectare 9,000 kg grapes or 6,750 l wine (see below under yield)
  • at least 15 °KMW Must weight
  • at least 9% vol. actual alcohol content (Prädikatswein 5% vol.)
  • at least 4 g/l total acidity
  • Sweetening to a maximum of 15 g/l

Cabinet

  • higher quality wine level (in contrast to Germany, no Prädikatswein)
  • at least 17° KMW
  • maximum 12.9% (13% until 2016) vol. alcohol content maximum 4 g/l residual sugar or 9 g/l

Prädikat wines

According to EU law, it is also a quality wine, as officially there are only the three quality levels mentioned. However, traditional designations may continue to be used, which is also used by other countries such as Germany, Italy (DOC and DOCG) and Spain (DO and DOCa). According to Austrian wine law, a Prädikatswein is thus a higher level of quality wine. There are the six Prädikat wine types Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese or Ausbruch, Strohwein and Eiswein. General regulations are:

  • must comply with all quality wine regulations
  • Residual sugar may only be obtained by interrupting fermentation
  • Sweetening or enrichment is not permitted
  • Alcohol content at least 5% vol
  • from Auslese Grapes with overripe, noble rot and dried berries (Botrytis)

Spätlese: At least 19 °KMW; fully ripe grapes.

Auslese: At least 21 °KMW; fully ripe, harvested grapes.

Beerenauslese: At least 25 °KMW; overripe and/or noble rot grapes.

Ausbruch: At least 27 °KMW, exclusively noble rotten, overripe and dried berries. The designation may only be used for the Ruster Ausbruch.

TrockenbeerenausleseAt 30°KMW; noble rotten, shrivelled grapes.

Straw wineSince 2002, the designation " reed wine " has also been permitted as an alternative. At least 25 °KMW must weight. Must be produced from fully ripe and sugar-rich berries that have been stored on straw, reeds or hung on strings for at least three months before pressing. According to an amendment to the law in 2002, however, the grapes can be pressed after only two months if a must weight of at least 30 °KMW has been reached. If the must weight is not reached, the wine can (must) be marketed as quality wine.

Ice wine: At least 25 °KMW. The grapes are pressed in a frozen state. If the must degree is not reached, the wine can (must) be marketed as quality wine.

special types of wine

There are a number of specific designations or wine types with wine law specifications. These are Auswahl, Ausstich, Classic, Dreikönigswein, Gespritzter, Leopoldiwein, Jubiläumswein, Jungfernwein (First Harvest), Martiniwein, Messwein, Nikolowein, Primus (First), Premium, Reserve (Great Reserve, Grande Reserve), Selection (Selection, Grande Selection), Stefaniwein, Tradition and Weihnachtswein. Other wine types are:

Mountain wine: Permitted for local wine and quality wine if grapes come from terraced vineyards or steep slopes with a slope of more than 26%

Heuriger: Designation for wine irrespective of the quality level from grapes harvested exclusively in Austria and produced in Austria. However, the wine may only be sold to resellers by 31 December of the year following the harvest at the latest and to consumers by 31 March of the following year. However, Heuriger is also the common name for Buschenschank in Austria.

Storm: Protected designation for a partially fermented grape must. The actual alcohol content must be at least 1.0% and can be up to 10% vol.

Gemischter Satz: This origin-protected term is exclusively reserved for Austria within the EU. Wiener Gemischter Satz is a DAC wine.

Organic wineThe production is at least subject to the guidelines of the EU organic regulation, as well as to the often even stricter rules of organic associations. The Austrian umbrella organisation is Bio Austria (see also Organic Viticulture).

Austrian sparkling wine: Starting with the 2015 vintage, a sparkling wine quality pyramid was introduced with the three levels "Klassik", "Reserve" and "Große Reserve". See also under Sekt.

important wine law provisions

The Austrian standard work on wine law is "Weingesetz" (Manz-Verlag), which comprises 818 pages in the 5th edition published in 2012. It offers a presentation of the entire wine law including all regulations and EU provisions. Furthermore, there is the electronic database RIS (Legal Information System) with, among other things, contributions on wine law (see also under Wine Law and EU Regulations).

Must weight: For each quality level there is a minimum must weight (see above).

Yield: For wine without varietal/vintage designation, a maximum of three times the average hectare yield of a farm; for all other quality levels, a maximum hectare yield of kilograms of grapes or litres of wine applies. If the maximum quantity is exceeded, the entire harvest of a vintage must be marketed as wine without a grape variety or vintage designation. The yields must be reported to the BKI (Bundeskellereiinspektion - Federal Winery Inspectorate) by means of a harvest report, which is also checked for compliance.

The maximum quantity per hectare is 9,000 kg of grapes or 6,750 l per hectare of vineyard area registered and planted in the vineyard register for the production of wine, Land-, Qualitäts- or Prädikatswein (1.33 kg of grapes yields 1 l of wine). After conversion of the vineyard register to the content requirements of the integrated administration and control system, this maximum hectare quantity is 10,000 kg of grapes or 7,500 l of wine. Until the changeover (probably in 2018), the Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management can reduce or increase the maximum quantity per hectare for the harvest of a year by up to 20% by means of an ordinance at the request of the National Wine Committee, if this is required by the climatic or viticultural conditions for that year. This authorisation was used for the 2016 vintage and the maximum yield was raised from 9,000 to 10,800 kg/ha.

OriginFor wine (without grape variety/vintage) only the EU or Austria may be indicated, for table wine the wine-growing region must be indicated, smaller units (wine-growing region, Großlage, municipality) are not permitted. For quality wine and above, closer origins (wine-growing region, wine-growing area, Großlage, municipality, Ried in connection with municipality name) may be used if the wine originates 100% from the specified area.

Vintage: An indication is not permitted only for wine without grape variety/vintage. For the other quality levels, the percentage must be at least 85% of the indicated vintage. Sweeteners, dosage do not count towards the 15%. For ice wine harvested in the following year (January or later), the previous year must be indicated.

Grape varieties: An indication is not permitted only for wine (without grape variety/vintage). In the case of the other quality levels, the proportion must be at least 85% of the indicated grape variety. In the case of two or more grape varieties, the names may be indicated in descending order of quantity if they add up to 100%. The indication of varietal purity is only permitted if the wine originates 100% from the indicated grape variety. For Spätlese and Auslese wines, the grape variety(ies) must be indicated.

The blending of grapes, mash, must or wine from red wine and white wine grapes is only permitted for wine without vintage/variety indication. However, these wines may then not be described as red wine or white wine, but only as "wine from Austria".

Sugar contentAustria has made use of the right to make the indication of residual sugar content on the label compulsory. A wine is considered dry with a maximum of 4 g/l (formerly the now no longer permitted extra dry) or with a maximum of 9 g/l if the total acidity is not more than 2 g/l lower than the residual sugar. At 8 g/l, for example, this requires at least 6 g/l total acidity. The other grades are semi-dry with 12 g/l or 18 g/l if the total acidity is not more than 10 g/l lower, "lieblich" with a higher value than for semi-dry but not more than 45 g/l, as well as sweet with at least 45 g/l. Not relevant from a wine law point of view are herb and österreichisch trocken.

Sweetening (Increase in residual sugar): Wine with and without grape variety/vintage may be sweetened by a maximum of 4% vol. alcohol content; this is approx. 68 g/l residual sugar, which corresponds to approx. 5 °KMW. In contrast, Landwein and Qualitätswein may be sweetened by a maximum of 15 g/l residual sugar. Landwein (this is new) and Qualitätswein (which has remained the same) may be sweetened up to a maximum of 15 g/l of unfermented sugar. This can be done by adding grape must, concentrated grape must or (which is rarely done) RCGM (rectified grape must). Sucrose is prohibited as a sweetener. In principle, sweetening is not permitted for Kabinett and Prädikat wines.

Enrichment (Increase of the natural alcohol content): May be carried out on all types of wine by a maximum of 2% vol. alcohol content using the approved means. After application, a maximum of 18 g/l residual sugar (previously 15 g/l) is permitted for local wine and quality wine. The alcohol content may be reduced to a maximum of 12% vol. for white wine and 12.5% vol. for red wine; to a maximum of 13.5% vol. for white local wine or quality wine; and to a maximum of 14.5% vol. for red local wine and quality wine. In principle, enrichment is not permitted for Kabinett and Prädikatswein.

Institutions and bodies

Important institutions, bodies, authorities and research institutes that carry out research, organising, controlling, publicising or training functions in connection with viticulture include BKI (Federal Winery Inspection), Klosterneuburger Weinbauinstitut, ÖWM (Austria Wine Marketing), Silberberg (Viticulture Institute) and Weinakademie Österreich.

Influential wine authors and critics are Christa Hanten, Helmut O. Knall, Walter Kutscher, Peter Moser, Michael Prónay, Peter Schleimer, Viktor Siegl and Rudolf Steurer. They contribute to many wine magazines and wine guides such as A la Carte - Magazin für Trink- und Esskultur, Falstaff Wein Guide Österreich/Südtirol, Gault Millau, Kutschers Kostnotizen, Vinaria Weinguide and Wine-Guide-Austria / Wine-Times.

Maps: ÖWM - Österreich Wein Marketing GmbH.
Grape varieties: Ursula Brühl, Doris Schneider, Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI)

In this section you will find
currently 147,035 Wines and 23,228 Producers, including 2,226 classified producers.
Rating system Their sources in Wine Guide Tasting samples

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