Austrian - Wines
Austria's vineyards lie in the eastern half of the country where the summers are warmest, the winters not too cold and the rainfall is adequate. Fifty-eight percent is in the varied landscape of Niederösterreich or Lower Austria; 36 percent is in the Burgenland; 5 percent is on the steep slopes of the Steiermark, or Styria, and a tiny 1 percent is in the suburbs of Vienna, supplying the city's famous wine bars, the Heurigen. In the 1990s Austria is producing stylish dry white wines, particularly but not exclusively in the Wachau in Lower Austria. To the south of Vienna, the sunny area around the Neusiedlersee in Burgenland has luscious dessert whites which a kind climate provides in relative profusion. The best of these are now outstandingly good and some might say they were the result of hard times, for in 1985 Austria lost her good name. It was discovered that Diethylene glycol was being used to falsify sweet wine, but the international scandal that followed, and the creation of a new and strictly implemented law, led to a marked improvement in quality. After the trauma of the past the mood is distinctly upbeat.
Most of Austrian wine is uncomplicated, light, dry, white and fruity. If much is offered in the 1 liter/2.1 U.S. pint or 2 liter/4.2 U.S. pint bottles required by the restaurant trade, serious wines in 750 or 700 milliliters/23.7 or 25.4 U.S. ounce bottles are selling well, reflecting an increasing interest in individual, characterful wines with a concentrated flavor. Some of the dry white wines from Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and Grüner Veltliner are outstandingly successful. For many producers, acid levels are as important as sugar content when deciding the moment to start the grape harvest, and white wines with high acidity are sought after.
Austrian red wine has tended to be somewhat wishy-washy in the past but where the yield is low and traditional French methods of vinification are followed, results are very different. Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) and a little Cabernet Sauvignon are grown but there is a belief that preference should be given to indigenous vines such as St. Laurent or Zweigelt Blau. The producers work hard marketing their wines, sometimes jointly owning and staffing a simple wine bar for passing tourists and regular visitors. At their Vinotheken, or wine shops, it is possible to experience the revival of quality winemaking.