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Everywhere Else

Austria

  • Austrian wine today is increasingly popular in the U.S., and knowing Grüner from Zweigelt puts you in the "in-crowd." Few people today remember the wine scandal of 1985 that caused a 90% drop in exports within a year and a half. This caused an important restructuring of the wine industry, and those producers that remained became strictly focused on the highest level of quality.

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  • In terms of wine laws, Austrian wine is regulated according to the KMW scale, similar to German Oeschle. They also use the designations tafelwein and landwein as well as qualitätswein. Kabinettwein is a separate category, and the Prädikatsweine start with Spätlese, then Auslese as in Germany. This is followed by strohwein, from overripe, dried grapes, Eiswein and Beerenauslese. BA is followed in richness by ausbruch, made from botrytized grapes in either a lighter or a heavier style, and the final category is Trockenbeerenauslese.


    Steinfeder, Federspeil and Smaragd
    Austrian wine has three additional categories which are much more often seen on labels in the U.S. Steinfeder is the lightest, roughly QbA in quality. Next is Federspiel, similar to Kabinett, and finally Smaragd, a level of richness on par with Spätlese.

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  • One distinctive quality of Austrian wine is the reliance on the indigenous grape Grüner Veltliner. This makes unique, characterful wines in a variety of styles. Riesling is also very important, as is Welschriesling, which is a completely separate variety.

    Although the white wine, particularly Grüner, should be considered the main event, some black varieties are also cultivated, including Blaufränkish, also called Kekfrankos or Lemberger, St. Laurent and Blauer Zweigelt, all which can be delicious wines.

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  • Austria is divided into four regions, roughly concentrated in the eastern part of the country: Niederösterreich or lower Austria, Burgenland, Styria and Vienna. Much of the dry wine comes from Niedeösterreich, particularly from the subdistricts of Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal and Weinviertel. Burgenland is known mostly for dessert wines from the lake region grouped around the main lake Neusiedl or Neusiedlersee. Botrytis flourishes in this moist microclimate, and a variety of grapes are grown in this way, including Chardonnay, Riesling and Welchriesling among others.

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