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Wine Country: Austria

Austrian wine is one of the most interesting phenomena happening in the world right now. It is a small market compared to other wine countries, but it’s not the size that matters but the quality of the wines. And quality is exactly what Austria has been exporting. So when it comes to Austrian Wines we can honestly say that small is beautiful.

Austria has been enjoying a sensational quality boom for the past decades. Their success is due to their winemaking tradition and the fact that grapevines are cultivated in the same viticultural regions as thousands of years ago.

Coupled with ideal geological and climatic elements, the vines enjoy the best conditions essential for making authentic, distinctive wines with character and personality.

The success started when the Roman Empire has turned the country’s landscape to wealthy vineyards. However, the viticulture suffered with the invasion of the Bavarians, Slavs and Avars after the fall of the Roman Empire. Like every country, the Church was the salvation of the wine culture. By writing everything down and developing new techniques they maintained the wine culture. After World War I, Austria was the third biggest wine producing country.

During this period most of the wine was exported to blend with wines from other countries. The demand for Austrian wines peaked in the ’80 when there was a run for Austrian wine. However in 1985 there was a big scandal that destroyed the whole Austrian wine market. It was discovered that diethylene glycol was being added to Austrian Wines. This is an organic compound which is colorless, odorless but poisonous with a sweetish taste commonly found in antifreeze. The product was difficult to detect, but when one wine producer tried to claim for the cost of the chemical on his tax return the scandal was on. This resulted in a ban on Austrian Wines in some countries which led to a collapse of the export. Within a year, a new wine law was introduced, to supervise and inspect Austrian wines. Fortunately, this is now old news, and has no impact on the current perception of Austrian wine, but it received such widespread publicity that no Austrian wine guide is really complete without at least mentioning it. Since the introduction of the new regulations, Austrian producers are more concentrated on quality instead of the quantity. Their wine market is getting back to the top, currently ranking at 17th on the top wine countries list.

There are 22 white wine grape varieties classified for the production of quality wine in Austria. The grape Grüner Veltliner is mostly used for the whites. Approximately two-thirds of Austrian vineyard area is planted with white wine varieties. The rest are the red grapes, among which Blauer Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent are the most popular. Austrian wines range from lively light bodied wines, charming fruity full bodied red wines to elegant sweet wines. These wines are mostly appreciated because they are exceptionally appetizing and pair wonderfully with food, making Austrian wines a sheer drinking pleasure.