Over a period of more then 15 years, the Wein‑Plus Wine Guide has established a reputation for its strict and independent wine reviews. Marcus Hofschuster, our head taster and editor in chief, has a precise view of the wines of around 5500 leading wine producers in Europe.
Interesting wines off the beaten mainstream path, wines with an unmistakeable character! Our head taster Marcus Hofschuster personally selects these wines from around 12,000 wines tasted each year: objectively, independently and without any trade interests.
As a member of Wein‑Plus you will profit from benefits we have negotiated with our cooperation partners in the world of wine – and these have a real cash value for you. These offers are exclusively for your benefit: Wein‑Plus receives no fees or commissions from ist partners – and that’s a promise.
Viticulture has been practised in Austria since the times of Celtic settlements since about 3000 years. The commune of Zagersdorf in the Neusiedlersee-Hügelland district of the Burgenland region as well as the commune of Stillfried in the Weinviertel region in Lower Austria are ocnsidered to be the oldest wine-growing communes in Austria. Grape seeds dating back to 700 resp. 900 BC were found in the two villages, both are definitely of vitis vinifera species of vines. The decision by emperor Domitian (51-96 AD) to ban the planting of vines outside of Italy was rescinded by emperor ProbusProbus Marcus Aurelius (232-282 AD), and this had a decisive effect on viticulture. From that time on, organised viticulture was practised in the provinces of Noricum (Upper and Lower Austria) and Pannonia (Burgenland). Viticulture almost came to a standstill in the long period of mass migrations. It was only revived again in the 9th century partly under the influence of laws enacted by emperor Charlemagne (742-814 AD). The Catholic Benedictine and Cistercian orders played a major role in viticulture. In medieval times, the monasteries and bishoprics of Klosterneuburg, Melk and Göttweig were the main pillars of viticulture. The oldest wine estate in Austria still in existence, the Freigut Thallern estate near Gumpoldskirchen with a vineyard area of 70 hectares was founded in 1141 by the Cistercian monks. In fact the roots of the current Dinstlgut estate in Loiben (Lower Austria, Wachau wine-growing region) even go back as far as the 9th century. The oldest Austria regulations related to working hours in viticulture, and also determining punishment to be meted out for the theft of wine grapes, dates back to the Habsburg duke Albrecht II. in 1352 (also see under vineyard guards). A classification of wines into different quality levels was also already in place in medieval times (for an example, see under Burgenland). Viticulture in Austria reached its peak in the 16th century, with an estimated vineyard area of around 150.000 hectares, possibly as much as 200.000 hectares, which is at least three times as much as the current area planted to vines (50.000 ha). Vineyards are recorded close to Linz (Upper Austria), near Salzburg as well as quite large areas in Carinthia and Tirol. The capital of Vienna was literally built on vineyards. What is probably the oldest book on wine in the German language was written by the cleric Johann Rasch (1540-1612), describing in detail the viticulture, cellar practices and drinking customs of this time. However, the spread of beer drinking, high taxes and the Thirty Years War all combined to bring about a decline in viticulture in the 17th century. The main problem in this development was the tax on wine, interstingly enough also known as the „Unmoney”, which was increased from 10% to 30% over a period of 12 years. This led to many vineyards being uprooted, and wheat or other products being cultivated instead. Lesser-quality grape varieties were preferred at this stage, and used to make large quantities of cheap mass-production wine. Regulations on how to dispose of cheap wine were enacted under empress Maria Theresia (1717-1780). Numerous businesses sprang up to produce vinegar, or mustard made from grape must, as well as distilleries. Emperor Josef II. (17411790) on 17. August 1784 issued a written decree permitting grape growers to sell wine they had produced from their own grapes from their homes. In this he laid the foundation for the Viennese Heurigen wine bars, later to spread throughout Austria. The 19th century saw a number of catastrophes. There was an extremely cold period, then fungal diseases, viral diseases and to top it all phylloxera were all imported from America, destroying whole wine-growing regions. Phylloxera probably came to Austria in 1867, when August-Wilhelm Freiherr von Babo (1827-1894), director of the viticultural college that had been founded in Klosterneuburg in 1860, was given American vines by a German colleagu. A milestone of Austrian wine history was set by Robert Schlumberger (1814-1879). In 1846 he presented his sparkling wine "Vöslauer weißen Schaumwein", made according to the Champagne method, which became a great success. Mechanisation and rationalisation led to a change in the old structures after World War II. The change to high-trained trellised vines, initiated by Lenz MoserMoser Lenz III. (1905-1978) in Rohrendorf close to Krems in Lower Austria made it possible to use the most modern equipment in the vineyards. After the wine scandal of 1985 (see under diethylene glycol) even stricter laws, and also more effective controls were implemented in Austria, which played a decisive role in improving quality. A project was initiated in 1993 with the aim of using selection and analysis to identify healthy vine matieral, and to improve the quality in the long run (see under certification of vines). A new level of quality, DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) was introduced in early 2004, this corresponds to the DOC in Italy or the AOC in France. The first classified wine of origin in this system was the „DAC Weinviertel” (made from the Grüner Veltliner variety). Currently, 35 quality grape varieties are classified resp. permitted for the production of quality and predicate wines (see table for synonyms). The 22 white varieties are: Bouvier, Chardonnay, Frühroter Veltliner, Furmint, Goldburger, Pinot Gris, Grüner Veltliner Jubiläumsrebe, Müller-Thurgau, Muskateller, Muskat-Ottonel, Neuburger, Roter Veltliner, Rotgipfler, Sauvignon Blanc, Scheurebe, Sylvaner, Traminer, Pinot Blanc, Weißer Riesling, Welschriesling and Zierfandler. The 13 permitted red varieties are: Blauburger, Blauer Burgunder (Pinot Noir), Blauer Portugieser, Blauer Wildbacher, Blaufränkisch, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Ráthay, Roesler, St. Laurent, Syrah and Zweigelt. Around 75% of the vineyard area is planted with white varieties, the remainder with red varieties, although in recent years there has been a swing in favour of red varieties. Grüner Veltliner is the leading variety in Austria, it is way out in frount with 36% of the total vineyard area, followed by the equally typical red Austrian variety Zweigelt which has 9%. The statistics on grape varieties as per 2000 (Chardonnay, Morillon and Pinot Blanc are shown as a single figure): Variety Synonyms and variants Colour Hectares % share Veltliner Grüner Veltliner, Weißgipfler White 17.479 36,0 Zweigelt Blauer Zweigelt, Rotburger Red 4.350 9,0 Welschriesling - White 4.323 8,9 Müller-Thurgau Rivaner, Riesling x Sylvaner White 3.290 6,8 Chardonnay Morillon Pinot Blanc Feinburgunder Chardonnay Weißburgunder, Klevner White 2.936 6,0 Blaufränkisch Blauer Limberger, Limberger Red 2.641 5,4 Blauer Portugieser Portugieser Red 2.358 4,9 Riesling Weißer Riesling, Rheinriesling White 1.643 3,4 Vineyard blend - White 1.371 2,8 Neuburger - White 1.094 2,2 Blauburger - Red 884 1,8 Frühroter Veltliner Frühroter, Malvasier White 626 1,3 Scheurebe Sämling 88 White 530 1,1 Blauer Wildbacher Schilcher Red 464 1,0 Muskat-Ottonel Feinschmeckerter White 418 0,9 St. Laurent - Red 415 0,9 Pinot Noir Blauburgunder, Blauer Spätburgunder Red 409 0,8 Bouvier - White 365 0,8 Traminer Roter Traminer, Gewürztraminer White 363 0,8 Vineyard blend - Red 358 0,7 Sauvignon Blanc Muskat-Sylvaner White 315 0,6 Cabernet Sauvignon - Red 312 0,6 Goldburger - White 309 0,6 Pinot Gris Grauburgunder, Ruländer White 293 0,6 Roter Veltliner - White 258 0,5 Muskateller Gelber Muskateller, Roter Muskateller White 143 0,0,3 Rotgipfler Rotreifler White 119 0,2 Merlot - Red 112 0,2 Zierfandler Spätrot, Gumpoldskirchner White 98 0,2 Silvaner Grüner Sylvaner, Sylvaner White 53 0,1 Jubiläumsrebe - White 30 0,1 Cabernet Franc - Red 27 0,1 Furmint Gelber Furmint White 1,2 - White varieties 36.176 74,5 Red varieties 12.382 25,5 TOTAL 48.558 100 The total vineyard area is thus around 50.000 hectares (approximately equivalent to that of Rioja in Spain). Production in 2000 was around 2,4 million hectolitres of wine, thus Austria accounted for less than one per cent of world production. Austria has a continental-Pannonian climate. The winters are cold, the summers are hot and dry with a long vegetation period. Warm, sunny summer days with frequently cool nights and mild autumn days are typical for most regions. In the East, annual rainfall is around 400 millimetres, while this can be as much as 800 milimetres and more in Styria. The Danube as well as Lake Neusiedel in the Burgenland region have a positive influence. On the shores of the second-largest plains lake in Europe conditions in late autumn are often suitable for producing botrytised grapes of the quality classifications Ausbruch, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese. As temperatures in the East in Decemebr and January are often very low, it is also possible to produce quite a lot of ice wine. Most of the vineyards are located at an altitude of around 200 metres above sea level, there are some at up to 400 metres in Lower Austria, and the highest vineyards can be found in Styria at an altitude of up to 560 metres. Most of the wine-growing regions are located in temperate climatic zones without any extremes, at a latitude of 47 to 49 degrees, this is comparable to Burgundy in France. There are many different types of soil, with loss dominating in the Danube valley and in the Weinviertel, with original rocky soils dominating in Krems, Langenlois and the Wachau, limestone in the Thermenregion Kalk, and slate, clay, marl and loess and even sandy soils in the Burgenland region. Brown earth and volcanic soils dominate in Styria. In terms of structure, small vineyard holdings dominate, around 60% of producers own less than one hectare of vineyard, and only a third of all producers states viticulture as their primary source of income. Around 6.500 of the total of 32.000 producers bottl their own wines. The other grape growers deliver their grapes either to larger wineries or to co-operatives. Austria is divided into four wine-growing regions. These are Weinland Österreich (Wineland Austria, with the two regions, and federal states, Burgenland and Niederösterreich/Lowee Austria), Steirerland (Styria, with the region Styria), Wien (Vienna) and Bergland Österreich (Mountainland Austria, with the remaining federal states). It is slightly confusing that the federal states Burgenland and Niederösterreich are described as wine-growing regions in their entirety, and also with their sub-divisions. The wine-growing region Steirerland is also a wine-growing district with the name of „Steiermark” or Styria. Vienna is both a wine-growing region and a wine-growing district. WINE-GROWING REGION/DISTRICT HECTARES NO. OF WINERIES AUSTRIA TOTAL 48.558 32.044 Weinland Österreich (Burgenland, Lower Austria) 44.568 27.692 Niederösterreich (1 plus 8 wine-growing regions), Lower Austria 30.004 18.038 Carnuntum 892 745 Kamptal 3.869 1.491 Kremstal 2.176 1.397 Thermenregion 2.332 1.282 Traisental 683 706 Wachau 1.390 867 Wagram (known as Donauland prior to 2006) 2.732 1.710 Weinviertel 15.892 9.774 Burgenland (1 plus 4 wine-growing regions) 14.564 9.654 Mittelburgenland Middle Burgenland 1.877 1.098 Neusiedlersee 8.326 3.268 Neusiedlersee-Hügelland 3.912 3.652 Südburgenland Southern Burgenland 449 1.636 SteirerlandSteiermark = Styria (1 plus 3 wine-growing regions) 3.291 3.821 Südoststeiermark - Southeast Styria 1.115 2.254 Südsteiermark Southern Styria 1.741 1.066 Weststeiermark Western Styria 433 491 Wien (1 wine-growing region) Vienna 679 497 Bergland Österreich (Mountain regions, remainder of Austria) Kärnten (Carinthia), Oberösterreich (Upper Austria), Salzburg, Tirol, Vorarlberg 21 34 All Austrian wine-growing regions are located in the European climatic zone (for viticultural purposes) B (Germany is in zone A, with the exception of Baden). This classification has implications in terms of EU-specific wine regulations related to chaptalisation, de-acidification, acidification and sweetening, which are laid down in detail (see also under wine laws). Quality and predicate wines must undergo a sensory as well as an analytical examination (see under official certification number). The quality categories and types of wine are very similar to those in Germany. Yield: There is no limit on yields for table wines. From country wine upwards there is a limit of 9.000 kilogrammes of grapes respectively 6.750 litres of wine per hectare. If this limit is exceeded, the entire production must be declared as table wine. Origin: For table wine, only „Austria” or „Austrian table wine” are permissible. For country wine, the wine-growing region must be stated, smaller units (wine-growing district, vineyard site, commune) are not permissible. Starting with quality wine, more specific specifications of origin (wine-growing region, wine-growing district, major site, commune, specific vineyard site used togather with commune) may be used, provided the wine is 100% sourced from the stated area. Heuriger: This term, meaning „this years wine”, may be used for table wine, country wine and quality wine, provided the grapes were picked exclusively in Austria, and the wine was produced in Austria. The wine may be sold to distributors and resellers only up to the 31st December of the year following the vintage, and may be sold to consumers only until the 31st of March of the following year. If the wine is filled into bottles, tetra-packs or ceramic containers, the vintage must be stated. Vintage: May not be stated for table wines. It may be stated for country wines and quality wines provided at least 85% is from the stated vintage. Preidcate wines and Heurige wines must state a vintage. Variety/Varieties: May not be stated for table wine. It may be stated from country wine upwards provided the wine consists of a minimum of 85% of the stated variety. Two or three varieties may be stated if all the grapes are of these varieties, and if the blend is relevant for the style of the wine concerned. They must be stated in order of volume share in the blend, with the largest share being named first. The variety must be stated for Spätlese and Auslese wines. Style/Taste: These are usually stated on the label. A wine is considered dry if it has a residual sugar content of no more than 4 g/l, or up to a maximum of 9 g/l provided the total acidity is not more than 2 g/l lower. For instance, if you have a residual sugar of 8 g/l, and want to call it dry, you must have a total acidity of no less than 6 g/l. The maximum values are: extra dry (rarely used) or „Suitable for diabetics” 4 g/l, dry 4 resp. 9 g/l, off-dry 12 g/l, semi-sweet or mild 45 g/l and sweet morethan 45 g/l. Increasing the residual sugar: Quality wine may be sweetened with a maximum of 15 g/l of unfermented sugar, this is not permissible for Kabinett and predicate wines. For sweetening agents see under sweetening. Increasing the alcohol content: permissible for white wines up to a maximum of 12,8% vol (19 °KMW) and for red wines up to a maximum of 13,6% vol (20 °KMW). Not permitted for Kabinett and predicate wines. See also under chaptalisation. Tafelwein/Table Wine: Minimum must weight of 10,6 °KMW (53 °Oechsle), 6% vol alcohol and 3,5 g/l total acidity. May not be bottled in bottles of less than one litre content (exception Bergwein). Landwein/Country Wine: Must be sourced exclusively from a single wine-growing region. Minimum of 14 °KMW (70 °Oe), minimum 6% vol alcohol, minimum 4 g/l total acidity, maximum 6 g/l residual sugar. Bergwein/Mountain Wine: the deisgnation may be used for table wine, country wine and quality wine provided the grapes are sourced from terraced or sloping sites with a gradient of more than 26%, and provided the wine was produced in Austria. Quality wine or Quality wine b. A. (bestimmten Anbaugebiets, from a specified region): Minimum of 15 °KMW (73° Oe), alcohol content minimum 9% vol, for predicate wines a minimum of 5% vol, minimum of 4 g/l total acidity (the previous regulations pertaining to sugar-free extract and ash were eliminated in 1999). Kabinett: Higher level of quality wine, but unlike Germany is not a predicate wine. Minimum of 17° KMW (85° Oe), maximum 13% vol alcohol content, maximum 9 g/l residual sugar. Prädikatswein/Predicate wine: Must comply with all requirements for quality wine. Residual sugar may only be derived from stopping fermentation (remainder left after fermentation is completed). The minimum alcohol content is 5% vol. Spätlese wines may not be sold before the 1st of March of the year following the harvest, the other predicate may only be sold as of the 1st of May of the year following the harvest. Starting with Auslese level there are requirements for an increasing percentage of the grapes to be overripe, dried and botrytised. Spätlese: Minimum 19 °KMW (94 °Oe); fully ripe grapes (late harvest). Auslese: Minimum 21 °KMW (105 °Oe); fully ripe. Selected grapes (special late harvest). Beerenauslese: Minimum 25 °KMW (125 °Oe); overripe and/or botrytised grapes. Ausbruch: literally: broken out) Minimum 27 °KMW (135 °Oe), exclusively overripe, botrytised, raisined grapes. Ruster Ausbruch from the Burgenland region is an Austrian speciality. Must extraction is permissible. Trockenbeerenauslese: Minimum 30 °KMW (150 °Oe); botrytised, raisined grapes. Eiswein/Ice Wine: Minimum 25 °KMW (125 °Oe). The grapes are picked and pressed in frozen condition, the water (ice) remains in the pomace. If the must weight is not achieved, the wine must be sold as a quality wine. Strohwein (straw wine, may also be called Schilfwein since 2002): Minimum 25 °KMW (125 °Oe). Must be produced from fully, ripe, sugar-rich grapes that were stored for a minimum of three months before vinification either on straw or reed mats, or were hung up on strings or something similar to dry. An amendment to the law in 2002 provides that the grapes may already be pressed two months after picking, provided the must weight is at least 30 °KMW. If the wine does not achieve the required must weight, it must be sold as a quality wine. Leading institutions, bodies, authorities and research facilities in Austria involved in viticultural research, control, organisation, teaching or publications include the BKI (Bundeskellerei-Inspektion federal inspectorate of cellars), Klosterneuburger Weinbauschule (viticultural college at Klosterneuburg), ÖWM (Österreischische Weinmarketing Gmbh Austrian Wine Marketing Company), Silberberg and Weinakademie Österreich Austrian Wine Academy.