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The Wine Regions of Austria – Focus on Vienna

The wine regions of Austria are divided into 4 areas, called Lower Austria, Styria, Burgenland, and Vienna. Each of these regions is then further divided, for a total of 19 designated wine growing areas. To roughly get your bearings, Lower Austria encompasses the wine growing areas north and west of Vienna, with Burgenland south and east of Vienna and Styria south and west of Burgenland.

Vienna is the only national capital in the world with an economically significant wine industry within its city limits. Some 400 wine growers work the 1730 acres, producing a range of wines from fantastic to merely drinkable, the latter being loved mixed with sparkling mineral water and called G’Spritzr, which is bought in the jolly wine-gardens known as Heurige. In fact, nearly all of the wine produced in the vineyards of Vienna is used to slake the thirst of the Viennese, with only very small amounts being exported. This Heurige culture dates back to the time of Charlemagne, but was officially recognized in 1784 by Emperor Josef II. Today there are about 180 licensed Heurige in Vienna, and there is nothing quite as enjoyable as a summer afternoon spent outside at a long Heurige table, drinking the local wine and tasting the local foods.

The oldest Viennese vineyards are officially documented in 1132, but the winegrowing tradition started in Vienna with the Celts, when the city was a village called Vidunia whose people planted vines on the slopes of what are now known as the Vienna Woods. A more systematic viticulture came with the Roman Empire, when the village was a military port called Vindobona. By the middle ages, vineyards were planted in every part of the city, and the winemaking culture was so vital that when the Turks laid siege to the city, the Viennese held them off bravely until the Turks started burning the vineyards. That was too much to bear. They surrendered.

The region is divided roughly into two areas: the Bisamberg to the Northeast, with its loam and gravel loess, and the Kahlenberg in the northwest, with its shell limestone. It is widely accepted that the best vineyards are in the Kahlenberg, and the best of those is the Nussberg, which is planted predominantly with Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. The vital wine districts of Vienna include Heiligenstadt (of which Nussberg is a part), Sievering, Neustift am Walde, and Grinzing. The wine districts of Bisamberg are called Stammersdorf, Strebersdorf, and Jedlersdorf.

The main grape variety grown in Vienna is Grüner Veltliner, but one can find Riesling, Neuburger, Traminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Cabernet Sauvignon and a few other varietals planted as well. The best wines come from the wineries Wieninger, Winzerhof, Zahel, Christ, and Weingut der Stadt Wien Cobenzl. Wieninger’s vineyards include the well-known Nussberg, so a excellent bet would be to seek out his Grüner Veltliner Nussberg (2000 is a excellent vintage) and his Nussberg Alte Reben, which is a cuvee of a few different varietals. While it may be hard to find these wines in your local shop, a search online will produce a few different places to buy the fantastic wines of Austria.

Emily Schindler is a wine importer with the Schindler Weissman Company, based in Los Angeles. To read more of her wine writing, or to find fantastic wines from Austria, visit winemonger.com winemonger.com

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