While the beautiful wine crystal glasses of Austrian producer Riedel are often the most expensive and most recognized in the world, such is not the case with Austria's wine industry. Even though its origins can be traced back more than 4,000 years, it is only during the past two decades that Austria's high quality wines have reemerged onto the world wine scene.
An embarrassing wine scandal in 1985 almost did in Austria's wine reputation, oddly caused by a few insiders attempting to aid some of the country's lower caliber wines by adding unauthorized agents to the wines. Nevertheless, it has taken the better part of twenty years for Austrian producers to regain the confidence of wine aficionados across the globe.
To be sure, the Austrians have always made great wine. In fact, immediately after World War I, Austria was considered the third largest wine-producing country in the world. More than 51,000 hectares (slightly more than 126,000 acres) are currently in vine, producing twenty-two varietals of mostly dry white wine that generally stays within Austria's own borders. There are also eight varietals that produce Austria's red wines that are modeled after the Bordeaux and Burgundies of France.
It is almost impossible for Americans to realize just how many wars and crises the Austrian wine growing industry has had to endure during its existence. It seems that the country has been attacked by just about everyone and the influences of each of these attackers can be found in Austria's wine history. Napoleon, for instance, ordered the planting of a number of French varietals during his period of occupation at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the product of which is the Blaufränkisch grape that makes up one of the Blaues Haus collection. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux's premiere grape, is also said to have started in Austria under Napoleon's orders. Through many conflicts, Austria's wine growing areas have remained uniformly intact, somehow under the radar of both wine aficionados and also international wine merchants. It is a well known fact that many Germans consider Austrian wines their own special secret and continually cross the border to fill the trunks of their Mercedes' and BMW's with cases of high quality Austrian wine that they prefer to their somewhat sweeter German wines.
Fiercely loyal to their own wines, Austrians consume the greater part of their country's wine production with a small amount exported to other European countries and an even smaller amount to the rest of the world.
Austria's vineyards are basically located within the country's east and southeastern parts. There are three main wine regions. The federal states of Lower Austria (Niederösterreich), Burgenland and Styria are defined as wine-growing regions that produce the greatest amount of grapes. There are also 16 other wine-growing areas throughout the country.
The grapes themselves are a study in charmingly exotic names. The main grape is the Grüner Veltliner, which is followed in popularity by the Blauer Zweigelt and the Welschreisling. These three grape varietals account for almost 50% of the entire Austrian wine production.
Thanks to the 1985 incident mentioned above, the Austrian wine (appellation) laws are now stricter than most countries in the world. Austrian wine law is closely modeled after their German neighbor's strict system, and the country maintains a tight hand over any wines produced within its borders.
While the 1985 wine fiasco deeply embarrassed Austria as a whole, it might be considered as the starting point for the new world of Austrian wine. A relatively large number of small new producers have sprung up in the wake of the debacle and the wines currently being produced are turning heads around the globe. International awards are being garnered at a rapid pace and the world supply of Austrian wine is practically non-existent, thanks to the continuing support of everyday Austrians who are fiercely loyal to their country's wines.
All of this has been done in a little over 20 years, a minor miracle considering the age of other wine producing nations.
Austria has begun the ascension to the ranks of top wine producing nations with reliable wines and top quality standards that are strictly enforced. It is our pleasure to be able to share them with you in our International Wine Club.