There was once a time when Austrian wine was about as low as you can go on the totem pole of public opinion. Its large-scale industrial producers had taken to adding minute amounts of diethylene glycol, commonly known as antifreeze, to add sweetness and roundness to the diluted base wines. While the health impacts were negligible due to the very small amounts of chemical that were added, the impact on public opinion was enormous; even for the smaller producers that never waivered from their commitment to their quality.
With the nation’s history in mind, Austria’s sordid winemaking past has greatly influenced its modern rise to stardom. By eschewing the low standards of bulk production and embracing strict regulations and a new DAC (appellation) system, Austria now produces wines that compete with the most well-respected regions in the world. Furthermore, the wines are now overwhelmingly dry, as Austria does not want to encourage any comparisons to the artificially sweetened wines of the 1980s.
While there are four main climate zones, the overarching character of Austrian wines is their aromatic freshness and nimble acidity. Grüner Veltliner is the predominant white variety and represents nearly a third of the vineyard plantings in Austria. There are also numerous world-class red wines being produced in Austria from Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch.
Even if the varietal names sound threatening, Austrian wine is worth exploring. For those who enjoy Pinot Noir, give a delectable Blaufränkisch a chance. Like a fruity Sauvignon Blanc from Napa? Venture on over to try a Grüner Veltliner: you won’t be disappointed!