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Everything you need to know about Austria’s wine industry

Vienna vineyard.
A vineyard on the edge of Vienna. Photo: Philipp Stelzel/Unsplash
From a Heuriger to the famous Gemischter Satz, there is a lot to learn about Austrian wine. Here’s everything you need to know.

Did you know that Austria lies on the same latitude as the Burgundy wine region in France?

That’s right, there is more to Austria than just classical music and winter sports – the Alpine Republic has a thriving wine industry as well.

So, whether you’re an established wine connoisseur or a newbie to the wine scene, here’s a useful guide to Austria’s wine industry.

Where are Austria’s wine regions?

Grapes for winemaking are grown in every federal state in Austria, but the east of the country is best known as Austria’s wine region.

Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland and Styria are the most prominent wine producing areas in Austria, and Vienna is one of the few capital cities in the world that can boast a wine industry. 

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In these regions, the land is less mountainous than in the west of Austria and the climate is slightly warmer, especially in summer and autumn. This is important for growing grapes, although Austria is still considered as a “cold climate” country when it comes to winemaking.

Today, Vienna is considered as one of the world’s classic wine regions, and wine making is so embedded in the city that there is one wine producer for every 2,500 residents.

Which wines does Austria produce?

As a country, Austria is mostly known for white wine, such as Riesling, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay. 

Due to the climate, Austria is not known for big, bold red wines as in other wine growing countries like the USA and Australia, but Austria does produce a wide selection of light red wines, such as Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt. 

Additionally, Austrian winemakers produce some famous cuvée, such as Vienna’s Gemischter Satz (a blend of at least three grapes from the same vineyard).

What is the history of wine in Austria?

Traditional winemaking in Austria is believed to go back to the 9th and 10th century BC before it was further cultivated during the Roman times, especially along the banks of the Danube River.

Viticulture (the cultivation of grape vines) then continued to develop following the fall of the Roman Empire and into Medieval times, and there are reports of the first taxation on wine in Austria in 1359.

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However, it was during the 15th and 16th centuries that viticulture really expanded across the country, even in Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Salzburg. It was also during this time that the Viennese Heuriger (wine tavern) scene began.

Before the First World War, there were 48,000 hectares of vineyards in Austria, but the collapse of the Habsburg Empire led to a decrease in vine coverage. By the 1930s there were just 30,000 hectares left.

In 1985, the Austrian wine industry was damaged again when it was revealed several producers were using diethylene glycol, a toxic substance to make wine appear sweeter and more full-bodied. It became known as the “wine scandal” and resulted in global demand for Austrian wine to drop to almost non-existent levels for several years.

Then, in 1995, Austria joined the EU and adopted the bloc’s wine laws. This was followed by excellent results during a blind tasting of Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay in London in 2002, which was the start of Austria’s return to the international wine scene.

Today, Austria has 15 DACs (Controlled District of Austria) – a classification of typical wine from a particular region – and 44,913 hectares of vines.

How much is Austria’s wine industry worth to the national economy?

During the pandemic year of 2020, a report by Austrian Wine revealed 61.8 million litres of Austrian wine was consumed in households across the country, which was an increase of 17 percent on 2019 figures. This equated to a revenue of €313.6 million.

International exports also increased in 2020 by 6.7 percent to 67.6 million litres, and revenue reached a new record of €187.3 million (an annual increase of 2.4 percent). The most popular markets for Austrian wine are Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

In the first half of 2021, the value of Austrian wine exports rose to €111 million, up by 25 percent on the same period in 2020.


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