Austrian wine

Austrian wine – in the twenty-five years since the Austrian wine industry splattered itself across the windscreen of the anti-freeze scandal (when unscrupulous merchants were using diethylene-glycol to artificially sweeten late-harvest wines, including some eiswein as I live and breathe) it has remade itself. To the vast majority for whom Austrian wine means anything at all, it means Gruner Veltliner (Angerer Felsner, Jurtschitsch, Sepp Moser, Loimer, Prager, Schloss Gobelsburg, Steininger, Domäne Wachau, Wess, Wieninger), the classy white grape unknown there fifty years ago but now accounting for over a third of plantings. ‘Groovy’ has rocked its way in to UK supermarkets and consumers’ affections with – when it’s good – cracklingly fresh acidity and its trademark twist of white pepper. Many of the best are from the Kamptal, Kremstal and Wachau areas of Niederösterreich, north-west of Vienna (and all of the wine regions are sprinkled around the eastern edge of the country) while simple ones are served up with a bit of bread and scrape in the charmingly basic Heurigen (taverns) run (and open on a rota basis) by the producers themselves.

There’s much more to Austria than just Grüner, though, and there are world-class Rieslings (Alzinger, Bründlmayer, Eichinger, Hiedler, Hirtzberger, Nigl, Nikolaihof, Pichler, Salomon-Undhof), from their rich dry style known as Trocken in Germany and Smaragd in Austria, through to sweet wines as good as any from Germany, especially around the Neusiedlersee (Kracher), and international varieties as well (Tement, Velich). Reds from native varieties Blaufränkisch, the best from Burgenland on the opposite side of the capital: Feiler-Artinger, Heinrich , Nittnaus , Pittnaeur , Prieler , Schrock ; Zweigelt (Schreiner) and St Laurent (Pfaffi) – when you can find them, especially in restaurants – offer the sort of value that comes in sackcloth and ashes. The number of organic, biodynamic and just plain bonkers-but-brilliant producers (such as Angerer and Opitz) also seems evidence of a real desire to wipe that windscreen clean.

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