The Wine Regions of Austria: Lower Austria
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.
Lower Austria, called “Niederösterreich”, is divided into 8 sub-regions: Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal, Danubelands, Traisental, Carnuntum, Weinvertel, and Thermenregion. Calling this region “Lower Austria” may be a bit confusing. As mentioned above, the four main wine regions of Austria are all in proximity to Vienna, and so are all in the eastern half of the country. Of the four, Lower Austria is the northernmost. Geographically, one might think of the area to the North as being “upper”, not “lower.” In this case, it is called “lower” due to its lower altitude, not latitude. Burgenland, however, claims the lowest altitudes of the four regions, but nonetheless, it is this higher, more northern region that is called Lower Austria.
The Wachau, while not the largest region (that claim to fame belongs to Weinvertel) is perhaps the best known of the 8 sub-regions. There are 3500 acres of vines, mostly Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, planted on the steeply terraced vineyards above the Danube River. The area also grows Sauvignon Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Neuburger, Gelber Muskateller, and Chardonnay (which they used to call “Feinburgunder”). There is a regional association called the “Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus” that labels the wines under three classifications: Steinfeder (light, young and racy), Federspiel (elegant and medium-bodied), and Smaragd (complex, ripe and powerful). Some of the most famous wineries of this association include Alzinger, Donabaum (Johann), Gritsch Mauritiushof, Högl, Knoll, Pichler and Prager.
Kremstal and Kamptal produce some wines that are equal in quality to those of the Wachau, which isn’t surprising since the western part of Kremstal is geologically identical to its better-known neighbor. Then in the Kamptal region there is this enormous crag called the Hell Rock, around which the old-vine Rieslings yield beautiful wines. The best-known wines from these two regions come from the wineries of Nigl, Schloss Gobelsburg, Brundylmayer, Jurtschitsch and Marion Ebner’s Melusine.
Weinviertel means “wine quarter”, and is named so because it is the largest wine producing area in all of Austria (45,000 acres.) The wine quarter encompasses the Danubelands, Traisental, and Carnuntum. It has a varying terroir as you move across from where it borders the Pannonian southeast European climate (thick layers of loess as well as lime, silicates, and clay) to the northern border with the Czech Republic (where they grow red wines), west to it’s southern edge of the Danubelands (a relatively “new” wine growing area) and east to Carnuntum (more thick loess, but gravel deposits from the Danube and small areas of loam.) Grüner Veltliner is a specialty here, where its aroma is distinct from those made in the Wachau, Kremstal or Kamptal regions.
Thermenregion means “thermal region,” named for the volcanic fault line that runs through and the many public spas it has. The conditions here are comparable to those of the Cote d’Or, with a climate that is mild, and heavy, rocky soils of limestone and clay that produce intense white wines and full-bodied reds. They have had the right to sell wine since the 13th century here, and the main varietals are Neuburger and Pinot Blanc, with the best known coming from the winemakers of Gumpoldskirchen.
Article Author: Emily Schindler
Emily Schindler is a wine importer based in Los Angeles. To learn more about her company, read more articles about wine, or to find great Austrian wines, visit www.winemonger.com.