Austria is a country which is single-mindedly pursuing the path of quality to great success. Key factors are a widespread commitment to sustainable growing and an increasing use of biodynamic viticulture. This is aided by a dynamic marketing body and the avoidance of fruity, medium Germanic styles of white.

The west of Austria is good for skiing but too mountainous for proper wine production whereas the east of the country around Vienna has rolling land and a dry climate, making it ideal for vines. About two thirds of the plantings are white grapes and one third black grapes which make red wines with softness and body. And don’t overlook the brilliant sweet wines which are world class!

Dry White

One grape, Grüner Veltliner, is almost synonymous with Austrian white and, whilst a bit of a mouthful to say, the wines can rival good Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs. It is perhaps the world’s most underappreciated white grape variety! The large Weinviertel region (literally the ‘wine quarter’) satisfies Vienna’s thirst for large amounts of spritzy, peppery Grüner Veltliner. Close to the Czech border, Wieland Baumgartner and his daughter Katharina run Austria’s largest winery producing very consistent and great value wines. They have a modest doorway in a hillside which leads into a labyrinth of tunnels containing hundreds of thousands of bottles.

South towards the River Danube is the Kamptal region, based along the River Kampt and centred on the town of Langenlois. It has a great variety of soils – with loess and schist being particularly favoured – and slopes, many of which are steep and terraced. Nearby the Kremstal region straddles the Danube valley and is based on the imposing riverside town of Krems. Just south of the river, Marlies Müller-Grossmann and her mother Helma make delicious, characterful white wines from their ten hectare estate. Travelling east up the Danube, the valley becomes more gorge-like and Riesling and Grüner Veltliner vines cling to sometimes precipitous slopes. This is the Wachau, the source of Austria’s (and some of the world’s) most expensive whites.

Burgenland is an important wine producing state south-east of Vienna where the climate is dry and more associated with the Pannonian plain in nearby Hungary. Within Burgenland Leithaberg is a broad ridge and an important area for weighty Chardonnays, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grüner Veltliner and Neuburger. Down towards Slovenia, Styria (Steiermark) is home of the ‘Styrian Classic’ style of white wines; steely with fresh acidity, Sauvignon Blanc is its signature grape. Perhaps the world’s most beautiful wine region, its capital Graz happens to be Arnie Schwarzenegger’s birthplace!


Burgenland makes the best reds in Austria from its heavier, mineral-laden soils and warm climate, especially from the north-east end of the huge, shallow lake of Neusiedlersee near the villages of Gols and Monchhof. Good reds also come from the Leithaberg area to the west of the lake, whilst the Weinviertal produces large amounts of fruity Zweigelt, a popular crossing of Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. Blaufränkisch is a dark, fruity variety whereas St. Laurent is more in the mould of Pinot Noir, but a little more powerful. Pinot Noirs can be highly successful and are now being made in a more elegant style as at the Esterházy Winery just outside Eisenstadt. The palace of the Esterházy princes, where Joseph Haydn spent much time composing music, dominates the town and the former estates, vineyards included, are now held in a national trust.


The sweet wines produced in Burgenland around Neusiedlersee are some of the best in the world and are considerably cheaper than their German equivalents! This huge shallow lake – the town of Rust even has a large marina – gives ideal conditions for Botrytis cinerea to work its magic. Rust is on the west shore and has its own DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus!) whereas the east shore villages of Illmitz and Apetlon fall within Neusiedlersee DAC. Not to be overlooked, the growers in the classic white wine producing areas in Niederösterreich such as Kamptal, Kremstal and Wachau will sometimes also make top quality, late-harvested wines and even eisweins in conducive vintages.