Austria - Small but Mighty

Viticulture has been practiced in Austria since 700 BCE. While the history is long, it is now that wine-growing in Austria is experiencing one of the most exciting times in the region.

Sharing borders with no less than seven different countries Austria has influence from Continental, Atlantic and Mediterranean climates. With many regional differences present and four distinct climate zones the wines of Austria exhibit great diversity. Even with this diversity the geography and climate of the country guarantee that all offer a certain freshness, aromatic brightness and concentration.

In addition to climate, the landscape and great diversity of soil contribute to the quality and range of wines found in Austria. The wine-growing regions are clustered mostly on the north-east side of the country and situated amongst rolling hills and alongside lakes and rivers. The relatively small area covers just over 45 000 ha.

While it may be small in area, the region is rich in indigenous grape varieties. 36 grapes are authorized for quality wine production in Austria. While international varieties such as Chardonnay (aka Morillon), and Sauvignon Blanc are grown in small amounts it is the local Gruner Veltliner that is king with 31% of the region's plantings. Riesling is another star of the region, while only occupying 4% of the plantings the examples produced are overwhelmingly quality driven and there are some of the best examples of the grape in production today. The majority of grapes are indeed white with only 33% of the plantings being red. Pinot Noir succeeds in the country with the local Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent and Zwiegelt offering real excitement. (For more information on the grapes of Austria visit the Austrian Wine Board website.)

We are very lucky in Alberta to be operating with Canada's only private liquor model and we have an unparalleled selection. Austria is one area where we have only a handful of producers, however the ones we do have are truly excellent and offer a variety of wines and great values. There are options for almost all categories of liquor retailers. Some of my favourite producers who consistently offer value and quality are (link to availability in Alberta):

Hiedler

Gut Oggau

Brundlmayer

Gruber Roschitz

Huber

Reinisch

Weninger Franz

After having the opportunity to attend VieVinum in Vienna this past June I can comfortably say the regions and its wines offer consistent quality, often punching about their class. While the wines are not the least expensive on the market the value is always there and the wines of Austria can be an intriguing way to introduce your customers to a new-to-them region, reinvigorated family wineries and innovative new wines. Try some Austria today!

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