Regions And Producers
Reading an Austrian wine label
Niederosterreich (lower Austria)
Steiermark (Styria)
Wien (Vienna)

With 1,358ha (3,355 acres) under vine, the Wachau is one smallest wine regions of Austria, but the source of the country's best white wines. The Gruner Veltliner and Riesling grape varieties dominate the area though you may also encounter Neuburger and Muller-Thurgau (known locally as Riesling-Sylvaner). Terraced vineyards skirt the Danube gorge for 16km (10 miles). Outstanding volcanic soils and micro-climates give wines that are rich in extract and powerfully flavoured.

The Wachau has, rather confusingly, devised its own quality categories, which appear on the label. The lightest wine is Steinfeder (maximum 10.7 alcohol), followed by Federspiel (about 1 1.5). The richest wines, equivalent to a German dry Spatlese, are designated Smaragd and have at least 12; these are usually made from low-yielding, late-harvested grapes from out-standing sites, and can be world-class wines with considerable ageing potential. Vineyards of singular merit are often specified on the label, prefixed by the word Ried.

Top winemakers are Franz Hirtzberger, Emmerich Knoll, Nikolaihof, F X Pichler and Franz Prager, followed by Leo Alzinger, Josef Jamek, Rudolf Pichler and the Freie Weingartner Wachau cooperative.

Wine regions of the world.

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