A Fascinating Gesamtkunstwerk The Wachau, a UNESCO World Heritage landscape, is a true gem and probably Austria’s most significant wine region. Three factors make it so: the unique river landscape, the typical terraced vineyards and the delicately fruity Rieslings and Grüne Veltliners produced here.
The Wachau is not only a UNESCO World Heritage landscape with scenery that brings a smile to your face, it is also the most famous wine region of Lower Austria with 1,350 ha in cultivation. This narrow section of the Danube Valley gracefully lines the river between Krems and Melk. Travelers like stopping here and enjoying the unique combination of nature, culture and world-famous wine. Grapes thrive in the characteristic weathered soils found in the terraced vineyards built for us centuries ago. The cool winds from the Waldviertel highlands combine with the moderating influence the Danube has on temperature to lend the Wachau wines their grand flavor and elegance while the Pannonian winds from the east give the Wachau wines their power and fullness. The local Rieslings are of course known the world over but Grüne Veltliners, Neuburgers and Gelbe Muskatellers are also greatly esteemed by wine mavens.
Abbeys from Salzburg and Bavaria saw to the cultivation of terraced vineyards in the Wachau wine region starting in the 9th century. The walls of the terraces are made of natural rock and were built to prevent the thin fertile soils from sliding down into the valley. It is hard work to care for and maintain the rock walls but also a wonderful duty for each winemaker. The best vineyards are in the middle of the terraced slopes. Not only can cold air flow off from this area, the sun also shines the most intensely here and the grapes are amply aired.
Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus (www.vinea-wachau.at ) is an association of winemakers dedicated to protecting the Wachau wine region. Along with the usual Austrian quality categories, Vinea Wachau winemakers apply the protected labels “Steinfeder”, “Federspiel” and “Smaragd”.
Steinfeder Charmingly fruity with a maximum of 11.5% alcohol by volume, The name itself refers to the typical "Steinfedergras” (Stipa pinnata), a grass which grows near the vines; it is light as a feather and fragrant – just like the wine named after it. Federspiel Federspiel wines are more nuanced and stronger in character with 11.5% and 12.5% alcohol by volume. Smaragd The premier class is Smaragd. This top category begins with a natural alcohol content of 12.5% by volume and is the best and most precious wine the Wachau has to offer. Heurige App With “myWachau”, Vinea Wachau presents an app that allows you to discover in a new way just what makes the Wachau wine region so special. It has never been easier for people to visit a winery, find an open heuriger or get their bearings in the vineyards.
Young Rieslings have a charming fruitiness und spice that allows them to mature into grand, complex wines. In these wines, the flavors of stone fruit such as peach, apricot and exotic fruits predominate. The wines are lent a mineral note reminiscent of slate or flint from the terroir in the Wachau, Krems Valley and Kamp Valley in particular. Riesling matures slowly as wine and reaches the pinnacle of its quality as an aged wine with rose-like aromas. A pleasant petroleum note emerges as the wine ages, which is off-putting to some wine drinkers. Grapes infested with noble rot that are left on the vines till late in the season are used for making wines of exceptional quality known in German as Auslese and Beerenauslese wines.
Grüne Veltliners run the gamut of quality from light, acidic wines to fully mature premium vintages. The location and yield are decisive determinants of quality. Spicy, peppery wines are preferred or fruity aromas reminiscent of stone fruit.
Neuburger usually results in powerful, full-bodied yet mild wines with a neutral taste. In their youth, these wines are spicy and floral; later they take on a nutty flavor. Well suited for making quality and premium wine.
This variety results in top quality only if grown in prime locations. Young wines are flowery with a zesty acidity; aged wines take on flavors reminiscent of bread and nuts. Wine is aged slowly and top quality is not achieved until after an extended period maturation in the bottle.
Creates wines smelling and tasting of nutmeg in varying intensities. If made from insufficiently ripe grapes, these wines are low in extract and therefore thin and with a pronounced acidity. Muskateller wine is especially suitable as an aperitif and an accompaniment to appetizers.
These wines are low in acidity but rich in extracts and aromas (roses, citrus, wild berries, raisins, dried fruit). They have a long shelf life and great aging potential. Premium wines often have residual sugar and a discrete and harmonious dryness.