Understanding the wine label is more than half the battle won, the other half is more enjoyable; the drinking or to be polite; tasting; at least in the professional scene. When we look at the former, the battle if often attributed to the old world wine making countries , France, Germany, Austria to name a few. Why? Because with centuries of wine making experience they know what plot is best for what grape, they have strong laws governing their viticultural and vinification process etc and all of this is manifested on the label with a few terms, it is given that people would know given their legacy, if not one ought to learn it. Nonetheless with wine going international the big guns are making amends to make their labels more approachable whilst sticking to their regulations. The Austrian wine legacy began in 1 BC when the Romans began their plantations and with those many years of wine making behind them they too have some regulations. Let’s look at pointers to look for on a label to make our Austrian Wine shopping easy
Regions and DAC(Districtus Austria Controlattus)
Quality wines from Austria come from grapes grown in one of the 25 specific wine growing regions in Austria of which 9 are generic winemaking areas and 16 specific. Again of the 16 we have 9 DACs, DAC is the highest classification and when on the label refer to region typical wines. The 9 Austrian DACs are Kremstal, Kamptal, Traisental, Weinviertal, Weiner Gemischter Satz, Neusiedlersee, Leithaberg, Mittelburgenland and Eisenburg. Spot these on the label!
Based on the sugar content of the grape when harvested, quality wines are classified into the following in an ascending order of sweetness:
Kabinett (dry wine)
Spatlese (dry or sweet wine)
Auslese (dry or sweet wine)
Beerenauslese (Sweet wines here on)
The sweetness in the final wine is indicated by use of terms as below:
Halbtrocken- Off dry
Lieblich- Medium sweet
For those of you who prefer organic and environmentally sustainable produce, look for the below logo on the bottle.
Other labeling terms
Reserve: These wine are rested for at least a year before release, have more than 13% alcohol and can take in oak and botrytis flavors.
Smaragd, Fiederspiel, Steinfeder : Restricted to the area of Wachau, these were coined when there no classification or wines. These terms again indicate the ripeness of the grape when harvested and ultimately shows in the final wine. Steinfeder is the lightest and Smaragd is the heaviest.
Lastly the most important and the easiest way to identify a quality Austrian wine is the Banderole in the form of their national flag placed on the top of the closure or on the bottle with the registered producer number.