Although German sounding these wines sometimes outflank Burgundy in complexity, Alsace in aromatics and Sauternes on the sweet wine stakes. Gruner Veltliner may be the headliner but don't forget to read the small print.
Considerably more white wine than red is produced in Lower Austria - 44% of production is Grüner Veltliner alone. Lower Austria encompasses the easterly zone of Weinviertel, as well as, further to the west, the cluster of highly-regarded sub-regions of Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal. As a general rule, the climate is Continental, with very warm summers, and harsh winters, meaning that frost is a constant hazard. Compared to much of France, rainfall is low, at around 400-500 mm per year. The dry, warm plains around the Danube River contribute to Lower Austria’s reputation for producing important quantities of wine, whereas the cooler limestone and loess-based vineyards to the west are known foremost for their quality. The ’DAC’ (or ‘appellation’) of Kamptal lies to the west of Vienna. Its south-facing vineyards are marginally warmer during the day than its neighbours Wachau and Kremstal, due to its lower altitude. This is moderated, however, by the influence of the River Kamp during the evening. The combination of temperatures gives fine, fresh but intense wines with good structure for ageing. The clay soils of Kremstal give fuller wines, while the steeply sloping vineyards of Wachau give elegant, firm wines.
Lying southeast of Vienna, Burgenland’s lower-altitude vineyards sit next to the Hungarian border. The region is known for its outstanding sweet wines produced from ‘noble rot’ affected grapes, as well as reds from the native varieties Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and St. Laurent. With just over 13,000 hectares of vines, Burgenland is approximately half the size of Lower Austria. The influence of the large Neusiedlersee lake provides the conditions for the production of botrytised wines. The morning mists clear by the afternoon, to be replaced by the warm weather that is typical of the Pannonian plain. This plain is the reason that Burgenland is also Austria’s driest, sunniest region, and thus why it is so suitable for the ripening of red varieties. The Neusiedlersee is surrounded by vineyards in all directions. The soils tend to be rich and fertile, producing powerful and full wines, whether sweet or dry in style. The warmest vineyards are located to the east, where villages such as Gols produce the finest reds. The Mittelburgenland and Sudburgenland sit to the south of the lake and produce similar, if not as well recognised, wines. The majority of the best-known sweet wine producers lie to the west of the lake, around the town of Rust, on slightly more sheltered, limestone-based soils.