July 1, 2016 – There’s something going on in Austria. In the first six months of 2016, resolutions were passed providing for numerous new developments in the Austrian wine law. On the 14th of June, these reforms came into effect in the form of an amendment to the Wine Law of 2009, encompassing – among other matters – modifications to the existing appellatives of wineproducing regions and vineyards. Austria uses the term “Ried”, plural “Rieden”, to indicate single vineyard sites, the word is unique to Austria and not used in Germany. The amendment also includes a redefinition of Ruster Ausbruch, a noblesweet wine. One true milestone for the Austrian wine sector was set with the regulations for Austrian Sekt. Along with the “normal” Austrian Quality Sparkling Wine, Austrian Sektwith Protected Designation of Origin (Sekt g.U.) is now defined by law.
Great steps were made toward better demarcation in the origin of wines. In order to avoid unnecessary duplication, the Burgenland wineproducing appellations Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland have been eliminated. In the future, all Qualitätswein from Burgenland will show the generic wine-growing region “Burgenland” on the label. Only the regionally typical DAC wines shall henceforth be permitted to bear the designation of their specific wine-growing regions – Neusiedlersee DAC, Leithaberg DAC, Mittelburgenland DAC or Eisenberg DAC. Parallel to this, the Grosslage (large vineyard site) “Südburgenland” is being created to replace the former Grosslagen “Pinkatal” and “Geschriebenstein”. Pursuant to the amendment, the wine-growing region “Süd-Oststeiermark” in the hilly southeast of Austria shall be renamed “Vulkanland Steiermark” – far more expressive in the conceptual sense.
A tailwind for the “Rieden”
The demarcation of single vineyard sites, which is currently proceeding according to plan in all wineproducing regions, received new impetus as well from the amendment to the wine law. It has been determined that wines with a vineyard designation mustbear the word “Ried” on the label before the name of the vineyard. When the word “Ried” appears before a geographic (topographic) designation, this will indicate that the wine has come from a legally defined single vineyard site. With this provision, wines from single vineyards become recognisable at a glance to the consumer, easily distinguished from branded wines or wines with spurious indications of origin. Growing consciousness about the importance of a clear system for indicating origins also found expression in the regions Kamptal, Kremstal and Traisental: the DAC-wines of these regions have been arranged according to law in a benchmark three-tier system – “Regional-”, “Village-” or “Single Vineyard-” wine; in this structure, classification of the wines must observe a predetermined minimum alcohol content.
Ausbruch: exclusively from the Free City of Rust
Special attention was paid as well to Austrian Prädikat wines, and here in particular to the Ausbruch. With the changes to the wine law coming into effect, the term “Ausbruch” is defined as a Trockenbeerenauslese – and as an exclusive, protected indication of origin for Ruster Ausbruch – thus reserved for Trockenbeerenauslesen from Rust. No other wines may henceforth bear the designation “Ausbruch”.
Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin
In a process of discussions taking place over the course of several years, the Austrian Sekt Committee – together with a committee of growers conducting their own tirage, in concert with experts of the Winegrower’s Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and the Federal Agricultural Ministry – have developed new regulations with the goal of enhancing the position of Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin (Sekt g.U.). Building upon this, the amendment to the wine law now provides that the Minister for Agriculture and Forestry, Water and the Environment is empowered to determine and specify all details pertaining to Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin by means of an ordinance to be filed under seal at a future date.
This ministerial decree will – among other things – stipulate that Austrian Sekt with Protected Designation of Origin can be sold only when bearing the defining terms “Klassik”, “Reserve”, or “Grosse Reserve”. Hereby the sales description must be composed of the category (Österreichischer Qualitätsschaumwein or Sekt), the name of the protected designation of origin (in the cases of Klassik and Reserve, solely the name of the Austrian federal state; in the case of Grosse Reserve: federal state and municipality or part of it; in special cases also Grosslage or Ried.) and the term “geschützte Ursprungsbezeichnung” (Protected Designation of Origin) or “g.U.”. Furthermore, the regulations and the conditions applying to its enactment will also establish standards with regard to methods of vinification and interval of élevage on the lees, as well as alcohol content and residual sugar content for the individual tiers.
Austrian wine: full speed ahead
Standstill is a step backwards – that’s the motto! All individuals in positions of responsibility are currently working with greatdedication and positive energy to finely tune the unique and distinctive profile of Austrian wine and write the next chapter in its startling success story. The course has been laid-in toward a successful future for the wine of Austria – and we can certainly be excited at the prospects, imagining where the voyage will lead over the next few years.