October 16, 2017 – As of this date, Austria has a tenth specific DAC winegrowing region: Schilcherland DAC – in the west of the federal state of Steiermark (Styria), formerly known as ‘Weststeiermark’. Here, the red wine variety Blauer Wildbacher is vinified into a rosé wine called Schilcher. Following an extended political process of discussion, pending changes to the DAC regulations were announced on 11.10.17. The new regulation concerning Schilcherland DAC was integrated into the collective amendment.
DAC – a guarantee of quality and origin
Back in 2001, an amendment to existing laws in Austria created the possibility of establishing regionally typical wines, defined by the regional wine committees, for which the supplemental designation ‘DAC’ (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) would be appended to the name of the growing region. Only these wines, legitimised by means of the federal inspection number and a further evaluation with regard to typicity, would be allowed to state their origin in a specific growing region on the label. All other wines would henceforth be marketed bearing the name of the superordinate wine-growing region (an Austrian federal state, for example Burgenland or Niederösterreich). In 2003, the first regionally typical wine with protected designation of origin came on the market, in the form of a dry Grüner Veltliner, as ‘Weinviertel DAC’.
Schilcher: rosé wine of Blauer Wildbacher
Now Schilcherland DAC has joined the ranks as the tenth specific winegrowing region on the DAC roster. It encompasses the former growing region Weststeiermark (546 hectares) as well as the cadastral municipality Obergreith. Only wines at the Qualitätswein level may be released to the market bearing this designation, either as ‘Schilcherland DAC Klassik’ or ‘Schilcherland DAC’ with the obligatory indication of a vineyard (Ried) name. These wines must be harvested 100% from the grape variety Blauer Wildbacher, then vinified as a rosé. The grapes must be harvested by hand in the region defined, and the wine must be bottled exclusively in glass bottles, sealed with closures of cork, screwcap or glass. Nominal volumes of 1 litre or 2 litres are not permitted.
Wines designated as Schilcherland DAC must conform to diverse legal specifications. For the consumer it is above all interesting how this rosé wine – which has in the meantime found a following far and wide beyond the borders of the Steiermark (Styria) – ought to taste. A Schilcherland DAC Klassik must be finished dry, and have a minimum alcohol content of 11% as well as a maximum alcohol content of 12%. Its flavour must be refreshing and fruit-forward, and ought to show aromatics of strawberry, red currant and raspberry. Notes of elderflower and cassis are also considered to be classic expressions, but there should be no perception of oak to taste.
Schilcherland DAC with vineyard (Ried) designation should evince the same flavour profile, although it should have greater presence and more intensity; the alcohol content must be a minimum of 12%. The word ‘Ried’ must precede the name of the vineyard on the label – this is done so that the consumer can easily distinguish a wine from a single vineyard site from one having a proprietary name or fantasy nickname.
For the name, Schilcher must thank its shimmering (‘schillernd in German’) play of colours, in a variety of rosé tones ranging from bright to deep pink. The first recorded mention comes from the writer Johann Rasch, who in 1580 refers to ‘Schiller’; since then this wine can reference continual mention in the cellar books of today’s Weststeiermark. Archduke Johann (1782–1859) is also recognised as a sponsor of Schilcher production; he launched the first ‘Schilcher nursery‘, and was thus responsible for an appreciable expansion of the area under vines planted to the grape variety Blauer Wildbacher.