Wine in Austria:
Travelling across the Vineyards of the East
If you decide to tour Austria off the beaten track, it is probably a good idea to find yourself something like a theme for you trip. Literature is a good one if you like to read; architecture is good or more specifically, baroque architecture. Or how about wine as a theme? The vineyards of the East date back to Celtic times and have shaped landscape, culture and cuisine of several regions. Travelling through them and experiencing the local grapes can lead to a very personal discovery of Austria.
Being from Austria′s beerbelt (Salzburg) myself, vineyards and the whole cultural context of wine has always been very exotic to me. Nevertheless - or maybe because of that - I have always been attracted to areas with a strong tradition in wine. I love the combination of good wine, good food and good company and in the gentle hills of Eastern Austria, you can find plenty of all three.
Let′s first take a closer look at Austria′s wine lands. In numbers, there are about 50,000 hectares of land used for vineyards in the country. About 32,000 "Winzer" (wine farmers) maintain them and produce an average of 2.5 million hectolitres of wine every year. The area in Austria in which wine is produced is divided into four regions called "Weinbauregionen". These are in turn subdivided into a total of 16 districts called "Weinbaugebiete".
How the vineyards are divided
Of the four Weinbauregionen, three are in the East of Austria; the fourth, the region "Bergland" consists of vineyards from the five Western provinces of Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria and Carinthia. It contains a mere 21 hectares of vineyards, about 0.05 percent of the nation′s total. I write this just to demonstrate how concentrated vine agriculture is: it all happens in the East of the country.
The biggest Weinbauregion is the "Weinland Österreich" (wine land Austria - which it quite rightfully claims being). It contains all the vineyards of Lower Austria (30,000 hectares) and the Burgenland (14,600 hectares) and therefore, almost 92 percent of the nation′s grapes. 12 of the 16 Weinbaugebiet districts are in the "Weinland Österreich".
The second-biggest Weinbauregion is the "Steirerland" (Styria) is much, much smaller: 3280 hectares of vineyards make a mere 6,8 percent of the country′s whole, and they are divided into three Weinbaugebiete districts. Finally, the Weinbauregion "Wien" (Vienna) adds 700 hectares or 1.4 percent of Austria′s vineyards. Doesn′t sound like much, however, you should keep in mind that this is agricultural production within the city limits of a European capital.
Viennese are proud of their city being the only large capital in the World with a significant production of wine. The city of Vienna owns a vineyard itself. After all, the Roman name of Vienna, Vindobona, refers to the "good wine" of the region.
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