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Austrian Wine Label Information

Austria's wine labels have traditionally followed a similar format to those of Germany, although the DAC system introduced in 2001 represents a shift towards the appellation system developed in France. A good Austrian wine label will display the producer's name and location, the wine's region/village/vineyard of origin, its sweetness, the grape variety it's made from, and an indication of the grapes' ripeness level (Prädikat).

Below is an example label (from Weinviertel), and below that an overview of Austria's wine classifications and terminology. For comprehensive information on Austria and its wines, see Austrian Wine Regions.

The three official tiers of Austrian wine quality are:

  • Prädikatswein: the top tier of Austrian wine quality classification, further sub-divided into seven Prädikat. The term Prädikat means 'distinction'. Austria's wine classification is strongly based around grape ripeness (must weight). This is graded on the KMW Klosterneuberg Mostwaage scale. One degree KMW means 1g of sugar per 100g of grape must. There are five Prädikats:
    • Spätlese: means 'late harvest'. Spätlese wines are made from grapes picked at least a week after the start of the standard harvest, at a minimum of 19 KMW.
    • Auslese: means 'selected harvest'. Auslese wines are made from ripe grapes (min. 21 KMW) affected to some degree by botrytis.
    • Beerenauslese (BA): means 'berry selection'. Super-ripe grapes (min. 25 KMW) remain on the vine and are 'selected' only if affected by botrytis.
    • Ausbruch: denotes a wine made exclusively from botrytis-affected berries. The most famous of these, Ruster Ausbruch, comes from the western shores of the Neusiedlersee.
    • Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA): means 'dry berry selection'. Grapes are left on the vine until reaching a botrytized and raisin-like state, with highly concentrated sugars (30 KMW).
    • Eiswein: means 'ice wine', and indicates that the grapes (min. 25 KMW) were harvested and pressed while naturally frozen.
    • Strohwein / Schilfwein: literally 'straw wine' and 'reed wine'. Grapes (min. 25 KMW) are air-dried, traditionally on mats made of straw or reeds, to concentrate their flavors and sugars.

  • Qualitätswein: Austria's second tier of wine quality classification. It means literally 'quality wine'. All Qualitätswein comes from an officially recognized Austrian wine-growing region (e.g. Kremstal), and is made from one or more of 35 permitted grape varieties.
  • Landwein: means 'country wine', just like Vin de Pays. Falls under the Euro-wide IGP category.

DAC: Districtus Austriae Controllatus

Austria's DAC wine classification system was introduced in 2001. More than just a geographical indicator, each DAC title represents both a region and its definitive wine style. The Kamptal DAC title, for example, is reserved exclusively for the wine styles which best represent the Kamptal region: dry, aromatic white wines made from Gruner Veltliner or Riesling. In this way DAC is more like the appellation system used in France, Italy and Spain than the traditional Germanic system. Each DAC has two subtly different sub-styles: Klassik for lighter, fruit-driven wines and Reserve for slightly weightier wines, possibly with a subtle influence of oak or botrytis.

As at July 2014 there are 9 Austrian DAC titles:

  • Eisenberg DAC (Blaufrankisch)
  • Kamptal DAC (Gruner Veltliner, Riesling)
  • Kremstal DAC (Gruner Veltliner, Riesling)
  • Leithaberg DAC (Gruner Veltliner, Weissburgunder, Chardonnay, Blaufrankisch)
  • Mittelburgenland DAC (Blaufrankisch)
  • Neusiedlersee DAC (Zweigelt)
  • Traisental DAC (Gruner Veltliner, Riesling)
  • Weinviertel DAC (Gruner Veltliner)
  • Wiener Gemischter Satz DAC (traditional white blend from Vienna)

The DAC system has not replaced the Prädikatswein system as such, but in regions which have a DAC title, this takes precedence over any consideration of Prädikat. This dual system can make understanding Austrian wine labels rather challenging. Much easier to identify and understand are Austria's unique capsules and screw-caps, which are decorated with red and white stripes (the Austrian flag). These denote a quality wine that has passed official quality testing procedures.

Steinfeder, Federspiel & Smaragd

The famous Wachau has opted out of the DAC system. Instead, the quality and style of the region's wines are communicated by the terms Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd. This three-tier system was created by the Vinea Wachau - a winegrowers' alliance similar to Germany's VDP.

VDP logo Wachau's Steinfeder, Federspiel & Smaragd wines

Steinfeder wines are the lightest in style: fresh, fruity and tangy, with a maximum of 11.5% ABV. The word Steinfeder means 'stone feather', and is the name of a light, wispy, feather-like grass that grows on Wachau's stony terraces.

Federspiel wines are the middleweight category, with the power and elegant precision of a hunting falcon (federspiel means 'falconry') and 11.5% - 12.5% alcohol.

Smaragd wines are the richest and fullest-bodied, with a minimum of 12% alcohol. Smaragd translates literally as "emerald" but refers here to a distinctive, emerald-green lizard which basks on Wachau's sun-baked stone terraces.

The three labels above are used exclusively by Wachau wines - most commonly dry, white Riesling and Gruner Veltliner but also the occasional rosé made from Zweigelt.

Austrian Wine Label Terminology
AbfüllerBottler or shipper
FederspielElegant, mid-weight Wachau wine (11.5% to 12.5% ABV)
ErzeugerabfüllungProducer-bottled wine
GutsabfüllungEstate-bottled wine
RotweinRed wine
SmaragdRich, ripe Wachau wine (over 12.5% ABV)
SteinfederLight, tangy Wachau wine (up to 11.5% ABV)
WeingutWine estate
WeissweinWhite wine
WinzergenossenschaftWinegrowers co-operative

Many of these terms, and various others, also appear on German wine labels.

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