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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
|Austrian Wine Label Terminology|
|Abfüller||Bottler or shipper|
|Federspiel||Elegant, mid-weight Wachau wine (11.5% to 12.5% ABV)|
|Smaragd||Rich, ripe Wachau wine (over 12.5% ABV)|
|Steinfeder||Light, tangy Wachau wine (up to 11.5% ABV)|
Many of these terms, and various others, also appear on German wine labels.
© 2014 Wine-Searcher™