The Wachau, long a haven for cycling enthusiasts, has become one of the world’s most exciting wine destinations – along with France, Italy, Portugal, Germany and South Africa. Stretching along the Danube between the legendary Austrian towns of Melk and Krems, the region specializes in dry, white wines that are among the best white wines in the world.
The most famous of these wines are made most commonly from Riesling and Grüner Veltliner grapes; however, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Gelber Muskateller, Pinot blanc, Traminer and Sauvignon blanc are varieties which are grown here too.
Perhaps you only know Rieslings from Germany or France. Or you think of Grüner Veltliners as a wine only Austrians drink—although the wine has been rising in popularity as enthusiasts from across the globe discover its complexities and special flavor? The wines from the Wachau are like no others.
The terroir and grapes of the Wachau truly define the essence of its wine. And while the steep terraced vineyards and cool climate may be reminiscent of those that grow along the Rhine, Wachau wines are utterly unique. So much so that the wines even utilize their own classification system, designed only for the Wachau.
These three classification levels include Steinfeder for wines up to 11.5% alcohol level, Federspiel for wines between 11.5%-12.5% and Smaragd for wines with a 12.5% alcohol level or higher. (In contrast, much of the rest of Austria follows a classification system that mirrors Germany’s, which is based on must weight at harvest.) In 1983, a group of vintners united to form a trade association to both promote the wineries and protect the image and integrity of the region. Currently 200 members strong, and collectively owning more than 85% of the vineyards of the Wachau, the Vinea Wachau association follows strict rules of only utilizing white wine for production, not allowing their wines to be chaptalized or back-sweetened with süssreserve (unfermented grape must) and all wines are only sold in three sizes (standard 750 mL, 375 mL and 1.5 L magnums). All wines are also tested by members for quality assurance.