“quality wine,” assuring consumers the
wine has been through both chemical
and taste tests. The most obvious is the
banderole. This is Austria’s red-and-
white striped national flag found on
all capsule tops. The other marker is
a unique State Control Number (Prüf-
nummer) found on each wine.
DAC, or Districtus Austriae Con-
trollatus, is a fairly new designation. It
means “protected Austrian declaration
of origin.” The DAC operates in the
spirit of most French, Italian and Span-
ish appellations. It emphasizes regional
character over variety. Naturally, vari-
etal character shines through; it’s just
a bit different for each DAC. Austria
currently acknowledges four for Grüner
Veltliner: Weinviertal, Traisental, Krem-
stal and Kamptal. Each also allows for a
“Reserve” level.
The Wachau, arguably the source
of Austria’s most sought-after wines,
created its own classification system in
the 1980s: Vinea Wachau Nobilis Dis-
trictus. Only members may use these
designations. Purity of provenance is
paramount. Vinea Wachau wines can
be neither chaptalized nor concentrat-
ed as the wines’ natural alcohol levels
determine their status. Furthermore, no
flavor enhancement is allowed, includ-
ing new oak barrels.
There are three different classifica-
tions for the Grüners of the Wachau:
Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd.
Steinfeder is the lightest bodied and
generally the crispest in acidity. Its
maximum alcohol by volume (ABV) is
only 11.5%. Of the three, this category
is the least imported. Federspiel also has
a maximum alcohol content—12.5%.
This is still quite a low number, so the
wines are light to medium in body.
However, certain Federspiel wines show
some glycerol that boosts their weights
and textural profiles. Finally, Smaragd
requires a minimum, not maximum, al-
cohol, beginning where Federspiel ends
(12.5%). These wines can be quite
dense, sometimes leaving an impression
of sweetness on the palate, whether real
or perceived.
Other Label Indications
Grüner Veltliners that are neither DAC
nor Vinea Wachau are likely to bear
one of three additional labels. They are,
from lightest to fullest in body, Kabinett,
Spätlese and Auslese. No wines employ-
ing these labels can be chaptalized.
Kabinett wines provide refresh-
ment. They are light-bodied with brisk
acidity and no more than nine grams
of residual sugar per liter. Compared to
the Wachau classification, these wines
fall somewhere between Steinfeder and
Federspiel but can rise to 13% ABV.
Spätlese wines step up in weight,
creamy texture and alcohol. Most
times, they are more complex than
Kabinett wines, and they command
higher prices. Spätlese resembles the
Wachau’s Smaragd.
Auslese wines are rich and can only
include the best, unblemished grapes.
These wines are usually sweet, denoted
by süss. However, they—like Kabinett
and Spätlese—can be labeled trocken,
meaning dry; extra trocken, meaning
drier than trocken; halbtrocken, mean-
Toni Silver (center) and Monika Caha (right)
created the GROONER brand in 2006 to target
price-conscious consumers looking for a fun
“new” drinking experience. Pictured here with
winemaker Meinhard Forstreiter.
Austria’s Most Noteworthy
Grüner Veltliner Regions
Best Bets
Most of the Grüner Veltliner in Austria
is grown in and around Vienna as well
as to the capital’s north and west. Here
are a few names to look out for, from
the budget-friendly to the wallet-popper,
organized by region.
Bründlmayer, Birgit
Eichinger, Hirsch, Schloss Gobelsburg
Buchegger, Forstreiter, Nigl
Markus Huber,
Ludwig Neumayer
Domäne Wachau, Franz
Hirtzberger, Josef Högl, Jamek,
Emmerich Knoll, Nicholaihof,
FX Pichler, Pichler-Krutzler,
Rudi Pichler, Prager
Karl Fritsch, Leth,
Bernhard Ott
Jutta Ambrositsch,
Mayer am Pfarrplatz, Wieninger
Graf Hardegg
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