Episode 42: Hallo Österreich! Or, Hello Austria!
In this episode, we take a little trip to Austria. Sometimes confused with its neighboring Germany; Austria has its own unique wine culture and despite having to revamp its reputation after the 1980's it has become a leader in wine innovation and quality.
Pop Some Bottles:
We're featuring a lovely red wine that was actually create in Austria, yes we said created. This is Zweigelt, its a cross between Blaufrankisch and Saint Laurent and this particular bottle is made by Zantho. In this episode we get more into both the producers of this wine and also Zweigelt itself exploring who made it and why.
We also of course explore Austria as a region to get a handle of what kind of wines they can grow and produce.
Austria is a mountainous, landlocked country in Central Europe. Has been enjoying a renaissance as a wine-producing nation. It has worked its way free from the decades-old controversy caused by a careless few, has emerged as a role model for modern European wine, and has been a leader in quality and innovation.
Viticulture in Austria dates back to Roman times. Evidence of vineyard cultivation surrounding Carnuntum and Thermenregion suggests that vines were planted here 2000 years ago. The steep terraces along the Danube River and its tributaries in Wachau and Kamptal were built by monks from monasteries in Bavaria and Salzburg. So there you have it, Romans and Monks. The vineyards of Vienna have a rich tradition of Heurigen (meaning both wine tavern and the wine served inside), where locals can enjoy the proprietor's homemade wines.
Austrian Wine Scandal
And of course, we can't talk about Austria without touching on their famous wine scandal.
For much of the 20th Century, Austria was associated with sweet, mass-produced wine made of Gruner Veltliner and Muller-Thurgau. Producers are now focussing more on crisp, dry wine styles, some of which age very well.
This move to drier wines partly resulted from the The 1985 Austrian diethylene glycol wine scandal. It was an incident in which several Austrian wineries illegally altered their wines using the toxic substance diethylene glycol (a minor ingredient in some brands of antifreeze) to make the wines appear sweeter and more full-bodied in the style of late harvest wines. Many of these Austrian wines were exported to West Germany, some of them in bulk to be bottled at large-scale West German bottling facilities. At these facilities, some Austrian wines were illegally blended into German wines by the importers, resulting in diethylene glycol ending up in some bulk-bottled West German wines.
The scandal was uncovered by wine laboratories performing quality controls on wines sold in West Germany and immediately made headlines worldwide. The affected wines were immediately withdrawn from the market. Many involved in the scandal were sentenced to prison or heavy fines in Austria and West Germany.
The short-term effect of the scandal was a complete collapse of Austrian wine exports and a total loss of reputation of the entire Austrian wine industry, with a significant adverse impact on the reputation of German wines. The long-term effect was that the Austrian wine industry focused their production on other wine types than previously, primarily dry white wines instead of sweet wines, and increasingly targeted a higher valued wines. It took the Austrian wine industry over a decade to recover. As a result Austria also enacted much stricter wine laws.
More Austrian Wine Please!
Of course we don't just stop there. In this episode we also cover the major grapes that are grown in Austria, different Austrian wine regions, something called Pannonia which is a very specific area of land with some interesting climactic and weather conditions.
Its all very interesting and helpful information as you journey into the world of Austrian wines. But we wanted to keep it fun too so we also tell you the story about a pretty powerful woman, from a famously incestous family and how she had a hand in Austria's wine industry and the modern movement to preserve the styles of wine she would have been drinking in the 18th century.
Grab a glass a join us! Prost!
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