Austrian wines you should try based on your favourite vino
Austria’s grapes might be nearly impossible to pronounce, but they more than make up for their tongue-twisting nature with flavour, balance, and complexity.
According to the country’s wine laws, 26 white and 14 red varietals can be used in the production of the quality-controlled vino known as qualitätswein — and to give you a better idea of what these are all about, we decided to run down a list of the country’s most popular grapes with relation to better-known, drink-every-night kind of sips.
If you like pinot noir, try blaufränkisch and zweigelt
If we’re being honest, pinot noir lovers should drop everything and hop on the first available flight to Vienna, because nearly all the country’s red wines resemble the heartbreaker grape in some delicious form or another.
Blaufränkisch in particular has been nicknamed the ‘pinot noir of the east,’ and it’s easy to see why. We’ve got elegance! We’ve got acidity! We’ve got peppery punchiness! We’ve got nuanced flavours of spice and dark fruit!
And if you want to give your pinot fiending taste buds yet another new drop to gab about, get your mitts on some zweigelt. The most-planted red grape in Austria, zweigelt (dare we say it?) might actually have more in common with pinot than blaufränkisch does. It’s similarly tart and spicy, and it generally shows more of the red fruit and black pepper notes we expect in a good pinot noir. Try the Allram Blauer Zweigelt Rosé to get a refreshing taste of what we’re talking about.
If you like grenache, try Saint-Laurent
So, Saint-Laurent (sometimes written as Sankt Laurent) actually belongs to the same grape family as pinot noir — but we really wanted to give y’all a bit of red variety here, so we’re throwing this native Austrian in bed with grenache instead.
Saint-Laurent typically shows structure alongside smooth silkiness and bouncy notes of Bing cherry (all characteristics it shares with pinot), but it’s also partial to some deeper undertones of blackberry, bergamot, and spice, which we think grenache enthusiasts will appreciate.
If you like sauvignon blanc, try grüner veltliner
All hail the signature grape of Austria! The European country might play motherland to several indigenous white varietals, but they’re dwarfed by the shadow of grüner veltliner, far and away Austria’s most popular wine and easily its biggest overseas success.
Good grüner is almost the vino equivalent of sour candy, with mouth-puckering citrus flavours (lime, lemon, and grapefruit galore) alongside peppery green notes and a take-no-prisoners dryness. It’s right up the sauvignon blanc devotee’s alley, and you can explore here.
If you like gewürztraminer, try Austrian riesling
Riesling’s not native to Austria (that honour belongs to Germany), but it is the country’s most popular white wine after grüner veltliner.
Mineral-edged with sky-high acidity and juicy pumps of citrus and stone fruit, Austrian riesling often drinks a bit rounder in texture and mouthfeel than its German counterpart — which is why we think gewürztraminer gurus should give it a shot.
If you like oaked chardonnay, try a rotgipfler-zierfandler blend
Most often seen blended together, rotgipfler and zierfandler have been described as the marsanne and roussanne of Austria. Rotgipfler’s the rich and warm one, contributing succulent notes of yellow fruit and stone fruit, while zierfandler holds it down in the freshness department, adding some much-needed levity to these scrumptious (and unique) wines.
All up, the spicy-nutty-refreshing balancing act inherent in these blends presents an excellent intro to Austrian wine for the ardent fanbase of oaked chardonnay.
Keen to give some of these linguistically challenging beauties a taste? Start your Austrian wine journey here.