Austria to Introduce Premier and Grand Crus

Austria has laid down a legal foundation for an official nationwide vineyard classification system.

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Chris Yorke examines grapes in a promising vineyard site (Photo: ÖWM/Anna Stöcher)
Chris Yorke examines grapes in a promising vineyard site (Photo: ÖWM/Anna Stöcher)

While Austria is familiar with the concept of vineyard sites, locally known as "Rieden", there has not been a nationwide, statutory classification system until now. This is set to change, according to a communication from the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (ÖWM).

The Wine Law Consolidation Ordinance of 2023 was recently passed, intended to serve as the legal basis for an official national vineyard classification system. However, the first classifications under this framework are not expected before 2025. "With the 2023 Consolidation Ordinance, the foundation has been laid for Austria's Rieden to be officially classified under a unified system. The decision to classify Rieden is up to each region, as the significance of individual sites varies from one region to another," says Chris Yorke, CEO of ÖWM.

Regulations and late implementation

For DAC wines from officially classified sites, the terms "Erste Lage" (Premier Cru) and “Große Lage” (Grand Cru) will be permissible – coupled with a lower maximum yield per hectare and a mandatory hand harvest. The respective DAC region must also adopt a three-tiered system comprising regional wines, village wines, and site-specific wines. The similarities with the VDP's site classification are evident. The VDP, in turn, is currently working on its own vineyard classification.

For a DAC region to classify its top vineyards, a document must be submitted to the National Wine Committee. This document should detail the history, soil, geology, climate, and exposure of the site, as well as the marketing quantity (in value and volume) of the site. Furthermore, the quality potential of the site must be demonstrated through factors like national and international wine ratings. A site must also be classified as a "Erste Lage" for five years before it can be elevated to "Große Lage" status – with more conditions yet to be specified. According to Chris Yorke, the first "Erste Lage" from Austria is not anticipated before 2025, with a "Große Lage" consequently not expected before 2030.

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