Niederösterreich boasts around 60% of Austria’s vineyards, and encompases eight regions. In other words, anyone with a knowledge of Niederösterreich will also understand Austria.
The region at a glance
To understand Niederösterreich, begin in Vienna. To the west, within two hours of driving, are the regions of Wachau, Kremstal, Kamptal, Traisental and Wagram. Carnutum and Thermenregion are to the south and east, while the Weinviertal is to the north of the city.
The Weinviertel came to fame two decades ago, when it became the first region in Austria to adopt the Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC), a legal appellation that connected regions with a particular grape variety; it was a landmark because it embraced the French notion of typicity, rather than the German ideals of ripeness.
Renowned for its light, fresh wines, it’s also known today for its production of sparkling base wines, as well as its wonderful Grüner Veltliner still wines.
Other regions of note include Kamptal and Kremstal, whose mineral-laden soils contribute to the region’s elegant wines; Thermenregion, increasingly known for its excellent red wines; and Wachau, famous for Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.
Unlike the rest of Austria, Wachau has its own wine classification system, based on the ripeness level and alcohol content of the wine: Steinfeder, with a maximum of 11% abv; Federspiel, with a max of 12.5% abv; and Smaragd, with a minimum of 12.5% abv..
Overall, Niederösterreich has a continental climate, meaning it undergoes hot summers and cold winters, with fluctuating day and night temperatures. This leads to a long, drawn-out ripening period that gives wines their unique character, high acidity and often intense aromatic quality.
Not surprisingly, the climate means Niederösterreich is an ideal growing region for the kinds of elegant red wines that consumers are seeing. As well as Blaufrankish and Zweigelt, the regions also produces outstanding Pinot Noirs and Sainkt Laurent.
More reasons why Niederösterreich is special
Austrian winemakers have a reputation for being innovative, combining traditional methods with modern technology. In Niederösterreich, this includes practices like extended lees contact, cool fermentation, and the use of both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels for ageing.
And beyond the wines themselves, there’s also the landscape, replete with castles, villages and views over the Danube. Not surprisingly, wine tourism is booming here ― but what makes it so special is that visitors can immerse themselves in an authentic local experience, while paying just a fraction of the money that they would pay elsewhere, whether they’re visiting a wine festival or just tasting their way through wineries.
The future of Niederösterreich
Already the wineries in the region are seeing a major uptick in visitors. It’s not surprising ― the wines are fresh and crystalline, and comparatively low in alcohol. And the people who make them are, for the most part, dedicated winemakers from a long line of family winemakers.
This means that the time to discover the wines and the region is right now ― before everybody else learns the secret.