Austria’s Symphony of Flavors
Known worldwide for its immense contribution to music, Austria is best known for its classical music luminaries such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart, Franz Schubert, Robert Haydn and Johann Strauss. Today, a well loved music group, the Vienna Boys Choir, also hails from the same country
A trip to Austria means a taste of exceptional culture. It is the land of fancy – this country has one of the highest standards of living in the world. Lest we forget, the luxury car manufacturer, Porsche, was also born here by the way.
The Roller-Coaster Ride to Prominence
Austria actually has quite a long wine history. Its wine industry can be traced as far back as 4,000 years. Viticulture was encouraged under Roman rule but saw its potential cut short by succeeding invasions. There were multiple attempts at reviving viticulture, eventually seeing a full scale trade system grow. As Vienna emerged at the center of wine trading, tax was also imposed by Rudolf IV by 1939.
The 16th century saw some of the most productive years of the Austrian wine industry, but this was again disrupted by war and other circumstances. However, as the country recovered from the toll of armed struggle, a pivotal decree started the Heurigen which introduced the era of winemakers selling food together with their wines. This helped create a robust business environment.
However, not long after, a biological enemy laid siege on the vineyards, practically wiping them out. This eventually led to better crops and once again a burgeoning economy. As the wine production increased to massive proportions, the quality suffered, turning customers off with its inferior quality.
Faced with useless stocks, some businessmen turned to unscrupulous actions. They adulterated the wines with diethylene glycol, which apparently gave it a sweetness that made it more palatable to consumers. The ensuing scandal hurt the industry tremendously but eventually yielded stringent standards that were proven favorable to the modern wine industry.
Austria’s Wine Superstars
Austria is home to a vast variety of wines. Leading the pack is Grüner Veltliner, a dry white wine, which makes up the majority of wine production in the country. Other varieties include reds like Zweigelt, Welschriesling (a known dessert wine), white wines like Müller-Thurgau (that is usually served for “everyday drinking”), Pinot blanc, and Chardonnay. Austrian wines do not leave the young ones out as there are milder varieties that are easy on the taste buds such as Blaufränkisch and Blauer Portugieser – just to name a few. Some are admittedly a tad difficult to pronounce but you’ll get the hang of it because you will most likely order them again.
With 51,213 hectares of vineyards, Austria has begun to finally make a name for itself in the international market. There have been recent encouraging increases in exports. The Austrian wine industry is made up of a few big companies and numerous smaller manufacturers. Largely unheralded, most wine businesses are small, selling right out of their houses. And with such a troubled history, it is only now that Austria has started to regain some ground.
The industry also looks forward to step up not only with its manufacturing power but with its practices as well. In a bid to prove that it is committed to timely and relevant development, the Austrian Winegrowers Association introduced an official certification for sustainable wineries and wines.
Great Food Meets Great Wine
Perhaps an advantage that Austria has is that aside from pretty good wine, they also boast of spectacular culinary delights. From breaded veal (Wiener Schnitzel), to sumptuous pancakes (Palatschinken), you will never run out of gustatory treats in Austria. This of course, creates fresh interest from the locals and foreign tourists alike for it presents the pairing. Wine tasting is already an event in itself but the thought of experimenting with food is indeed an even more fascinating endeavor. One cannot help but think of Wolfgang Puck at this point – the famous celebrity who was born in the US but of Austrian descent. Watch him on television and you will most likely get some pairing tips somewhere in between those cooking instructions. In case you swing by Austria one of these days, make sure your itinerary has enough room to sample their wines.
It is always a rewarding exercise to visit a place and delve further than what the surface offers. With such an inspiring history wrought with challenges and punctuated by victories, anyone can definitely draw inspiration from the quiet and unassuming elegance that this place radiates.