The varieties Gruner Veltliner and Riesling prevail on 1,350 hectares, partly on very steep-inclined terraces. The best vineyard sites produce some of the best white wine in the world, often with decades of aging potential.
In the mid-1980s, a select group of innovative producers in the Wachau created their own “grading” system, called the Vinea Wachau, through which dry white wines are divided into three categories, based on their natural alcohol content by volume.
Aromatic, light-bodied wines up to 11.5% are called “Steinfelder,” named after the tall, feather-like grass, stipa pennata. The most common category is “Fiederspiel,” with 11.5% to 12.5% alcohol by volume. The later-harvest, rich, powerful, dry wines carry the term Smaragd.
The crystalline rock soils of the Wachau produce outstanding Rieslings. During the Ice Age vegetation, cover was poor and prevailing winds carried drifting sand that settled in the east-facing crystalline hillsides. This is where great, opulent and expressive Gruner Veltliner cultivated.
The extremely diverse geological terrain, coupled with the construction of terraces in the best aspects, and the cultivation of vines on the steep inclines by the Bavarian monasteries during the Middle Ages, has resulted in a spectacular and unique Wachau landscape.
The climate also plays a vital role, and two major climatic influences, the western Atlantic and the eastern Pannonian, interlock with each other. Furthermore, each single vineyard has its own microclimate, depending of its incline, exposure to the sun, soil terrain, as well as factors such as the dry stone walls and cliff sides that absorb the sun’s heat during the day.
The effects of the hot, dry summer and the harsh winter are evened out by the influence of the Danube River, and cool evening breezes from the more northerly Waldviertel region increase the diurnal effect of day and night temperatures during the important months prior to the harvest. It is thanks to this subtle factor that the fine and precise aromatics of grapes can develop.
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