Tuesday, 09. June 2015

The Styrian Wine Country

Wine has a long tradition in Styria, the popularity of which has experienced up and downswings throughout history. Today Styria is an established wine region. In recent years, Styrian wines have become a topic of international conversation. Here is a brief history of the subject. 

Viticulture existed in Styria as early as 400 A.D. At the time, resident Celts produced wine from wild growing vines. The Romans cultivated wine and spread it throughout the empire, including in the area now known as Styria. The wine was even sponsored by some Roman emperors. This is probably due to the fact that the Roman soldiers were entitled to a daily ration of wine. Since the Roman Empire was too large, this ration could not always be transported as far as Rome. For this reason, the wine was grown in the provinces.

The first sharp decline of viticulture was at the time of the Great Migration in Europe. In the Middle Ages, however, wine became an important economic factor again. Towards the end of the 16th century, the area cultivated was probably at its largest. Later, this area shrunk due to the influence of war and pestilence.

Archduke John was very influential on Styrian wine-growing. He systematically promoted the industry and experimented with different grape varieties and new cultivation methods. With approximately 35,000 hectares, Styria was an important wine-growing region for the monarchy.

Today, Styria has a cultivated area of ​​4,200 hectares. This reduction in size is due to the fact that with the end of the monarchy, the region lost one third of its land area. Now this area makes up 9 percent of the total wine-growing area in Austria. Seven percent of Austrian wines are produced here. The discrepancy between these two figures is due to the fact that many Styrian winemakers have imposed a quantitative limit. The average yield per hectare amounts to 4640 liters. The wineries thus produce quality over quantity.

Of the wines in Styria, 77% are white wines, 12% are red wines and 11% are Schilcher wines. The most widely planted varieties are Welschrießling, Pinot Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Morillon, Sauvignon blanc, Schilcher and Zweigelt.

About 50% of the wine growing acreage has a slope of more than 26%. These steep angles make growing the wine a special challenge, which is part of why the wine is so highly regarded.

Since the Styrian wine country is located on the south side of the main Alpine ridge, there are almost no climatic disturbance influences from the north and north-east. Therefore, both the amount of wind in the winter and the frequency of precipitation are öpw in comparison with the west. The wine also benefits from high amounts of sunshine that falls in the midsummer and late autumn. No advantages without disadvantages, however.  Due to the climate, the grapes may become subject to cold air or "bowl" or "basin" effects, which increase the risk of frost.

There are three wine regions in Styria. Southeast Styria, southern Styria and western Styria. In southeast Styria, there are 1900 grape growers who cultivate an area of 1400 hectares. This is divided into the Styrian volcanic country and the East Styrian hill country. Southern Styria is geographically the largest wine-growing region with 2200 hectares. Here in Rebenland and Sausal there are 950 wineries. The Western Styria is, however, relatively small with 500 hectares and 450 wine producers. The main grape variety there is the Schilcher grape, a rosé grape grown on more than 80% of the Western Styria area.