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Austria’s Wachau region awarded DAC status

The region’s wines are now protected as it becomes the country’s 15th Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC)...

Following a lengthy campaign to officially protect and recognise its wines the Wachau region in northern Austria has been named as the country’s newest – and fifteenth – DAC winegrowing region.

Austria’s Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism awarded the 1,300 ha region the status last week and its wines will now bear the protected designation of origin ‘Wachau DAC’.

‘With the Wachau, we can now welcome another important member to Austria’s DAC family,’ says Chris Yorke, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB). ‘In doing this, Austria’s wine industry has taken a further step on the path of origin-based marketing. This has proven itself effective for 17 years now, and has also become recognised internationally.’

The DAC carries three tiered levels within its structure: Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein (‘village’ wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine). Each level carries specific rules with all levels requiring hand-harvesting.

The region will retain its Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd categories which were developed in the 1980s to differentiate between the natural alcohol levels of white – and in rare cases rosé – wines. ‘This well-known and valuable classification will be retained within the new DAC system,’ says the AWMB.

The origin pyramid

Looking at the three levels within the new DAC, the Gebietswein category focusses on the traditional array of grape varieties where 17 white and red varieties ranging from Grüner Veltliner and Riesling to Muskateller and Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent are permitted. Gemischter Satz and cuvées are also allowed. These wines will bear the name of the region coupled with DAC on the label. The grapes can come from anywhere in the entire winegrowing region Wachau.

Ortswein is becoming increasingly important in Austria’s landscape of origins, and the Wachau also provides for 22 designated municipalities, protected in its DAC regulation. The number of approved grape varieties is concentrated here to nine: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer. These must be vinified as monovarietal wines.

At the top level on the pyramid of origins is Riedenwein. The most famous Wachau grape varieties Grüner Veltliner and Riesling are permitted here, harvested from 157 precisely defined vineyard sites (Rieden). Wachau DAC wines bearing the indication of a Ried on the label must not be enriched or chaptalised in any way and – like Ortswein – must exhibit hardly any noticeable cask influence, or none at all.

Wachau DAC: The facts

Levels & permitted grape varieties:

Gebietswein: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer, Frühroter Veltliner, Müller-Thurgau, Muskat Ottonel, Roter Veltliner, Gemischter Satz, Pinot Noir, Sankt Laurent, Zweigelt, or cuvées blended from them
Ortswein: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Chardonnay, Neuburger, Muskateller, Sauvignon Blanc or Traminer
Riedenwein: Grüner Veltliner, Riesling

Production & flavour profile:

• Harvesting by hand mandatory on all levels
• Ortswein: little or no perceptible cask tone
• Riedenwein: chaptalisation forbidden; little or no perceptible cask tone

The categories Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd remain in use.

Consumer clarity

It’s hoped that the new system will help consumers to benefit from greater transparency and specificity of provenance within the Wachau.

‘This brings origins to the forefront. Wachau DAC provides geographical protection of origin down to the most detailed entity: the individual vineyard,’ explains Anton Bodenstein, chairman of the Wachau Regional Wine Committee.

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