ProWein 2012 – Trade article series: Wine business in ...Austria

A big sigh of relief in the wine-growing country Austria. After two high-quality, but in terms of volume, rather weak vintages, in Autumn 2011 the cellars were finally full once again. With almost 2.5 million hectolitres there was a normal harvest, which was classed as “very good” in terms of quality. Although in some cases the late frosts and hailstones provided shocks, at the end of the day nature was able to compensate and make up some ground. In this connection the total of around 320 winegrowers who are coming to Düsseldorf for ProWein, will find the going easier this time in their customer meetings than last year.



Producers do not need to worry about the image – although on closer inspection around 50 per cent of all Austrian wines available in Germany end up on the discounters’ shelves. But particularly the two weaker vintages have clearly reduced the cheaper tanker exports. The target of Wein Marketing Österreich in Vienna is to further increase bottle exports and make prices of 1.99 per litre or even less impossible in the long term.

25 years of ÖWM (Österreich Wein Marketing)
Austria has experienced a positive development. Its reputation on the international scene is good to very good, also thanks to the work of Weinmarketing, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in November 2011, and in the process, reminded us of times when the wine industry was nothing but a pile of rubble. “Following a major crisis we went on the offensive and were able to conduct successful development work”, says the head of the advertising organization, Willi Klinger, looking back on the year the company was founded - 1986. In the year before there was a predominant mood of crisis in the industry due to the so-called glycol scandal, in the wake of which exports collapsed completely. Exports have long since reached an impressive volume. Of the 62 million litres exported in 2010, the lion’s share went to Germany (45 million). Although the Czech Republic ranks second in the table with 4 million litres, it is mainly the buyer of simple wines. This clearly explains the associated revenue of 3 million Euro. With the next country in the rankings, Switzerland, the Austrians in contrast achieve revenue of 13.3 million Euro! Austrian wine is also becoming increasingly popular in the USA (1.75 million litres) and the Netherlands (1 million litres). Even countries such as Kosovo, Thailand and the Maldives feature in Austria’s export statistics, however with just a few thousand litres in each case.

Strengthened through concentration, quality and team spirit
Several strengths have got Austria to the top once again. On the one hand there is the concentration on a controllable number of valuable grape types, which have international status and at the same time encounter little competition in other countries. The very diverse Grüne Veltliner (spectrum extending from “Heuriger” through to pithy Burgundy wine up to significant exquisite sweet wine) is almost the synonym for Austrian white wine. The Blaufränkisch (known as Lemberger in Germany) is setting the tone from the Burgenland. The Zweigelt (St. Laurent x Blaufränkisch) as the most important Austrian red wine grape variety (over 6,500 hectares), which was earlier regarded as a mass-produced wine, is increasingly impressing with quality.

A further flagship is the sweet wines, especially those from Neusiedlersee. Here the diverse varieties, also the often underestimated Welschriesling, benefit from climatic conditions which favour Botrytis (bunch rot). If there is no.bunch rot, then it is still sufficient to make straw wine, in which the grapes are left for raisining for two to three months on reed mats prior to pressing. Ice wine – as climatic change reminds us – is no longer a rarity in Austria either. The wines are not held in high regard by connoisseurs solely for their variety and fruitiness, but also because they offer a sensational price-benefit ratio.

A remarkable feature in Austrian wine growing is also the strong cooperation and team spirit between the winegrowers. They not only work well together on the regional committees, elaborating the rules for the various wine-growing regions (including the DAC origin brand). There is also a whole series of ambitious associations, such as for example the renowned Weingüter Burgenland, Pannobile or Leithaberg, along with diverse smaller Bio-Clubs, in which a purposeful know-how dialogue is conducted and where healthy competition rules.


As the editor of European wine magazine Vinum, author Rudolf Knoll is an Austrian insider and at the same time author of many books about this wine-producing country, also including the first book about Grüner Veltliner.


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