Be ready to just drift, taste and experience this special region. Visit vintners and chefs. Hike through vineyards, discover regional and homemade specialties of traditional wine taverns, the so-called Buschenschank. Stretch your legs and enjoy the marvellous views in a shady spot underneath a walnut tree. Try roasted chestnuts in autumn and return with friends to visit the people of the Styrian wine country.
International greatness in a small region
Regardless of the motivation that brings a visitor to the Steiermark (Styria) - the mountains in the north, thermal springs in the southeast, the myriad cultural opportunities of the capital city Graz, or coming specially to visit a certain wine estate - wine is omnipresent. And the wine scene here is every bit as diverse as the Steiermark's topography.
Every year more visitors are impressed by the soft rolling hills in the south, also the homeland of the region's wines. Along with the upturn in wine quality, the Styrian gastronomic scene has also developed. Culinary finesse is beautifully complemented by the region's wines. And concerning overnight accommodations, even the highest of expectations can be satisfied. Moreover, many of the traditional inns - called Buschenschank - enable visitors to get close to the creative process behind the wines. In short, the Steiermark has much to offer for tourists and weekenders. Great interest has also developed in the 'Steirischer Junker', the young wine of the current vintage. This starts off the oenophile's new year and offers a first impression of the vintage.
The Steiermark is subdivided into three winegrowing areas: Weststeiermark (546 ha), Südsteiermark (2,563 ha) and Vulkanland Steiermark (1,524 ha, formerly Südoststeiermark). And although the Sausal belongs to Südsteiermark, its slate soils set it apart. These regions can be best explored via one of the eight wine trails, including the Südsteirische, Sausal, Klöcher, Thermenland, Klapotetz, Schilcher, Südoststeirische Hügelland and Oststeirische Römerweinstraße.
Steep Hillside Vineyards
The loftiest vineyards in the Steiermark are planted at 650m above sea level, but that is not the only place with steeply inclined slopes. And often in the middle of the vineyard the visitor will run across a Klapotetz, a wooden windmill that does double duty by frightening birds away from the vines with their clattering. 78% of the area under vines (4,633 ha) in the Steiermark is planted to white varieties, fitting the basic Austrian mould, but even so, the Steiermark is totally different. The undisputed number one vine here is Welschriesling, with 752 ha, underscoring the element of freshness prominent in Styrian wine philosophy. In second place comes Sauvignon Blanc, which has brought the Steiermark its international success, with 682 ha. Next is Weissburgunder with 576 ha under vines - one of the local highlights, since there is no other region in Austria where this international variety is so widely planted. Place #4 belongs to a Styrian specialty, the Blauer Wildbacher (457 ha), a polarising variety best known for yielding the famous Schilcher rose, the Weststeiermark's marquee player.
Credit to Archduke Johann
Austria's most important red variety ranks closely behind the Blauer Wildbacher: Zweigelt (350 ha) is important to the many traditional wine taverns. There are two additional varieties that claim significant area here: Muskateller has gained popularity in recent years. With its 328 ha it has surpassed Chardonnay (321 ha), frequently called Morillon in the region. In the Vulkanland, Traminer plays an important role, and there is a longstanding Riesling tradition in the Sausal, although surface area devoted to these varieties is small. The Celts were the first to bring the vine to the Steiermark, but numerous findings show that it was the Romans who first actively promoted viticulture. A considerable advance was made in the 19th century under the rule of 'the Styrian Prince' Archduke Johann (1782-1859), who introduced new grape varieties, and improved cellar technique. The technical college in Silberberg was founded in 1895; this institution still enjoys an excellent reputation as a viticultural school.
As small as the winegrowing region Steiermark might be, so much greater is the reputation of its wines outside the borders of Austria. Many Styrian growers figure among the guiding lights of the international wine scene.