Wine region Vulkanland Steiermark
When the earth poured forth fire
Vulkanland Steiermark encompasses the districts Hartberg-Fürstenfeld, Südoststeiermark, and Weiz, as well as some municipalities left of the river Mur which belong to the political districts Graz-Umgebung and Leibnitz and is one of Steiermark's subregions. A recent municipal reform resulting in the creation of the new district Südoststeiermark led to the wine region's name change, in order to avoid confusion, since the actual area is considerably larger than this single district. And additionally, the name 'Vulkanland' had already been well established and known through other agricultural products.
As the name indicates, the soil counts among the region's distinguishing characteristics. It was a long time ago that the earth opened its sluices. Two periods are responsible for the prevalence of volcanic soils in eastern Styria. The Gleichenberger Kogel and the Schaufelgraben in Bairisch Kölldorf emerged approximately 17-12 million years ago (Miocene). Traces of 40 volcanic vents can be seen today, dating back to the time of early volcanic activity (Pliocene and Pleistocene). The Klöcher massif was formed due to outpourings of Java 2.6 million years ago, while the Stradner Kogel is some 1.71 million years of age and the Steinberg von Mühldorf 2.6 million years. Precious treasures, such as Olivine - a rock composition encountered at a depth of 60 metres - are embedded in the volcanic tuffs, found in Fehring, Kapfenstein and Feldbach.
Volcanic rock appears in different formations; in some instances as tuff and other times as basalt. Simply put, tuff is congealed volcanic material, composed of fragments blown into the air during an eruption. Tuff is coarse-pored and can either be quite hard or so soft that you can crumble it with your bare band. Basalt is solidified magma - liquid stone from the Earth's interior - which cools down after discharge. There is still a basalt plant in Klöch today, providing material for the substructure of railways.
All these detailed explanations are important to our knowledge of wine. It is clear that vines growing on tuff show an entirely different uptake of nutrients than those growing on basalt, which in Austria can - incidentally - only be found in the Vulkanland. Ljubo Vuljaj, an instructor at the vocational school for tourism in Gleichenberg, is convinced, saying, 'But in the end, it is the soil, microclimate and the grower's impact combined, which characterise a wine'.
Vulkanland borders Slovenia to the south and Burgenland in the east. Thus, it is heavily influenced by the Pannonian climate, thus the warmest of the Steiermark's subregions. This can especially be noticed on the far-southern tip, for instance in Klöch, stronghold of the Traminer, which requires a warm climate with little precipitation. Gewürztraminer in particular appreciates nutrient-rich volcanic soils. The clue is in the name (Gewürz, 'spice' in German): it is spicier with lower acidity levels than the Gelber Traminer, which also matures earlier and does not only grow in Klöch. Basically, wines growing on volcanic soils are a bit more powerful, though this is true primarily with respect to the other Styrian regions. Altogether, the Vulkanland has the requisite cool climate, which brings lovely freshness to the wines; this is by no means common elsewhere in the world. The most important vineyard sites in Klöch are Hochwart and Ölberg. Klöcherberg and Königsberg form a ridgeline that separates the villages Klöch and Tieschen.
Königsberg is a volcanic cone with red soils, a great proportion of ferric oxide. This is why Zweigelt and Sankt Laurent find perfect conditions in this area. 'The warmer climate is also the reason why Vulkanland produces more reds than the Südsteiermark', Vuljaj explains. Red grapes amount to a total of 18% of total area. Austria's most important red, Zweigelt, is also of great importance in the Vulkanland. It comes in second, right after Welschriesling. Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) comes third and Sauvignon Blanc is in fourth place.
Welschriesling does not take the first place without a reason, this being that the variety does particularly well in the volcanic soils. Number two, Weissburgunder, is also no surprise. Not only does this Pinot-family member like the warmer climate, but it also flourishes in the widespread soils of fossil limes tone (Muschelkalk) prevalent in this area. Besides the volcanic and Muschelkalk soils, gravel and sandy surfaces can be found here as well. As is often the case, numerous transitional, mixed forms also come into the picture.
Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) is especially at home planted in the heavier soils. Even though it is not as wide-spread as Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), it can be very impressive for its high quality. Pinot Gris usually shows full body coupled with low acidity. Here growers always find the middle ground: not too lush and broad, never lacking the necessary density. A tight structure means great elegance, especially upon maturity. 'The Vulkanland has seen many positive developments in the last few years. The region used to be a "poor relation", but this has long since changed', Ljubo Vuljaj rejoices, considering Vulkanland 'one of the most beautiful regions in the world'.
Soils and rocks in Vulkanland SteiermarkIn the Styrian wine country one finds most different soil qualities, which affect favourably in each case on special wine and grape varieties. The wine growing region Vulkanland Steiermark is mainly characterised by basalt, tuff, fossil limestone and hard limestone.
Very hard volcanic rock, coming from the depths of the Earth. Primarily found in the neighbourhood of Klöch.
Also of volcanic origin, but more porous than basalt. Frequently encountered as scattered patches in the ground.
There used to be an ocean here. Limestone is a favoured soil for the Pinot family. Here, Weissburgunder is particularly widespread.
The harder version, primarily composed of the minerals calcite and aragonite.