Sparkling wine – Austria

What
Austrian Sekt is a sparkling wine made by tank, transfer, or traditional method. It was first produced in 1846 by Schlumberger, where it remains in production today (3). In June 2016 a 3-step quality pyramid was introduced, with minima of 9 months lees ageing and 3 bar (about 45 psi) pressure, covering non-vintage and vintage wines.

Production is about 0.25m hl, with the major share, as with German Sekt, being consumed domestically, and just 2% exported (1). There is a move to innovate and improve quality, with organic methods, less intervention in the winery and use of old oak. The best wines are bottle fermented, with tank and transfer methods making up the rest.

Where
The wine regions of Niederosterriech and Steiermark are well represented, also Burgenland.

Climate
Viticulture is concentrated in the east, where the climate is continental, with moderate rainfall, hot summers and moderately cold winters. Heat stress, drought and sunburn are increasing risks with rising temperature and ultraviolet radiation levels respectively, as driven by climate change (3).

Soils
The vineyard area is large with diverse soil types, though loess is a dominant feature, which can be summarised very loosely by region (3):

  • Burgegnland – clay, black earth, gravel, loam, loess, sand, slate.
  • Niederosterreich – black earth, gneiss, loess, primary rock, sand, slate.
  • Steiermark – basalt, loam, marl, sand, slate, volcanic.

Marketing
Marketed under a single PDO, similar to Tasmania, of Austrian Sekt g.U. (Osterreichischer Sekt mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung), possibly enabling strong branding and simple undiluted marketing.

Exports are very small, with eg the UK importing just 3k bottles in 2015 (1). Examples on the UK market include:

Production
The all wine type producer searchable database, lists about 20 Sekt producers, of which the majors could be Goldeck, Hochriegl, Kirchmayr, Steininger and Schlumberger.

Viticulture
Climate change is driving adaptation in the vineyard, with some employing organic methods and cover crops to encourage deeper rooting, canopy management and moving to higher cooler sites (3). Also see climate above.

Double guyot, cordon de royat and arched cane training are dominant for quality production (3). Planting density varies, as usual, according to eg soil water retentivity, exposure and steepness.

Vinification
The full process for each of the 3 quality levels is briefly:

  • Klassik – any method ie tank, transfer method, or second fermentation in bottle, carbonation is not mentioned and so it is assumed not approved, given the minimum of 9 months lees ageing.
  • Reserve – second fermentation in bottle, brut or drier, minimum of 18 months lees ageing.
  • Grosse Reserve – second fermentation in bottle, brut or drier, minimum of 30 months lees ageing.

Any of the 35 approved grape varieties may be used, as a blend or varietal, vintage or non-vintage, eg white varieties of bouvier, chardonnay, furmint, fruhroter and gruner veltliner, muller-thurgau, muskateller, muskat-ottonel, neuburger, pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, roter veltliner, rotgipfler, sauvignon blanc, scheurebe, sylvaner, traminer, welschriesling, zierfandler; and red varieties of blauburger, blaufrankisch, blauer portugieser, blauer wildbacher, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, sankt laurent, uhudler, zweigelt and minority others.

Ageablity
According to published tasting notes, some vintage examples may drink for 2 to 6 years, with an average of 4.5 years, non-vintage may drink for 1 to 3 years, averaging 2. These estimates will be updated if further evidence suggests otherwise.

Tasting notes

  1. Loimer Extra Brut Niederosterreich – a blend of gruner weltlier, zweigelt, pinot noir.

References

  1. Austria 2017 (February 2017) Decanter magazine supplement.
  2. Austrian Wine – Sekt g.U. from Austria – protected designation of origin, certified quality [online] acessed 02/02/17.
  3. Blom, P. (2006) The Wines of Austria. Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library.
  4. Krebiehl, A. (2016) Do Austria’s Wine Label Changes Go Far Enough? [online] accessed 02/02/17.

Updated: 02/02/17

About citbp

I am interested in everything about wine, from site selection to tasting.
This entry was posted in AUSTRIA, SPARKLING WORLDWIDE. Bookmark the permalink.

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