The Wines of the Wachau Valley
By Franz Scheurer
We don’t often get the chance to taste Austrian white wines in Australia so it 
is with great interest that I attended the wine tasting organised by Frankland 
Estate at Darling Mills yesterday, showcasing four winemakers and their wines 
from the Wachau valley. 
The Wachau valley is about 30km long, (1,450 hectares under vine) carved out by 
the Danube River, with steep riverbanks on one side and relative flat soil on 
the other. From the edge of the slow-flowing waters, steep terraces rise 550m to 
just below the wooded hilltops.  This stony strip of land between the river and 
the forest is one of the most historic vineyard sites in the world, started by 
the Romans and continually worked since the 9th century. 
The climate is continental, with warm days and cold nights. The cold air from 
the surrounding hills collides with the warm airstream from the Pannonian Plain 
upstream, and creates a constantly changing, windy microclimate. Due to the 
amount of rock and the reflecting properties of the Danube, there is enough 
sunlight and warmth to achieve reasonable ripeness, most years. This steady 
circulation of warmer and cooler airstreams produces exceptional fruit and 
freshness as the berries ripen slowly and gently, until late November. 
The result is wines of good concentration of aromas, lots of mineral characters 
(due to the soil, composed primarily of rock, loess, gneiss and mica schist).  
These bone-dry wines typically have high acidity with lots of fruit, making them 
rather fresh and seductive when young, but lush and complex with bottle age. 
The main grape varieties are Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, producing excellent 
wines, mainly from 20 to 30 year old vines. Muscat of Alexandria, Pinot Blanc, 
Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and Neuburger are the other varietals planted in this 
area and are mainly sold locally to drink immediately. 
Vinea Wachau is a regional association, which has set itself the goal of raising 
awareness of the unique natural conditions of the region and the challenging 
working conditions of the steep terraced vineyards of Wachau. Founded in 1983, 
Vinea Wachau created the following three local categories:
This name comes from a local grass, stipa pennata, locally called Steinfeder 
(rock-feather). All white wines can be vinified into Steinfeder. The grapes must 
have a must weight of 75-82° Öchsle and the maximum alcohol contents allowed is 
The name Federspiel comes from the implement used to lure a falcon 
back to the trainer’s glove.  Falconry used to be very popular in the Wachau 
region. The falcon represents the steely elegance of these classic dry wines. 
Federspiel wines can be vinified from all white grape varietals occurring in the 
Wachau. The grapes must have a minimum grape weight of 83° Öchsle and the 
maximum alcohol content is limited to 12.5%.
The emerald green lizards living amongst the vines on the steep slopes 
have given this classification its name. Smaragd is emerald in the local 
language. Smaragd wines must be made from good vintages only, from late 
harvested grapes with perfect physiological ripeness of at least 90° Öchsle, and 
must be fermented up to the natural termination of fermentation. The alcohol 
content must be more than 12.5%. 
Look out for some of these wines to eventually appear on the shelfs in 
Australia. Some of the names to look out for are:
Weingut Hirtzberger  - especially their Hochrain Riesling and Honivogl Grüner Veltliner
Weingut Emmerich Knoll – Kellerberg Riesling and Schütt Grüner Veltliner
Weingut Franz Xaver Pichler – Steiner Tal Riesling
Weingut Prager – Steinriegl Riesling, 
Hollerin Riesling and Hinter der Burg Grüner Veltliner
For more information on the whole region contact:
3610 Weissenkirchen 48