European wine law often amounts to an impenetrable tangle of red tape. Well done to Austria then, for pushing ahead with a simplification of sorts.
With the ratification of new regulations in June, Austria continues apace. In Austria’s most easterly region the old appellations of Neusiedlersee, Neusiedlersee-Hügelland, Mittelburgenland and Südburgenland are now all subsumed into the single appellation Burgenland unless they are from one of Burgenland’s DACs (Disctrictus Austriae Controllatus). In Styria Süd-Ost-Steiermark is now named Vulkanland-Steiermark, to put more emphasis on the predominant volcanic soil.
Most importantly for lovers of Austrian wine, however, is the fact that single-vineyard wines will now have to be prefaced by the term Ried, meaning vineyard in Austrian. Consumers can thus recognize single-vineyard wines immediately.
Michael Moosbrugger, chief executive officer at the historic Kamptal estate Schloss Gobelsburg, welcomes the new rules. “Our ancient wine laws were never updated comprehensively, only ever in bits and pieces,” Moosbrugger explains.
He continues, “Provenance-based marketing only played a subordinate role until the DACs were formed and some of the changes I have been advocating are now being introduced. The compulsory term ‘Ried’ for single vineyard wines is really important, as is the new quality pyramid for the regions Kremstal, Kamptal and Traisental.”
All of these now have a clear hierarchy of “Gebietswein-Ortswein-Riedenwein”, or regional, village and single vineyard wines.
Sekt, or sparkling wine, now also has a firm quality-based classification system, and a protected designation of origin as “Sekt mit geschützter Ursprungsbezeichnung” (or Sekt g.U.). This is a welcome and valiant attempt at re-establishing “sekt” as a quality term since gallons of fizzy, sweetish pan-European plonk have been sold under the name.
Sekt g.U. can now only be marketed under the clearly defined Klassik, Reserve or Große Reserve styles. “We see this as a great opportunity to re-position Austrian Sekt,” reports Hans Peter Hofmann, marketing manager of Sektkellerei Szigeti. “This framework allows consumers to really get their bearings. For us provenance and transparency build trust.”
While these efforts at simplification and clarification are laudable, these new rules probably make most sense to those already familiar with the red-tape-tangle and may leave everyday consumers even more confused. A wholesale re-think of the entire labelling framework is unlikely, but at least these are steps into the right direction.