The Austrian Wine Marketing Board announced the ratification of the country’s 10th DAC earlier this month. The DAC Schilcherland in Weststeiermark is an area known for dry rosé wines made from the Blauer Wildbacher grape.
This will raise the international profile and visibility of a hitherto often overlooked wine from an obscure grape variety. The move displays Austria’s energetic evolution of its wine laws from a German-inspired quality tier model to a provenance-based appellation system, firmly establishing origin and typicity as its guiding principles.
DAC or Districtus Austriae Controllatus, which translates roughly to controlled Austrian district, functions much the same way as France’s AOC or appellation d’origine contrôlée does, defining what kinds of grapes can be used and where they can be grown.
“It will help boosting exports, no question,” said Willi Klinger, the head of the Board. “The Schilcherland DAC is only a first step in restructuring the whole origin system of Steiermark (Styria),” he said referring to the mountainous, region in southeast Austria.
“We are working on a complete DAC system for Steiermark’s three areas, ideally ready in time for the 2018 vintage. Burgenland (Austria’s eastern most state) is also getting a new DAC,” Klinger said.
There will be Rosalia DAC, which he described as an area between Leithaberg DAC and Mittelburgenland DAC that will produce red and rosé wines made from Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt grapes.
“Finally, Ruster Ausbruch, Austria’s most historic wine, could also have its own DAC-umbrella,” Klinger added.
A 2001 change to the wine law created the DACs. The first, Weinviertel DAC, was granted for regionally typical Grüner Veltliner, in 2003. Since then nine more have been added, enshrining historic wine styles into law, the most unusual being Wiener Gemischter Satz, the Viennese field blend, which achieved DAC status in 2013. This recognised the historically prevalent but almost extinct habit of planting several grape varieties in one vineyard to be vinified together.
The creation of Weinviertel DAC was instrumental in transforming the region from a source of bulk wine to a quality producer. Since its creation the Weinviertel DAC has more than tripled the bottling of Grüner Veltliner from 1.5 to 4.9 million bottles annually. Ulli Hager, director of Weinviertel’s Regional Wine Committee estimated exports have increased by 12-15 percent over the same period.
DACs link regions to their typical grape variety and a typical, historic wine style. While this works well in regions with one or two predominant grape varieties or established blends, the process for more diverse regions is fraught with difficulty and compromise.
As the world’s 17th largest wine producing country, Austria reported record export figures for 2016, citing total shipments of EUR 148 million, a 64 percent increase in value over the past decade. In 2016 exports to the United States, Austria’s third largest export market after Germany and Switzerland, exceeded the EUR 12 million mark for the first time with a sales increase of 12 percent.