Other European Wine Regions

A look at other wine regions in Europe


One of the great white wine successes of recent years has been the international acceptance of Austrian white wine made from a grape with the formidable name of grüner veltliner (sometimes abbreviated by American wine-buyers as "gru-ve"), related to gewürztraminer. It can produce rather ordinary wines, fine for quaffing, but also wines of great sophistication, with complex aromas and flavors and a pronounced mineral character. Riesling is also a major white wine grape in Austria, and about a third of the country's annual production is red, much of it from blaufränkisch (also called lemberger) or pinot noir. The reputation of Austrian wines suffered a major blow in 1985 when it was revealed that some bulk-wine shippers were adulterating their wines with diethylene glycol, an agent used in antifreeze, to give it a touch of sweetness. Quality producers were not implicated. There are 16 distinct wine regions in Austria, all in the eastern part of the country. The most prominent of these, and the one from which most of the best grüner veltliner comes, is Wachau, about 60 miles east of Vienna. Austrian wines are classified according to sweetness, on a system based on that used in Germany, but there Wachau also has its own system, using colorful names to indicate alcohol and sugar content. Steinfeder ("stone feather," named after a weed growing in the vineyards) is the simplest category, followed by Federspiel ("feather game," a falconry term), and Smaragd ("emerald," a reference to a green lizard found among the vines); the last of these usually indicates wine of extraordinary quality. Austria has a tradition of Heuriger, which are wine taverns serving only young, fresh wine of the most recent vintage along with simple food.



The most famous Hungarian wine by far is Tokaj, one of the world's great dessert wines, made in northern Hungary by an unusual process. Every few years, the grapes in the region —such local varieties as furmint (mostly), zéta, hárslevelü, and kövérszölö, as well as a variety of muscat — are affected by the so-called "noble rot" that also gives unique character to the dessert wines of Germany and Bordeaux. These are late-picked, crushed, then added in varying amounts to juice or wine made from the same grapes. The resulting wine is then aged in small barrels. Dry wine is also produced in the region. There are five other main wine regions besides Tokaj, producing a wide range of white, rosé, and red wines. The best-known Hungarian table wine is Egri bikavér, literally "bull's blood from Eger," a town northeast of Budapest near the Slovakian border. This is a blend of several varieties, primarily kékfrankos (the local name for blaufränkisch, or lemberger). This sub-region, part of the Felsö-Magyarország region, also produces good white wines. Other wine regions are Észak-Dunántúl, Balaton, Dél-Pannónia, and Duna. Balaton is known for its rich, fragrant white wines; Dél-Pannónia, and especially the sub-region of Villány, has had success with red Bordeaux varieties.