Why you should try Austrian wine

<span>Vines at Kellerschlossel in Durnstein, Wachau, Lower Austria. </span><span>Photograph: CHROMORANGE/Alfred Schauhuber/Alamy</span>
Vines at Kellerschlossel in Durnstein, Wachau, Lower Austria. Photograph: CHROMORANGE/Alfred Schauhuber/Alamy

They may not be the biggest consumers of wine in the world, but when it comes to sheer enthusiasm, it’s hard to beat the Austrians, especially in and around the capital, Vienna. I recently went to its biennial wine fair, Vievinum, which was so packed you could barely move, and if the locals weren’t drinking there, they were patronising the wine bars, or heurigers, that dot the hills around the city. At one I visited, Weingut Mayer am Pfarrplatz, which is housed in Beethoven’s former home, there was a large group dressed like extras from Bridgerton, which added considerably to the jolliness of the experience.

There are more than 600 producers in the Vienna (or Wien) wine region, most of whom make a wine called gemischter schatz, a so-called “field blend” of vines that are planted randomly through the vineyards, rather than in blocks of a single variety, as is more common nowadays. Christoph Bauer’s wine in my pick today, for example, is based on grüner veltliner, neuburger, sauvignon blanc, traminer and welschriesling, and such wines tend to be fruity, light in alcohol and often served with water as a spritz.

Most regions in the country make more white wine than red, notably the signature grüner veltliner and some seriously good riesling that should appeal if you find German rieslings a touch too sweet and Australian ones too insistently limey. They also have an impressive ageing capacity. The admittedly young 2021 vintages are really fresh.

Reds to look out for include soft, fruity zweigelt and blaufränkisch (known as kékfrankos in neighbouring Hungary), which again can be a serious wine. Sadly, the Burgenland producer Moric is out of my league price-wise, but if you ever see his blaufränkisch by the glass at a restaurant, seize the opportunity to try it.

The other local trend, as in other wine-producing countries, is quality sparkling wine, or sekt as they call it in Austria. Again, some fetch eye-watering prices, but I’ve not found a better sparkling rosé this summer than Jurtschitsch’s utterly beguiling organic brut rosé (£34 Newcomer Wine), which slips down a treat on a warm evening.

An impressive 27% of Austria’s producers are organic, a reaction maybe to the wine additive scandal of the 1980s, which many drinkers of my generation still remember and I’m sure Austrian producers would rather we forgot. It seems unfair even to bring it up, but if that discouraged you from drinking Austrian wine, it’s really time you gave it another chance. It’s honestly hard to find a bad one.

Five Austrian bottles that are well worth a try

Waitrose Blueprint Grüner Veltliner 2023 £8.99, 12.5%. One of the best of the supermarket grüners. Particularly good with Vietnamese summer rolls.

Lentsch Zweigelt 2021 £9.99 Waitrose, 13%. An appealingly soft, summer puddingy red that you’ll enjoy if you’re into beaujolais. Chill lightly.

Asda Extra Special Riesling 2022 £8.50, 12.5%. Exceptional value for this elegant dry riesling made by Markus Huber. Try with smoked fish.

Christoph Bauer Gemischter Schatz £16.95 Swig, 12%. Deliciously light and fruity. Classic Viennese summer drinking.

Jurtschitsch Mon Blanc 2021 £29 Newcomer Wines (and 15% off if part of a “mix and match” case), 11.5%. A gorgeous, headily-scented orange wine - a field blend of organic grüner veltliner, riesling, weissburgunder and muskateller, among other grapes, from one of the most talented natural winemakers in Austria. Their rieslings are fabulous, too.