Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Carnuntum Region
Although Carnuntum is a lesser known wine region of Austria, there is a plethora of quality wine coming from the fine vineyards located there. Carnuntum is one of Austria's smallest wine regions, making up only 2% of the wine growing area with 1000 hectares under vine.
A short drive from Vienna, Carnuntum is a part of Austria with a unique Roman history and many ruins are still present throughout the region today. The region spans from east of Vienna to the border of Slovakia with vineyards spread along the famous Danube river among three sectors: the Leithagebirge, the Arbesthaler Hügelland and the Hainburger Berge.
The Leithagebirge: Rich in clay, gravel and chalk. Oriented toward the west, vines are shielded from the heat and humidity by the forests located here which account for the fresh and fruity wines produced in this area.
Arbesthaler Hügelland: The soils in this sector vary as the higher portions of the hill consist of gravel soils, while lower portions consist of clay soils. Very aromatic, well-ripened grapes, that ultimately turn in to fruit-intensive white wines and velvety reds, exist in this sector as the influence from Lake Neusiedl, the Danube and neighboring forests create an ideal climate.
Hainburger Berge: Soils consist of mica-slate and granite-gneiss, along with elements of chalk. This area is a nature reserve due to some rare plant life that live in the area. Vines are planted in the south and southeast oriented slopes and have a poor soil structure and low rainfall. As a result, this is a late-ripening area of Carnuntum.
Typical wines produced in Carnuntum are sexy red wines of a combination of fruit and elegance made from Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon and structured examples of white wines made from Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.
History: Carnuntum was under Roman rule until roughly 430 A.D. Evidence shows that wine has been produced in the region for thousands of years, though it is impossible to say which varietals were originally produced.
Carnuntum's wine making culture has drastically changed in the past 100 years. Originally, most of the wine producers in the area were farmers that also grew a variety of other produce. The region was best known for it's white wines that dominated production at nearly 85% which now is closer to 60-40% predominantly whites. To grow the grapes, most vintners used a stake training method for the vines and most varietals were not kept separate from each other. This resulted in many Gemischter Satz wines in the region.
Carnuntum's wine culture was all but destroyed by WWII which made a complete overhaul of the region necessary. Though the region generally stayed out the limelight through the restructuring of Austrian wine culture that took place in the 1990s, Carnuntum underwent and quality and image transformation when Austrian red varietal sales rose in 2000. A combination of fresh, young winemakers, ideal soils and unbeatable climate helped the region emerge among the larger wine producing areas.
To set itself apart from other wine making regions in Austria, Carnuntum created their own system of labeling.
Primus Carnuntum: White, kabinett wine produced mainly from the region's Grüner Veltliner grapes blended with other coveted varieties. The wine must be made from at least 200 kilos of grapes with a must weight of 16º KMW. These wines are labeled from all wineries with a uniform label featuring painter Gottfried Lav Wurm and are annually christened by notable personalities at a special ceremony before release.
Rubin Carnuntum: A red wine that can only be made of Zweigelt or Blaufränkisch that reflect the region's typical character. These wines must be of a single variety. The wines mininum must weight is 18º KMW and they must have an abv of 12.5% or higher in order to ensure aging potential. To ensure recognition, each Rubin Carnuntum wine is bottled with the same back label text and totes the Heidentor (Heather's gate, Roman archway) logo on its capsule.
Carnuntum Reserve: These wines follow the Austrian wine law for reserve wines. Wines labeled under this name must have a minimum of 13%abv, must be made of a registered grape variety and may not be bottled before November of the following year (min. 13 months of maturation.)
In short, though Carnuntum is a small wine producing area of Austria it has a very large character. From it's historical roots to modern day wine making, Carnuntum is a region not to be missed.