Wachau

The Wachau is a heartbreakingly beautiful stretch of crags above the Danube upstream of Vienna and is probably the Riesling grape's most consistent showcase. (The Mosel and Rheingau in Germany have similar potential, but Austria's wines tend to be fuller, denser and spicier.) On terraced vineyards, Riesling and Austria's own signature grape variety, the crackling white Grüner Veltliner, provide long-ripened grapes which small, family concerns (such as Alzinger, Hirtzberger, Jamek, Knoll, Nikolaihof, F X Pichler and Prager) transform by punctilious winemaking into powerful yet fragrant, fine, dry whites that are all too rarely seen outside Austria. Its most concentrated, full-bodied wines are called Smaragd. Federspiel is one category less ripe, while Steinfeder is the lightest category of wines for drinking as fresh as possible. There is also some experimentation with producing sweet Beerenauslese and Trockenbeeerenauslese wines, but dry Rieslings and 'Grüners' are the Wachau’s strength. The co-op here, whose wines are now sold under the Domäne Wachau label, is one of the best wine co-ops in the world.

In a nutshell

Steep terraces, fine, pure white wines.