"The Wines of Austria"
I read this book about Austrian wine as much to learn more about the country as to learn about the wine. To me, wine, climate, geography, and culture are interrelated. I have traveled several times to Austria over the last few years. However, I cannot say that I have had a good glass or bottle of wine there. Reading this book makes clearer why. The primary wine production is in the eastern part of the country, where I have traveled mainly in the west.
Mr. Blom writes that Austria has three main wine regions: the area along the Danube, west of Vienna, the state of Burgenland, and the eastern part of the state of Steiermark. The most commonly grown wine grape is Gruener Weltliner, a white grape which makes up 37% of Austria's total wine production. This grape is thought to have been grown in the Danube region in Roman times. Second is Welschriesling, another white grape, which makes up 10% of Austria's grape harvest. Mueller-Thurgau, a white that, unlike the other two, is also widely grown in Germany, ties for third at about 8% with Zweigelt, the most widely cultivated red wine in Austria.
One of the features I like most about this book is the detailed maps of the wine regions of Austria. For example, on the map of the Wachau region along the Danube, there are 109 vineyards identified by numeric key with their locations shown in regard to the river and the towns along it, such as Duernstein on the north bank, where Richard the Lion-hearted was held for ransom during the Crusades.
Mr. Blom's book also discusses the wine growing areas and the top growers in each of them. The book describes the characteristics of each estate and its specialties. Blom also provides phone and fax numbers, as well as addresses.
Any book about Austrian wine worthy of the name could not fail to mention the well known Austrian institution of the Heurige. The term comes from a German word meaning new wine. However, the word has come to refer to the small inns that serve wine, located around wine growing areas on the outskirts of towns. As Blom points out, the public is notified as to the availability of new wine by fir trees hung above the door of the inn. This custom is thought to go back to the time of Charlemagne.
The next time I go to Austria I will be a little better prepared to appreciate the good wines that are produced there. Hopefully, it will not be too long.