Welschriesling - Weinviertel
The Weinviertel, or "Wine Quarter" is a large region to the north of Vienna extending as far as the border with the Czech republic. For decades it was the edge of the Western World, right next to the Iron Curtain!
Although this is the largest winegrowing region in Austria, with more than 15,000 hectares of vineyards, it doesn't really seem like wine country as you travel around it, as it is also the breadbasket of Vienna. Vines are scattered on the hillsides and in the most favourable areas amongst other crops - lots of wheat, fruit trees and everything from asparagus to strawberries.
It's a fascinating region architecturally with mediaeval gems of towns such as Retz, with its stunning Baroque centre and miles of underground wine cellars. The region has many more charming wine villages and towns, many with "Kellergassen", streets lined with cellars resembling stuccoed houses. Interesting towns include Eggenburg, Falkenstein and Poysdorf, possibly Austria's most picturesque wine town.
In 2003, Weinviertel was the first region to adopt a new classification system, "Weinviertel DAC", where DAC stands for "Districtus Austriae Controllatus". This is a bit like the French AOC system.
In the UK, Welschriesling (‘foreign riesling’) has had a hard time. It was one of the first easily available wines and was what many people thought was Riesling. In earlier days crimes against wine made of Riesling and Welschriesling were sold here. Things have changed for the better, not least our knowledge of grapes!
Dry wines from Welschriesling can be forgettable - we have picked ours from the best, but you can get very boring ones at a cafe terrace in Austria or Croatia.
The grape comes into its own in two areas. First as a base for some excellent sparkling wine and second, as some of the most delicious sweet wines that can be found. Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from Welschriesling are wonderful as they retain much of the inherent acidity from the grape to create a sweet yet well-balanced wine.
Jancis Robinson, in her magnum opus ‘Wine Grapes’, made the decision to list this grape under its Croatian name, Graševina. Much points to Croatia being the birthplace of this grape despite other theories as to it's origins.
Do not let past mistakes colour your opinion. Try the sweet wines and you will soon become a fan.
Welschriesling Weingut BreitenfelderStill good, a great after work aperitif