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Classification of Austrian wines – Wachau

The Wachau region in the Danube valley was the first to develop their system of wine classification. This was called the Vinea Wachau formed in 1984 from a group of top producers in the region. The classification was based on a three tier classification system, which refers to the must weight, and the alcohol content in the wine which then determines the wine.

The three labels below are used exclusively by Wachau wines – most commonly dry, white Riesling and Gruner Veltliner but also the occasional rosé made from Zweigelt.

Steinfeder

The word ‘Steinfeder’ means ‘Stone feather’, coming from the feather like grass that grows on the Wachau’s stony terraces. These wines are allowed to contain no more that 11.5% alcohol and a must weight between 15°- 17°KMV.

The wine is fresh, delicately scented, fruity and mainly drunk locally. Due to its lower alcohol %, the drinker can enjoy a glass or two without really worrying. They are mostly made from the first picked grapes in the Wachau and also fetch the lowest prices.

Federspiel

The name comes from a falcon that is frequently hunted in Wachau. The minimum must weight is 17°KMW and should contain between 11.5% and 12.5% alcohol level. Due to the higher alcohol content it is strongly flavored and regularly exported.

The term Federspiel literally means “spring game” and refers back to the heritage of falconry associated with the Wachau. It is more strongly flavored and in contrast to Steinfeder, is routinely exported. 

Smaragd

The name refers to a typical, emerald green lizard which basks in Wachau’s sun baked stone terraces. It is the mostly priced wine in the tier and must contain at least 12.5% alcohol and are made from grapes with the highest level of ripeness and concentration of sugars, and must weight of 18,5°KMW. These wines are also the most suitable for aging.

A note: these classifications can only be used by member wineries of the Codex Wachau and are only used for white wines grown in the region.

Next classification: DAC

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