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Even if the name suggests something else: The Vulkanland Steiermark offers a wealth of different grape varieties, soil types and wine types. Werner Rüttgers explains the so many different facets.

The wine villages and vineyards in the Vulkanland Steiermark are sometimes far apart. This is because the 1,650 hectares of vineyards do not cover a continuous area, but are spread out like islands across the hilly landscape. This creates a great diversity of terroirs - and thus also of wines.

The Vulkanland Steiermark begins in the north at the Fischbach Alps and the border to Lower Austria Thermenregion and stretches south to the Slovenian border.

It lies between Western Styria and Southern Styria on the one side and the Eisenberg wine-growing region in Burgenland on the other.

The most important wine-growing islands here are defined as local wine areas: Eastern Styria, Riegersburg, Gleichenberg, Kapfenstein, St. Anna am Aigen, Straden, St. Peter, Tieschen and Klöch - also named from north to south.


More than volcanic soils

Climatically, the Vulkanland Steiermark lies in the transition from the hot, dry Pannonian influence to the warm, humid Illyrian Mediterranean influence. The area is the warmest in Styria and thus also suitable for growing red grapes. At the same time, the coolness at night ensures fine aromas, balance and freshness in the wines. The area's eponymous speciality is its soils: the geology goes back to extinct volcanoes, which makes it unique in Austria. Nevertheless, the soil composition is not homogeneous, but the "island structure" continues here as well.

The volcanic rock essentially consists of basalt (cooled magma) or tuff. The latter was formed when molten lava was ejected from the volcano, rained down and solidified. However, these rocks make up barely ten percent of the area. Most of the vines are rooted in gneiss, mica schist, amphibolite or granite, or in deposits often characterised by sand and gravel from primeval seas, lakes and rivers with varying degrees of limestone. The area around the volcanic cone Königsberg is dominated by ferruginous red earths, in the vineyards of Klöch mainly red and brown loam is found, while on the slopes outside sandy and clay soils predominate.

Striking landmark of the Vulkanland: Kapfenstein Castle with winery, hotel and restaurant

ÖWM Anna Stoecher

DAC status only for white wines

The grape varieties grown in the individual areas are as varied as the soil structure. Welschriesling is the most widespread, followed by Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Morillon (Chardonnay), Gelber Muskateller and Riesling. In Straden and the surrounding area Pinot Gris plays the leading role, while the protagonist in Klöch is Traminer, which may also be vinified semi-dry as a local wine. The main red grape varieties are Zweigelt and Sankt Laurent.

For the white grape varieties, the protected designation of origin Vulkanland Steiermark DAC has been in effect since 2018; the abbreviation DAC stands for "Districtus Austriae Controllatus". The grapes mentioned are permitted for this, either as single grapes or as cuvées. The designation DAC means that the wines must meet special quality guidelines. For example, the grapes for DAC wines may only be harvested by hand.

Diversity also in the quality system

According to the location of their origin, there are three quality levels for growths with DAC status:

  • Regional wines with the designation "Vulkanland Steiermark DAC".
  • Local wines with the designation "Vulkanland Steiermark DAC" as well as one of the nine defined local wine area designations
  • single vineyard wines (single vineyards) with the designation "Vulkanland Steiermark DAC" as well as the vineyard location.

In all local wine regions Sauvignon Blanc is one of two leading grape varieties - in Eastern Styria, Riegersburg, Kapfenstein and St. Peter together with Weißburgunder, in Gleichenberg and St. Anna with Morillon, in Straden with Grauburgunder, in Klöch with Traminer and in Tieschen with Cuvées from Pinot varieties. With the exception of Riesling and Traminer, all wines may not exceed a residual sugar content of four grams per litre.

The additional designation Reserve is reserved for DAC wines that have matured in the cellar for at least 18 months longer than prescribed for their respective quality level. All red wines and the white wines that do not meet the DAC specifications bear the generic designation of origin Styria.

The Gesamtsteirische Vinothek is located in St. Anna am Aigen.


Experience and enjoy nature

The Vulkanland Steiermark is also a nature-oriented tourism area - criss-crossed by four wine routes and several themed hiking trails that invite visitors to discover the romantic hilly landscape, the wines and the culinary delicacies. These include above all the Styrian pumpkin seed oil, which is protected as an origin, as well as ham specialities.

The wines from the Vulkanland - above all the characterful Sauvignon Blancs - accompany not only the local cuisine, but also, for example, fish, vegetable and pasta dishes from other regions of Europe. The Pinot Gris may also be more strongly flavoured, and the residually sweet Traminer shines with soft cheese as well as with spicy Asian dishes.

The most important wine-growing villages in Vulkanland Steiermark, also from a tourist point of view, are Bad Radkersburg, Feldbach, Gleisdorf, Hartberg, Kapfenstein, Klöch, Riegersburg, St. Peter, Straden, Tieschen and Weiz. On the Ringkogel, in the north of the area, there are some of Austria's highest vineyards at up to 650 metres. St. Anna am Aigen is home to the all-Styrian regional wine cellar.

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