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Famed Austrian red wine region revives its white side

by Lydia Schima
Rieden im Eisenberg DAC

Origin has many facets. Eisenberg, tucked away in southern Burgenland, might be one of Austria’s smallest and most secluded wine appellations, but it has earnt an international reputation for its unmistakable character wines and uncompromising pursuit of quality.

The 500-hectare wine region is best known for its mineral-driven, earthy Blaufränkisch wines, in which the interplay of soil characteristics with varied rock compositions across a very small area, the altitude of the vineyards and its singular climate are readily apparent.

The indigenous red variety is officially recognised as displaying the unmistakable characteristics of the region, being awarded Eisenberg DAC Reserve status in 2008 and Eisenberg DAC in 2009. The region’s winegrowing history, of course, dates back more than 2,800 years, with the viticultural centre of the appellation formed by the historic, 420-metre-high Eisenberg, whose name translates as “Iron mountain”.

But from the 2022 vintage, Eisenberg’s origin will shimmer in white wine glasses as well as red, with the elevation of Welschriesling to DAC status. The first Welschriesling Eisenberg DAC will be released in January 2024. By establishing DAC status for single-vineyard Welschriesling wine, Eisenberg’s passionate winemakers are heralding a revival of the white grape variety.

Welschriesling revival

Welschriesling is the second most planted variety in Eisenberg behind Blaufränkisch – with good reason. The region, which stretches from Rechnitz in the north to Güssing in the south, has the ideal conditions for Welschriesling to fully develop its elegant, fresh potential. Eisenberg’s winemakers have long recognised that the variety excellently conveys their special terroirs and climatic conditions, plus has extraordinarily good ageing potential with a long shelf life.

Winemakers in Eisenberg are as unique as the region’s varied soils and confluence of continental and Mediterranean climates. Distinguished by their small scale, vintners here prize both their individual work in their vineyards and cellars and their visionary and collaborative teamwork.

Since 1971, Eisenberg (110 hectares) and Deutsch Schützen (80 hectares) have formed a municipality that is characterised by its idyllic seclusion and unspoilt landscape, best viewed from Eisenberg itself. Its steep slopes are home to top vineyards such as Szapary and Saybritz, while Deutsch Schützen boasts the Weinberg, Bründlgfangen and Ratschen vineyards.

Welschriesling feels particularly at home around Rechnitz and on the Csarterberg. The Rechnitz sub-region covers about 70 hectares, which are in the northern part of southern Burgenland and extend to the Hungarian border. Here, on the slopes of the Geschriebenstein, are the highest vineyards in Burgenland, at an altitude of between 350 and 480 metres above sea level. Welschriesling plays the main role in the range of grape varieties, being planted on just over 20 hectares. The chalk-poor, barren primary rock soils (green slate) give the wines a special freshness and liveliness.

On the Csaterberg with its two peaks, Klein- and Hoch-Csater, deep, loamy, ferruginous soils dominate on the roughly 50 hectares. Here, too, the vineyards are comparatively high, at 300 to 370 metres above sea level. Welschrieslings from the Csaterberg present themselves as multi-layered with a complex texture and spicy minerality.

Wines with ambition and character

"I am thrilled by how versatile this grape variety can be," says Maximilian Zenz, Commis Sommelier at top chef Andreas Döllerer in Salzburg. Together with young colleagues, he got the chance to get to know Welschriesling from Eisenberg during a tasting in 2023. The sommeliers were surprised not only by the complexity of the grape variety, but also by the mature wines, which opened up completely new perspectives on Welschriesling and allowed comparisons to Burgundy.

“Welschriesling can definitely do more," summarised Zenz. Now that “more” has been officially recognised with DAC status, meaning that consumers can fully appreciate the structure, power and length of Eisenberg’s flagship white wine variety from 2024.

DAC background

DAC stands for Districtus Austriae Controllatus and is the legal abbreviation given to Qualitätswein (quality wine) in Austria that is particularly typical of its region. Factors considered for typicity of origin include grape variety, cultivation methods and the earliest time a wine can be released on the market. Since the DAC system was established in 2003, it has expanded across all the country’s wine regions. There are 18 DAC-designated regions according to Austria’s Ministry of Agriculture, including Eisenberg which now has both Blaufränkisch and Welschriesling DAC.

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About Eisenberg DAC

Evidence suggests that the Celts cultivated wine in the southern region of Burgenland. Green and blue slate as well as heavy, iron-rich clay lay like a geological patchwork across the small winegrowing region. Together with the climatic dance between warm days and cool airflow at night, ideal conditions arise for expressive Blaufränkisch wines. The Eisenberg DAC association is dedicated to transporting the distinctive and nuanced essence of this terroir into their wines, and presenting them on the international wine stage.

Eisenberg
Am Naturpark 1
7474 Eisenberg / Pinka

Eisenberg DAC

Eisenberg DAC Gebiet
Mitarbeiterin Lydia Schima
Lydia Schima
Digital Projekt Manager

Wine+Partners brought in Lydia as a top-flight social media specialist. With a background in the fine arts, she brings not only an eye for aesthetic detail, but also the ability to move seamlessly between various online channels. She also gathered experience within the tech world from her time in the Irish capital. Lydia is the creative mind behind our social media strategies, and our first point of contact for online trends.