For more than fifteen years, Austria’s oenographic nomenclature has been undergoing substantial restructuring. In 2003, the first DAC regulations and classifications were introduced. While grape varieties were the main focus of attention at the time, today stylistic concerns are coming steadily to the fore, and the grape variety now is part of a bigger picture. And that is exactly how Carnuntum, the latest entrant to the DAC system, has defined its DAC regulations.
It has taken time, 16 years in total, but the winegrowing region of Carnuntum, needed this time to present a well-designed a comprehensive new structure for the region.
The concept »Districtus Austriae Controllatus« (Controlled Austrian Denomination of Origin) was introduced in 2003. The viticultural region Weinviertel was the first to use DAC. Since then, the Kremstal, Kamptal, Traisental, Eisenberg, Wien/Vienna, Leithaberg, Mittelburgenland, Neusiedlersee, Rosalia and finally the Steiermark – with Vulkanland, Weststeiermark and Südsteiermark – followed suit.
16 years after the Weinviertel got things underway, the winegrowing region Carnuntum in easternmost Austria is ready to join the programme. This extended interval was necessary, and the winegrowers have not made it easy on themselves.
They were not after just a DAC but rather wanted a solution that was not imposed by an extraregional bureaucracy. The aim was rather to create a solid and sustainable structure, to give the region a clear profile that would prove durable for many years to come. It was also important that all winegrowers – ranging from the internationally renowned estates to the little traditional wine taverns – should support the new structure and find their appropriate place in the pyramid of origins.
And this could not be fixed quickly by adopting a primary grape variety. For Carnuntum is indeed small in area, but its various red and white wines strike a fascinating balance. The varietal palette is very diverse, but the soil structures are widely diversified as well. There are water-retentive sedimentary soils from the epoch of the primeval sea, while on its ancient coastlines one finds pure limestone hillsides. Along the former course of the primordial Danube, wide fields with alluvial red gravels millions of years old wander through the region, while granite and gneiss come to the foreground on the Carpathian ridges. And many a slope in the landscape is covered with loess from the ice ages.
How, then, might one determine what a typical Carnuntum is in a region that has absorbed so many influences over millions of years?
What does Carnuntum mean?
In future, only those wines which correspond to the stylistic characteristics defined among the growers by consensus – DAC – will bear the name Carnuntum on the label; all other wines will state their origin as »Niederösterreich«.
The name Carnuntum means red wines that are vinifed (at least two thirds) from Zweigelt and/or Blaufränkisch, while in the white wine department, »Carnuntum« stands for wines that are at least 2/3 Grüner Veltliner and/or Pinot family varieties. That might perhaps sound a bit vague, but the flavours are clear.
This regulation will apply to all three levels Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein (villages wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine).
In the definition of Ortswein, the Carnuntine growers have also acted prudently and agreed on six terroirs, which each express a clear character:
- Göttlesbrunn: juicy spice from the clay and gravel soils and cool freshness from the nearby woodlands.
- Höflein: strikingly racy, characterised by substantial temperature swings between day and night
- Stixneusiedl: filigree and elegant, cool and refreshing thanks to dense loamy soil
- Petronell: fresh, crisp wines based on sandy-gravelly loess soils near the Danube
- Hainburg: delicately spicy, bearing the influence of massive granite and gneiss
- Prellenkirchen: unmistakable finesse with a firm structure thanks to meagre limestone soils
The single-vineyard wines in turn must articulate the characteristics of the respective municipality in this highest quality category. Here, the well-known names like Schüttenberg, Rosenberg, Spitzerberg or Bärnreiser find their individual expression.