‘Terroir encompasses all the physical elements of the vineyard, such as the vine itself, the deeper layers in the soil, the situation & exposition, the drainage and the microclimate. But beyond that, the spiritual aspect is very important: this includes the joy, the pain, the pride and the perspiration, along with the setbacks & successes that make up the long saga of the winegrower’.
Terroir is the magic word in viticulture.
Terroir has a sense of romance; terroir has magic. Terroir explains why a wine tastes the way it does.
Terroir means land & soil.
The word comes from the Latin terra and has been borrowed from the French, a term that describes the traditional winemaking & wine culture of Europe.
And... terroir is much more than simply the soil, the site, the grape varieties and the climate; terroir also includes the cellar temperature, the ambient yeasts on the vine and in the cellar, the work of the winegrower on the slope and down the stairs, along with the winegrower him/herself (traditionally called a ‘wine farmer’) and their own personal story.
The steepest vineyards that can be negotiated on foot, exciting alternations of soils & microclimates, as well as the location of the winegrowing regions between the Alps & the Adriatic: these factors have shaped the wines of the Steiermark for centuries. And every one of these wines can be described as unique.
In the Steiermark, every winegrower
has his own terroir.
Here, the soils, microclimates & vineyard sites are more widely varied than those of any other winegrowing region in Austria. This brings with it the incredible diversity that distinguishes Styrian wine.
climate & soil
Styrian wines are known for their fragrance & their juiciness, for their spiciness and minerality, for their simplicity and sophistication. And Styrian wines are characterised to an extreme degree by their origins – by the temperate, rainy climate with little wind (which makes for a great number of microclimates), from weathered volcanic rock soils, soils of weathered solid rock like slate/schist and gneiss, soils on limestone, on gravel and conglomerate, on sand and sandstone as well as Opok (calcareous marl).
the grape varieties
In the Weststeiermark, frequently tagged »Schilcherland«, the rare, autochthonous variety Blauer Wildbacher yields a popular rosé wine called Schilcher, a 100% terroir wine, which is now more frequently vinified as sparkling wine. This regional specialty is exported internationally and has become recognised as a rare delicacy.
In the Südsteiermark Sauvignon Blanc, Welschriesling, Gelber Muskateller and the Pinot family are the primary varieties. Styrian Sauvignons are among the most diverse on earth. Here there is a bit of everything: from prancing light to grassy-herbal to such heavyweights with which only the great Sauvignons of the Loire Valley can compare. The same can be said of Morillon – the Styrian Chardonnay – one of the world’s finest expressions of the Pinot family when vinified in wood, expressing an opulent style.
In the southeastern growing region, Vulkanland, you will also find many hectares of Traminer, here – like all wines – clad in typical Styrian raiment: no makeup and no disguise.
Last but not least, the many Styrian winegrowers also contribute to the Steiermark’s typical expression of origins, because it is their handed-down style of vinification that always knows how to focus tradition to detail, without ever making it seem outdated.
In no other wine region does one encounter so many like-minded winegrowers with distinctly different wines, which then always remain recognisable as wines of the particular region.
Styrian winegrowers work – each for themself – in a microcosm. The microcosm is called Riede (the Austrian term for a vineyard site; Germany does do not use it). These parcels are often quite small but also truly unique, and thus recall the most famous vineyards (premiers crus & grands crus) in the world.
Mountains of manual labour
Machines will not get you very far on rough terrain with gradients of over 80%. So the growers have to work the vineyards by hand, executing numerous small, often laborious tasks, accompanied by many kilometres of footsteps each day.
But it is precisely these steep slopes that give the grapes plenty of sun during the day and refreshing coolness during the night. Thus, the work of the winegrowers is rewarded with top-quality grape material.