The pale skinned fruits of the Riesling grapevine have been grown in and around Germany's Rhine Valley for centuries, and contributed much to the country's wine culture. Today, Riesling grapes are grown and processed in several countries around the world, where they are prized for their ability to grow well in colder climates, and their unique flavors and characteristics. Riesling grapes produce an impressive array of wines, including fine semi sweet and dessert wines, to excellent dry white wines and sparkling varieties, all which allow the grape to shine through as a premier example of an excellent white wine varietal. One of the things which makes Riesling such a special grape is the fact that it is highly 'terroir expressive', meaning that the features of the land it is grown on can come across well in the flavors and aromas in the wine. As such, it isn't unusual to find flavors of white stone, or smoky ash-like notes in a fine Riesling alongside the more usual orchard fruit flavors more commonly associated with good white wines.
Austria's wine industry has long been based around the country's excellent white wines, the grapes of which grow in abundance across the vineyards in the lowlands, and in the hilly regions around the nation's capital of Vienna. However, Austria also has a strong, if small, red wine industry, based on the superb Pinot Noir, Zwiegelt and Blaufrankisch grapes which flourish in the sun-drenched vineyards in Burgenland, in the very east of the country and close to the Hungarian border. Here, the massive Austrian lakes provide plenty of moisture for the grapes, and the fine and sunny climate help the fruit reach full ripeness each year, and allow the grapes to express much of their wonderful terroir. The characterful and flavorful red wines of Burgenland have been popular for centuries, and remain an intriguing aspect of Austrian wine to this day.
Austria has a wonderfully long and illustrious history of wine production which stretches back over four thousand years, and reached its zenith under the Austria-Hungary dual monarchy in the late 19th century, when Vienna was one of the most important centers of culture and fine living in the world. Today, Austria's fertile soils and long, hot summers help the fifty thousand hectares of vineyards in the country achieve exceptionally high quality yields, which are used primarily for the production of the elegant dry white wines for which the country is renowned. The most important grape varietal is still GrÃ¼ner Veltliner, although many wineries are beginning to expand their repertoire and experiment with many imported grapes from France and further afield, including Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.