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​Sustainable Austrian

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For many years now, sustainability has been an important theme in matters of agriculture. And winegrowing is an extremely concentrated and highly focused form of agriculture, since it involves the careful application of substances dedicated to the protection and care of plants, along with fertilisers in widely varied forms – not to mention its use of many machines and the energy they consume, as well as requiring a great deal of water. Meeting the goals of sustainable viticulture demands that resources be conserved as much as possible, and that production must transpire with the lowest possible level of emissions. And viewing sustainable viticulture from the holistic perspective, its scope expands to include the production chain, the distribution chain and finally the consumer as well.


After the Second World War until the end of the 1970s a backlog demand for foodstuffs persisted. During this period, mechanisation underwent significant development, as did the use of new treatments designed to protect plants from disease and pests. These developments contributed to an increase in production, as well as to safeguarding the supply. Particularly in the area of fertilisers, a great accumulated need had had to be met. On the other hand, mistakes were made during this time in the excessive use of technology and chemicals, along with the accompanying ignorance concerning the effects they would have. Only gradually – in the course of a general consciousness-raising in matters of ecology – did a counter-trend develop, through the implementation of practical, environmentally compatible production methods.

Integrated viticulture

Integrated Viticulture is a method of working toward the profitable production of qualitatively high value grapes, wine and other grape products. Protection of human health as well as conservation of the basis for production and the environment stand at the forefront of Integrated Viticulture. Through the general overview of the Agro-Ökosystem-Weingarten, all means of cultivation were taken into account. Three quarters of Austrian vineyard land is cultivated according to the principles of Integrated Production.Integrated production is an outgrowth of “integrated crop protection”. The growing use of pesticides led to increasing difficulties in the 1980s. Side effects of pesticides/herbicides on the ecology were carefully examined with scientifically exact methodology, and as a result evaluated in terms of potential damage to useful organisms. Ecologically harmful and potentially damaging materials and preparations – including those potentially harmful to the user spreading these preparations in the vineyard – were limited in use (beyond a certain amount deemed permissible) or forbidden altogether.

Over the course of the year, the soil – as in other methods of production – is to be planted with greenery or covered with other organic material. Permitted herbicides for maintenance of the soil may only be applied in strip-form among the stake rows. Selective use of modern herbicides should not contaminate the soils over the longer term. This was not true of the herbicides formerly used, which are today forbidden.

Only those materials expressly permitted in Integrated Viticulture for combatting disease and pests may be utilised. All materials, fecundating or therapeutic, listed under the biological production method may also be used.

Wine production is governed by the Austrian Wine Law. Products made through this method of viticulture can be designated and described as “wine made from grapes of Integrated Viticulture”.

Utilising a practical combination of crop are care measure and crop protection treatments will mean that, after a certain threshold of damage has been crossed, a lower level of CO2 emissions will also be achieved because of the reduces number of passes made by tractors through the vineyards.

Organic Viticulture 

The organic-biological viticulture is also known as organic viticulture or bio-wine. It differs from integrated production in that chemical/synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers, freely soluble phosphorus fertilisers and chemical/synthetic pesticides may not be used, and no chemical herbicides may be employed in soil management.

For crop protection it is preferred to use crop-care treatments and crop-fortifying treatments (Pflanzenstärkungsmittel), but there are also crop-protection applications permitted in biological viticulture, among those on the list of applications permitted for Integrated Production. Crop-fortifying treatments – are applications designed exclusively to enhance the resistance of plants against harmful organisms, and to protect plants from damage due to non-parasitic causes. (This means that the application must have no direct protective effect against disease or pests. Should these conditions prevail, the use of a regulated crop-protection treatment is indicated. The great majority of crop-fortifying treatments are of natural origin, rather than being chemical or synthetic products. Evidence of a treatment’s effectiveness is not demanded by law.) Out of these, copper- and sulphur-based preparations have the greatest relevance in combating peronospora and oidium.

Wine production is governed by the Austrian Wine Law, and applicable products are listed in the Codex as permissible for the processing of organically produced grapes. The use of cultured yeast is permitted. As of the 2012 harvest, reduced SO2 contents have been established for wines produced by organic viticulture.


Products made using this method of viticulture are designated as “wine made from grapes of organic and biological viticulture”, since the regulations apply only to the production of grapes. As of the 2012 harvest, the descriptions BIO-Wein or Öko-Wein are permitted. Use of the EU bio-logo with the code number of the certification authority is compulsory.

Monitoring and examination by one of the official inspection bodies in Austria guarantees that production has complied with the guidelines of EU statutes and those of the BIO-organisations.

Owing to the ban on herbicides and certain pesticides, the application of crop care treatments and mechanical loosening of the soil in the stake row necessitate an increased investment of time and money cultivation and crop protection. With this, however, an essential contribution to enhancing the biodiversity in the ecological system of a vineyard will be achieved.


Frequently called “Biodynamic Viticulture”, this can be understood as an augmentation of the organic-biological method of production. The biological-dynamic farming practice of an estate basis itself in the precepts of Rudolf Steiner.

This method of production is articulated in a holistic overview of the agricultural establishment (man, animal, plant) and closed cycles, through species-rich crop rotation and animal husbandry; it is rather difficult to implement in wine producing estates. In support of the crop-fortifying treatments (Pflanzenstärkungsmitteln) used in organic-biological production, additional specifically targeted preparations like horn silica and horn manure preparations as well as various plant-extracts are introduced (Effectiveness of the preparations cited is not proven by scientific evidence.). Crop-fortifying treatments – are applications designed exclusively to enhance the resistance of plants against harmful organisms, and to protect plants from damage due to non-parasitic causes. (This means that the application must have no direct protective effect against disease or pests. Should these conditions prevail, the use of a regulated crop-protection treatment is indicated. The great majority of crop-fortifying treatments are of natural origin, rather than being chemical or synthetic products. Evidence of a treatment’s effectiveness is not demanded by law.) The holistic view also includes acknowledging cosmic influences like the phases of the moon upon living organisms. Soil cultivation, sowing, planting and cellar work should be carried out in observance of the planetary constellations so far as the estate’s structure and weather conditions permit (The effect of these certain planetary constellations upon work in the vineyard and the cellar is not proven by scientific evidence.).

As in organic-biological viticulture, freely soluble chemical/synthetic fertilisers and herbicides are forbidden. Based upon soil analysis, mineral fertilisers may be applied. The soils are to be planted with greencover and should be regularly treated with organic fertiliser. (Unfortunately, obtaining an adequate supply of organic fertiliser is not so simple for a wine estate. If purchased, it must be supplied by a biological-dynamic establishment.)

Biological-dynamic estates guarantee that all substances used on their premises are free of any genetic manipulation.

Orange: the New White – or the Fourth Wine Colour? 

A new term is dominating the wine trade, forums and fairs these days: Orange wine. But no one quite knows what it actually means. And no wonder. Because there are no regulations, no rules and no specific definition for this wine style.


Orange wines are often mistakenly thought to be organic or sulphur-free, which is not necessarily the case. Because of this, there are also terms used like natural wines, raw wines, artisan wines and organic wines. While there are now well-attended fairs with titles bearing these terms, what is missing are regulations for how the wines can be produced. The only wines that actually have to be produced in accordance with regulations – and are strictly controlled – are those named as being from organic or biodynamic agriculture. But once again, these are not necessarily orange wines.

Let's just call these wines, simply, “wines that are a bit different”. Because there are not only white wines made a bit differently, but also certainly red wines.

Without a doubt, there are great wines in this “category”. One just has to be open-minded. Because these wines, whether red, white or orange, are different from what we are used to; they're “raw” wines. Sometimes unfiltered and therefore a bit cloudy, often with corners and edges, perhaps even challenging. Yes, definitely different.


It can be often heard at tastings whether wines like these are really necessary, especially when there are wonderful fruity and clear wines existing in Austria. Fair enough. But there are also many wine lovers who want to try something new once in a while. And there are winemakers who dare to experiment and don't want to stop. Also, there are young sommeliers who want to recommend something fancy or exotic that can, at the same time, match the creative cuisine of their chef. Then there are Austrian winemakers who have succeeded with their unusual wines on the lists of the most exclusive restaurants. And not only in Austria. The best example is Noma in Copenhagen, named four times as the best restaurant in the world and that has listed some of these Austrian wines.

Yes, these wines are certainly a niche product. Barely any can be found in supermarkets. For fans and aficionados in the social whirlwind of wine, orange wines are being tasted more and more often. Whether this is a continuing trend, the future will tell. Presently, it seems very positive.







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