Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Südsteiermark, a dramatically hilly austrian wine region fanning south from Graz, the capital of steiermark, and hugging some 40 km/25 miles of frontier with slovenia. Its reputation and densely planted 1,950 ha/4,816 acres (yielding around 7% of national production) are disproportionate to its deceptively small outline on a viticultural map. Südsteiermark gained national prominence in the wake of Austria’s 1985 wine scandal, when wine lovers sought out small wine estates which had little truck with négociants and whose vineyards were within walking distance of the point-of-sale. That said, one’s shoes and heart need to be stout to tackle the steep terrain of a region whose cool, well-watered growing season and complex mingling of volcanic and sedimentary soils support success with a wide range of white wine grapes, most importantly Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay (here generally labelled Morillon), Muskateller, and Welschriesling, but also Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Traminer. The few reds are made primarily from Austria’s ubiquitous Zweigelt, although there is some fine Pinot Noir and Blaufränkisch. Varietal diversity was already a feature of greater Steiermark in the early 19th century, but the choice of principal grapes today—and especially the pre-eminent Sauvignon Blanc—stem from regional pioneers in the 1980s, in particular Manfred Tement.