Gruener Veltliner and Riesling dominate the Wachau’s 1,350 Hectares of terraced vineyards. Many are planted on the regions steep slopes and rest in loess soils. In the flat areas, the Danube has contributed to sand, gravel and loess soils.
Here the Western Atlantic and the Eastern Pannonian climate meet causing hot, dry summers and cold winters. However, these conditions are balanced by the large water surface of the Danube. Cold wines coming from the northern Waldviertel area account for the drastic differences between temperatures in the day and night.
The Vinea Wachau has it’s own unique system of white wine classification in addition to Austria’s DAC laws classifying the wines as: Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd.
Few Steinfeder classified wines leave Austrian soil and are, generally, consumed by the public there. Steinfeder wines are lightest of the Wachau’s top wines and can not have more than 11.5% abv. The name itself refers to the typical “Steinfedergras” (Stipa pennata), a grass which grows near the vines in the Wachau´s terraced vineyards; it is light like a feather, and fragrant – just like the wine named after it.
The next, Federspiel is commonly exported. This wine contains 11.5%-12.5% abv and 17 degree KMW (simliar to brix) and is characteristically strong in its flavors. The name Federspiel refers back to the times of falconry, when this favorite form of noble hunting was practiced in the Wachau.
Finally, Smaragd, considered the top of the top wines. Smaragd wines contain upwards of 12.5% abv and are made from the ripest and highest quality grapes. Smaragd wines are names for the emerald-coloured Idex lizards of the same name who are at home in the terraced vineyards of the Wachau. On bright, sunny days, their beauty is highlighted dramatically as they bask in the gleaming sun next to the grapevines – the perfect symbol for the absolute top Wachau wines with full physiological ripeness