Viticulture and tradition

Viticulture is a Styrian tradition

Viticulture is one of the oldest cultural traditions in Austria. As early as 2500 years ago (about 400 BC), the Celts knew and used the grapes that grew wild here. But it was the Romans who first cultivated extensive vineyards. Evidence of the Roman wine culture is shown by the findings of vineyard remnants and drinking vessels in southern Styria.

Viticulture was neglected during the Dark Ages but did not completely vanish. A new impetus for wine growing in Styria was given by the introduction of Christianity and ensuing cultivation of the land. Viticulture was an important economic factor throughout the Middle Ages. Cultivation was greatest toward the end of the 16th century, before another phase of neglect followed due to plagues and wars.

Archduke Johann was responsible for an upswing in Styrian viticulture with his concern for systematic improvement and development. He created an experimental vineyard with 425 different varieties.

There was, however, a serious setback in the second half of the last century caused by diseases and pest infestation of the vines. This happened at a time when Styria was one of the most important viticultural regions, with vineyards covering nearly 35.000 hectares.

Styrian vineyards today

Currently 4.240 hectares of land are under cultivation as vineyards in Styria. This means that Styria has about 9 % of the total vineyards in Austria and produces approxiamately 7 % of the country’s wine. The vineyards generally make use of dry, stony and steep slopes which otherwise would probably not be cultivated. Over half of the Styrian vineyards show an inclination of more than 26 %, as to why they are often called mountain vineyards. Most of the 3.000 Styrain wineries are Family-owned businesses. The average vineyard covers only 1,40 hectares. These small structures do not only offer economic security to many families but are also attractive for the tourism industry.

About half of the wine that is consumed in Styria is also produced here, which is why there is no danger of overproduction. In order to compete against the larger wine-growing regions of Lower Austria and Burgenland, the Styrian vintners have successfully concentrated on producing exceptional wines of high quality.

The vintners themselves market more than two third of the production. The Buschenschank, or wine garden, is of interest here. Emperor Josef II established the legal basis for these establishments in 1784 by permitting everyone to sell his own produce, wine and hard cider at any time of the year and for whatever price he wished. Styrian vintners cater for their guests with their won wine and homemade food. The menu at a Buschenschank is abundant. Homemade bread perfectly accompanies a variety of cheeses, smoked meats, cream-cheese and savory spreads, meat in aspic and tasty pumpkin-seed oil.