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Austria claims new sparkling wine standards rival Champagne

Published:  29 October, 2014

Austria has introduced new quality standards for its sparkling wines, which it claims puts it on a par with Champagne and Franciacorta.

Austria has introduced new quality standards for its sparkling wines, which it claims puts it on a par with Champagne and Franciacorta.

Last week, the Austrian Sparkling Wine Committee announced a three-tier quality pyramid for its wines. The pyramid emphasises maturation on the lees and grape origin. It claims its top tier "is on a par with the highest standards maintained by the world's leading sparkling wines - such as Champagne or Franciacorta - and in certain aspects, even surpasses them".

AustriaAustria looking to boost quality of its sparkling winesThe new quality pyramid emphasises lees maturation and grape origin.

Level one guarantees nine months of lees maturation, while level two focuses on bottle fermentation with the grapes and base wines coming from a generic wine growing region and a lees maturation period of at least 18 months. The top tier only allows grapes to be picked from a single wine community (such as Poysdorf, Langenlois, Gols and Gamlitz), whereby vineyard site designations are possible. After bottle fermentation, the sparkling wine in this category may be released on the market at a minimum of three years following the harvest.

Willi Klinger, managing director of the Austrian Wine marketing Board, said: "In winemaking, Austria is already amongst the world's best. And now, our goal with the new quality pyramid is to bring the public closer to the origin, diversity and excellent quality of Austrian sparkling wine - and with that, awaken the same patriotism that is already so strongly shown for our quality still wines." 

The pyramid will be officially recognised as part of Austrian Wine law in 2015. Around 12 million bottles of Austrian sparkling wine will have been consumed by the end of this year, according to the AWMB.

The move coincides with a growing appetite for Austrian wines on these shores. Drinks distributor Matthew Clark has recently taken on a range of eight wines from Austria's Willi Opitz - which it will supply exclusively to both the on and off-trades.

Siobhan Irons, Matthew Clark wine buyer described Opitz as an "exciting and innovative producer" who "places every ounce of his personality into making his wines".

A number of UK retailers are expanding their Austrian focus, such as Waitrose and Oddbins. Waitrose's head of BWS Pierpaolo Petrassi, recently told that the country "has been in double digit growth [at Waitrose] for the past five years. We absolutely believe in its success and love its varieties. You've got to overinvest to bring that to fruition."

Meanwhile Oddbins' boss Ayo Akintola told in July that its customers have an "element of originality" meaning Austrian wines flourish in stores.