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Austria sets legal precedent for single vineyards

Published:  21 August, 2023

Austria has officially established the legal basis for a new classification of single vineyards, which will now see plots divided into two camps: Erste Lage (premier cru) and Große Lage (grand cru).

Various private initiatives for classifying single vineyards – known as ‘Rieds’– have been in place in Austria for many years. Following an intense preliminary phase however, the Wine Law Collective Decree 2023 has now established the legal basis for an official, nationwide classification system, which operates across two tiers. Erste Lage (premier cru) is the first level that a vineyard can attain. Once a minimum of five years has elapsed, the vineyard is able to be defined as a Große Lage (grand cru).

“The Collective Decree 2023 has defined the legal basis for enabling Austrian Rieds to be classed officially according to a standardised system,” Chris Yorke, CEO of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (Austrian Wine) said.

“The decision whether to classify Rieds is up to each wine-growing region because the significance of single vineyards differs from region to region.”

A strict set of criteria accompanies the new classification.

For example, the use of Erste Lage and Große Lage is only permitted on DAC wines from classified vineyards. Furthermore, the wine-growing region from where the wine originates must have defined the three DAC levels of Gebietswein (regional wine), Ortswein (village wine) and Riedenwein (single-vineyard wine).

Erste Lage and Große Lage can also only be used when the wine has been harvested by hand and a lower maximum yield per hectare than the legal limit is met.

Now, the National Wine Committee is focused on organisational and implementation challenges, with the first Erste Lage classifications not expected before 2025.

“Establishing an official vineyard classification system at a national level presents considerable challenges. This is why we will be supporting the wine-growing regions with the process step by step over the next few years and continuously sharing our experiences,” Yorke added.