Wine In Austria : The History (English Edition) – Willi Klinger with Karl & Michaela Vocelka (Brandstätter)

This undeniably handsome tome from our longtime friend Willi Klinger and fellow editors Karl and Michaela Vocelka is an enjoyably comprehensive overview of the wines of Austria from a historical angle, from its nascent beginnings way back in the Bronze Age, to its highly-acclaimed and world-recognised bottlings of today. 

First imagined by Klinger in 2006, this book has for him been a true labour of love, and its publication (first in German, and now in English) coincides with his departure as Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board after 13 years of service. On a personal level, I vividly recall him enthusiastically describing his ongoing plans for this very book many, many years ago over a glass of Grüner, and so I am especially delighted to see the fruits of his team’s labours come to such glorious fruition.

Drawing from the original research of an interdisciplinary group of over 40 expert authors, the resultant publication is a rich, detailed, and densely-packed collection of scholarly works that makes for thoroughly satisfying and surprisingly pleasurable reading, with kudos certainly being due to those responsible for the English translation. 

Broken into five distinct and defined chapters of reference, accessibility to the information required by the reader is a breeze. Chapter One focuses upon the science, subdivided into soils, climate, varietals, and designations of origin, with Chapter Two looking at the evolution of Austrian wine in Prehistoric and Roman times through to the present day. Chapter Three sees a focus upon the changes in production, marketing, and consumption, with Chapter Four explaining the importance of wines symbiotic relationship with people, notably the connections with culture, religion, art, customs, and architecture. The book’s final chapter looks at Austria’s proud history of wine research, teaching, and sommellerie.

Wine In Austria certainly doesn’t choose to skirt around some of the more problematic aspects of Austrian wine history, most notably in its handling of the story of famed phytologist, entomologist, grapevine breeder, and active Nazi, Dr. Friedrich Zweigelt. Another fascinating sub-chapter focuses upon the genesis and consequences of the great Austrian wine scandal of 1985. Admirably, this book faces these uncomfortable histories head on, approaching them from a matter-of-fact academic perspective, and talking about these matters honestly and earnestly without seeking absolution.

Wine In Austria : The History is a bona fide magnum opus, and surely an essential addition to the wine library canon. Highly recommended.

(Five apples out of a possible five)


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that is one hell of a good read.