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DAC

Abbreviation for "Districtus Austriae Controllatus", the Austrian designation for a quality wine typical of the region and controlled for its origin, which corresponds mutatis mutandis to the French Appellation d'Origine Protégée (AOP). A relevant reorganisation of the quality system in Austria was initiated in the 1990s by representatives of the wine growing association, the wine trade, the ÖWM (wine marketing service company) and the Ministry of Agriculture after long discussions. The aim of these efforts was and is to emphasise the distinctiveness of Austrian wine and to strengthen its identity in order to stand up to the increasing competition from Europe and overseas. Similar to France, Italy and Spain, this means that the origin is given more consideration or is brought to the fore. In order to illustrate the motivation, the difference between "Romanic" and "Germanic" wine law should be made clear.

romanic and Germanic wine law

While in Germany and Austria the must weight or the name of the grape variety is the main factor in terms of quality, Roman wine law characterises wines according to their origin. In Austria, a consumer will usually name a variety: "I have drunk a Zweigelt (a Veltliner)". However, this does not provide any information about the origin, the wine can come from any wine-growing region in Lower Austria, Burgenland or Styria. On the other hand, a consumer from a Romanesque country will usually not name a grape variety but a region such as Alentejo, Barolo, Beaujolais, Brunello di Montalcino, Chablis, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Chianti, Rioja, Saint-Émilion or Vinho Verde. Especially in France, the indication of a vineyard such as Château Cheval Blanc, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Mouton-Rothschild or Château d'Yquem traditionally corresponds to a narrower designation of origin.

The wine-growing region (and in France to some extent the winery) thus implicitly refers to a very specific type of wine. For example, if you buy a Chablis, you simply know that it is a dry French white wine made of Chardonnay. Among other things, minimum alcohol content and maximum yield are also defined. And if it is one of the seven Grand Cru sites (privileged Chablis sub-areas), whose name is also mentioned on the label, then even stricter requirements apply. Likewise, it is clear that a Rioja is a Spanish red wine from Tempranillo, and a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is an Italian red wine from Sangiovese. For all three wines, however, the grape varieties are not necessarily mentioned on the bottle label.

However, there is a detailed description of the respective production regulations, according to which the wines are tested sensorially by tasting and anlaythetically by measuring methods before they can be marketed. In the Romanesque system, wines are defined according to their origins, so the origin corresponds to a wine description; in Germanic wine law, on the other hand, no specific wines are defined by origin. So if someone said in the past "I drank a Kamptaler (Kremstaler, Mittelburgenländer, Weinviertler)", this did not give any information about the wine. It could therefore have been any red, rosé or white wine from dry to sweet from any grape variety. But this has changed since the introduction of the DAC. Although it should be noted that other quality wines can also come from DAC areas, but then only the wine-growing region may bear as origin.

Origin as a concept of identity

Wines that are named and defined according to their origin are not interchangeable. In Austria, there was a painful process of experience in this respect, when large quantities of Grüner Veltliner, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch or Zweigelt were imported from Hungary and were consumed by the Austrian consumer, who is primarily oriented to the variety, in the belief that he was drinking Austrian wine. From vintage 2009 on, the indication of grape variety(ies) and vintage is allowed even for the lowest quality level. This makes it all the more important to emphasise the specific origin in marketing. For example, since a Chianti must be produced (taste) like a Chianti every year, a precise definition of the wine (variety, vinification, ageing, etc.) is required. All definitions are made by the Consorzio (grape and wine producers, traders, etc.).

This procedure exists in a similar form in many wine-growing countries. The great advantage of self-determination is the fact that the responsible professional groups have to deal intensively with the wine and the area and also have to take traditional, local conditions into account. This creates distinctive and not interchangeable wine types. Even before the introduction of the DAC system, similar efforts were made by individual wine-growing regions in Austria to emphasise the origin. These include, above all, the Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus association founded in 1983 in the Wachau (Lower Austria) with very strict conditions of origin and production.

general DAC provisions

In all Austrian wine-growing regions there are inter-professional committees (IK) consisting of representatives of producers, marketers and processors. There, all conditions and winemaking procedures and production methods are defined with special regard to product quality and KIP (Controlled Integrated Production). To achieve DAC status, the wine must meet minimum requirements. The type of wine must be characteristic of the respective wine growing region. In addition, it must be possible to produce to such an extent that marketing measures appear appropriate. The grape variety(ies) and the characteristic taste features such as residual sugar and method of ageing are defined, as well as the viticultural and cellar-technical measures necessary to achieve this, such as must weight, alcohol content, pressing methods, ripening and storage. Only the DAC wines can be marketed exclusively under this designation.

Wines that do not comply with DAC regulations can still be produced as quality wines. However, the origin of the wine must not be the specific wine-growing region, such as Weinviertel, but the next largest geographical unit designated as a generic wine-growing region, such as Lower Austria in this case. Only the wine-growing region may be used as the origin for the local wines.

There are general rules for all DAC wines: The wine must be made exclusively from grapes of the defined grape variety(ies) harvested in the wine-growing region concerned; blending that does not damage the designation (up to 15% other varieties) must be tolerated. It may only be bottled in glass bottles with a nominal volume of 0.75 l (or more); crown caps are not permitted. The indication of another quality designation is not permitted, especially quality wine, as well as Kabinett or Spätlese. In order to obtain the state test number, the wines, like all quality wines, must undergo the appropriate official analytical and sensory tests before they can be marketed.

Start with Weinviertel DAC 2003

Finally, in February 2003, after long preparatory work, the first Austrian origin-controlled wine was successfully launched. It was the Weinviertel DAC (Lower Austria) from the Grüner Veltliner variety of the 2002 vintage. During the preliminary selection, strict controls eliminated about half of the wines submitted. A total of 133 winegrowers from the Weinviertel presented more than 200 wines on February 17, 2003 in Vienna's Museumsquartier. Soon the great success of this idea became apparent and further wines or areas followed. In retrospect, the introduction was a wise anticipation of the EU wine market regulations that have been in force since August 2009. Among other things, a quality system is now prescribed there throughout the EU, which divides into wines with and wines without designation of origin.

Development of the DAC system

In the course of the introduction in the individual wine-growing regions, a fundamental change in philosophy occurred. In most cases, the DAC designations were identical to the specific wine-growing region designations, even within the borders. The Burgenland was an exception with a comprehensive restructuring in 2016. Four wine-growing regions became five with partly different designations and boundaries.

In the beginning we were rigorous with the approved grape varieties and only allowed one grape variety (e.g. Weinviertel with Grüner Veltliner, Neusiedlersee with Zweigelt, Mittelburgenland with Blaufränkisch) or two grape varieties (e.g. Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental with Grüner Veltliner, Riesling). There was also only one category, which was later extended to two(Classic and Reserve). These restrictions may have deterred some wine regions at first. However, the DAC systems introduced later became increasingly flexible. By far the most sophisticated system was then the one introduced in 2018 by Styria, with many grape varieties, the three-level quality pyramid of Riedenwein, Ortswein and Gebietswein as well as exceptions.

In May 2019, the Austrian National Council, with the votes of the ÖVP, FPÖ and NEOS, passed an amendment to the Wine Act with the aim of further strengthening the wines of origin. The amendment created the possibility for the regional wine committees in the existing and future DAC regions to reserve for DAC wines the indication of closer origins, such as a Großlage, a wine-growing site or a Ried by decree. However, decisions must be taken unanimously in the Regional Wine Committees.

The DAC Areas

DAC area

from age group

Grape varieties

Categories

Carnuntum 2019 GV, WB, CH, BF, ZW Regional, local, Riedenwein
Eisenberg 2008 Blaufränkisch Classic, Reserve
Kamptal 2008 Grüner Veltliner, Riesling Area, local, Riedenwein / Reserve
Kremstal 2007 Grüner Veltliner, Riesling Area, local, Riedenwein / Reserve
Leithaberg 2009 many grape varieties -
Central Burgenland 2006 Blaufränkisch Classic, Reserve / Place, Reed
Lake Neusiedl 2012 Zweigelt Classic, Reserve
Rosalia 2017 Zweigelt, Blaufränkisch Classic, Reserve
Schilcherland 2017 Blue Torrent 2018 included in Western Styria
South Styria 2018 many grape varieties Regional, local, Riedenwein
Traisental 2006 Grüner Veltliner, Riesling Area, local, Riedenwein / Reserve
Volcanic country Styria 2018 many grape varieties Regional, local, Riedenwein
Wachau 2020 many grape varieties Regional, local, Riedenwein
Weinviertel 2002 Green Veltliner Classic, Reserve / Place, Reed
Western Styria 2018 many grape varieties Regional, local, Riedenwein
Viennese Mixed Theorem 2013 zum. 3 white grape varieties -

Österreich - spezifische Weinbaugebiete bzw. DAC-Bereiche

Source: The marketing of wine from Austria by Willi Klinger,
2008 ÖWM (Austria Wein Marketing GmbH)

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