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22 April 2006

Austrian Appellations: Carnuntum

Carnuntum is easily Austria's least known wine region.  However, whatever it may lack in familiarity, the region easily makes up for in historical intrigue, and surprisingly good wine.

Carnuntum, east of Vienna, was originally inhabited by the Celts.  Druid folk named the region, deriving its name from 'Karn' - Celtic for 'rock.'  In time (6 AD, to be exact), the Romans came to control Carnuntum.  They used it as a troop garrison and built heavy duty fortifications along the Danube.  Carnuntum's importance as a government and military center waned in the 4th century after it was sacked by the Germans.


The Heidentor (Pagan Gate) - Carnuntum's most well-known archaeological landmark

Carnuntum's history of viticulture reaches back to Celtic times. However, its wines have been only recently introduced to the international community. The region's climate is described as being a near-Mediterranean climatic island, smack dab in the middle of Europe. In contrast to its sandy-soiled neighbor, the Neusiedler See, Carnuntum is replete with stony and loess soils. This combination of warm climate and less-than-hospitable soils could make Carnuntum a place where vines go to wither and die. Fortunately the weather is moderated by the Danube and Lake Neusiedl. As a result, this region is showing off its potential for powerful red wine and heady whites. The dominant red grapes of the region are Austrian natives Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah representing the international varietals. Many of the wineries make a regional specialty called, "Rubin Carnuntum" This wine is made from a winery's top Zweigelt or Blaufränkisch grapes. As for white grapes, Grüner Veltliner and Chardonnay are the major players.

Thankfully there are a few Carnuntum producers who export their wine to North America:

Weingut Markowitsch - imported to the U.S. by Weygandt-Metzler
Falstaff wine guide tasting note for Cuvee Rosenberg 2002 (a blend of Zweigelt, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon): "..dark berry aromas underneath; rich texture and sweet fruit flavors with pronounced minerality."

Weingut Pitnauer - imported to the U.S. by Magellan Wine Imports
Pitnauer was the first Carnuntum winery to work with Syrah.  Its 'Pegasos' is an American oak-aged wine with 85% Syrah and the remainder, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zweigelt.

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[Source: Basic Juice - the wine blog for my generation] quoted: The region's climate is described as being anear-Mediterranean climatic island, smack dab in the middle of Europe.In contrast to its sandy-soiled neighbor, the Neusiedler See, Carnuntum is... [Read More]


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