Burg Taggenbrunn / Franz Gerdl
Still considered an insider’s Austrian wine region, even in its own country, Carinthia is experiencing a burgeoning renaissance.
In the 19th century, economic shifts followed by a downy mildew outbreak that destroyed yields and vines led Carinthia’s once thriving viticulture to vanish. Since the 1970s, an eclectic mix of established farmers, small-batch hobbyist producers and young, experimental locals have revitalized the southernmost state’s 1,100-year-old regional wine tradition.
This diverse group has expanded winemaking across the 3,600-square-mile region from less than 10 acres of vineyards in 2000 to approximately 345 acres of vines today.
Several factors have contributed to Carinthia’s evolution. In 1999, the Carinthian Chamber of Agriculture launched a winemaking course that provides professional expertise to new winemakers eager to embrace miles of uncultivated land.
“It wasn’t continuous growth; it happened almost explosively,” says Horst Wild, president of the Carinthian Viticulture Association, which has 180 members, and one of the region’s many hobbyist farmers.
In 2011, more than 100,000 bottles were produced, he says. And, over the past 10 years, Carinthian wine production grew from 26,000 to nearly 119,000 gallons.