The most western wine-producing region in Austria, Wachau — the narrow valley between the towns of Melk and Krems along the Danube River, is also Austria’s most recognized winegrowing area. This small zone, containing only 1,400 Hectares (3,500 acres) of vineyards, offers some of the most challenging viticultural conditions in Europe, featuring unusually low annual precipitation; steep, unwelcoming rock fields in which vines and vintner struggle together; and some of the least predictable and volatile climatic conditions of any wine producing region in the world. In addition, a wide variety of factors: soil type, elevation, exposition, and geologic features creates a region where every vineyard has its own unique microclimate, requiring constant monitoring and decisiveness until the grapes are finally ripe — often as late as mid-November. It is in this context that the winemakers of the Wachau (through an organization called Vinea Wachau) decided to make things even harder by imposing one of the world’s strictest codes of winemaking. The Codex Wachau allows only the most essential winemaking practices, prohibiting the use of all manipulative practices, such as acidification, aromatization (including the use of barriques), concentration, or additives. The goal of this is to produce singular, often age-worthy, Gruner Veltliner and dry Riesling (approximately 80% of Wachau white wine production) expressive of the unique character of Wachau terroir.
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