The gourmet nation of Austria is nestled right at the heart of Europe, in a magnificent landscape. The Alps provide the romantic backdrop for a small, exquisite world, wholly dedicated to taking pleasure in natural products.
Juicy green meadows, blossoming fields and untouched alpine pastures grow the ingredients. These are then transformed into a range of specialty products by both the traditional, small-scale Austrian agricultural industry and the processing institutions, inspiring palates around the whole world.
Each region has its specialties
Austria is made up of many small regions. Each one has its individual, unmistakable cultural identity. And, of course, each region has its own culinary specialties – another reason for the wide variety of Austrian products, which melt in the mouths of people everywhere. Together, the regions, each with their own individual culinary offerings, make up one large brand: Gourmet Austria.
Niederösterreich (Lower Austria)
Capital City: Sankt Poelten
Land surface area: 7,408 sq mi
Agricultural area: 941,627 hectares
Lower Austria holds Austria’s biggest quality-wine territory, with the three main regions of Wachau in the North, the Danube region on the Western side of Vienna and the Pannonian Lower Austria in the South East. The most famous and popular wine of the region certainly is the Grüner Veltliner, with a peppery fresh taste. But also other white and red wines call Lower Austria their home. The rather dry Riesling, for example, is harvested mostly in the Danube region between Melk and Klosterneuburg. In the Kamptal, where the volcanic soil adds a mineral touch to the wine, one can find specialities like the Weißburgunder, or the Chardonnay. South of Vienna you can find excellent red wines such as the harmonic Zweigelt, the St. Laurent and also more and more the Pinot Noir. Modern Cuvées keep the region exciting for true sommeliers. The so-called “Weinstraße” (wine street), an 830 kilometers long route, which leads through eight distinct wine regions, more than 150 wine villages and approximately 1500 inns, is a popular destination for Austrians.
Most, from the Latin vinum mustum (young wine) is freshly pressed fruit juice. The most common kind is the one made from grapes, which is also the first step to making wine. This popular alcoholic drink is very common to Lower Austria, especially the regions between the Mostviertel (“must quarter”) in the West of Vienna and the Bucklige Welt (“humpy world”) in the Southeast. The Bucklige Welt is especially known for its numerous “Most-Heurige” (from the Austrian word “heurig” which means “from this year”), which are seasonal wine taverns, where this year’s wine and a limited selection of food is served in a very simple and sociable setting. For the Bucklige Welt region apple must or cider is especially typical.
The Marchfeld, which is an area in the East of Vienna and geologically speaking the biggest plain in Lower Austria, is well- known for its corn and vegetable production. Next to onions, peas, carrots, spinach, salad, beans, celeriac and maize the “star” among the Marchfeld vegetables is the asparagus, which serves as an important ingredient for many Austrian dishes.
Capital City: Eisenstadt
Land surface area: 1,529.66 sq mi
Agricultural area: 188,063 hectares
Burgenland, which is Austria’s youngest federal state, has a longstanding tradition of viniculture. White wine and red wine are equally cultivated. The balanced “Welschriesling” is one of the main types of white wine grown in Burgenland and is popular both in expensive and more affordable versions. Apart from that you can find for example Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, or also Grüne Veltliner. The middle part of Burgenland is especially well-known for the Blaufränkisch, a red wine, which is cultivated on 104,131 mi2. This dry and full-bodied wine often ripens in barrique barrels and is, for example, enjoyed with rich meat dishes. The Zweigelt, which is lighter in taste, is Austria’s most-cultivated red wine and also very common to Burgenland. It is often served with poultry- or pasta dishes.
The rather dry and warm Pannonia climate also offers great conditions for the growing of different kinds of cereal. Das “Mittelburgenland” (Middle Burgenland) is especially recognized for its spelt, which is used for different kinds of bread, cakes and even beer.
The Neudsiedler Lake, which was designated as a World Heritage by UNESCO in 2001, is the biggest lake in Burgenland and even reaches across the border to Hungary. The shallow lake is famous for being a popular holiday destination for Austrians in the summer, during which different sports like swimming, windsurfing or wakeboarding can be enjoyed. It is, moreover, also famous for its delicious fish and, hence, fishing has a long tradition for the inhabitants of the region. Since the shallow water can get quite warm during the summer months, species like the delicious Zander are quite common. Eels, pikes, and carps can be found as well.
Oberösterreich (Upper Austria)
Capital City: Linz
Land surface area: 4,626.25 sq mi
Agricultural area: 564,842 hectares
The “Mühlviertel” (mill quarter), an arboreous region of soft hills in the Northeast of Upper Austria, is especially famous for its cultivation of hop. The female hop plant grows up to 12 inches per day and reaches an eventual height of up to 23 feet. It needs a sunny climate with rather cool nights and ample precipitation, which is why it only grows between the 35th and 55th parallel of the northern and southern hemisphere. Hop is, of course, mostly used for the production of beer. In the popular drink, hop functions mostly to add the fine taste.
Especially south of the Danube, where the “Eferdinger Gemüselandl” spreads in a climatically benefited region, the cultivation of vegetables is a cherished tradition. Farmers especially hold pride in the fact that their products are organic and cultivated under strict guidelines. More than 70 different vegetables are grown on approximately 3.9 square miles: lettuce, radish, turnip cabbage, and asparagus in spring, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, peppers, sun-ripened tomatoes, and many others in the summer. The potatoes from this region also enjoy a very good reputation.
Cheese from Upper Austria has been recognized in the past for its outstanding quality and popularity. The “Salzkammergut”, for example, a beautiful region full of mountains and lakes, has a longstanding tradition of cheese production that goes back to the 14th century. Especially the dairy factory of the picturesque village of Gmunden on the shores of lake Traun is well-known for producing some of the best cheeses of Austria. Raw milk of the highest quality from one of the many dairy farms in the region are at the heart of the deliciousness of the creamery’s creations, such as the “Gmundner Berg” (mountain of Gmund), the “Traunstein König” (King of Traunstein), “Gosauer Jausenkäse” (Gosauer snack cheese) and many others. The popularity of these cheeses has long crossed the borders of Austria. In 2006, for example, the „Traunstein König“ was voted World Champion in the Wisconsin Championship Cheese Contest and in 2010 the “Gmundner Berg Premium” too was honored in this contest
Capital City: Salzburg
Land surface area: 25.358 sq mi
Agricultural area: 271,871 hectares
Over half of Salzburg potatoes are cultivated in the Lungau, a highly fertile region in the south east of the federal state. The Lungau is an inneralpine region which gives it its special climate and vegetation and makes it together with its organic and humus rich soil especially suitable for the cultivation of potatoes. Those “Eachtlinge”, as the potatoes from the region are called, are particularly rich in vegetable protein, vitamins, and minerals and can be used in a wide variety of popular potatoe dishes.
Salzburg too, like its neighbor Upper Austria, is famous for the production of various cheese specialities. Cheese in Austria is typically enjoyed on a slice of bread with butter either for dinner at home, as a snack on the go, or at one of the typical “Heurige” (wine taverns) with a glass of this year’s wine or must. Cheese specialities from Salzburg are, for example, hay-milk cheese from the northern region of Flachau or the South of Salzburg, or “Bierkäse” (beer cheese) from the Pinzgau, a region in the West of Salzburg. Hay-milk cheese producers from Salzburg are especially proud of using only this particularly natural milk, which comes from cows that are free to graze on the lush meadows of Salzburg during the summer and enjoy only the best hay during the winter. “Bierkäse” is especially known for its aromatic taste while only having a diet-friendly fat contet of 15%.
Capital City: Klagenfurt
Land surface area: 3,682.65 sq mi
Agricultural area: 310,067 hectares
The beautiful and sunny Carinthia is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Austria during the summer offering clear lakes and manifold opportunities for leisure activities. It is hardly surprising that bees too feel comfortable in this pleasant climate and so it happens that Carinthia is famous for its delicious honey production. More classical sorts like wild honey and floral honey are complemented by more particular creations such as cream honey or alpine rose honey. The honey, produced by the so-called Carnica bees of the Rosental, enjoys a particularly good reputation. The wild honey is known to be especially aromatic and in general is not as sweet as other kinds of honey.
Beef, Ham & Sausages
Carinthia is also very well-known for its production of high-quality meat and meat-products. Different varieties of bacon and sausages, such as the “Gurktaler Luftgeselchter Speck”, a special “smoked” bacon, which finishes ripening on the fresh air of Gurktal and the “Jauntaler salami”, which is a pure pork sausage with a well-rounded taste, are produced in this area. Praising the products’ quality there are even festivals during the summer where people select the “salami princess” and the “salami king” of Carinthia. Furthermore, different kinds of beef and game and lamb are famous for the region.
The history of the “Kärntna Låxn“, a kind of brown trout, dates back to the 14th century, when fish deliveries were made from Carinthia to the Imperial Court in Vienna in the 14th century. Back in the day, this fish used to be very common in Carinthia’s lakes and, for a few years now, cultivators have successfully bred it again, making it a popular delicacy. The fish are able to grow up slowly and species-appropriate in the very clear water of the mountains, which guarantees an extraordinarily high quality.
Capital City: Innsbruck
Land surface area: 4,897.26 sq mi
Agricultural area: 391,967 hectares
"Schnaps" is the name of different liquors and spirits in Austria. Although there is other kind of Schnaps, probably the most popular ones are made from different kinds of fruit often referred to as "Obstler" (Obst in German means fruit). Popular Obstlers are, for example, Birnenschnaps (pear spirit), Marillenschnaps (apricot spirit) and Zwetschkenschnaps (plum spirit). Blends, of course, are possible too. Tyrol is especially popular for its “Vogelbeerschnaps” (rowan berry spirit). The Vogelbeere is a red berry that has been cultivated in Austria for over ten centuries and was given that name because of birds baiting with them. In order to produce the Schnaps, the Vogelbeeren are harvested after the first cold. Schnaps is, usually, enjoyed after a rich dinner.
Tyrol is the origin of one of Austria’s most cherished snack-time (Austrian “Jause”) products – the “Speck” (bacon). Speck is a special ham that is, like the Italian Prosciutto, often made from the hind legs of the pig. The meat is first cured in salt and other herbs such as garlic, bay leaves, juniper berries and nutmeg. During the last stages of the smoking process, the Speack has to rest for a period of several weeks before it can receive its characteristic taste. The tyrolese version is taken from the back and the belly of the pig and is mostly cured in a combination of salt, caraway and white pepper and smoked using sawdust of fire wood. It is usually enjoyed with bread, cheese and wine during snack-time or dinner, but is also an ingredient of a number of typical Austrian dishes.
Capital City: Bregenz
Land surface area: 1,004.62 sq mi
Agricultural area: 103,432 hectares
Vorarlberg, which is situated in the very west of Austria on the border to Switzerland, is famous for the excellent cheeses it produces. Hay-milk cheese, alp- and mountain cheese from different regions and the “Sura Kees” offer something for every cheese lover. The reason for the great quality and taste of these cheeses is the first-class milk that comes from the healthy and naturally-fed mountain cows. One of the regions, which has been especially recognized for its production of cheese is the Bregenzerwald (Bregenz forest). The brand "KäseStrasse Bregenzerwald" was inroduced in 1998 and now includes 22 different kinds of cheeses. Until the 1650s only “Sauerkäse” (sour cheese) with skim milk was produced. This allowed the farmers to produce larger quantities of butter at the same time, which was used by them to pay their taxes. Only after the Thirty Years’ War, dairy farmers came to the region and taught people how to produce higher-fat cheese. The result was the Bregenzerwald “Bergkäse” (mountain cheese), wich was known as the white gold of the region and is still popular today. The “Alp Cheese” is another delicious treasure of the region, which is exclusively hand-made during the summer. The “Sura Kees” has been a speciality of the region of Montafon since the 12th century. This aromatic cheese has the quality of being low in satured fats and therefore also in cholesterol.
The lush alpine pastures and the warm climate of Vorarlberg offer perfect conditions for stock farming. The Tyrolean “Ländle Alpschwein” (Vorarlberg alp pig) for example, spends up to 120 days in the open, fresh air and is only fed with the best quality food - a mixture of grain and whey. The “Ländle Kalb” (Vorarlberg calf) is another delicacy from Vorarlberg. Special attention is paid to the breeding of the calfs. They are all born in Vorarlberg and fed with the best whole milk available. Hormones are strictly forbidden, which also guarantees the highest meat quality and security.
Capital City: Graz
Land surface area: 6,332.48 sq mi
Agricultural area: 271,481 hectares