First, the region is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Second, after the wine scandal in the mid 80’s a group of innovative wine makers banded together to establish their own rules for quality and it’s called Vinea Wachau.
They established 3 categories for their dry wines and is based on the wines natural alcohol level by volume.
‘Steinfeder’ for light bodied aromatic wines up to 11.5% ( Named after the tall feather like grass found in the region.
‘Federspiel’ is for wines 11.5% to 12.5 alcohol by volume. The most common found.
‘Smaragd’ is for wines above 12.5% alcohol by volume and designated for Late Harvest wines.
This regions 3300 acres are located along the Danube River between the villages of Melk and Krems. The dominate grapes are Gruner Veltliner and Riesling, some of which are planted on very steep terraces similar to the vineyards located along the Mosel River in Germany.
The soils of this region vary do to its location, the hillside vineyards have a mixture of granite and slate with traces of iron. While those closer to the river are more gravel and sand. There are over 900 named vineyard sites in Wachau. (Rieden)
Several weather patterns influence the Wachau region, while mainly a Continental Climate ( hot summers and cold winters) cool moist air comes in from the northwest and warmer air coming from the east and all moderated by the Danube River. The Wachau region along with the Kamptal and Kremstal regions are the coolest in Austria.