South Styria (Südsteiermark) is a region in the Austrian State of Styria (Bundesland Steiermark), bordering Slovenia. This is Austria’s culinary heartland. Here, food and wine reign supreme.
And so a trip to South Styria is undoubtedly a culinary and wine-themed trip. Luckily, this is also one of the most scenic wine regions in Europe. So, if you love a good getaway with romantic views of rolling vineyards and wooden windmills (klapotetz), add Südsteiermark to your wine-tasting bucket list.
This post will help you navigate South Styria so that you know what to expect and how to best plan your trip.
We visited South Styria on this 2 Week Austria Road Trip.
South Styria Wine Tasting Guide
- Getting around South Styria
- Where to Stay in South Styria
- South Styrian Wines
- South Styrian Wine Classification
- The South Styrian Wine Road
- Wineries to Visit in South Styria
- Buschenschänke to Visit in South Styria
- Top Restaurants in South Styria
- Wine-Themed Wellness in South Styria
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Getting Around South Styria
We recommend having your own car to get around South Styria. When you’re here, you can also rent an e-bike (see rental locations here) and explore the many rolling hills of South Styria on two wheels. If you stay in Gamlitz, you’ll have access to a Free Gamlitz Taxi (Gamlitzer Service Taxi). This free taxi service was instigated to keep people from drinking and driving. Hurray for more safe drinking!
How the Free Gamlitz Taxi Works
Your accommodation in Gamlitz will call the taxi for you and give you a taxi card which you’ll give your driver. It’s best to let your hotel or guesthouse know an hour or two before you intend to leave so that they can set up the pick-up and you don’t have to wait. Anytime you want to continue your journey or return back to your hotel, just let the staff (at the wine tavern, or restaurant, etc…) know that you want the free taxi and your desired destination. They will make the call for you.
We requested the Gamlitz taxi after we paid for our meal at a local wine tavern and ended up waiting 90 minutes for a pick-up. So, it’s a good idea to call earlier, rather than later. Or, just order a few more glasses of wine while you wait.
Where to Stay in South Styria
Jaglhof by Domaines Kilger
We stayed in Jaglhof by Domaines Kilger in Gamlitz. Our experience was extraordinary. The vineyard views alone are reason enough to stay here. The hotel restaurant and outdoor terrace face west, delivering godly sunsets (when the weather cooperates). And, our room (#11) faced east, so we could see the sunrise from our balcony.
We were also impressed by the quality and comfort of our mattress and bedding. It’s pure luxury – the kind that makes you leap into bed and hug your comforter like it’s your best friend.
Other room highlights include a mini-bar with Domaines Kilger wines, a bathtub, bathrobes, and a Nespresso machine. Breakfast is also lovely. In addition to the buffet – featuring local meats and cheeses, yogurts, müsli provisions, juice, and tea bar – you can order complimentary espresso drinks and freshly made eggs (any style).
As guests, you can also request a private wine tasting of Domaines Kilger and Schiefer & Domaines Kilger wines. Make sure you try the Weisser Schiefer S 2017, a Weissburgunder and Welschriesling cuvée from Burgenland. We savored our private wine tasting before indulging in the Jaglhof tasting menu (more on that later).
Tip: The Jaglhof restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so if you want to experience the restaurant, you should time your stay accordingly. We recommend staying at Jaglhof only Thursdays – Sundays.
IMPORTANT: The hotel reception is open from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. While you can definitely arrive after 3:00 p.m., your experience will be more seamless if you arrive before 3:00 p.m. We arrived at 5:00 p.m., which wasn’t a problem, but our check-in felt rushed.
South Styrian Wines
Let’s get down to business, shall we? South Styria is predominately a white-wine-growing region. Generally speaking, wines are dry and highly reflective of their terroir. Sauvignon Blanc and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) take center stage.
For me, drinking Sauvignon Blanc in Styria was an adjustment. Unlike the fruity, aromatic Sauvignons of New Zealand and California, Styrian Sauvignons are herbaceous and earthy with strong bell pepper notes. They’re anything but predictable. Of all the wines we tried, Weißburgunder was consistently our favorite.
White wine varietals you’ll likely encounter in South Styria.
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Morillon (Chardonnay)
Styrian Wine Classification
When you glance at a wine tasting list, you’ll see that all wines are classified as either Riedenweine, Ortsweine, or Gebietsweine, according to the Styrian DAC system. All that means is that Styrian wines are classified by their origin. The more detailed the origin, the higher the quality.
- Riedenweine: grapes must be sourced from a single vineyard to produce “Riedenweine”. These are the highest quality wines and not surprisingly the most expensive.
- Ortsweine: grapes are sourced from a specific area (“village”) to produce “Ortsweine.”
- Gebietsweine: grapes can be sourced across a Styrian region (Südsteiermark, Vulkanland Steiermark, or Weststeiermark) to produce “Gebietsweine.”
Why Styrian Wines are Unique
“DAC stands for ‘Districtus Austriae Controllatus’ and it is the legal abbreviation for special region-typical quality wines” (source). There are only 9 traditional grape varieties that are permitted across Styria.
In the Styrian DAC regions, harvesting grapes by hand is required by law.
The whole point of the DAC system is to protect the cultural heritage of Styrian wine and draw a clear dividing line between handcrafted Styrian wines and those of industrial wine production. When you look at a Styrian wine bottle, you’ll see the Styrian region (Südsteiermark, Vulkanland Steiermark, or Weststeiermark) followed by DAC.
The South Styrian Wine Road
The South Styrian Wine Road (Die Südsteirische Weinstraße) stretches between Ehrenhausen and Leutschach. It’s more like 3, or 4 roads, and it’s honestly a bit confusing.
As you explore around Ehrenhausen, Gamlitz, and Leutschach, you’ll encounter it. But, don’t worry too much about staying on the road. There are wonderful places to visit that are firmly off the thematic South Styrian Wine Road.
Wineries to Visit in South Styria
If you’re interested in going on a cellar, or winery tour, it’s a good idea to make a reservation.
At this point in time, South Styria is mostly visited by German-speaking tourists from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. That means English hasn’t taken root as a language in which cellar-door or winery tours are normally conducted.
So, if you want to visit a specific winery, I recommend reaching out directly to that winery, and asking them if they can conduct a wine tasting or cellar tour in English. It’s usually not a problem, but giving them a heads up will make your experience better.
Weingut Erich & Walter Polz
This family-run winery is one of the largest wine producers in South Styria. You can join a cellar tour and tasting on Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting at 11 a.m. (6 EUR per person) at the Kellerstöckl. Otherwise, you can visit their winery daily (see opening hours below), or by appointment.
They also have a Buschenschank, which is open Tuesday – Saturday (12 pm – 8 pm). We learned about the Styrian DAC classification system during the cellar tour. They did a good job answering questions in English, but the majority of the tour was conducted in German. I would recommend emailing them and setting up an English-speaking tour and tasting.
Address: Am Grassnitzberg 39, 8472 Spielfeld, Austria
Kellerstöckl Opening Hours:
- Monday – Thursday (10 am – 5 pm)
- Friday – Saturday (10 am – 6 pm)
- Sunday (10 am – 2 pm)
Tement is another well-known South Styrian wine producer, located 1 km away from Weingut Polz. Tement’s outdoor terrace extending from the modern tasting room overlooks the picture-perfect Zieregg vineyard. On a sunny day, this is a simply wonderful place to taste wine. Though the views were outstanding, we weren’t motivated to stay very long, because the lady conducting the tasting was uninspiring to say it nicely.
Wine Tasting Cost: 0.80 – 1 EUR for each individual wine tasting
Wine Sales: Monday – Saturday, 10 am – 6 pm
Address: Zieregg 13, 8461 Berghausen, Austria
Weingut Gross is a fifth-generation, family-run winery located in Ratsch an der Weinstrasse, 4 km from Weingut Tement.
We walked in without an appointment and were lucky enough to connect with Johannes Gross. He was able to articulate his winemaking philosophy in English with great ease. For him, varietals should be the agents of terroir. They want their wines to express the particularities of a vineyard and its soil, rather than fulfill the expectations of how a varietal ought to smell and taste. The result: wines of different varietals grown in the same vineyard are more similar than wines of the same variety grown in different vineyard sites.
Wine sales, tastings, guided tours:
- March – October: Monday – Saturday from 10 am – 6pm
- September and October: additionally Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm
- November to February: by appointment only
Address: 8461 Ratsch an der Weinstrasse 26, Austria
Weingut Maria and Sepp Muster
Weingut Maria and Sepp Muster is a Demeter-certified biodynamic winery in South Styria.
In a region (and Austria in general) that adheres strongly to convention and is generally risk-averse, being a biodynamic winery is an incredible feat and a continuous act of bravery.
The challenges posed by the climate (heavy rainfall in summer), insects (wasps), lack of chemical intervention, and no real Austrian market, would be disheartening for most. Yet, Maria and Sepp forge ahead with passion and love. Their wines are crafted with as little interference as possible, allowing each wine to develop naturally within its own timeframe. We had a wonderful time getting to know Maria and tasting her incredible wines. We left with bottles of Erde 2015 (orange wine) and Graf Sauvignon 2017.
Wine Sales and Tasting:
By appointment only. They no longer offer on-site tastings or on-site purchases.
If you’re interested in South Styrian organic and biodynamic wines, also check out:
- Bio-dynamisches Weingut Werltisch
- Biologische Wein Strohmeier
- Bio-dynamisches Weingut Alice & Roland Tauss
- Bioweingut Andreas Tscheppe
Wine Tasting in South Styria
Traditionally, Austrians drink wine in wine taverns. If Austrians want to purchase wine, they usually visit the Weinverkauf (wine shop), which is directly at the winery. Here, they can quickly and unceremoniously taste a few wines and decide which bottles to purchase.
Formal wine tasting is more of an imported concept. So, “tasting” for the sake of tasting (and possibly not buying) is something a bit strange to Austrians.
But times are changing, and more and more wineries are opening tasting rooms. That being said, the art of administering a wine tasting is hit or miss.
During some winery visits, we were able to connect directly with winemakers and learn about their personal wine philosophy in a way that was extremely authentic and meaningful. During other winery visits, we were ignored and felt like our presence was a burden. So, all I’m trying to say here is that you may have varied experiences. It’s not personal. It’s just a cultural difference that sometimes can be frustrating.
Buschenschänke to Visit in South Styria
One of the loveliest ways to experience Austrian wine culture is in a traditional wine tavern. Buschenschänke are taverns run by winemakers. Some wine taverns are open all year round, while others are only open during certain months. By law, Buschenschänke can only serve cold food and their own wines. You can order platters of cold-cut meats and cheeses, salads, and bread. These are essentially more rustic Heurigen (Heuriger).
It’s unlikely that a Buschenschank will have an English menu. So, definitely download a German-English dictionary on your phone. I use the dict.cc app. Generally, wine taverns are very casual. They often have an outdoor seating area, either in a garden or next to the vineyard.
Buschenschank Hack – Gebell – We came here for dinner and Sturm (fermented grape juice only available during the harvest: September – early October). We were blown away by the quality of the food products (cheese, meats, etc…).
Genusshof by Domaines Kilger – This cheerful Heuriger is well-regarded. Note: a Heuriger is similar to a Buschenschank, but they also can serve warm food. You can also stay at Genusshof. There are a few resident goats and bunnies, making this an ideal accommodation for families with small children.
There are many wine taverns in South Styria. You’ll have no problem finding them. Just make sure to check their opening hours before.
Top Restaurants in South Styria
Kogel 3 is a sophisticated and beautifully-designed restaurant with a huge wine collection (300 wines). If you wanted to have a party or a wedding, this would be the ideal location. The outdoor terrace overlooks a vineyard.
Jaglhof by Domaines Kilger is a hotel and restaurant (the one we stayed in). They have an a la carte and a tasting menu. Their tasting menu is superb in terms of creative composition and taste. Opening Hours.
Wine-themed Wellness in South Styria
Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel Südsteiermark offers wine-themed spa treatments including a Grape Elixir Facial and Body peeling. As a hotel guest, you have access to a beautiful wellness area replete with an indoor-outdoor pool, brine steam bath, Finnish sauna, soft sauna, and infrared cabins.
If you’re not a hotel guest, you can still access their wellness and sauna area with a “Day Spa” pass (37 EUR, 10 am – 6 pm), or a “Late Spa” pass (only on Mondays and Wednesdays, 6 pm – 10 pm). We took advantage of their Late Spa on a particularly rainy and cold evening, and it was extremely relaxing.
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More Information for Your Trip to Austria:
- Austria Travel Guide
- 2 Week Austria Road Trip Itinerary
- 1 Week Austria Itinerary
- Best Places to Visit in Austria
- Vienna City Guide
- Ahr Valley Travel Guide (wine region in Germany)
- 6 Things We Learned while Wine Tasting in Bulgaria