Five Fast Facts about Strohwein

Sweet wine made from grapes dried on straw mats, often referred to as straw wine—has a long history in Europe. The first such examples were likely produced in Greece, and the drying technique eventually made its way to Italy (where a more general term—passito—is typically used to refer to dried-grape wines of many types).

Students of wine will undoubtedly recognize Strohwein as a specific type of dried-grape wine produced in Austria—and in doing so they would be almost correct! Read on to read five fast (and fascinating) facts about Strohwein.

#1: In Austria: Strohwein is indeed a type of sweet, dried-grape wine produced in Austria. The country obtained EU protection for the term as representing it as a distinctive product of Austria in 1999. Schilfwein (reed wine)—also registered as a distinctive product of Austria in 1999—is synonymous with Strohwein. In Austria, the term Strohwein can only be used on a PDO wine, with Burgenland as a leading region. There is a minimum of 5% abv, but no minimum sugar is mandated.

#2: Specifications for Austrian Strohwein: Grapes are to be stored (dried) on straw or reed mats for at least three months. Sugar content before pressing must be minimum of 25°KMW (about 29.6° brix). The white grapes of Austria—including local favorites Grüner Veltliner, Muscat, and Riesling—are often used for Strohwein, but red grapes such as Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch are used as well.

#3: In Italy: Italy is also allowed to use the term Strohwein for certain products produced in the province of Bolzano (also known as South Tyrol, Südtirol, or Alto Adige). Bolzano is located in the far north of Italy, just south of (and adjacent to) the Austrian state of Tyrol. Italian Strohwein may be labeled with a PDO or a PGI designation. As such, it may be produced under any of the following appellations: Alto Adige/Südtirol DOC, Mitterberg IGT, or Vigneti delle Dolomiti IGT.

#4: Specifications for Italian Strohwein: The Italian definition of Strohwein requires that the grapes be dried, after harvest, over a straw trellis. According to the requirements of the Alto Adige DOC, passito wines may be produced using Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Müller Thurgau, Sauvignon, Riesling, Silvaner, Gewürztraminer, Kerner, and/or Moscato Giallo grapes, and may not be sold until June 1 of the year following the harvest.

#5: Straw wine from Germany (or not): Despite its penchant for sweet wines, dried-grape wines of any type were— along with the major re-writing of the German wine law—disallowed for use in the PDO wines of Germany in 1971. The reasoning was (so it seems) that dried-grape wines were not “fresh” and that the drying process roughly equated to chaptalization. However, in the early 2000s, the Ulrich Stein Estate lobbied the ministry of viticulture and eventually succeeded in getting the ban on straw wine overturned. However, by the time this was accomplished—in 2009—Austria and Italy had already protected the term. Eventually, Ulrich Stein was able to get a new term—Striehween (based on a local dialect)—trademarked for use with certain wines. (It is not, however, part of any appellation rules.)

Switzerland produces dried grape wines sometimes labeled with the term Strohwein—but keep in mind, they are not a member of the EU—and like much of the world beyond Europe—they are not entirely beholden to EU rules.

France has a small but interesting tradition of straw wine—known as Vin de Paille—and we will tackle that topic in the near future! Keep in mind that straw wine—no matter what you call it—is typically produced in exceedingly small amounts and will likely be difficult to procure outside of the region of production.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas…


About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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