Vienna Woods, Lake Neusiedler, and the Danube River Feature
The epitome of Austrian viticulture is found in the Wachau, those few precious kilometers of terraced vineyards along the north bank of the Danube River. There are few pleasanter ways to spend an afternoon than to travel to the fabled wineries of the valley and sample the golden nectar coaxed from the vines. It's usually possible to stop in and meet the winemaker, who will be happy to pour you a taste from the latest vintage and share some of the secrets of the trade. A late-spring drive through charming villages like Dürnstein, when the apricots are in blossom, is an experience not easily forgotten.
Here you can discover some of the finest white wines in Europe. The elegant, long-lived Rieslings are world-renowned, but the special glory of Austria is the Grüner Veltliner, an indigenous grape that can produce anything from simple Heurigen thirst-quenchers to wines of a nobility that rival the best of Burgundy.
The area has its own unique three-tiered classification system, ranging from the young, fresh Steinfeder and medium-bodied Federspiel to the rich, ripe Smaragd. Some of the already legendary vintners include Toni Zöhrer, F.X. Pichler, Prager, Knoll, and Hirtzberger, as well as the exemplary cooperative of the Freie Weingärtner Wachau.
Vinea Wachau. For fine information on Wachau wineries, log on to this website. www.vinea-wachau.at.
Straddling both sides of the Danube is the Kremstal, centering on the medieval town of Krems, the hub of the area's wine trade. The range of grape varieties expands here to include intensely fragrant Traminer, Grauburgunder (more familiar as Pinot Gris), and even some full-bodied reds from Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. To sample some of these wines, you may be tempted to make an excursion to one of the nearby wineries like Nigl, Salomon, Malat, or Zöhrer. Toni Zöhrer runs vineyard tours—his wines have been among the most successful in recent challenges.
Venturing farther from the Danube takes you through lush, rolling hills to the Kamptal, the valley that follows the winding course of the gentle Kamp River. Here is another premium wine region, this one dominated by Langenlois, the country's largest wine-producing town.
Loisium. The Loisium, a sleek, ultramodern complex of shops with a hotel and spa, provides a comprehensive selection of wines, sparkling wines, and other delectables from the area. The labyrinthian wine cellar takes over an hour to tour and has 15 stops. The hotel also has a restaurant featuring international cuisine. Top producers include Hirsch, Loimer, and Bründlmayer, the maker of one of Austria's best sparkling wines, chardonnay, Alte Reben (old-vine) grüner veltliner, and Riesling of exceptional character. Kornplatz, Langenlois, A-3550. www.loisium.at. €11.50 for a tour of the wine cellar with an audio guide and one tasting.
After you've had your fill of wine tasting, you might want to relax over a good meal at one of these distinguished wineries. Several have very nice restaurants on-site, including Jamek, near Dürnstein.
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