Austria has been making quality wine for hundreds of years but unlike its better known neighbour, Germany, it seems to have fallen through the collective cracks in our memories and is only now beginning to be recognized outside of its borders for the world class, top-notch white wines that it produces.
The Danube is not a wide river as it snakes its way through the hills of the Wachau valley in central Austria, but it is Europe’s second longest waterway.
I was in Austria to attend the European Wine Bloggers Conference and we were on a day trip down the river to Domaine Wachau. Sadly, it was a typical Autumn day and the steep hillsides were covered in a low-laying fog and although we occasionally caught glimpses of the steep hills covered in the bright splashes of red and orange vine leaves, mostly we had to rely on the word of our guide, Julia Sevenich.
Eventually we rounded a corner and could see in the distance the beautiful church of Durnstein, a baby blue and white painted steeple jutting into the sky. Durnstein, incidentally was where Richard the Lionheart was held during his incarceration by the Pope while he was returning from The Crusades. It was lovely and adorned with many baroque touches, it certainly stood out from all the yellow and brown stone buildings along the river. It was here we alighted to make our way to Domaine Wachau.
Domaine Wachau is one of the most well known producers in the Wachau and makes some excellent gruner veltliner which the region is justly famous for. It’s a cooperative and it 440 hectares of vines encompass 30% of all the vines under production in the entire Wachau region.
The co-op has been making wine for centuries and is headquartered in the Cellar Castle of Domaine Wachau. The cellars go back to the 1700s and have recently been restored.
We were fortunate enough to be given a tour by one of only 2 Austrian Masters of Wine, Roman Horvath, who also happened to be the winery director.
Afterwards, we had a grand tasting of many of the gruner veltliners that the region produces and what struck me the most was the intense lean minerality of the wines. These gruner veltliners were very well made, full of clean, fresh fruit but with an elegance and finesse that can be so very hard to find in white wines from very cool regions. Gruner Veltliner is beginning to make an appearance on more and more wine lists in the UK and judging by these examples, they are well worth exploring.