WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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Austria’s best kept wine secret: The Südsteiermark

The Südsteiermark (Southern Styria)is a stunning region in south-east Austria. Here picturesque hills and valleys are carpeted in vineyards punctuated only by the occasional field of pumpkins and shady patch of woodland.

sudstier vineyardsThe region is perhaps Austria’s best kept wine secret with the vast majority of its wine is consumed on home turf & only a handful of pioneering producers exporting overseas. Südsteiermark’s premium wines are much appreciated by Viennese restaurants & wine collectors but I’m pretty sure that the majority of these tasty wines are consumed on site in the numerous wineries themselves that occupy prime hill top locations whilst enjoying picture postcard views and tucking into local culinary treats.

The region’s beauty really gives Tuscany a run for its money and offers a similarly seductive synthesis of food and wine and scenery. Whilst many serious wines are produced here wine is very much part of a wider offering.

 

Wineries have always been open to visitors serving their own wines in outdoor gardens overlooking the vineyards.  Traditionally these Buschenschank (taverns) were only allowed to pour their own wines and serve food grown and made on the premises. However since I first visited the region 25 years ago Brettljause, a simple platter of cold meats, cheeses & pickled vegetables with rye bread, was pretty much the staple fayre.  However menu’s in even the most basic Buschenschank have now been expanded to include such delights as fresh salads dressed with local pumpkin seed oil & the local speciality Stierische Backhendl (fried breaded chicken made from ‘happy’ local hens).  Look out too for a range of super dishes made with Eierschwammerl (chanterelle mushrooms). Many of the wineries also let rooms on a bed and breakfast basis so that you can stay right in the heart of the action and there are an increasing number of boutique hotels with gourmet restaurants perched on prime spots for those seeking a bit more luxury.skoffThe Südsteiermark is best known wines for white wines and in particular Sauvignon Blanc which seems to sit in a satisfying spot somewhere between the steel & mineral of the Loire and the greater florality & fruitiness of New Zealand.  Traditional whites include the fragrant & fresh early drinking Gelber Muskateller, a perfect aperitif especially when made into a sparkler, Welschriesling, another fresh food friendly white, Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc) with more body but good acidity and the perfect fit for Backhendl and of course a bit of Gruener Veltliner.  Chardonnay seems to do well and often comes with a bit of oak too. There are also tasty reds too often blends of indigenous grapes like Blaufränkisch and Zweigelt with international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot.unnamed (1)

The vineyards go up to about 400m above sea level and although continental enjoy a long ripening season thanks to an increasingly pronounced range between daytime and night time temperatures reaching up to 18 degrees towards harvest.

 

With so many Buschenschank and Weingut to visit each offering so much good eating and drinking the Styrian tourist board have helpfully joined the dots on the map up with a series of picturesque wine trails.  The main Weinstraßefarmhouse runs from Leutschach to Gamlitz & Ehrenhausen. Running largely along a ridge it connects many of the best winemakers and the loveliest locations.  Instead of driving the route far nicer choice is to ramble along one of the many walking routes also mapped out which allow one to pass right through the vineyards & by quaint farmhouses complete clucking chickens & vintage tractors.

ebikeHowever to cover a wider sweep of the area there is no better form of transport than the e-bike.  Modern electric bikes flatten out the many steep hill climbs but take nothing away from the pleasure of rolling through this fabulous country side following part of the Weinstrassen Tour for bikes.  Maps of all three types of trail are widely available and extremely well sign posted on the ground making it super user friendly.

Accommodation.

We’ve stayed in three places over the years and enjoyed them all:

Weingut & Buschenschank Tinnauer picturesquely situated on the bike route near Gamlitz. http://www.weingut-tinnauer.at/

Skoff Original, the home of Sauvignon Blanc and right on the spectacular Weinstraße. Stunning panoramic views & great food. http://skofforiginal.com/?lang=en

bird scarerHotel Gut Pössnitzberg.  A stylish hotel with heated outdoor pool & cool glass box dining room overlooking the vineyards. The hotel is owned by the Polz Winery and there is a tasting of their wines, including some great traditional method fizz, for guests at 5.00pm each day.  E bikes available. http://www.poessnitzberg.at/

Winzerhotel Wurzenberg is a modern hotel in a spectacular location but we haven’t visited it yet!

Places to eat:

All the above serve great food.  However a visit to the Südsteiermark should definitely include a traditional spit and sawdust buschenschank.

There are many to choose from and it’s worth asking for a local recommendation. We enjoyed Eory Buschenschank. Great location, traditional fayre and friendly landlord.

buschenschank01

For more information visit:

Tourist information:  http://www.steiermark.com/en/styria/regions/southern-western-styria

For accommodation, restaurants & wineries: http://www.suedsteirischeweinstrasse.at/

 

On the wine region: http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/wine-growing-regions/steiermark-styria/unnamed (16)

Getting there:

It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from Vienna

Or 45 minutes from Graz international airport.

ENJOY!


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Visit the Wachau in Austria

20131028_152456We have visited the Wachau on the Danube in Austria many times over the years, normally at the end of May for a cycle ride along the Danube, lunch and tasting or two at one of the many wonderful wineries lining the valley.   We’ve also been a few times in the summer and when it is hot enough one can stop at one of the sand banks that form on the river and revive with a refreshing dip in the Danube as it flows past.

photo 1This year however we happened to visit at the end of October on a gorgeous sunny day and the steep vineyards of the Wachau valley were aflame with autumnal reds and yellows.  From October to November the harvest is in full swing so wineries are pressed for time. Whilst they are still welcoming their doors are only open by arrangement and tastings are more hurried affairs than usual.

20131028_152906Instead of our usual cycle along the river this time we parked in Spitz below the Tausendeimerberg, hill (so called because it produces 1000 clay jars of wine) and followed a circular walk through the vineyards behind the town. With the bustle of the harvest, vivid colours and stunning views of the river winding down the valley this is a great time of year to visit.

It’s not all wine either as there are the ruins of the various robber baron castles to visit dotted up and down the hills in one of which Richard the Lion Heart was held for ransom on his way back from the crusades.

Obviously a few bottles were purchased and a tasting worked into the day.  At Weingut Knoll we heard of how earlier it the year in the Danube flooded.  The villages next the river were submerged for a few days, including the valley floor vineyards and the wine cellars where the previous year’s vintage of smargd was still in the large barrels and had to be tied down in position. As the barrels are of course water proof and the water receded after only a few days the wine was not affected.  Those that I tasted attested to this.

The Wachau is only about 50 minutes’ drive from Vienna and can also be reached by train so combines nicely with a city break.  Here are a few tips and links to help you on your way…

General tourist information in English: http://alt.donau.com/donau/wn/?ln=EN

Spitz vineyard walk: http://www.donau.com/de/donau-niederoesterreich/ausflug-bewegen/bewegung/karten-touren-finden/detail/weinwandern-spitz-robert-prosser-und-weingut-franz-hirtzberger/6549636/fee1693155c22cf71221412165fb9a89/

http://www.spitz-wachau.com/de/

20131028_153309Cycling on the Danube.  A lot of hotels hire bikes but here are also a couple of places in Krems where you can hire bikes for the day.  You can either take one of the cruise ships or the local train down to Willendorf or one of the other towns further west and then spend the day cycling back at a leisurely pace.  There is a dedicated cycle path close to the river all the way:

http://www.lower-austria.info/portal/en/?tt=NOEEN_R35&id=98770

Restaurant Loibnerhof run by the part of the Knoll family with excellent food and a great wine list featuring mature Knoll Greuners and Rieslings.  Try the Tafelspitz an Austrian speciality of tender beef served with horseradish and apple. In the autumn roast goose (Ganse) with red cabbage is in season: http://www.loibnerhof.at/

Jamek is a well-known Wachau wine producer and has a great restaurant in Joching practically on the cycle path, with a lovely garden, great menu and as one might expect a full selection of their own wines: http://www.weingut-jamek.at/restaurant.php?id=13

For a review of wine makers and wines from Wachau, Kremstal and Kamptal see our past tastings page.

photoMost wine makers are very welcoming but it is necessary to make an appointment beforehand.  However two that I have visited many times on spec are Domaine Wachau a large producer who make excellent wines (the Terraces GV from Waitrose is a perennial favourite) and Weingut Schmeltz who have a very groovy tasting room and excellent wines cover looking the vineyards in Joching.

http://www.domaene-wachau.atc

http://www.schmelzweine.at/cms/?page_id=11

When WC visited the area we stayed at Hotel Pfeffel which has great views over the Danube and has a lovely roof top pool: http://www.pfeffel.at/


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Austria trip June 2011 – Wachau Kamptal

Day 1

Thursday night Chez Franz in Mank. Eighteen Austrian reds served in pairs blind, 1989-2010. Four dessert wines, Kracher 2008.
Present: Eric Boudot from Bordeaux and local merchant, Didi local restauranteur.

Wines included:

  • Round 1: Native zweigelt (after a Professor)/Blaufrankish( Blue Franc in Napoleonic times) – cherry fruity spices.
  • Round 2: Pinot Noir Gesselman 2003, 13% floral earthy composty classic pinot ( Eric called Gesselman during tasting!) and Pinot 2004 Markowitsch – a bit cooked.
  • Round 3: Blaufrankisch 2001 Chevalier -earthy 14% powerful and Zweigelt OLvin 2000.
  • Round 4: Merlot 2000 (highlight). Lilies, flowers, lavender, smokey, Blaufrankish – barrel sample pichler, too young/acetone.
  • Round 5 1999 in signo Leorus cuvee V saira grande reserve 2003 cab merlot (tiring).
  • Round 6: corked 2000 Guiser V Blaufrankish 2000 Durran savoury/sweet/hoisin sauce (Kiran +++).
  • Round 7: 1994 Blaufrankisch – over the hill, spicy, HP sauce +++V th suprise 1996 Chateau Montrose! wet dog/fur.
  • Round 8: 1989 Blaufrankisch Markowitch V 1989 Zweigelt. Very interesting to try such old Austrian reds, but past their best.

austria1A marathon with tonnes of cheese. Finished off with the famous Krachers, 50 euros, plus a bottle generously supplied by Eric, a rosen muskateller 2008 and variety of 2008 6%, 8% and 11%. Oh, and a lovely Doisy Daene thrown in! What a tasting!

Day 2

Drove to Spitz on the Danube. First stop, Mauritshof Britz for a whole array of gruners and rieslings. Unfortunately the 2010 was not a great vintage with lots of rain and other problems. This showed in the 2010. Then a trip to Lagler slightly overshadowed by a leggy loud American group but some lovely wines (see The Wines of Austria event).

We checked in at the lovely hotel on the banks of the Danube and headed off on our bikes to Emmerich Knoll. He was a wee bit surprised to see us and was sat with his grandchildren. We gladly joined the Knoll family and thus commenced a three hour afternoon tasting of some fantastic wines including barrel selections of all his 2010, served from the most remarkable blown glass contraption. A truly memorable afternoon.

austria2Finished the day at the restaurant opposite Knoll in Unterloiben. The smoked, herb crusted trout was the highlight, but some other great food. Rob et al none too happy as hot desserts stopped at 9.30pm!

Day 3

More intense cycling and a rather longer trip than expected to Langenlois and missed the first tasting! A real test for me in my rehabilitation from back surgery and just managed. Rewarded at the Brundlymayer restaurant with the most awesome display of around twenty wines,  with beautiful food. Highlights for sure were the rose brut – the quality of top champagne and the Ried Lamm, which had spent time in wood and is compatible with top white burgundy.

Later that afternoon in Strass tried maybe fifteen wines with Mr Shreibess. These were great value for money and very crisp clean wines. Luckily, it was downhill to Krems and along the river through Unterloiben and Durnstein. Back to the hotel for schnitzel, a delicious stinging nettle soup and the most ridiculously large eggy meringue type and a thick, pancake-like dessert.

Another great trip – next stop, Italy


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Austrian whites at New Year

After a few days skiing, which lacked vinus highlight but featured sufficient schnitzls with beer to compensate, we returned to Regina and Franz’s to see in the New Year. Franz again raided his wonderful cellar (worthy of a feature of its own at some point) and the evening started with a couple of superb Austrian whites.

First, a Gruener Veltliner Shloss Goebelsberg Lamm Reserve 2008. This GV from Kamptal rather than the Wachau was voted best in the vintage by Vinaria magazine. Full of exotic fruits, pineapple, star fruit etc. on the nose, but with a tight mineral core and long on the palette, lovely.

Next was a Riesling Smaragd 1999 Liobener Steirntal, from the now internationally famous FX Pichler. This was amazingly  fresh for its ten years and still in full stride, smokey with hints of match head on the nose, but with a strong fruity scents underneath. On the palette beautifully balanced, with pineapple and seasoning leaving, ending clean and invigorating.