We 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.
This 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.
Instead 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/
Cycling 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:
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.
Most 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.
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/