WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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/


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:


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.



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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Austrian Wines annual London tasting

536080_205432296265500_608335965_nGreat tasting of Austrian wines today, really high standard of quality on show with some outstanding highlights: The wines of FX Pichler were stunning, those of Knoll as always,  Brundlmayer, Domain Wachau also great greuners and rieslings.

I was stunned by the wines of Gritsch Mauritiushof which were complex and inviting having tasted the 2010s at the winery where they were very closed and austere.

Wieninger’s Pinot Noir Select 2010 was fantastic and the whole selection of Weingut Gesellmann red wines were brilliant. Finally I was delighted to find Weingut Schmeltz of the Wachau presenting their brilliant wines having visited them at their stunning wine tasting room in Joching a few years ago.

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The wines of Austria spring tasting – Highgate, London

Welcome wine:

  • Domaine Wachau Terrace. Lovely, clean, crisp, minerally, excellent value. Our wine of the month in June 2011. Available from Waitrose.

Round 1:

  • Lagler smaragd Riesling/Weissburgunder/Gruner Veltliner

Subtle differences the pinot blanc, which was more acidic. The riesling slightly honeyed, ripe apricots. The gruner minerally crisp.

Round 2:

  • Emmerich Knoll – Federspiel  gruner veltliner2010 and gruner veltliner ried Loibenberg smaragd vinothefullung.

Federspiel crisp young mineral quality.The smaragd full luscious oily viscous honeyed superb.

Break for Tafelspitz.

Round 3:

  • Weingut Brundlymayer Ried Kaferberg smaragd Gruner veltliner 2002 V 2009

Both full bodied honeyed lush wines. The 2002 particularly smooth, rounded. Lacks the crispness of the young ones and not fresh but a great embodiment of the best terroir.

Round 4:

  • Lagler Eiswein Neuberger 2003 harvested christmas eve
  • Berenauslese Riesling 200 served with Birgit’s Apfel Strudel

Impressive array of wines and food 18 guests. Other great wines to mention ,which we plan to introduce to future tastings are the amazing Brundlymayer Rose Brut and the superb Brundlymayer Red Lamm 2009.

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Christmas dinner at Suze Mayfair

Started with ‘The Crossroads’ chardonnay Hawkes Bay – abundance of tropical fruit – then Mt Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc, Canterbury, crisp classic NZ.

Joe brought over a taster of Yealands Gruner Veltliner, Marlborough, very aromatic, lovely balance.  NZ could do very well with Gruner. It went well with gratin of prawns and smoked haddock.

NZ fillet of lamb and sweet potato with Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir – Canterbury Cheviot hills and Willunga Shiraz Viognier Mclaren Vale. A lovely varied selection of antipodean wines.

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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.