Stretching from the imposing Monastery of Melk to the city limits of Vienna, the prime winegrowing areas of Wachau, Kremstal, Traisental, Kamptal and Wagram are strung like pearls along the blue Danube River. The river winds through a stunning landscape that varies from steep, terraced vineyards to rolling hills and forests that are marked by historic cloisters and majestic castles. The region’s rich art, wine and culinary traditions are not a thing of the past, but continue to evolve and be lived today. These treasures can be explored by car, train, boat, bicycle or foot.
Where to Dine
For haute cuisine and an eclectic wine list in an elegant country manor atmosphere, Landhaus Bacher in Wachau is one of the region’s best eateries, and is acclaimed internationally. Delicious organic regional specialties can be enjoyed in a scenic garden setting at the biodynamic wine-farm estate Gut Oberstockstall in the Wagram. Weingut Nigl, nestled in the vineyards of Senftenberg near Krems, offers its delicious wines paired with classy Austrian dishes and an enchanting view of the Ehrenfels Castle ruins.
Where to Stay
The Hotel Schloss Dürnstein is located in the heart of the Wachau Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rooms in this historic castle are furnished with precious antiques and fragrant fresh flowers, and the spa and restaurant offer luxurious indulgence. The stylish, new boutique hotel Malat is located in Furth and enjoys an impressive view of the Göttweig Abbey. This family operation is famous for generous breakfasts served with its own sparkling wine.
Where to Taste
The modern, friendly tasting room and wine shop at Domäne Wachau is open seven days a week from April through October and offers superb tours and tutored tastings twice a day. Sandgrube 13 Wein.Sinn in Krems and Loisium Wine & Spa Resort in Langenlois are both ultramodern wine centers that offer visitors the chance to experience the creation of wine from the vineyard to the glass. The new regional wine event center, Weritas, a shimmering glass structure perched on the edge of a loess precipice, boasts 35 wine specialties from the Wagram available for tasting. The Stift Klosterneuburg is one of Austria’s architectural jewels and has been the center of spiritual, economic, social and cultural life in the region for nearly 900 years. See how state-of-the-art winemaking is seamlessly integrated in the expansive Baroque cellar on the winery tour that descends 118 feet underground.
When to Go
There is a choice of 800 delicious events during the Lower Austria Autumn Wine Festival.
The Danube wine regions produce some of the world’s tastiest and sought-after white wines. Austria’s most famous grape, the peppery Grüner Veltliner, is the most prolific variety. Generally, crisp, delineated and mineral-driven Grüner Veltliner are grown in soils made from primary rock, while the exotic, full-bodied versions come from the warm and sandier loess soils. The Danube is also renowned for classy, muscular Rieslings that exude fragrances of apricot and peach. And you will be remiss if you don’t seek out a bottle of the delicate, floral Roter Veltliner. It won’t be easy to find, but well worth the hunt. Several juicy, must-try cool-climate reds, including Zweigelt and Blaufränkisch, are produced in small quantities and are so popular among the locals that they are often hard to find outside the country.
Family wine farms often have heurigen (wine taverns) that offer homegrown regional dishes and wines by the glass. A bush branch hung near the door signals that the new wine is being served.
Roman Horvath, MW, of Domäne Wachau: “Stroll along the Art Mile of Krems from the historic old town to the medieval quarter. An absolute must is the Manfred Deix exhibition in the Karikatur Museum [in Krems]. Deix is one of Austria’s most important satirical artists, and his works offer an authentic view into the depths of the Austrian soul. Several restaurants and wine bars provide plenty of nourishment for body and mind!”
Wachau Schiff offers a gourmet cruise from Krems to Emmersdorf and a view of the Wachau vineyards from the Danube River. Delight in a return trip on the nostalgic Wachaubahn railway. Book a cooking class with the award-winning chef Toni Mörwald at his Toni M. Cookery School set in the Wagram vineyards of Feuersbrunn.