Austria: An Overview
The Wachau Valley & Vienna
“Now We Are Three”
When we travel for an extended time in a wine region I like to post a short overview of our experiences. When planning this trip many people asked why Austria, why not Burgundy or Champagne or the Rhone? Well, for one I love Gruner Veltliner and dry Riesling, and quite frankly, why not! Or why not Corsica or Sicily? The big wine regions are already developed and will always be there. There is a lot to be gained in my opinion from taking the road less traveled.
The Wachau is by no means a new wine region or one that has not seen its share of visitors like me searching out the finest wines made in all of Austria. The Wachau had its comeuppance in the US early in the last decade (00s). It’s quieter these days as trends in wine seem to go as fast as they splash onto the scene lately. We ran into only one other set of visitors from a UK wine trade group out of the 8 or so producers we made it to. But make no mistake the top wines from the Wachau have cemented themselves permanently into the global fine wine elite.
So, about that nagging question of why Austria? Well, there where quite a few reasons besides excellent wine. We wanted to bring our young daughter Camille with us who was 20 months young at the time. She’s already logged a few flights, but nothing like this. So our requirements looked like this:
- A direct flight, no stops
- Minimal driving
- Culturally open
- Kid friendly/tolerant
- Great accommodations (size/$)
The flight had to be direct with the wine region in close proximity to the airport. Ironically there are vineyards in Vienna but Wachau was only an hours drive from Vienna. We also did not want to have to feel like we were going against the grain culturally. We wanted to be sure that the destination was friendly with small children. We saw maybe 1 harmless snicker the entire trip. Instead we were greeted warmly and in many cases with help and big smiles. Some winemakers had children of similar age and they played together. All but one restaurant was family oriented and welcomed little ones. We even had a baby sitter for 2 nights who spoke 3 languages fluently.
It helped a lot that Camille was aces, she had fun with the entire experience and only really was bored during some meals. We found the perfect places to stay and enjoyed a week along the Danube soaking up the cultural past and present. The cuisine was truly unique and authentic, even at our best meal at Landhaus Bacher there was an originality and authenticity to the style of the cuisine that can get lost at the 2-3 Michelin star level of global cuisine.
We got really lucky with our stay in the Wachau as we were able to secure Villa Schontal for a great price, which was operated by the Relais & Chateau Hotel Schloss Durnstein. They key was it was a house, so Camille could go to bed and we would not have to then only have a balcony the remainder of the night as she went to bed at 7:30. We also were able to stock up on yogurt, veggies, fruit, milk etc. at a nearby grocer for feeding Camille.
The Wachau region is compact, end to end from unter Loiben to Spitz was about a casual 20 minute drive. So getting from the Villa to most appointments was 10-15 minutes tops, some less. This was one of the biggest conveniences and ultimately why we chose the Wachau.
A routine day in the Wachau was breakfast in the Villa and then off to a morning wine appointment. Lunch at that producer or a nearby weinergarten. Camille would nap in the afternoon and Lisa would hang back in the Villa with a massage appointment or a nap herself. Lucky and grateful me would then meet one more producers in the afternoon.
Should you also want to venture a little further Krems and the Kremstal wine region border Wachau on the east and are an easy drive to get to. Krems is a beautiful town with a university and a wine school. The Kremstal region is home to some of the best wine producers in Austria, making similar wines to Wachau, though with a much different sense of place as the terroir is very different.