Hahndorf Hill Winery
In August this year Marc and I made another pilgrimage to the great winelands of Austria. The purpose was to immerse ourselves in their amazing wine, food and tourism experiences.
We were extremely lucky, all along the route, to be able to meet up with most of the winemakers at their cellar doors and to chat in depth about their wines. Their wisdom and insights were illuminating and their hospitality was endearing. Perhaps we were simply fortunate to trap these winemaking bears in their caves, as it was just a few weeks prior to the onset of harvest and they were possibly all just sitting around, kicking their heels and waiting for the action to begin.
First stop was the Kamptal wine region which is our favourite Gruner Veltliner producing region. Here the wines can have great finesse and complexity, and yet be lively and refreshing.
The centre of this region is the ancient wine city of Langenlois which has been renowned for quality wines since the late 11th century. The modern-day tourism theme for this ancient city is ‘Wine, Food and Flowers’ and it is embraced very seriously by all the locals who all contribute in small or fantastical ways with wonderful displays of flower gardens, pots and window boxes in every nook and cranny of the town.
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The Wine and Food aspect is inextricably connected to this historic region, but its epicentre is now represented by the über glamorous hotel and wine centre known as the Loisium Wine & Spa Resort, which is situated on the edge of the city.
If you had any doubt about the wine-history cred of this city, all you need do is take a fascinating tour of the labyrinth of underground wine cellars and tunnels that are several hundred years old and which crisscross at 15 – 20 m beneath the city for many kilometres. This is where wine was made and stored and enjoyed for many generations.
Another extraordinary wine tourism experience recently established in the Kamptal is the ‘Wine Walk’ that starts just beyond the gate of the Loisium Hotel and meanders for about two hours through the surrounding hills and vineyards. It is designed to be both informative and entertaining with frequent rest points that feature either information about the terroir and the vines, or strikingly whimsical constructions such as wind harps, giant quirky sculptures and elaborate shacks nestled near the vines where you can find pre-ordered bottles of chilled, sparkling wine awaiting your pleasure.
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The Kamptal wine region has seriously elevated itself to one of the most innovative and enjoyable wine tourism experiences possible.
Favourite Gruner Veltliner producers from this region include Bründlmayer, Jurtschitsch, Rudi Rabl and Loimer.
Next stop was the medieval city of Krems which is about an hour’s drive from Langenlois, and is situated on a lazy curve of the Danube River. This is also one of Austria’s top Gruner Veltliner regions and has the added advantage of being conveniently close to the third, and arguably most prestigious Gruner region of Austria, the Wachau.
Krems is a charming walled university city with gracious, shady, tree-lined streets. Favourite Gruner producers in the Kremstal wine region include Nigl and Bert Salomon who has a cellar door and vineyard in the centre of the city.
A convenient drive from Krems, along the meandering Danube, is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Wachau wine region. Ancient ruined castles cling to the steep hills that overshadow the river and dramatic wine terraces tumble down to the river’s edge. This is an enchanted land that also plays host to some of the most respected Gruner Veltliner producers in Austria.
Favourite producers in the Wachau are Knoll, PX Pichler (whose cellar door was completely sold out of Gruner Veltliner) and Franz Hirtzberger.
Another worthwhile winery destination in this region is Domäne Wachau, which has a great selection of styles of Gruner Veltliner from many different and varying vineyards in the region. We were delighted and surprised to see a bottle of our own Hahndorf Hill GRU Gruner Veltliner tucked up amongst their collection of empties from their favourite Gruner Veltliner producers from around the world.
After one week’s adventure based in this premier Gruner growing region, we reluctantly departed to continue our exploration of the red wine regions that are situated south east of Vienna, towards the border with Hungary. This will be described in the next GRU Files instalment.