The 1,872 hectares of vines in the Thermenregion stretch from the city limits of Vienna, over the hillsides of the Vienna Woods and along a chain of hills (the highest of which is Mount Anninger) to the area south of Baden. Even today, white wine is prominent in the north of the region around Gumpoldskirchen, with a special focus on the autochthonous varieties Zierfandler (also known as Spätrot) and Rotgipfler. In the south of the region, red wine predominates with the varieties Sankt Laurent and Pinot Noir.
The cultivation of grapevines in this climatically favourable region south of Vienna reaches back more than 2000 years. Roman legionnaires stationed in Carnuntum and Vindobona introduced vines from their homeland and brought the technical expertise of viticulture to Pannonia. The name Thermenregion refers to the sulphurous hot springs at Baden. In the Middle Ages, viticulture experienced a veritable heyday here under the guidance of the Cistercian monks. Both the arrangement of the vineyards and the character of surrounding villages clearly shows the influence of the original house of the Cistercian order, Cîteaux Abbey in Burgundy.
The Cistercian viticulture experts immediately recognised the value of this extraordinary terroir. The vines here benefit from the Pannonian climate with hot summers and dry autumns, not to mention 1800 hours of sunshine per year. Constant air currents enable the grapes to dry quickly following dew or rainfall in autumn. Soils are predominantly loamy here, composed of fine-grained sedimentary deposits. A high proportion of coarse particles is common, originating from cemented or loose gravel and sands containing a high amount of lime and substantial remnants of shells, snails and other marine life. Debris deposits at the bottom of the hillsides facilitate drainage and help warm the vineyards. The Steinfeld plain is characterised by meagre gravel soils, providing excellent conditions for growing red grape varieties.
Typical of the region are the white grape varieties Zierfandler (Spätrot) and Rotgipfler, which are seldom encountered elsewhere. These two varieties are traditionally used in a cuvée blend, producing the legendary Spätrot-Rotgipfler. Traditional varieties also include Blauer Portugieser (formerly known as Vöslauer) and Neuburger, together with modern wines from the Pinot family, like Pinot Noir, Sankt Laurent and Zweigelt, as well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The growing of red wine is focussed in Bad Vöslau, Sooß, Tattendorf and Teesdorf, while classic white wines are produced in Perchtoldsdorf, Gumpoldskirchen, Pfaffstätten, Baden, Guntramsdorf and Traiskirchen.
Here, nature and culture collaborate to enable a diverse choice of leisure activities, including a visit to Freigut Thallern – belonging to the Cistercian Heiligenkreuz Abbey, one of the oldest wine estates in Austria – an excursion to the cultural centre and spa town of Baden with its theatre, operetta and wellness centres, as well as trips along the region’s wine route. The latter offers visitors a large number of enticing Heurige wine taverns, as well as the chance to hike through the vineyards along the Vienna Mountain Spring Water Main.
The Thermenregion wine-growing region extends along the eastern edge of the Calcareous Alps up to the Vienna Basin. However, only a small proportion of the vineyards lie directly on solid limestone and dolomite, or on the sandstone and conglomerate of the Gosau Group. Most of the vines are rooted in sedimentary deposits from the former sea and Lake Pannon in the Vienna Basin, or on alluvial gravel from the ice ages on the Steinfeld plain.
The rim of the Vienna Basin is dominated by sands, gravel, sandstone, conglomerate and breccias, which are composed of rock material from the Calcareous Alps and flysch, brought here by rivers from the rising Alps. These are home to several famous fossil sites, such as the Gainfarn sands, in which shells, snails, corals and an entire 14-million-year-old manatee have been found. Towards the inside of the basin, many vineyards lie on fine-grained clays, marls, scree or colluvium, which have been covered with loamy soils, often containing a high proportion of lime.
In the far south-east, on the other side of the Vienna Basin, some vineyards lie on crystalline slates and carbonates from the Austroalpine nappes, which rise here in the Rosalia Mountains.
Wines from the Thermenregion are considered to be excellent food companions. As unique soloists as they might be, Rotgipfler, Zierfandler and the white Pinot varieties – as well as Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent – place themselves entirely in the service of the respective dish when appropriately used in the culinary ensemble. For example, many preparations of asparagus, because of their fine bitter notes, demand white wines such as those from the Thermenregion with ripe acidity and medium body. Hearty Austrian classics such as Wiener Schnitzel or “Beuscherl”, as well as Eastern delicacies such as tandoori chicken or glazed pork belly receive the finishing touch from these wines, while Pinot Noir and Sankt Laurent play all the right cards with marvellously tender beef or dark-meat poultry – like St Martin’s goose or Peking duck.