“When someone makes a journey, he will have a story to relate...” This is a famous saying in the German language sphere, and it’s even more valid when (s)he has had Austria as their holiday destination. The traveller will have tales to tell about the breathtaking landscapes of Austria, its castles, palaces and picturesque villages; stories about the fabled Austrian hospitality and her distinctive regional culinary specialties – and most of all about the Austrian wines, which issue a warm invitation to connoisseurs the wide world over to come visit and stay awhile.
This grand saga also cast such a spell on some 39,000 American travel agents that they chose Austria as “Europe’s Best Wine Travel Destination” in January 2016. “Although wine travel is still a niche product in Austria, the signs are clearly pointing to growth,” says Petra Stolba, managing director of the Austrian National Tourist Office. “Because travelling to the wine and enjoying such a very special way of life correspond exactly to the spirit of our guests.” Willi Klinger, AWMB's general manager, adds, “From the 135 million overnight stays per year, more than 2 million of them represent wine and culinary holiday makers. I estimate that the turnover generated by wine tourists is approximately € 500 million.”
It’s not just in summertime that the wine country of Austria entices folks to come visit – the wine-producing regions work their charming ways throughout the entire year. In spring, more than 1000 cellar lanes in Niederösterreich (Lower Austria) get underway with their merry activities, pampering guests with the new vintage wines, regionally typical culinary treats and a widely diversified programme based in various expressions of Austrian culture. Focal points here in the nation’s largest Qualitätswein region – where the daily routine, architecture and landscape have been shaped by hundreds of years of winegrowing traditions – include the Wachau valley (a UNESCO world heritage site), the ancient Roman archaeological discoveries of Carnuntum, the “world of wine” experience at the Loisium in Langenlois, the event series Literature & Wine – and somewhat later in the year the Thermenregion’s “longest bar in the world”.
The Steiermark (, the “green heart of Austria”) is also well equipped for year-round comfort and accessibility in wine tourism. The vintage presentations during the first warmer days of the year have developed into a significant magnet for visitors, inviting guests to spend an extended weekend tasting the freshly bottled, typically lively, fruit-forward Styrian wines, while the eyes and soul refresh themselves on the reawakening landscape of vineyards spreading themselves out over gently rolling hills. Quite capable where the culinary arts are concerned, the Styrians tempt their guests in every season with delicious tastes of the local heritage like the Styrian Volcanic Country Ham or pumpkin seed oil. And especially in autumn it is particularly pleasant to combine a visit to the Steiermark’s wine country with a relaxing and soothing visit to one of its countless thermal springs.
When the days are the longest and nights the shortest – that is when Burgenland plays a hot hand: extended bicycle touring or relaxing days spent swimming in Europe’s westernmost steppe lake, the Neusiedlersee, promise a renewal of energy in the summer warmth. In the evenings, nearby municipalities provide an enjoyable and convivial retreat with the traditional cuisine of Burgenland and an excellent selection of wines – red, white, and sweet. And a bit further south, Mittelburgenland (known locally as “Blaufränkischland”) and beyond it the Eisenberg offer vinous treats of magnificent variety and satisfying flavour, particularly for lovers of red wines.
And Vienna? Of all the world’s capital cities, Vienna remains unique as the only one with a significant presence of viticulture within the city limits, a presence which has also engendered its living tradition of the Heurigen, the city’s inviting and pleasant wine taverns. The wines of Austria’s charming and history-laden capital combine in a unique and distinctive fashion with the famous Viennese cuisine, putting the crown on any sojourn in the Danubian metropolis.
The fascinating world of Austrian wines has opened its doors wide, avidly awaiting the arrival of visitors. The home page of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (www.austrianwine.com) provides an excellent resource for the savvy traveller and those eager to learn, facilitating detailed route-planning for visits to winegrowers and vinotheques, and offering visitors the chance to become a living part of the great story of Austria’s distinctive wine country.