Burgenland Wine Tour. You have probably tasted the wines of this boutique Burgenland winery if you buy Austrian wine at home. The wine estate is located in the south east of Vienna and still a secret on the tourist front. There, an innovative vintner from a traditional family estate has created a sensory wine world that offers a fun wine experience with wine tasting. The tour has started to crop up in Best Wine Travel Destinations guides. First, forget everything you know about wines…
The Höplers run their wine estate off the tourist paths, where my local family and other Viennese love to spend a day off. We usually take less than an hour to drive there, or 50 min direct by train. The neighbouring village of Breitenbrunn hosts our favourite off-the-beaten-track shore of Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl). All Höpler wines are produced in this medieval village. The family wine estate itself lies in the Leithaberg hills in Winden, along the Neusiedlersee bike path, not far from traditional villages, water wildlife and designer retail outlet Parndorf. The more than 150-year-old estate is so picturesque that locals use it for weddings and other events.
Christof Höpler and his wife Louise produce white wines, red wines and specialty wines in their vineyards along Neusiedlersee. The mild Pannonian climate and good soil have made Burgenland a prime spot for both red and white berries.
The US Wine Enthusiast magazine named Höpler’s Wine Rooms a ‘A top wine travel destination, 2016’. Höpler has been producing the wines for the Trapp Family Lodge (of Sound of Music Fame) for more than 40 years. Their wines quietly pop up on renowned wine lists such as the Michelin stared Horvarth in Berlin and Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver’s signature restaurants in London.
Touring The Wine Rooms
‘You can describe wine using your brain, but you’ll ONLY understand wine using your senses.’ explains Christof Höpler. His mission is to teach us to forget labels and sommelier language. ‘This is about showing, not telling people how to use and trust their own five senses. We want to empower them to judge and enjoy wine for themselves,’ adds Louise Höpler.
Consequently, there are no sommeliers, wine experts and sellers breathing down your neck during the journey.
Höpler’s Wine Rooms present wine in peculiar ways. The first room is a vault like at Fort Knox, displaying several bottles. They are visibly treasured, though I can’t see any 70-year-old bariques carrying cobwebs and a hefty price tag.
The real value at display must be less the liquids in themselves: I think it is the knowledge, tradition, imagination, love and hard work poured into those bottles. That vault is an artisan’s way to show and preserve what’s so dear to him.
The Colour Room
The next room doesn’t host a single bottle but five see-through glass cuboids in subtle shades of red. I feel like on a treasure hunt in a modern art gallery. Once I realise that each colour represents a few sips of wine I can almost taste those ‘paintings’.
Colour characteristises wine but is usually trapped in small glasses and bottles, if not staining your shirt. Seeing it spread out and illuminated like a piece of art self-explains that colour pigmentation influences your wine experience.
The Aroma Room
The next room looks like a parfumeur’s workshop, lining up several bottles equipped with nebulisers and funnels. I smell lots of wonderful things, but can’t name them! My sense of smell badly needs training. Many participants smell wood, minerals, strawberries, vanilla, even bread.
The fragrances are the result of different vineyard soils’ minerals, the intensity of the sun and the barrels’ specific types of wood.
The Sound And Film Rooms
My favourite installation are the hanging barrels in the sound room. As I slip under them I can feel their resonance. Each barrique barrel has a loudspeaker inside, which lets you ‘eavesdrop’ on prerecorded wine conversations: no flowery complicated language, just a lively talk between wine lovers.
If you are new to the area and don’t grow wine you will enjoy the film. It sweeps you through Lake Neusiedl’s countryside of water, vines and warm winds, a ‘grape environment’.
The sound and film rooms are definitely a fun way to develop your sense of the wine growing tradition, the tools, procedures and time that transform grapes into a 7,000 year old cult drink.
The Touch And Time Rooms
Have you ever touched gnarled vines and their soft sprigs during a vineyard tour, dug your hands into the soil and felt their roots? Since I did that in the touch room I can savour some wines a little more intensely. Touching supports my sense of smell.
And I’m not rushing into emptying my wine glasses any more though that must be due to the time room’s reminder that wine is not a rushed thing either, on the contrary.
The Tasting Room
The last room is leading back to where the tour started. There, the Höplers pour out between seven and seventeen different wines for a wine tasting, together with cheese and a selection of bread (on request).
I’m eager to apply my new knowledge. The tour has recharged my sensory repertoire. I discover a whole fruit stall and spice shop in all their variety while walking through fragrant woods as I taste elegant, subtle wines.
Burgenland Wine Tour Information
Sensory tours through Höpler’s Wine Rooms and wine tastings are exclusively done in private to maintain the personal atmosphere. They take place between April and October, and cost from EUR 17 per person. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book. For further information visit Höpler’s website.
Christof and Louise also take you on guided tours through their vineyards along Neusiedlersee. Alternatively, opt for a carriage ride. Their oldest vineyard in Kirchberg was planted in 1203 AD! Besides, it boasts fantastic views of Neusiedlersee.
Use the email above to let the Höplers know if you are interested.
How to get there
Winden am See can be easily tacked onto a day trip to Bratislava or Budapest by car.
Directly from Vienna: Take Austrian Railways (OEBB) from Wien Hauptbahnhof to Winden am See, and walk 5 min to the winery estate. Direct train journeys take 50 minutes. If you prefer to visit by private car transfer (40 min from Vienna), let me know, and I’ll sort it out.
What else to do
Here are a few ideas from Louise and me of things to do nearby after your tour. You can also have your own private tour guide specialised in Austrian wines to take you on a bespoke guided day trip to Burgenland. Get in touch.
- explore Neusiedlersee’s nature park by bike (this can arranged for you on request): tour parts of the lake and return on Kirschblütenweg (cherry blossom path) with stunning views over the Lake Neusiedl;
- quench your thirst at Weitzer Heuriger at the bottom of Kirchberg hill in Winden am See;
- sail or kitesurf at Breitenbrunn lakeside resort, or just rent an electric boat;
- have lunch or dinner at a winery in the medieval village of Rust am See;
- join a round trip boat ride across Neusiedlersee from Rust;
- take some retail therapy at nearby designer outlet Parndorf (dangerously good);
Note: This post is kindly supported by Höpler Wines. All opinions expressed are explicitly my own.