Wachau Valley Tour. For us Austrians, Wachau Valley resonates with sweet apricots, excellent white wines, countryside baroque, memories of school trips, and black-and-white romantic 1940ies films. Officially, the UNESCO World Heritage site at a 45 min drive from Vienna is one of the best places in Europe to visit. I joined a small group wine tasting tour – read my review.
Wine Tasting At Domäne Wachau
Wachau Valley Tour. Getting tipsy at 10.30am was not on my agenda. Half way through our first wine tasting the vineyards outside doubled in density and the slick marble building of the local cooperative Domäne Wachau turned into play dough. I held on through all the five excellent white wines we tasted: Gelber Muskateller, Grüner Veltliner, Riesling, Blauer Zweigelt, and Eiswein (if I remember correctly). Many of those Wachau wines are known internationally and can be found in wine stores and restaurants from the United States to Tokio.
Countryside Baroque and A Medieval Prison
Wachau Valley Tour. I was sober by the time we arrived in Dürnstein, 10 minutes after the wine tasting. Dürnstein is an ultraromantic historic village, well known for its famous ex-prisoner: English King and medieval crusaderRichard Lionheart.
After a stint to a regional produce shop full of apricot liqueurs, more grape products and goat milk cream, Richard and Cindy from Ohio made it half way up to the castle ruin to enjoy the views over Wachau Valley. Meanwhile, I was roaming winding alleys to discover the baroque monastery of Dürnstein: Squiggly façades, a small courtyard lined with pink oleanders, the river terrace, the old wine barrel for collecting donations in the church – perfect world.
Lunch at Local Wine Estate
Wachau Valley Tour. Weissenkirchen on the Danube, our lunch spot, had a third of the amount of tourists populating Dürnstein. It scored high on my charm scale because of its old houses and wine estates with their inclined murals, painted walls, vines, and pelargonias sprawling from the window sills. We had lunch at Mang wine estate. Set in an orchard of apricots, apples, plums and pears, the historic estate had a lovely outdoor space for more wine, cold platters, fish and salad, roast and local sausages. This is so ‘Hofrat Geiger’, I thought. (The film is the best 1940ies romantic comedy set in Wachau that my grandparents and their generation adored.)
A Wine Cellar Off The Guidebooks
Wachau Valley Tour. Domäne Wachau, Dürnstein, and Mang wine estate were decent local experiences. The tour’s undisputed highlight, however, was a no make-up authentic wine cellar including its original owner, up in the hills of Joching. Young renegade Martin Jamek sticks to producing wine the old way, pressing the grapes manually instead of using modern machinery. He generates a modest 7,000 to 9,000 litres of wine per year. ‘Martin is a joke to most fellow vintners but he firmly believes that the traditional wine production is the reason his wine excels far beyond the border of Wachau”, explained our tour guide, who has been knowing Martin and his family for years. While my fellow tour members eagerly sipped Martin’s wine and apricot schnaps, Martin ranted about local and EU wine politics in his heavy Wachau dialect to me.
Wachau Boat Trip And Melk Abbey
Wachau Valley Tour. Long after the tourist masses had left the frequently operating tour boats, we boarded the ship at Spitz for a one-hour ride upstream to Melk Abbey. As much as I love this lush green strip of the Danube with its sandy shores and villages, terraced vineyards and medieval castle ruins, one hour was the perfect time to enjoy this trip without counting the minutes.
Melk Abbey, another UNESCO World heritage site, was our last stop. The huge yellow and white baroque abbey has been towering above the Danube for almost 1,000 years. Unfortunately, it outsized our summer Wachau tour. We gave it our best photo shoots from outside before we headed off to downtown Melk for water, then back to Vienna.
Our Wachau Valley Tour Guide
Wachau Valley Tour. Our tour guide knew way more about Wachau Valley, its history and wine production than me, a native Austrian who commuted to Wachau for two years. He was leaned back and cast his knowledge into informative stories about wine production, local wines and history, and not least, local vintners’ gossip. He allowed us enough room for photo shoots (and I required a lot), individual hang outs, and occasional detours to get a postcard and a drink before he dropped everyone off at their Vienna hotels.
Wachau Valley Tour Bookings
Wachau Valley Tour. The small group tour accepts a maximum of eight people and is performed in a Mercedes mini van throughout most of the year. Summer tours include a boat ride, winter tours include a visit to Melk Abbey.
Learn more about the tour.
Note: I joined this tour by invitation from the tour operator. All opinions expressed are my own.