ON THE VINE guides you through our wine regions, wines and some of the growers behind them. This month we look at the Wagram region.
This is the second in our series of day trips for wine people. Wagram/Kamptal is the heartland of Austria’s classic Grüner Veltliner, just a 40-minute drive from the city. Today’s vines flourish on the ancient mile-wide floodplain. The loess, a unique terroir, holds its moisture through the long, hot summers. Between Kirchberg and Langenlois, over 100 growers let the intrepid sample their wines, but the easier way is to taste your way to the ones you like in the Vinotheken, the cooperatives, each of which represent 20 or more growers and their wines (costing from €6 up to real money). Here are two of the best.
Kirchberg am Wagram
Coming from Vienna on the highway, you’ll easily spot the old town’s hilltop church, where the Vinothek Weritas can be found at the end of the Marktplatz. It’s a fit-for-purpose glass and steel building, with plenty of room to sit comfortably while tasting and a terrace offering a magnificent panoramic view over the vineyards. With over 500 wines from 50 growers on offer – over 80 Grüner Veltliners alone – this is a good place to get to know Austria’s most famous wine, and to meet the Roter Veltliner, a lesser known and once endangered varietal now enjoying a well-deserved comeback. Try, too, a break in the restaurant, which serves local and seasonal specialities like Wagramschinken (think prosciutto) year-round and Bärlauch (wild garlic) dishes in springtime.
Special note: Weingut Wimmer-Czerny in Fels am Wagram:
Hans Czerny is a one of the enthusiasts behind the Roter Veltliner revival. He has trekked to Georgia to study ancient amphora wine making and he raises livestock to ensure a supply of natural manure. His crisp and light 2014 Roter Veltliner (€ 9), a white wine with the slightest blush of color from the red-skinned grapes.
Strass im Strassertal
Fifteen minutes further west, you cross an invisible border into the Kamptal region. The Vinothek Weinkontrast, located directly on Route 35 at the edge of the village, is a cheerfully unstylish building with 29 growers’ wines carefully arranged in raw-brick alcoves. You feel in good hands when Joachim Palm starts to bring out his favorite wines. Well, yes, he has expensive bottles from blue-ribbon vintners, but his revelation was a fruity and fresh Grüner Veltliner from Maglock-Nagel, a little-known grower (€5.70). Delicious! For something above the everyday table wine, Weingut Allram has a spectacular oak-cask Grauburgunder for €18 – amazing what a good Kellermeister can do with the (usually) modest Pinot Grigio.
Special note: Weingut Höllerer in Engabrunn:
Alois Höllerer is resourceful and resilient. “Don’t leave nature alone in the cellar; you have to be watching all the time.” Though a hailstorm in May 2015 stripped half his vineyards down to their stems, the vines came back during the hot summer, delivering only 30% of the usual volume but magnificent quality. His first 2015 Grüner Veltliner (€ 5.50) is already in the bottle, fresh and peppery.