Bacchus Meets Disney

For better or worse, the Langenlois Loisium is a theme park for the thirsty

After driving up the hill through a seemingly endless colony of chic designer houses, we arrived at an ominous cement-clad modernistic castle. It’s a little unsettling: what does this have to do with wine? We had reached the Langenlois Loisium: the big beast among the Vinotheken, the cooperatives in wine growing regions where you can browse and buy at vineyard prices. 

But we’d done our homework and absorbed architect Steven Holl’s cryptic insight: “A moment of intuitive thinking and immediate inspiration.”  Well that explains it then. Still, we admitted, the building is impressive, an irregularly gashed exterior reminiscent of Daniel Libeskind’s monumental Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The shop is a pleasant surprise: Nearly 200 wines from 20 growers are neatly and intelligently displayed, an informative saunter through the program.  At 10:00 in the morning, fresh unsullied palates ready, we were eager to start tasting…  But here the system was different: Sampling rights come with a €10 ticket for the Weinerlebniss (wine experience), an elaborately orchestrated Disneyland for oenophiles. 

So off we strolled out through a vineyard, to a gaping yellow industrial accessway leading underground. Gathering at the bottom in front of a curious stainless steel door, we were told (warned?) by our friendly guide that we were about to become grapes, the steel door representing the hopper leading to where we’ll be pressed.  Aha.  As the door opened , she alerted us to stay away from the hole up on the side wall, “You might get wet.”  Inside we took our positions round a huge glass and steel pool, columns of bubbling water set aglow by spotlights.  In the middle and just submerged was a white porcelain mask of Bacchus in the style of the famous bocca della verità, just slightly spooky.

And there is indeed a hole in the wall, almost four meters up. Music welled up and a water display rolled on, synchronized to fountains and matching light cues. We were being pressed. For the finale, the Bacchus mask rises from the water and spits a healthy stream into the hole. The first wine tasting?

Sailing the wine-dark sea

We passed the courtyard, workshops and living quarters of the restored farm circa 1850, and went on to the ancient cellars and the legend of the cellar cat, said to foretell the season’s best wines.  The truth: As the wine fermented, he would snuggle up to the warmest barrel, the most vigorous fermentation producing the best vintage.  We admired brick alcoves piled with ancient cobwebbed bottles. Were they still drinkable?  We never get to find out.

There was also a table of ceramic flasks, each with a removable stopper to sniff and play wine guru: Ah! A hint of black currant, a crisp touch of citrus, a faint note of almond. We flexed our tasting muscles.

The old cellars are impressive, seemingly endless rows of aged barrels, some still chalked with their grape variety and apparently (the tap test!) full. In parts, the supporting brickwork is a series of arches.  We reached out to touch the famous terroir of Löss, damp and healthily moldy with Kellerschimmel (cladosporium cellarii), a thick dark grey/green fungus that
every good cellar should have.

Finally we emerged in the showroom. Having paid for the tour, we were entitled to a small glass from a choice of three wines, (groups can sample up to seven, for a fee), but we decided just to browse. As old winos accustomed to the free and easy lets-try-another approach in the growers’ cozy little parlors, we found it sadly sterile. 

But this is business: Please exit through the gift shop.   

Getting there

Loisium

Loisium Allee 1

3550 Langenlois

(0) 2743 322 40 0

Opening Hours

Apr – Oct

Daily 10:00–19:00

Nov – Mar

Wed–Sun 10:00–19:00

How to get there

Head out on the A1 towards Krems. Turn off at and follow signs to Langenlois. Roughly one hour from Vienna.

Simon Ballam
English, studied in NY and worked in London, Düsseldorf, NY, Fankfurt, Prague and Vienna. This covered stints in market research and the film industry, international advertising coordination and strategic planning. Currently business school lecturer and journalist.

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