If you visit Vienna, you’ll find a clean and lovely city with plenty of charm. And, while this world-class city offers what any modern day city does (great food, museums, nightlife, etc), don’t forget just how close you are to wine country.
The reputation of Austrian wine took a hit in the mid-80s, and exports completely collapsed. The result was actually quite positive in the long run, and they now have some of the strictest practices in the world. Outside of Vienna, you will find the three most prestigious regions for wine growing in all of Austria: Kremstal, Kamptal and the Wachau. Let’s take a meditative trip down the Danube and visit the most renowned of these regions, the Wachau.
There are many bike tours you can find which roll alongside the Danube River. Viatour was the company I chose based on price & reviews. At the time, I payed $80 for: bike rental, train to & from Krems/Vienna, personal guide for up to 12 people, two wine tastings and 25km of beautiful scenery. You can also purchase wine ($10-20) from the winemakers you visit along the way!
Our guide’s name was Giovanni. What made his tour so incredible was that he took us into the homes of some smaller, local producers. If you’re interested in the bigger name wineries, some can be found along the way, but to really see what it’s like for the locals, this tour is perfect. We made our way into the basement of one producer (Koppensteiner) and enjoyed a taste of four different wines before making our way to the back “yard” where we were surrounded by vines. We met the wife of the winemaker, tasted one more wine from the brother who lived next door, and had several opportunities for pictures. I highly recommend bringing a camera besides your phone.
Down the river, we stopped in Dürnstein for lunch. This was not included in the price of the tour, but you have the option of bringing your own lunch. Personally, I recommend having lunch with everyone (roughly $15 with wine) because you just can’t replace conversation around a table full of good company, great food and local wine. You will then have time to enjoy the small town. There are little tourist shops, a nice view in the northwest part of town, and my favorite, THE Drunken Apricot. This shot of Apricot Schnapps (~$2.50) comes with a half apricot in it. Here’s the key: use the toothpick (sticking into the apricot) underneath your chin, lift the shot glass slowly to push the apricot out of the glass flipping it out and into your mouth. Enjoy the apricot, then wash it down with the shot.
The next stop is down the way in Weißenkirchen. Here again, we found ourselves in the home a small winemaker (Denk). We tasted three wines and then enjoyed a break in the back yard looking over the Danube. It was so quiet, peaceful and quite simply picturesque.
Riding downhill through the small village, we found ourselves on the bank of the Danube. We boarded a ferry and were taken across to the other side where we would bike through small residential areas. Some houses had offerings of various fruit sitting outside with a small jar for “donations” for the fruit.
The final stop left us across from Dürnstein. Quaint and charming, enjoy this peaceful view and brief rest before finishing the final few kilometers back to Krems where you will return your bike, and board the train back to Vienna.
This trip will take up your whole day, but you will never forget it. You will leave Vienna @9am and return roughly around 530pm. Grab dinner to take back to your hotel/hostel and enjoy it with the wine you purchased that day! The trip does not see much in the way of hills, and even a novice bike rider will find the ride pretty easygoing. That said, make sure to dress appropriately. I recommend having a small backpack; you can use this for wine/souvenirs, and also an extra layer if needed. You may also request a small basket for your bike if it is available.
Have fun and enjoy your time in the Wachau!