Wines of the Danube Table
Travelmarvel takes you to the magnificent Danube River to visit some of Europe’s most important wine regions.
Whenever the phrase “fine European wine” is cited, familiar scenes of France’s Champagne region or Italy’s Chianti Road often spring to mind. However, Europe’s waterways have also played a significant role in shaping the landscape of centuries-old viticulture methods. At its heart lies the mighty Danube.
The longest river in the European Union and the second-longest in Europe (behind Russia’s Volga), the Danube flows from Germany through nine countries before emptying into the Black Sea. Wine-lovers and wine-newbies are destined to enjoy a tipple or two while exploring this majestic river and the Danube's Wachau Valley, which winds through Austria.
Spanning a tiny 19 kilometres along the Danube is Austria’s Wachau Valley
, complete with steeply terraced vineyards, quaint historical villages, castles and churches. With a lot to ponder in such a small space, it’s little wonder why it was awarded World Heritage-listed status in 2000
With just 124 vineyards and 650 growers cultivating across 3,340 acres between Melk and Krems
, the region mainly produces Riesling and Gruner Veltliner
varieties. Many of the wineries, here, date back at least eight generations. Some even further, including Hirtzberger since the early 1800s, Gritsch since 1799, Weingut Maccherndl which originated back in 1786 and Nikolaihof
as the oldest winery in Austria with records back to 777. For the elite vineyards, to have their wine labelled as Wachau DAC, is an honour
These historic Austrian wine-growing regions came into being over millions of years. The Danube carved a winding path through solid gneisses and amphibolites
, where the soils from the terrace’s crystalline rocks provide outstanding sites for growing Riesling
During the glacial period when there was hardly any vegetation, loess layers on the crystalline slopes’
eastern face were formed by settled rock dust. Thanks to this transformed setting, many of the region’s robust Gruner Veltliners
are grown here. The geologic circumstances and the stone wall terraces were carved out under the aegis of Bavarian monasteries during the Middle Ages
. The end result was the taming of the best steep slopes, creating the Wachau’s striking landscape.
The climate is also remarkable, because the Wachau Valley
is the meeting point of two powerful systems, the western Atlantic and the eastern Pannonian. These systems are closely blended, while hot summers and severe winters are evened out by the Danube’s large water surface.
From the cooler Spitzer Graben in the west to the warmer Loibenberg in the east, this interplay of climate causes the grapes to develop powerful aromas, often labelled as cool fruit with occasional exotic details
However, it’s not only wine that this marvellous region has to offer. The restored Melk Abbey beams proudly over the Danube Valley, and is one of Europe's iconic sights. Established as a fortified Benedictine abbey in the 11th century, it was destroyed by fire. What is now on show is an 18th-century Baroque. The abbey’s grand restoration project was completed in 1996 to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the first reference to a country named Osterreich (Austria).
For 900 years, monks of St. Benedict have lived and worked in Melk’s abbey; during the Reformation in the 1500s, when the abbey was a significant battle station under Napoleonic occupation in the 1800s, and when it was seized by the Nazis in the 1900s. Today, the institution survives, funded largely by tourism and agriculture.
Discover the Danube, its views and varietals, on our 9 Day Delightful Danube river cruise from Nuremberg to Budapest. Step back in time in Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau and Durnstein. Sip regional wines as you cruise through the Wachau Valley and explore Budapest's elegant and historic sites.