The heroic vineyards
It certainly is the most famous Austrian wine-growing area, located west of Krems, in the Federal Province of Lower Austria. Here, on the steep terraces of natural stone in the vineyards of the Danube valley, great white wines are produced, from white grapes (grüner veltliner, müller thurgau, neuburger, pinot bianco, frühroter veltliner, muskateller, riesling) and red grapes (blauer zweigelt, blauer portugieser, st. laurent).
The valley, populated since prehistoric times, winds for about thirty kilometres among steep cliffs, wooded areas, traces of medieval settlements, fortresses and abbeys, baroque churches, cycle paths, vineyards and orchards (the Wachau is also known for its apricots, used for the production of liqueurs) in an exceptionally intact river landscape from an environmental point of view. For these reasons, UNESCO included the cultural landscape of the Wachau in the list of World Heritage Sites in 2000.
The wine is part of the culture of this land already at the time of the Celts and Romans, but the first period of great viticulture corresponds to the end of the XIII century, when the Bavarian monks planted the first vineyards on sloping land and, later, started a flourishing commerce also helped by the great waterway that facilitated transport. Even today monasteries and historic centres host operative ancient wine cellars or transformed into wine museums: Melk, Göttweig, Krems, Teisenhoferhof.
The rich harvest festival (Erntedankfeste) and the traditional “Hiatafeste”, celebrating the profession of vineyard keepers (the Hiata) - who once guarded the vineyards to prevent the theft of ripe grapes in autumn by thieves or flocks of birds - are dedicated to grapes and wine.