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Best Hiking & Wine Day Trips from Vienna to Vineyards

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About Viennese Love for Wine

The most important thing to understand in this story is that Vienna is the only Capital in the world with vineyards under the prestigious protected status of origin. Without a doubt, that affects the culture or rather vice versa. While Austria is clearly a beer country, Vienna and the surrounding lowlands prefer wine with most of the smaller regions having their own specialty. For example, the specialty of Vienna is Gemischter Satzand which is the only wine in the Capital with DAC status but more about that later. The point is that Viennese love wine and wherever it is a sparkling wine, white, or even red ones, they all are intrinsic to the local culture.

The other thing that seems to be imprinted in the Viennese people, and Austrians in general, is their passion for the great outdoors. It is very common for the locals to spend their free time in nature, especially, hiking in the Vienna mountains but some people prefer a bit different type of outdoors – wine hiking. As the name suggests, it combines two of the typical Viennese activities into one. I imagine, this might sound like a very niche thing to do but walking between wineries located in picturesque vineyards of the idyllic Austrian provinces is a very popular thing to do, especially at certain times of the year.

Beautiful vineyard hills in Thermeregion. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Best Time to do Wine Hikes – Weinherbst (Wine Autumn)

At first glance, it is very likely that an outsider will not perceive Weinherbst in any meaningful way but once one gets a grasp of it, it is hard to let go of it. First, we need some context. Many different cultures across the world have their view of the yearly cycle. Here in Northern Europe, it is often linked with wheat culture. For example, in Lithuania, it is possible to tell when to gather or plant the culture just from the Lithuanian names of certain months. The other popular culture in Europe comes from the South and it is none other than wine. Weinherbst is a period between August and October when most of the grapes are gathered to produce the next year’s wine and some seasonal drinks like Sturm or Jungen Wien. But that’s just a wiki-style description of this Viennese and Austrian festivity. One has to experience this first-hand to truly understand why Weinherbst is the best time to visit Vienna and the surrounding regions. The magic is real.

Weinherbst is often titled as the fifth season in Austria. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Just like a dawning spring brings the birds’ songs to the awaking forests and fields for some exceptional natural event about to occur, during Weinherbst people fill wine yards with their laughter and chatter with such a high spirit as if the hardships of winter were still miles away. The yellow leaves seem to compensate for the lacking sun and fine wines warm the souls and bodies of vineyards’ visitors. For me, as to foreigner, Weinherbst always feels surreal – like a movie set. It doesn’t matter how many beautiful times you get to experience the magic of this period, it always feels like the first time. The thin line between hiking and tasting the best wines you can get make the whole experience something of a utopic feeling. Although it seems to be natural to the locals. I can only wonder, what I was doing my whole life, while they were enjoying Weinherbst for ages, but it is never too late to start.

Weinherbst Details

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The panorama of Vienna vineyards from Kahlenberg. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Best Wine Regions for Hiking

The list includes only the regions around Vienna in Lower Austria and Burgenland. Undoubtedly, these states produce the best wines in the country but Styria, for example, also has very strong viticulture. Of course, the quality of the local wines doesn’t necessarily have something to do with the quality of an area for hiking but it is not always the case. As we surely know, the taste of a wine depends on the soil and climate, therefore the wines produced from vines growing on unfertile rocky terrains will have the flavour of the landscape. It so happens that the most valued white wines in Austria are produced in exactly such terrain. 

The tough terrain of Wachau is suitable only for vines and apricot. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

The Wachau Valley

It is widely agreed in Austria that the best white wines in the country come from a relatively short stretch of about 30km / 18.5mi by the Danube river. This region is known as the Wachau Valley and is situated just about 90km / 56mi to the north of Vienna. Maybe because of its location, but Wachau is among the most popular tourist destinations in Austria. If it doesn’t ring a bell for you, maybe Melk Abbey or Dürnstein does? Of course, tourists come here mainly for sightseeing while the locals love Wachau for totally different reasons and try to avoid the crowds by going to different towns. Spitz and Weissenkirchen are the obvious choices but there are many more. The point that I’m getting to is that Wachau Valley is simply breathtaking, and as we already know, it happens to produce the best white wines in Austria. It is just perfect for wine hiking but if you are not a fan of that, cycling in Wachau is also a very popular option.

Every second spent in the Wachau Valley is a blessing. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Smaragd, Federspiel & Steinfeder

The Wachau Valley is the only region in Austria to use a non-standard wine classification system instead of DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus). The classification system includes 3 levels of local quality wines: Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smaragd. While the last one is acknowledged to be the rarest and most sought of the three, different wineries specialize in different types of these wines. For me, personally, a good quality Wachau Federspiel together with Gumpoldskirchen Zierfandler are the two most favourite white wine varieties. These classifications have different and strict alcohol requirements which are often paired with their location. Steinfeder wine is the lightest one (up to 11.5%) and is often found closest to the Danube River. The dry and mineral-rich Federspiel (11.5% – 12.5%) is grown in the fields of Wachau and is probably the most abundant and popular variety. Smaragd has to be above 12.5% and is often grown in the best locations, on the highest level of the vineyards, where vines get the most sun. Due to the geographical location, Wachau wines are relatively weak in alcohol but they compensate with the aroma and taste.

There are so many reasons to love the Wachau Valley. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Wine Tips

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How to get to the Wachau Valley

Wachau landscape is generally dominated by vineyards. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Thermeregion

I’m in a constant struggle to decide which Austrian wine do I love the most. Thermeregion is usually the defending champion and the Wachau Valley is a close second. As I mentioned, the white wines of the latter region is not that hard to compare but Thermeregion houses the best in the world Zierfandler & Rotgifler wines. As a matter of a fact, these vines are barely cultivated elsewhere, which makes wine tasting in Thermeregion a unique experience.

I won’t lie, I come to the region mostly for wine and not for hiking opportunities but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Thermeregion is situated between the Alps and Vienna lowlands, which resulted in various natural thermal baths and the unique taste in the wines produced from these lands. This geographical position also means that there is a possibility to hike in Prealps, which at this part is known as Wienerwald (eng Viennese forest). Catching some fresh air in this forest is always a good idea before getting a glass of wine but vinophiles probably prefer to hike in the vineyards instead. It might not be as beautiful as the Wachau Valley or Vienna, nevertheless, Thermeregion is very popular for its own reasons.

Thermeregion is not known for its hikes but it doesn’t mean there is nothing to see here. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Genussmeile

Each year, the region turns itself into the self-proclaimed longest bar in the world. The winemakers gather to sell the local wines straight from their vineyards, starting from Bad Vöslau and going right up to Mödling. The bar stretches about 15 km / 9mi from start to end and many wines and outdoors enthusiasts gather to celebrate the event which happens only twice, on the first two weekends of September in the middle of Weinherbst. The most popular stretch of the hike lies between Baden bei Wien and Gumpoldskirchen but many people go even further, or at least, they plan. Naturally, after a few stops in the romantic vineyards, one might lose the will to hike further.

Of course, not everyone is up there for hiking but the organizers of Genussmeile are always prepared for that as well. If you happen to get too drunk to hike, or want to enjoy the spoils of vineyards without any workout, there is a Genussmeile shuttle from the main train stations to the vineyards. Don’t worry, there is no risk to get stuck in the mud because the shuttle is pulled by a tractor!

Nothing like a glass of cold Thermeregion wine after a hike. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Wine Tips

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How to get to Thermeregion

Every year, twice a year, many people from Austria and abroad gather on the vineyards of Thermeregion on “The Pleasure Mile”. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Burgenland

The sunniest state of all Austria. The area around lake Neusiedler See enjoys the sun more than 300 days a year. Naturally, it has a big impact on the quality and types of wines produced in Burgenland. The state is perfect for the sweet desert wines, but it is the red wines for whom the region is best known for. Blaufrankish and Zweigelt are the stars of Burgenland offering a totally different wine-tasting experience compared to the colder Lower Austria and its white wines. The sunny region is also great for full-body wines, most notably Weissburgunder and Chardonnay. 

The sunny weather makes Burgenland not only good for wine production but for outdoor activities as well. The flat nature of the areas surrounding Neusiedler See makes this part of Burgenland perfect for cycling but hiking is viable nevertheless. Especially in the area of Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park. Bird-watchers will find this area especially interesting as many species choose these wetlands for their home or breeding. 

What can be better than a refreshing glass of wine in the midst oh hike? Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Wine Tips

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How to get to Burgenland

Due to its warm climate, Burgenland is the home of Austrian red wines. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Vienna

Vienna. Vienna is fantastic. Vienna is fantastic for many different reasons and one of them is wine. As I already have mentioned, it is the only Capital in Europe with viticulture of the protected designation of origin status. What I really love about living in Vienna is the possibility to exchange bars with the local vineyards for Friday’s drink. While wine production is limited to a fairly small area, there is enough to supply local wine enthusiasts throughout the year. The main wine fields are situated to the North of Vienna around Grinzing, Heiligenatadt, and Nussdorf. Due to the plentiful greenery, these areas are also very suitable for hiking, or at least Ludwig van Beethoven thought so. He loved walking in this part of Vienna. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a genius idea while hiking in the awe-inspiring vineyards of the Austrian Capital as well! 

Vienna Wine Hiking Day

Every autumn, when the conditions are right, Vienna wine hiking day is held in the vineyards of the Austrian Capital. Usually, the event flood the wine fields with people, and even the increased amount of vintners opened can hardly keep up with the Viennese lust for the local favourite wines. There are four different routes available for wine enthusiasts in Stammersdorf, Mauer, Ottakring, and the legendary area around Kahlenberg and Nussdorf. It so happens that the weather conditions are always perfect for the day, as my local friend told me, “usually, it is the last summer weekend of the year.”

The vineyards of the Vienna is the best place to hike within the area of the city. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Gemischter Satz

I find the most unique feature of the local Viennese viticulture to be its prime wine, Gemischter Satz. The main feature of the wine is the concept itself. Instead of one vine variety, Gemischter Satz is composed of different ones. It is not simply Cuvee, the production of this wine has some rules attached to it. First, the different vines have to be grown in the same spot. Second, it has to be gathered at the same time! This makes the whole procedure much more different because different grapes will be at their prime at different times. The outcome of Gemischter Satz is very hard to predict, but instead of perfecting the viticulture of one or a few vine varieties, in Vienna, winemakers aim for the harmony of different vines. Good Gemischter Satz is like a good orchestra. 

Leopoldsberg – the place where the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth & other Christian forces defeated the army of the Ottoman Empire and broke the siege of Vienna in 1683. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Wine Tips

How to get to Vienna Vineyards

Vienna vineyards are situated on the hills overlooking the city. Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Wine Tasting & Hiking Tours from Vienna

If you are not a local, you probably haven’t heard much of Austrian wines. Diving into the vast local viticulture might be a bit overwhelming, especially if you have limited time. For some people, it is natural to jump into the unknown and take what you get, but others prefer to take the most of their time. In that case, a guided tour might be a good option to unveil the best wines and find the best routes for each region. 

All of these tours are curated by GetYourGuide, therefore you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance to receive a full refund.

A sight I can’t get tired of. Photo by A.L> [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

Personal Experience

As a big fan and enthusiast of mountains and mountains hiking, I have to admit that it is not the Austrian Alps that I miss the most when I’m out of the country. These majestic mountains are not distinctive only to Austria. In my opinion, what is the most distinguishing characteristic of Lower Austria is their extensive love and enthusiasm for the craft of very fine wines in the country. It is something that I’ve failed to find elsewhere so far. The supply of Austrian wines is very limited, therefore it is relatively hard to find them outside the country hence their international “popularity”. Some wineries are open just a few days a year with all of their stock being consumed within those brief days. It is physically impossible to repeat such experiences and that is exactly what I miss the most while outside Austria.

Another great feature of wine culture in Austria is caused by the locals’ love for the outdoors. This enables the possibility for wine bars to establish themselves in very unusual places, which are often the most beautiful part of the vineyards. For me personally, this love started with the Wachau Valley, then I’ve begun to find myself in Gumpoldskirchen more often on weekends than in any bar, and finally, I’ve learned to appreciate the unique and complex viticulture of Vienna. Today, no matter where I go in Lower Austria or Burgenland, I celebrate the combination of the outdoors and fine local wines.

All content and photos by Alis Monte, unless stated differently. If you want to collaborate, contact me on info@ctdots.eu Photo by Alis Monte [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Connecting the Dots

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