The Weinviertel, or "Wine Quarter" is a large region to the north of Vienna extending as far as the border with the Czech republic. For decades it was the edge of the Western World, right next to the Iron Curtain!
Although this is the largest winegrowing region in Austria, with more than 15,000 hectares of vineyards, it doesn't really seem like wine country as you travel around it, as it is also the breadbasket of Vienna.
Vines are scattered on the hillsides and in the most favourable areas amongst other crops - lots of wheat, fruit trees and everything from asparagus to strawberries.
It's a relatively flat region, with undulating hills rather than anything more dramatic. Wines are principally white with Grüner Veltliner dominating, but winemakers have very diverse vineyards and produce other whites and delicious reds. Besides Grüner Veltliner and Welschriesling, other white varieties such as Riesling, Weissburgunder and Chardomnnay are also grown. Reds are made from Zweigelt and Blauer Portugieser.
It's a fascinating region architecturally with mediaeval gems of towns such as Retz, with its stunning Baroque centre and miles of underground wine cellars. The region has many more charming wine villages and towns, many with "Kellergassen", streets lined with cellars resembling stuccoed houses. Interesting towns include Eggenburg, Falkenstein and Poysdorf, possibly Austria's most picturesque wine town.
In 2003, Weinviertel was the first region to adopt a new classification system, "Weinviertel DAC", where DAC stands for "Districtus Austriae Controllatus". This is a bit like the French AOC system.
With a wide range of soils, Weinviertel is an area that can produce any type of wine. However, the predominance of loess soil means it is perfect for white grapes in particular. Of these, the Grüner Veltliner is the most planted.
The southern slopes of the gentle rolling hills are covered with vines, with glimmers of barley fields and dark yellow pumpkins in between. Fruit trees line the paths and bear delicious soft fruits. The light, sandy clay soils produce potatoes packed with flavour, aromatic onions, crispy lettuce, tomatoes and carrots, juicy berries, cherries, peaches and dark elderberries. The forests in the lower valley areas and on the hilltops provide the ideal habitat for wild boar, deer and hares.
The Weinviertel is an archaic landscape that has always provided people with the best and most valuable foods. The hectic and fast pace of life of the present has not been able to touch the majestic tranquillity of this area - here in the Weinviertel, a delightful sense of calm prevails.
Eichenbrunn Christmas Tree Throwing Competition
Now in its seventh year, this has rapidly become a very popular tradition. Instead of disposing of trees post-Christmas, the people in the town of Eichenbrunn hold a throwing competition with their unwanted trees. The record stands at 12.3 metres and there are separate events for different age classes.