AT A GLANCE:
Position: No 19
Name of wine estate: Domäne Wachau
Wine region: Wachau
Standout points: UNESCO World Heritage site, river cruises past celebrated cliffside vineyards (eg, Achleiten); the Baroque ‘pleasure palace’
Winemaker: Roman Horvath MW and Heinz Frischengruber
Wine style: Minimal intervention, site-focused expressions of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling
The stuff of dreams
To cruise through Wachau down the glittering Danube on a bright, sunny day, past vertiginous cliffs to which illustrious vineyards and castle ruins cling, a small volume of Romantic poetry in one hand, a chilled glass of Achleiten Grüner Veltliner in the other… sweet dreams are made of visions such as these.
A supercharged co-op
Domane Wachau is a co-operative – but this is no ordinary co-operative. In the last 15 years, since the dynamic duo of Roman Horvath MW and Heinz Frischengruber took over management, it has risen to be among the very top wine producers in Austria. The company buys grapes from around 250 growers and produces wines from every single-vineyard site in Wachau. To make such a diversity of site-specific wines of this quality is very rare in the world, and makes Domane Wachau the perfect place to learn about the nuances of terroir and micro climate that so fascinate wine nerds.
In the context of the very tourist-friendly village of Dürnstein, the winery itself may initially appear non-descript. It may come as a surprise, for example, that this vast, functional building conceals beneath it a 300-year-old cellar built by the monastery of Dürnstein. Beyond it, you will see a remarkable-looking lemon-yellow edifice – the Kellerschlössel, a pleasure palace, built for Hieronymus Übelbacher, abbot of Durnstein, a holy man with an arguably unholy love of Danube wines. Certainly, this place looks more like a Baroque den of hedonism than a place of piety and devotion. Well worth a visit though. A smart visitors’ centre, where you can purchase every wine the company makes, is open Monday to Saturday. On Saturdays, tours around the winery and cellars are available. You can also book a private tour and tasting for groups.
Domäne Wachau ‘Backstage’
An innovation of Horvath worth your attention and taste buds is Domane Wachau ‘Backstage’, an experimental wine range in which traditional Wachau grape varieties are given new non-traditional expressions. Sulphur-free bottlings or vinification in alternative vessels like amphorae, concrete eggs – even marble barrels – are explored. The results can be surprisingly delicious.