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July 22, 2006

Die Wachau wine district

Filed under: travel, Vienna — burnett @ 4:06 am

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My host� insisted that I take his Mercedes convertible Kompressor coupe, and a friend joined me for an excursion to Wachau and Duernstein.� The Wachau is a relatively small but legendary wine district about 50 miles east, up the Danube from Vienna.� Steep hills rise on both sides of the Danube, and the vineyards are terraced up the sides of the hills for as far as the eye can see.� Apparently, the best of these wines are bought years in advance by restaurants and other vendors, and are impossible to find outside of the secondary vendor.� We had lunch at one of the wine estates, including fresh chanterelles roasted with ham and vegetables, and gulyasch.� � The house wine, the heuriger, was cheap and brilliant:� as always, very light, fresh and delicious flavors.� My friends believe that the Austrian white wine is the best in the world, and I will have to agree with them.� The area is full of small wine estates, none of whom market to world markets because their output is so small.� The wines change from year to year at each estate, so no estate has a consistent Riesling, for example.� Every year is a bit of a surprise.� The entire region has an output equivalent to a single vineyard in the Bordeaux region, but is run by a couple hundred separate vintners.� The estates have been in the same families for hundreds of years in many cases.We took a hike up to the top of the old castle at Duernstein, where Richard Coeur-de-Lion was imprisoned a few years back.� The castle was destroyed by Swedish marauders, but remains a tremendous vantage point to look up and down the Danube, which is a jade green.� In the distance are villages, vineyards and the occasional huge castle on the peaks of the mountains.The local fruit, which we also sampled, included freshly picked cherries, blueberries, apricots (the “Marillen”� variety) and raspberries.� The flavors� were overwhelming.� We ate an embarrassing amount of the fruit as there was no reason to stop, and it was all intoxicating.�

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