In the Wachau valley – embroidering the grandiose Danube river in the North-West of Austria – the grapes share their carpet of land with lush apricot trees in a perfect harmony.
Wachau - apricots and vines
Wachau and Danube river
The siblings have a tolerant relationship with apricots ripening in July and later, when the pickers are rested, the grapes take on the workforce in a September harvest.
Speaking about harmony, the Wachau wine region is famous for its white Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners accompanying dishes from apricots in a precise match.
In July when every local restaurant adds to their menu the sinfully tasty apricot dumplings you have the unique opportunity to savour the ideal marriage between the apricots and Rieslings.
A local summer favourite is an Austrian version of the Bellini in which here the sparkling wine [often the fresher Gruner Veltliner] is mixed with lightly sour and sweet apricot juice. Great aperitif as well as great friend with the apricot dumplings. My creative taste buds were right this time – I would call this match the desert of summer gods.
Wines in the Wachau are of three categories according to their level of alcohol:
1) STEINFEDER – under 11.5 % alcohol
This fine and fruity wine is light and refreshing in the summer or and ideal light aperitif.
2) FEDERSPIEL – between 11.5 and 12.5% alcohol
Highly popular style since it is a great match with food. Elegant, fruity and mineral tones go well with fish [especially sweet water fish] and lean meat dishes.
3) SMARAGD – over 12.5% alcohol
Complex, aromatic, intense wine with great ageing potential. It should be drunk with heavier food, so creamy Austrian sauces, red meet, game, deserts and other intense dishes are perfect with it.
I have tasted a number of wines from all three categories. Two particular wines blew my mind: The first was a Riesling Jochinger Pichl Federspiel 2009 made by Josef Jamek in Joching, where a lovely hotel Jamek with restaurant and winery are located. Its mineral tone is perfectly balanced with sweetness of the Riesling – outstanding harmony with refreshing nose – must try!
Janek winery, hotel and restaurant in Wachau in Austria
The second was a very interesting Riesling from F.X.Pichler – Riesling F.X. Pichler “Unendlich” 2005 is Mr.Pichler’s top wine, perhaps the reason for calling it “eternal” or “endless”. Not everyone will love it, but if its unique flavours enchant you then it will be a love forever. I have tried it in the magnificent two Michelin starred restaurant Landhaus Bacher in Mautern. They definitely deserve their two stars as the food and staff will make your evening unforgettable while the ambiance is not at all stuffy. Just beware, you are in Austria where smoking is allowed in the restaurants, so if you are a non-smoker, then book ahead a non-smoking table in a separate lovely room. You will be pampered by their locally sourced food – mushrooms, sweet water fish, vegetable, apricots, … – and also well advised about an ideal wine to suit your palate. An interesting pearl at the end; their young chef Thomas Dorfer was voted the best chef by Gaut Millau in 2009 – worth a trip.
You can whet your appetite with these pictures.