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The wines of the Wachau region are one of Austria’s greatest contributions to the good things in life. Skiing is another. As is the waltz. And Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. But since this is a wine podcast and blog (and not a skiing, dance or action movie one) we are focusing on the great Austrian wines of the Wachau. In particular, a visit to the truly mesmerizing Nikolaihof estate of Nikolaus Saahs.
A short trip from Vienna brings you to Krems and to the village of Mautern in the Wachau. I went there late in 2019 to visit with Nikolaus Saahs and to record a podcast interview. Nikolaihof is one of the most admired wine estates of the Wachau and the Wachau is, in turn, the most famed wine region of Austria. So I was excited to have the chance to see Nikolaus (or Niki) and talk about his wines. What I found when I arrived though was a much more profound and enchanting story than I expected. Yes, this a place that makes great Austrian wines. But there is a greater context. Nikolaihof sits at the very epicentre of thousands of years of human (and wine) history spanning from the pre-Roman Celts to modern times.
The Great Austrian Wines Of Nikolaihof
In this podcast Niki takes us on a canter through the wine geography, the wine history and the wine varieties of his estate. We get a great introduction to what makes the Wachau so special and how the local Riesling and Grüner Veltliner wine grapes are grown and vinified to make great wine. Nikolaihof has been a pioneer in quality winemaking, biodynamic principles as well as intriguing oak cask aging techniques for the making of exceptional single vineyard wines.
…And The Intriguing History Of Nikolaihof
Niki will also give us a bit of a history lesson to put the whole story of the wines in context. The Celts revered this precise location for some transcendent mystical power that they found here as well as for the wine growing. The Romans conquered the place and found it to be ideal both strategically on the Danube river but also as a source of wine for the centurions. And then the Catholic church assumed control and made this the administrative center for a large area including Vienna. Clearly there is something very special about this place.
Wine Touring In The Wachau
There are many great wines in the Wachau and Kremstal regions and this is a tremendous destination for the wine tourist. Nikolaihof may have a claim as the spiritual centre of winemaking in the Wachau. And it is definitely able to claim that it is the only wine estate to have one of its wines awarded 100 points by Robert Parker. In fact it is the only Austrian wine to receive that Wine Advocate recognition. But there are wine estates of great power dotted all along the Danube in the Wachau. Nikolaihof is only the beginning of a wine journey from Krems to Melk.
Best of all perhaps, the Wachau is only a stone’s throw from Vienna and an easy excursion when you are visiting this capital of music, art, culture, food and wine. In fact, travel to Austria means you get to visit what is arguably the world’s greatest treasure in terms of cities. Vienna is a miraculous combination of Austrian efficiency and organization together with Austrian excellence in art and culture. Vienna demands a couple days in your schedule.
Please Read The Companion Article on Nikolaihof Estate on The Wine Beat
I wrote a blog about Nikolaihof because there is so much more to the place than can be captured in a podcast. Please check out that article by clicking here – it’s called “Nikolaihof – History, Wine and Energy In The Wachau“. I’ve also posted a blog about the Burgenland wine region. It’s called “Burgenland – Austria’s Red Wine Contender“. This region makes a fantastic counterpoint to Wachau because of it’s phenomenal and unique red wines. I like these two “book-ends” to Austria’s wine culture – red and white – together they provide a great theme for the exploration of wine in this beautiful country. And each region is so close to Vienna that visiting is a snap. Wachau’s signature whites and Burgenland’s bracing reds are the greatest of the great Austrian wines.
Note there’s also a wine region travel article on our website about Wachau, Austria