Catching Breath in the Austrian Country Side // Our first travel in 15 months! | TRAVEL DIARY
For the longest time, I have been dreaming about escaping the city we have been locked up in for over a year. At the beginning of the pandemic during Singapore’s first lockdown, we would cheer ourselves up, reminiscing about earlier trips and making plans about the first trip “after this is all over”. Fool us. We were anticipating a few months, not years! Some would even book cheap flights with grounded airlines, thinking they hit a great deal. Well, we all know how this turned out. And while Europe could at least enjoy their summer months, we in Singapore had to face the consequences of the pandemic pretty early on. Nobody residing in Singapore could actually leave the country freely, without fearing to get prevented from re-entering, not to talk about the strict (and expensive!) 14-days hotel quarantine upon return. While Singapore admittedly felt safe most of the time, the more time passed, I felt strangely lockdowned. Up until a point where I wouldn’t leave the house anymore. During all this time, all I could wish for was a drive somewhere. No borders, tracking devices, a curfew, or a mask. Breathing fresh air whenever I want, wherever I want. To me, this meant the absolute feeling of freedom.
So, you can imagine that once we left Singapore, the first thing we would do was rent a car and literally drive wherever the wind would take us. We ended up in Kamptal, Austria.
Named for the river Kamp that runs through it, the Kamptal (or “Kamp Valley”) is one of eight wine regions in Lower Austria and among the most prosperous. High up in the mountains in Northern Austria and only 35 miles/ 35 kilometers small, Kamptal is one of the most prestigious wine districts. Densely packed with vines, sunbaked, and sparsely soiled terraced vineyards overlooking the river, it offers beautiful hikes and a lot of nature (and fresh air).
The town of Langenlois produces the most wine here, with an assortment “heuriger” wine taverns and wine specialty shops as well as internationally known producers.
Langenlois is a versatile region, with a range of terroirs and microclimates, with great temperature differences between day and night. It houses top vineyards, such as the Käferberg that result in wines of high ripeness and power, due to the clay and loess soil, or the Heiligenstein, which has a unique geological formation of lime-rich clay that imparts intensity and body to the wines and is one of Austria’s most renowned vineyards. All in all, the interplay between the Pannonian climate and a unique diversity of soils produces some of the world’s finest white wines: Over half of all production in Kamp Valley is the rich and spicy Grüner Veltliner; 30% is flinty Riesling. The other varieties grown are a hodge-podge of experiments (Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay), fashionable varietals (Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc), and exciting local types (St Laurent, Zweigelt). Some wineries also produce ice wines in appropriate vintages.
Within the Kamp Valley, they have their own Quality system, known as Kamptal DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus), set as the law only recently in 2008. It is similar to the French AOC and the Italian DOCG systems in terms that it outlines where the wine comes from, the minimum alcohol, maximum yields, and the allowed grape varieties. It, however, also indicates the style and how typical a bottle of wine is compared to the type of the region, as we know it from the German Prädikat system.
Residing in the heart of the vineyards: The Accommodation
For our first hotel stay in 18 months (if you don’t count our little ocean getaway), we chose the Loisium Wine & Spa Hotel in Langenlois, which was advertised as a popular getaway for wine lovers. While I was not particularly happy with the service and the accommodation itself, the environment, ambiance, and views were absolutely stunning and exactly what I needed after two long years in a concrete-shiny jungle. Spending sunny afternoons in between the vineyards, refreshing in the natural pond with a glass of regional wine at hand, was absolutely terrific and met my needs for some days in nature.
What we would do in Kamp Valley
Since the last couple of weeks had been incredibly stressful and eventful for us, we were primarily looking for some relaxing days. But, at the same time, in order to embrace our newly won-back freedom, we were looking for activities to celebrate and enjoy ourselves as much as possible. Having said that, if you like spending time in nature, appreciate good and regional food, and have a soft spot for wine, the region Kamptal will offer the perfect little getaway for you. Below are a few things we have done and very much enjoyed:
Visiting The wineries
When we arrived in Langenlois, we were surprised that we were not welcomed with a glass of wine (or bubbles) and some information from the so-called “wine” hotel. We would have appreciated a few valuable insights and tips on how to spend the next couple of days. Since the only support, we would get was a brochure with a list of all wineries in town, we were finding ourselves calling the ones ourselves and asking if we could come by for a visit. Turns out, this was a blessing in disguise, as that we ended up in two lovely family-run wineries where we would learn a lot about viticulture, the run of a family business in the third generation, and were able to reconnect with a like-minded society.
You can read more about the wineries we have visited here.
The Weinweg (“Wine Trail”) Langenlois is an attraction offered by the town. It is an 8 kilometers long trail along and through the vineyards, with many places to rest and enjoy the views. It leads through the vineyard sites Dechant, Käferberg, Steinhaus, and Schenkenbichl and gives information here and then about the grapes and vineyard cultivation, most of them being presented by local farmers and vintners.
While the walk itself is probably about 2 hours, we have been told that on the weekends, some of those local farmers do have a stand along the trail and give out free wine, or offer tastings of their farmed products. A great opportunity to learn about the grapes and get to know local vintners. That sounds super fun to me and I am therefore quite sad we didn’t happen to go on a weekend.
There is also the option to get a key that will give you access to a couple of wine safes placed along the trail and add to the overall experience. However, it is EUR 50 per person, which we found way too expensive. Instead, we would just take our own local bottle of wine with us in a backpack and have it here and there as a refresher.
Walterstraße 14, 3550 Langenlois, Austria
Heurigenhof at the famous Bründmayer winery turns into a hub for lovers of good food and wine in the evenings. While the word “Heurige” might make people expect ac certain rusticity and lower prices, the Heurigenhof is undoubtedly a lot better than the average vinery restaurant. In summer, the wonderfully preserved Renaissance vintner’s house enchants visitors with its charming, timeless courtyard, serving classic European cuisine that complements the vinery’s elegant wines (that can be purchased at “cellar price”, btw!).
Mörwald Relais & Châteaux Gourmet Toni M.
Kleine Zeile 15, 3483 Feuersbrunn, Austria
In the heart of the Wagram wine-growing region, the village of Feuersbrunn is the place to enjoy Austrian “Art de Vivre”, as it is home to Toni Mörwald, a gourmet & award-winning chef and winning author of Austrian cookbooks. In the Relais & Châteaux, he acts as the grand chef and services classical haute cuisine with a modern, slightly Asian touch.