Wachau Valley Tour: Duernstein

Wachau Valley Tour Review: Wine Tasting Uncorked

Wachau Valley tour review: Duernstein vineyardsWachau Valley Tour Review. Most of all, Wachau Valley resonates with sweet apricots and excellent white wines. Amongst orchards and 1000-year-old terraced vineyards emerge ancient castle ruins and quaint countryside baroque such as Melk Abbey. Actually, it’s no surprise that this UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best places in Europe to visit. 

Since I joined a fabulous small group wine tasting tour during one of my visits I thought I’d share my review here. That day trip took us from Vienna’s city center by minivan right into Wachau.

Sober Wine Tasting Review

Wachau Valley Tour Review. To start with our tour guide took us to Domäne Wachau to give us a thorough taste of local wine making. Not only is it one of Austria’s largest wineries but a highly successful local cooperative. Producing only wine in the premium segment, Domäne Wachau makes wine and manages vineyards that cover a third of all the Wachau vineyard area.

Wachau Valley tour: wine tasting

Before we tasted some wines, we had a chat with the local manager about cultivating the local vineyards and what makes the fruity whites of Wachau so special. Although not that used to wine I sipped through all the five excellent white wines: From Gelber Muskateller and Grüner Veltliner to Riesling, Blauer Zweigelt, and Eiswein – if I remember correctly.

If you are into wine you you may already have encountered Wachau wine back at home. In fact, many of these wines have acquired an international reputation, selling in wine stores and restaurants from the United States to Tokio.

Dürnstein Village

Wachau Valley Tour Review: Duernstein villageWachau Valley Tour Review. By the time we arrived in Dürnstein 10 minutes after the wine tasting my head was clear. Of all the local historic villages, Dürnstein (along with Spitz) is my favourite. Located on the shores of the Danube, medieval townhouses with thick walls mix with swirly baroque ornaments and church towers.

Above all, the village is most well known for its famous prisoner: English King and medieval crusader Richard Lionheart, who stayed in a little castle perched on a rock above Dürnstein.

Wachau Valley tour: Duernstein monasteryFirst, we had a stint at a regional produce shop full of apricot liqueurs, more grape products and goat milk cream. Then our group had various choices during our free time. While fellow travellers Richard and Cindy made it half way up to the castle ruin I was roaming winding alleys to discover the baroque monastery of Dürnstein: Squiggly façades, a small courtyard lined with pink oleanders, the river terrace, the old wine barrel for collecting donations in the church. I even made it for a walk on the Danube’s sandy beaches!

Lunch at Local Wine Estate

Wachau Valley tour review: visiting the vineyardsWachau Valley Tour Review. Before we settled for lunch, our tour guide took us right into the vineyards for more insight into cultivating the grapes and making wine in Wachau. Though not a local he shared lots of facts and stories that connected us even closer to the area.

Then we continued our journey to nearby winery village of Weissenkirchen on the Danube. Clearly, that area hosted a third of the amount of tourists populating Dürnstein. Still, Weissenkirchen’s old houses and wine estates spread their own charm, with their inclined murals, painted walls, vines, and pelargonias sprawling from the window sills.

lunch at Wachau's Mang wine estateAt Mang wine estate just in front of the Danube we settled for a typical Heurigen meal. Set in an orchard of apricots, apples, plums and pears, the historic estate had a lovely outdoor space. In the shady arcades we enjoyed some amazing local wine, cold platters, fish and salad, roast and local sausages.

No doubt this spot was authentic since I kept having flashbacks of Hofrat Geiger, a 1940ies romantic comedy set in Wachau that my grandparents adored so much.

A Wine Cellar Off The Guidebooks

Wachau vineyards and rosesWachau Valley Tour Review. Throughout our morning and lunch tours we had gathered solid experience about the subject of wine. However, what followed afterwards turned out to become the tour’s undisputed highlight.

Driving up the hills of Joching we headed for an authentic wine cellar, and a peculiar encounter with its owner. There at the cellar, we chatted with local renegade Martin Jamek, member of the highly successful Jamek vintner family.

Winery Jamek wine cellarContrary to most local vintners he still sticks to producing wine the old way, pressing the grapes manually instead of using modern machinery! Although he just generates a modest 7,000 to 9,000 liters of wine per year he is proud of his work. ‘Martin is a joke to most fellow vintners but he firmly believes that the traditional wine production is the reason his wine excels far beyond the border of Wachau”, explained our tour guide, who has been knowing Martin and his family for years. While my fellow tour members eagerly sipped Martin’s wine and apricot schnaps, Martin ranted about local and EU wine politics in his heavy Wachau dialect to me.

Wachau Boat Trip And Melk Abbey

Wachau Valley tour: Melk Abbey entranceWachau Valley Tour Review. Long after the tourist masses had left the frequently operating tour boats, we boarded the ship at Spitz for a one-hour ride upstream to Melk Abbey. As much as I love this lush green strip of the Danube, one hour was the perfect time to enjoy this trip without counting the minutes.

Melk Abbey, another UNESCO World heritage site, was our last stop. The huge yellow and white baroque abbey has been towering above the Danube for almost 1,000 years. Unfortunately, it outsized our summer Wachau tour. We gave it our best photo shoots from outside before we headed off to downtown Melk for water, then back to Vienna.

Wachau Valley Tour Review: The Guide

Wachau Valley Tour Review. Our tour guide knew way more about Wachau, its history and wine production than me, a native Austrian who commuted to Wachau for two years. Adam was leaned back and cast his knowledge into informative stories about wine production, local wines and history, and not least, local vintners’ gossip. He allowed us enough room for photo shoots (and I required a lot), individual hang outs, and occasional detours to get a postcard and a drink before he dropped everyone off at their Vienna hotels.

Tour Bookings

Duernstein castle ruinWachau Valley Tour Review. The small group tour accepts a maximum of eight people and is performed in a Mercedes mini van throughout most of the year. Summer tours include a boat ride, winter tours include a visit to Melk Abbey.

Learn more about the tour.

Note: I joined this tour by invitation from the tour operator. All opinions expressed are my own.

If you would like to explore the region during a fun guided bike tour read my  Wachau Bike Tour review
find out what else to do in  Wachau Valley
explore more countryside and city destinations in Day Trips From Vienna
back to Vienna Unwrapped homepage

Check Also

Vienna trip resources: best apps

Resources You Need To Plan Your Vienna Vacation

To fast track your planning for a Vienna vacation I have packed a ton of …