Sunday was set aside for a full-day outing: we met with a couple of friends and traveled about an hour to Southwestern Styria, a well-known Austria wine region. Together, we went hiking in a picturesque hilly area, sometimes referred to as the Austrian Tuscany. After this exercise, we had a tasty late lunch at the nearby winegrowers’ restaurant. Then, in the evening, I went on a short bike ride around Weiz, my hometown.
Driving to a famous Austria wine region
On a lovely warm summer day, and after a nice full breakfast, we began our Sunday trip to Southwestern Styria, one of the most famous Austrian wine regions. I wasn’t especially well-rested after the day before, but I was keen to visit the area west of Leibnitz, the largest Austria wine region in Styria (or Steiermark in German). So on I went with my brother Tobias, his wife Anna, and our friends David and Emma.
Distances in Europe are always on a different scale than those in North America. Southwestern Styria is only about an hour away from Weiz, my hometown. However, this is considered to be a different geographical area from my brother’s home in Eastern Styria.
Southwestern Styria experiences a favorable climate with Mediterranean influences and higher temperatures than those of the surrounding wine growing regions of Austria.
This Austria wine region is well known for its rolling hills, many of which are used as vineyards to cultivate mainly white wines like Gruner Veltliner and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), but also some red wine of the Blauer Zweigelt or Blauburgunder variety.
The most well-known quality wine in this region is called Schilcher. It is a rose-colored wine whose special name can only be given to Austrian wines that have been produced in this specific Austria wine region and made from a type of grape called the Blaue Wildbacher.
Another interesting choice is the Welschriesling, the sparkling wine Riesling variety originally brought from Champagne, France.
Last, but not least, this region is famous for the late Alois Kracher‘s extraordinary dessert wines. Known by the nickname Luis, he was one of the most successful wine experts of Austria.
Hiking through Southwestern Styria
We halted our car in a parking lot just a few steps away from the Weinbauschule Silberberg (Silberberg University of Viticulture). This unique school includes a 1.5 kilometer-long educational trail through this amazing Austria wine region. Here, one can discover information on the history of wine, the basics of wine-growing, plus a selection of old wine-growing equipment and tools. A 5-meter-high statue of St. Urban, patron saint of the vintners, stands at the beginning of the wine educational path. Further up the hill, there is an enormous metal sculpture of an insect called wine bug, brought from France in the 1800s and almost entirely decimated by Styrian wine production.
We walked slowly along the paths of the vineyards and admired a beautiful view of the mountains that divide the Austrian provinces of Styria and Carinthia. Schloss Seggau (Seggau Castle), dating back to the 12th century, was clearly visible nearby. It is a structure that was once used to defend Austria’s border against the invading Turks and Hungarians. Today, however, it is used as a hotel and conference center.
Once we reached the top of the hill, we climbed up the Kreuzkogelwarte. This lookout tower stands at an elevation of 496 meters and offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside.
Traditional lunch at a Buschenschank with lots of Austria wine
We went back to our hike on the surrounding hills of the lovely Austria wine region and headed to a Buschenschank, a rustic winemaking local restaurant run by a winemaker who can sell his own wine plus a range of self-produced culinary items. This is a typical Austrian gastronomic establishment that was initially limited to selling wine only and had strict limitations on what kind of food they could serve. Today, several wine-growers receive a full restaurant license to also sell regular hot food.
Buschenschank Koschak, our lunch destination, is a popular spot to enjoy Austria wine and Styrian food. We had booked a table in advance and now sat outdoors, under the trellises covered in the vine, with delicious-looking grapes hanging down.
Our traditional Styrian meal began with some Fritattensuppe — a clear beef broth with thinly cut pancake strips, my favorite Austrian soup. Then, we shared a large plate with some Austrian fried chicken and some rosemary chicken served with rice. The Austrian fried chicken is very fresh and less greasy than the North American variants and is a favorite of typical Austrian Sunday lunches. Traditionally, the main meal is consumed at lunchtime in Austria, although modern work schedules have modified the conventional patterns of food preparation and consumption.
Compulsory side dishes of a traditional Austrian meal are mixed salads containing lettuce, tomatoes, beans, and other types of vegetables, marinated in vinegar and pumpkin seed oil. Pumpkin seed oil is a common Styrian specialty made from roasted pumpkin seeds. Styrian pumpkins are unique: the seeds have lost their wooden shell due to a mutation about 100 years ago, and only a thin silver-colored membrane covers the seed. Thus, the soft consistency of the seeds enables effective oil pressing. The final product is a dense, dark green oil that has a nutty flavor and is used mainly as a salad dressing, but also for preparing soups and sauces.
Spending the evening back in Weiz
After the hike through Southwestern Styria and the amazing lunch we had, I was really tired. I slept in the car all the way home, and after arriving back at my brothers’ place, I slept some more. I eventually woke up at about 19.00, just in time for a light dinner.
After that, I get on Anna’s bicycle and cycled for an hour through Weiz. On Sunday evenings, Austrian cities are traditionally very quiet, as everyone is getting ready to go to work the next day. Therefore, I truly enjoyed how nice and peaceful all the roads were.
When I came back, Anna and Tobias were ready to go to bed, so I turned in early to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for the next day!
If you have time, you should also visit the Lower-Styria region of Blaufränkisch, now part of Slovenia.
Other famous viticulture regions in Austria: Kamptal and Traisental. The latter is actually the most recent addition to the viticultural map of Austria, and also one of the smallest Austria wine regions.
Sarah Grossman was born in Austria but moved to Canada after college. She is an avid and savvy planner and organizer of worldwide travel and enjoys sharing her personal stories to encourage, inspire, and help other travelers.
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