Weinviertel in Lower Austria:
Travel Guide to the "Wine Quarter" Outside of Vienna
The province of Lower Austria is divided into four distinct cultural regions, the "Viertel" ("Quarters"): Mostviertel, the Waldviertel, the Weinviertel and Industrieviertel. The Weinviertel (Wine Quarter) is also called "Viertel unter dem Manhartsberg" (Quarter under Mount Manhartsberg) and comprises of the north of Lower Austria. The name Weinviertel is not as old as one might think, it is commonly used only for about a century - even though the region is among Austria′s most important wine producing areas for many centuries.
The division of the Viertel is a vernacular one and corresponds only partly with political borders. In the case of the Weinviertel, is runs along Austria′s border to Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The southern borders are confined by the Danube and the border to Vienna; the border to the west is the least intuitive one and is highlighted by mount Manhartsberg.
The most important cities of the Weinviertel are Gänserndorf, Hollabrunn, Korneuburg and Mistelbach. Parts of the districts of Wien-Umgebung, Tulln, Horn and Krems-Land belong to the traditional Weinviertel. Over-all, the area can be said to be among Austria′s least touristy regions. The southern parts are densely populated due to many people who commute to Vienna; the northern parts are very agriculturally shaped. The Weinviertel is characterised by hot and dry summers and rather cold winters, gentle hills and occasional strips of land or towns of surprising beauty. Note for example the National Park Thayatal or the traditional wine town of Retz; or the village of Gars am Kamp on the border to the Waldviertel. In these areas, recent years even saw a rise in outdoor-tourism.
Geology & Attractions of the Weinviertel
The soil of the Weinviertel comprises mostly of Löß, a yellow sand that - together with the hot summers - creates the ideal conditions for growing excellent wines. The most important grapes grown in the Weinviertel are Grüner Veltliner, Weißburgunder, Welschriesling (all white), Zweigelt and Blauer Portugieser (both red). These grapes are considered to be the "typical" grape varieties used in Austria. The area north of the Danube (the Marchfeld plain) is also known for its vegetable production (as well as essentially every important battle ever fought for Vienna, which took place in the Marchfeld).
The Marchfeld has been a popular summer retreat for many noble (later including non-noble but rich and aristocratic) families from Vienna. This can be seen from the high density of hunting chateaux and palaces - most importantly, Schloss Hof, Austria′s biggest Baroque palace outside of Vienna. Other Baroque palaces include Schloss Kirchstetten, Schloss Wilfersdorf, Schloss Thürntal, Schloss Niederweiden and Schloss Schönborn.
Even today, the nicer towns of the Weinviertel that can be found in the vicinity of Vienna are well-known for many music festivals that take place during the summer months. When Vienna is hot and muggy, the pastoral charms of the Weinviertel draw culture-savvy Viennese out of their beloved city. Under normal circumstances, it would take torture to make a Viennese move his ass out of the city - during the summer, a bit of Strauss or Lehar does the trick.
Weinviertel Things to Do & See
Speaking of culture: If operetta is not your kind of thing and you prefer real art, note the Nitsch museum in Mistelbach. For people with an interest in archaeology, I recommend the museum of ancient history (Museum für Urgeschichte) in Asparn. Nature-lovers might find the National Park Donauauen exciting. In addition to these attractions, the Weinviertel is also full of castles and several attractive monasteries.
Tourists who stay there are rarely seen in the north-eastern parts of the Weinviertel. Several attractions, like the Baroque palaces of the Marchfeld or Burg Kreuzenstein near Korneuburg are extremely popular day-trip destinations from Vienna. However, few people actually stay in the region over night. Especially when it comes to the very north, near the Thayatal, this is quite a shame - I recommend the northern Weinviertel to everybody who is looking for a proper off-the-beaten-track region in Austria that is within easy reach from Vienna.