“And right over there, you can see the Hochgrail vineyards, having scored second in the national TV show ‘9 Plätze, 9 Schätze’ last year”, Verena explains, showing off a truly picturesque hillside trimmed to perfection over vineyard lanes, houses and orchards. Such is the scenic welcome when travelling to Weststeiermark wine growing district, located in and around the small town of Stainz. We have come here to learn more about the emblematic Schilcher wine, endemic to this area, and where best to be headed than to a 100% Schilcher Wine Estate?
Wine Estate Friedrich: A wine estate dedicated solely to producing the unique terroir rosé Schilcher.
What now is so special about this particular Schilcher wine? It once did not own a very good reputation, and “we continue to fight against some of the main clichés”, says young wine grower Sophie Friedrich. She takes us around her family wine estate in a place called Sankt Stefan ob Stainz. The estate and most of its vineyards are located on hillsides close to 600 meters above sea level, allowing perfect growing conditions for the wine and a spectacular view across most of Western Styria, from Stainz all the way to Graz. I am impressed by the refreshingly animating acidity of the Schilcher Frizzante, boasting typical red berry notes as all Schilcher wines do. Holding on to my tasting glass, Verena and I follow Sophie through the vineyards, into the wine cellar as well as to our Schilcher wine tasting. We learn that all grapes grown by this wine estate are from one grape variety only: The “Blauer Wildbacher”, vinified to become the region’s typical Schilcher wine.
If you wish to spend the night around here, you can head over to “Rauch-Hof” estate near Stainz and the Friedrich wine estate. It is located right on the countryside, with very little traffic, and you can choose to stay in an old farmhouse that has been carefully modernised to accommodate modern-day travellers’ needs. Breakfast is from local, organic produce (a dream!), and in the evening, you can book an excellent, several course wine menu, with accompanying wines from Styria, of course. Cheers.
Heading over to Südsteiermark, one of the most charming viticultural landscapes in all of Europe.
Cinematic views. A wild, romantic hill country where most vineyards are laid out on extremely steep slopes. The famous “Südsteirische Weinstraße” Wine Road connects over to Sausal, making way for yet another wine trail to follow: The Klapotetz Wine Road. Its name goes back to an emblem of viticulture in Southern Styria, the so-called Klapotetz. It is a large, wooden structure that basically used to make a lot of noise in order to chase any grape-stealing birds away! Today, virtually all of the Klapotetz’ have fallen silent, as most grapes are protected by fine black nets. They do, however, continue as a cultural monument and often double as sign posts, for instance on the e-bike tour we do. Believe me, you do want an e-bike around here, as those slopes where the wine is grown rise and fall, rise and fall … and you just have to cross all of them in order to get your full countryside experience!
Last but not least, we visit the traditional wine growing families Adam-Lieleg & Tschermonegg.
“Five generations make up the traditional family winery Adam-Lieleg, me being the sixth generation”, young winemaker Florian smiles, welcoming us to his wine growing estate with a refreshing glass of “Lilly Rosecco“. Chatting away, he leads us through the cellar, the tasting room, the guest rooms as well as the garden, which comes with an outdoor swimming pool. “We sell about 70% of our wines directly off the estate. Our guests very much appreciate the personal contact with us”, the charming young winemaker continues. For 2020, he expects a good wine year with many hours of sunshine for harvesting: “Less yield, a lot of quality” he summarizes. Together with six other young winegrowers, he also belongs to a winegrowers’ association called “Die Sieme” (The Seven). Since 2015, the seven young winegrowers have each been producing a Sauvignon Blanc each year, celebrating the typical grape variety of the Südsteiermark wine growing district. As we go about our tasting of the wine estate’s most renowned wines, I cannot help but make up a shopping list of what I’d like to take home with me. Like almost anyone who visits around here!
Last but not least, we stop for a visit at the Tschermonegg Wine Estate and their famous view from the nearby Lubekogl hill, overlooking most of the Südsteiermark wine growing district. The family cultivates around 30 hectares of vineyards, making it one of the larger wineries in the region. Sauvignon Blanc, which enjoys an ideal microclimate around here, accounts for around 25% of the yield. You can also taste other typical varieties such as Gelber Muskateller, Welschriesling, Morillon, Weissburgunder or Sämling wines. Erwin Tschermonegg talks to us about his family history, about viticulture in Southern Styria as well as the proximity to the neighbouring country Slovenia. Check this out.
If you care to check out even more landscape photography and winesome travel tips from Styria, I recommend you head over to my Flickr Photo Gallery:
Disclaimer: I have been invited by the Austrian Wine Marketing Agency as well as local partners to visit the wine growing districts of Styria. All opinions are my own.