Huber Winery in Austria and Adventures in Oestreich
On a first-time expedition from Austin to Europe with my partner Bridgid, we asked our faithful Beverage Director, Chris Melton, what boozy adventures awaited on the other side. With wine being an obsession that reaches beyond solely consumption because it offers lessons in history, geography, language, and culture, the answer was clear. The key, however, was identifying who we could potentially visit.
We were fortunate enough to arrange an opportunity with Weingut Huber, who is located just outside of Vienna in the Traisental after making inquiries with our various distributors. This was exciting for numerous reasons. As huge Grüner Veltliner and Riesling fans, we were enthusiastic about visiting a vineyard whose wine we not only love and admire but whose expertise in the expression of these grapes truly makes them wines worth seeking out. If you have not tried any of Huber’s wines, please defer to this shameless plug and come in to any Uchi restaurant and experience it for yourself. It is some tasty, tasty juice… but I digress…
Exactly how we were going to get there did not seem much of an issue as the Traisental is only an hour outside of Vienna by car. Ultimately, we took an early morning train ride from Vienna to the city of Krems, which did not look so far from our destination.
After a quick breakfast and obligatory cup of coffee, we caught the bus from Krems to the town of Hollenburg on the south side of the Danube River and then walked from Hollenburg to our final destination, a much longer and frigid prospect than we anticipated.
However, our amateur level of planning did pay off in dividends, as we explored the back roads and vineyards of this burgeoning region in its entirety and at our own pace. An area rich in tradition, the Traisental is not only the most recent addition to the Austrian viticulture map (the designation dropped on the scene in 2006), it also ranks as one of the smallest at a mere 790 hectares. After winding through the streets of Nussdorf and idling down the roads to Reichersdorf, we finally arrived.
The Huber Vineyard is currently run by Markus Huber, a 10th generation winemaker whose 250-year-old family-owned vineyard has seen international recognition under his direction with three “Erste Lage” sites, roughly translating to first location and the equivalent of a Grand Cru in Austrian terms, under his watch.
Markus was nothing short of an incredibly gracious host, whose natural ability to connect with those he is speaking to transcends just wine. After taking us on a tour of their facility, where they were currently bottling the 2016 Grüner Veltliner “Obere Steigen”, we packed into what is considered a normal-sized car in Europe and ascended their original “Erste Lagen” site, Alte Setzen, located directly behind the estate. From the top and on a clear day, you can see the Swiss Alps in the distance. Alas, it was a dreary January afternoon by the time we made our way to the summit but believe me, I gave it hell and squinted as hard as I could trying to catch a glimpse. As Markus has acquired more acreage, it makes personally working the tractor a difficult task, but he makes a point to traverse these sites on a daily basis to be in tune with what is happening on his land. As we hopped from site to site, Markus rattled of facts and history, pointing out flora and fauna, eventually making our way to Berg before returning to enjoy the fruit of his labor.
Now, we were on vacation, so the business of spitting out wine was nothing we were interested in. We enjoyed various Grüners and Rieslings, Gelber Muskateller and Zwigelt as the mental fog began to set in and our time came to an end.
As we discussed out journey from Vienna to the vineyard, there was some astonishment in our inefficient route making skills, and Markus graciously offered a ride to the train station, for which I decided to forgo the initial etiquette of declining once and then accepting as it was around 20oF outside and a two hour walk in the dark down Austrian roads with no awareness of where we were, so if you are reading this Markus, thank you. Thank you for your hospitality and your generosity. For giving two Americans a ride to the station while your wife waited patiently for you to get home for an impromptu 17-person dinner party with the majority falling into the category of 12-and-under.