Biking Wine Tour through Austria’s Charming Wachau Valley
I never thought of myself as a tour gal. Hopping on a bus with a half dozen strangers - as much as I like to meet people - just didn’t appeal to me, and despite all the rave reviews I couldn’t help but picture something like a real cheesy segway tour. That is, until my boyfriend and I did our Douro Valley, Portugal tour back in 2017. We quickly discovered the seemingly obvious fact that on wine tours you get to go outside of the city, taste a bunch of different regional specialties, dive into the culture, meet the locals, and not have to drive or figure out how to get back. We were sold.
So with that in mind, we decided in our two-day trip to Vienna to spend one of the days on a nine hour biking tour through Austria’s famous Wachau Valley. A UNESCO world heritage site, the Wachau Valley constitutes the stretch along the Danube River Valley between the towns of Melk and Krems. The rolling hills in the valley are covered with agricultural sites (wineries), monasteries, and are marked with small villages that still clearly show their medieval roots. To top it off, the castle ruins on top the hill above the village Durnstein - which are said to be where King Richard the Lionheart (the king from Robin Hood) was held captive - are seen from the river path below. Basically, it’s straight out of a storybook.
Biking through this beautiful valley felt like an absolute must do, and to add to that, Austria’s wine seen is on the rise. In fact, with the climate change, the regions of the world that have always been known for producing amazing wine have been forced to slow down their production rates (think south of France, areas of California etc). Some regions such as the Wachau Valley have actually benefitted from global warming, and their harvests have been more plentiful in recent years than in many years before. The most famous wine that comes out of this region is Austria’s Grüner Veltiner. I’m no wine sommelier, but I know that it’s a white wine made from green grapes, and was told that the wine is more full bodied than the other prominent wine of the region, Riesling, and has flavors that can range from spicy to fruity. Wine Folly does a great job of fully describing the wines of this region if you are interested in a full (more educated) description.
Now about the tour. We booked the tour called Full-Day Wine-Tasting Bike Tour by Vienna Explorer through Viator, and the high ratings definitely were deserved. We met our guide at 930am in central Vienna close to the Schottenring U-bahn station. We were with around 8 other people on the tour, which was an intimate enough setting that made me still feel like I was getting a unique experience. Our guide spoke perfect English and was incredibly friendly, knowledgable, and had a great sense of humor. As soon as we checked in, we basically got to completely sit back and relax. The guide provided the tickets, rode the train with us towards Melk, and helped us navigate the transfer between Melk and Durnstein. Everything was completely smooth.
When we got to Durnstein, we were set up on our bikes at the tour company’s local shop. The people there were great with making sure that everyone had a fit that worked for them. We walked our bikes a bit through the town since it’s illegal to ride through there with the narrow and stone paths. Once we hit the trail by the Danube River, we road towards our first tasting at Domäne Wachau. Now that I have a couple of these tours under my belt, I can confidently say that most tours start off with a more guided tasting, filled with a lot of local and winery history and information about the wine itself. As the day goes on, the tastings become more about trying the wine than learning about it. Besides after multiple glasses of wine, who’s really listening at that point anyways. We got to try multiple Grüner Veltliners (pronounced gr-oo-ner velt-inger) at this first stop (see the full set below).
After this stop, our guide led us as we biked about a mile or two down to the castle ruins, and opted to take the hike up to the top of the ruins. It was an absolutely stunning view and entirely worth the extra effort! (Pictured throughout post)
Unfortunately for us, the clouds began to roll in at that point, and it started to drizzle. After our hike, our guide quickly assembled us, and took us to one of his favorite spots in the local area with a covered patio. We convened there for our second tasting - which became a bottomless wine drinking event since we couldn’t go on to the third tasting. We ended up having a blast doing that, but one of the nice things about this tour is that you can actually cancel for a full refund (at least at the time that I’m writing this) up to 24 hours before the trip. So, if there is bad weather in the forecast, you can opt to not take the trip. Though from my experience, it was incredibly worth it, even if we got a little soggy!