When I say Austria, I bet you don’t think wine. You think mountains, snow, cheese, and cows with ring-a-ding-DING cow bells. Winding paths in meadows, the Sound of Music maybe, lots schnitzel and dumplings, gorgeous soups. Austrians are always surprised to hear that we don’t think of wine when we think of them. In 2017 the Austrian wine industry produced a record 2.6 million hectolitres in multiple wine regions spread throughout the country. Vienna itself is one of the few cities in the world with a thriving wine industry within the city limits.
You may already know this and know of Grüner Veltliner, one of the most popular wine exports from Austria. A dry white wine made from the grape of the same name grown primarily in Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, it is a favourite of mine. Did you know that there is a wine region in Eastern Austria that specialises in Sauvignon Blanc? Not just Sauvignon Blanc, of course, there are many varietals but this is what they are best known for. They are also known for their excellent fried chicken. Fried as wiener schnitzel in a dense crisp crumb. It is a delight. Small plump farm chickens, coated with crumb and fried until juicy and crisp. I was as surprised as I was delighted. What a treat!
Styria – a half hour drive from Graz and home to three wine regions and excellent wine
In Steiermark, also known as Styria, there are three wine regions. I travelled to the South Styrian region of Sausal, just a half hour drive from gorgeous Graz. We drove through rolling hills on winding roads. Terraces of vines surrounded us, fields with tall beanpoles covered with scrambling bean plants and pops of bulging pods. Fields of bright orange pumpkins winding their way along, grown specifically for their seeds which produce excellent oil.
It was a hot day. A perfect day to spend under a tree in a garden sampling local wines and food.
Buschenschank – a perfect way to sample the local food of Styria, along with the local wines
The area is dotted with wineries each with their own buschenschank. Buschenschank? A restaurant in a winery or on a farm where the proprietor is allowed to only serve their own products and to serve them cold. A popular local tradition is to visit the wine regions and hop between wineries and buschenschanks. There is even a taxi service (the WeinMobil) that will transfer you between wineries allowing you to indulge. Many have rooms also.
Visiting Weingut Schauer
Weingut Schauer in Kitzeck is a gorgeous place to start. A family run winery with views from the top of their steep wine slopes over surrounding Styria and neighbouring Slovenia, they take great pride in their produce. Two brothers run the winery and their mother is in the kitchen. The food was sublime, the wines so good too. This is a serious winery making excellent tipples. Plump large creamy beans with garlic, herbs and deep dark intensely savoury pumpkin oil, house charcuterie, lake fish were served alongside. Platter after platter and wine after wine were tasted and consumed under a large tree at a wooden table in their garden. There is a wine shop too, I bought two of my favourite bottles to take home.
But what about the fried chicken?!
For supper we went further up the hill and just a few miles to Das Kappel. Another lovely winery with an incredible view, that also does excellent fried chicken. That fried chicken! I do think that chicken is the most underrated of meats. We have forgotten how good it can be when it is raised well in the traditional way and allowed to grow slowly without hormones, as it should. This chicken was so tasty, an excellent example of what we regularly miss. It was small with lots of meat and superb flavour. And that crust! Imagine a wiener schnitzel crust but on a chicken? We had it with the wines that they make at Weinhof Kappel too. A beautiful sparkling – Burgunder Cuvee – to start, then their Chardonnay. Both lovely, and a stellar match to the fried chicken, and the sunset.
I loved it and I am keen to return and spend more time there. It makes for an excellent day trip, but I want more time there with that fried chicken, the wine, and my book. So relaxing!
With thanks to Visit Graz who I travelled to Graz and Styria with. All opinions and editorial are my own, etc.!