Kitzeck, Austria: highest wine growing area in Central Europe!
In April last year we went to Australia to attend my step daughter’s wedding in Melbourne, so this summer it was the newly wed couple’s turn to come to visit us in Austria. They first spent about a week in Vienna visiting friends and then came to Graz to visit us for a few days. They were a bit disappointed with the weather in Austria though, as they had just left winter weather in Melbourne only to find similar conditions here! They were lucky, as the day after they arrived we got our first real summer day, so the next day, which was a Sunday, we took them to Kitzeck, a town about 45 minutes away from the city where we live.
The town we were visiting is in the Sausal mountain range, in the southwestern part of the province of Styria, just a few kilometres away from the Slovenian border. Large parts of the Sausal have a mediterranean-type microclimate, which together with its rich soil, form the basis of the extensive vineyards found there, which are the basis of the local economy. Tourism has also flourished well and there are now top-class restaurants and taverns there, favourite meeting places for businessmen and politicians.
The wine-growing village of Kitzeck, the highest altitude wine-growing community in Central Europe, is uniquely situated high upon the hills and on a clear day it offers a beautiful view of the far stretching countryside below. Here one can also find the Klapotez, a local peculiarity also found in other wine-growing areas of the area, which is a traditional wooden contraption, which resembles a windmill and is intended to scare birds away.
Kitzeck, with its surrounding rolling and terraced hills planted with grapevines are great for doing some hiking. Kitzeck is also home to the first wine museum, which was established in the province in 1979. In addition to wine culture, tourism has now become a pillar of the local economy and the two activities are carried out in close combination.
As in other wine growing areas, in Kitzeck one can find many Buschenschank or Heuriger, which are typical taverns or restaurants serving only their own wines and a limited selection of food (mainly dark bread, cheese, ham and spreads).
We visited the Kitzeck Wine Museum and we were lucky to find a volunteer guide, who could speak English and was originally from the area. She was very enthusiastic and dedicated and it was a pleasure to tour the small museum with her.
The museum started collecting and keeping clothes, tools, agricultural implements and artefacts used by those who grew wine in the area for hundreds of years. The motto of the museum is to honour the ancestors, while setting an example for the young.
Our guide showed us the close quarters where the workers lived, where they ate and how they warmed their water. She also showed us how they pressed the grapes and how the bottles were cleaned before being filled. We also saw the black kitchen where the meat was smoked and the way they transported the wine. Knowing how cold it gets in this area, I don’t think life would have been that easy then! We also saw the areas where the animals were kept and I think cows got bigger rooms than people did!
Beautiful wine growing are in the south of the Steiermark.