Domäne Wachau with Kerstin Klamm
A return visit to Vienna after more than a decade away reveals little change in the appearance of the city; it still feels like a village - albeit, an extremely grand one - with South Eastern Europe as its back yard.
The cathedrals, palaces and coffee houses of the First District welcome the same melting pot of visitors speaking obscure languages - I make out Hungarian and Yugoslav peppered with a little Italian and the occasional American accent.
Like so much in Vienna, however, the changes are below the surface and if the city still plies a lucrative trade in packaging and selling its imperial past to former vassals and new upstarts, the city's own residents demand something edgier and more progressive.
Seeking respite from a surfeit of imperial heritage, we take a trip up the Wachau to Dürnstein where we meet Winemaker Heinz Frischengruber and Export Manager Kerstin Klamm of Domäne Wachau.
We start with a tour of the vineyards where grapes are still on the vine, followed by the bottling line, Kellerschlossl and cellars.
Up in the tasting room, between calls to a client in London about an impending restaurant opening night, Kerstin opens a range of bottles for us to try in pairs.
Terrassen Steinfeder 2015 a blend of GV, M-T, FV the lightest of the Wachau styles; fresh, light, mineral, peppery and elegant
Neuburger 2015 not without reason is the neutral Neuburger an obscure grape; this wine has been developed with the Sommeliers Association specifically for the Vienna restaurant scene. Fresh and citrussy with orchard fruits and some leesy richness, it has wood fermentation and maturation to help round out its innate blandness (aka "versatility").
2014 was a cool year and the wines are correspondingly high in acidity, but also elegant.
Kellerberg Smaragd from the hill behind the Kellerschlossl, which we can see through the window of the tasting room, this is the warmer end of the Wachau. The wine is fruitier, riper and fuller.
Austrian Riesling was my first love - it is like no other and is fundamentally different from Germany, Alsace or Clare Valley.
Achtleiten Smaragd pure, fresh and concentrated with the gingery alpine herbs of local soft drink Almdudler.
Loibenberg Smaragd from a warmer site with more peachy, apricotty fruit.
Two unusual wines
Roter Traminer 2014 Reserve Setzberg a local synonym for Gewurztraminer, this is fresh, elegant and mineral; a terroir-led wine showing more Wachau typicity than varietal character.
Riesling Amphora 2013 de-stemmed grapes left for 6m in amphora, then pressed and vinified in stainless steel for 3-4 months before bottling. Slightly sulphurous nose, spicy-peppery and mineral with high acidity, white tannins and good structural underpinnings.
I have always preferred Austria's whites to its reds which are mostly grown in the warmer part of the country near the Hungarian border, but I couldn't resist the chance to try these.
Zweigelt 2013 dark fruit and grippy tannins, slightly stalky.
Pinot Noir 2012 the first vintage since 2009; elegant with black cherry fruit and fine tannins.
Two sweet wines
GV Vin Doux Natural 2014 just three barrels of this experimental fortified GV exist. Harmoniously sweet, strong and fresh. Pure and elegant, a white-port-alike.
BA Terrassen 2014 just 7% alcohol, rich intense and fresh with baked apple fruit and sweet spices. Fresher than Burgenland stickies, this rivals many a Sauternes.
Domäne Wachau - The Tour
Terroir and Vintage in Austria's Wachau Valley with Domäne Wachau