Heurigenjause © Donau NÖ Andreas Hofer

Mariandl, wine and apricots

A gourmet tour in the Wachau region

When there was no internet, no Netflix and no smartphone, as kids we sat in front of the TV on weekend afternoons and were regaled with old black and white home movies. Sometimes they were already colourful, but the content was the same: Simple stories with happy people in a beautiful Austrian landscape, very often in the Wachau. Then as now: I love Austrian homeland films and even as a child and teenager I was particularly taken with “Mariandl aus dem Wachauerlandl”. I still stand by it today: I know all three versions (the post-war film “Der Hofrat Geiger” from 1947 and the versions from the 1960s with Conny Froboess and Peter Weck) by heart, still do.

So on family trips to the Wachau, I can’t help but give my nieces, nephews and accompanying dogs important information like: “Look here, at the fountain in Krems-Stein, that’s where Conny Froboess watered her horse as Mariandl“, or “From here you have the same view as from the bench where Paul Hörbiger and Maria Andergast sat“, or even more exciting: “Peter Weck’s film car broke down here under Dürnstein Abbey directly on the Danube“. Well, I admit that these stories are of little interest to kids these days, but the Wachau is a great film set, even today – including the film set for Mankell’s “The Return of the Dancing Teacher”.

Stay at the vintner’s, sit in the guest garden near the Danube, take a tour with the winegrower through his vineyards or simply stop at the Heuriger, drink a glass of Wachau DAC and eat some sandwich spreads: The Wachau is simply a picturesque and enjoyable feel-good region – especially in the warm months. And the filmmakers knew that just as well after the war as they do today. The “Starry Night in the Wachau” also enjoys immense popularity on TV – precisely because of this breath-taking setting in Rossatz with a view of the blue church tower of Dürnstein Abbey.  And if you spend the night in the Wachau at a winegrower’s, in a hotel in the vineyards or at a campsite, you always get this backdrop of steep vineyards for free. Which brings us to wine, the epitome of what the Wachau has always been and still is. Besides the “Mariandl aus dem Wachauerlandl”.

Wachau Wine

The wine-growing region of the Wachau – the narrow Danube valley between Krems and Melk in Lower Austria – stands for steep terraces and quite incomparable wines that have long found their lovers across all Austrian borders all over the world. Since the 2020 vintage, they too may be declared here as “Wachau DAC”. A wine-growing region with the status of a DAC area (“Districtus Austriae Controllatus”) – this means that the focus of the Wachau is on two specific varieties, namely Grüner Veltliner and Riesling, and this status is a special designation that has already been awarded to 15 specific DAC wine-growing regions in Austria. Top winemakers and top restaurateurs can be found in the Wachau almost at every turn – on both sides of the Danube. The well-known Vinea brands, namely Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd, are particularly characteristic Wachau wines that have been marketed since 1984: Dry white wines without enrichment or noticeable influence of wood. The Wachau has 155 main and sub-vines – we cannot know them all, but the 1000 Eimer Berg in Spitz is particularly well known. Which brings us back to the Mariandl of 1947, because that is where Hofrat Geiger fell in love with the very first Mariandl, in Spitz on the Danube. You can read more about Austria’s best-known wine region online: www.oesterreichwein.at

The Wachau apricot

As far as I remember, the apricot or the enjoyment of the apricot does not appear in any Mariandl film. However, the apricot blossom in the Wachau is usually a real tourist “bestseller” every spring: bus groups and carloads of people want to be there when the apricot blossoms of more than 100,000 apricot trees are fragrant and make the landscape even more picturesque with their white blossom. In 2020, unfortunately, the apricot harvest in July was not so great: Eight very severe frost nights in March and April destroyed 90% of the long-awaited harvest this year – a “total failure” for the fruit growers. The apricot products, however, are still available: chutneys, jams, jams, noble brandies or the highly sought-after apricot liqueur in various versions and much more – these and other regional souvenirs have enjoyed great popularity on a trip to the Wachau for decades.

The Wachau apricot is a protected designation of origin for apricots from this region. The apricot was introduced here as a productive fruit in 1890. Since then, apricot cultivation has been an indispensable pillar of the Wachau economy and also of tourism. People drink an apricot schnapps after a meal, have a few apricot dumplings for dessert and bring home a liqueur or jam for those at home. Genuine from the Wachau, the home of the apricot. Although, quite honestly: elsewhere in Austria we also have plenty of apricot harvests in normal years. But the Wachau apricot is only available here, because: Only products from producers who have been cultivating and producing the varieties common in the Wachau for more than 60 years are allowed to bear the “Original Wachauer Marille” seal.

And also the events around the Wachau products, wine and apricots are virtually never-ending in “normal” tourist years: Wine Spring, Wine Autumn, Wine Baptism, Marillenkirtag, Wachau Gourmet Festival – almost every municipality indulges its products and its incomparable landscape with numerous events every year.

Personally, however, what I miss among the events is a summer cinema with the Mariandl films in endless loop – perhaps in Spitz directly on the Danube. Wouldn’t THAT be an idea for the next season?

Wine Experiences and Wine Culinary in the Wachau - A Selection
Delicious souvenirs from the Wachau