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Austrian family vineyards: a unique experience.

White wine lovers sit up and take note. An original and healthy way to go wine tasting in Austria is by cycling from one family vineyard to another, although admittedly it becomes more difficult to stay on your bike as the journey progresses. Vienna Explorer (viennaexplorer.com) offers a daylong winery bike tour of the unspoilt Wachau Valley for €59 reports the New York Times.

The Wachau Valley is around 50 miles west of Vienna and cut through by the Danube River which is flanked by lush hills sporting rows of grapevines, so the cycling is a pleasure. A number of hilltop villages are home to intimate family wine gardens called heurige, originally meaning ‘this year’, and the small vineyards only serve this season’s wine which must be of their own production. Eighty-five percent of the wines are whites, mostly made from the indigenous grüner veltliner grape. They are fresh, crisp and delicious.

The grapes are picked and sorted by hand, fermented locally and the yields are low by design. The area’s all about high-quality wines not quantity, but onsite prices are very affordable. There are about 200 heurige in the valley but only three may be open in each town on a given week. Look for the straw wreath that hangs from a door top or lamp post, to indicate they are open.

The families are hospitable, tourism is far from intense and cycling along the 21 mile valley, stopping off to drink Riesling and snack on liver pâté and bread (the heurige can provide lunch) is a wonderful way to spend a day…or two, and with harvest festivals in the month of October, it’s a perfect time to go.

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