By: Ben Weinberg
FAMED FOR DESSERT WINES, AUSTRIA'S BURGENLAND HOLDS MANY OTHER DELIGHTS
The Austrians have both a zest for life and a sense of organization. There are copious amounts of beer on just about every street corner, and the trains and buses run on time. This being Central Europe, the food is terrific, and as befits one of the former capital states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, culture abounds. I mean, what's not to like?
As for the wine, there are more than 300 grape varieties currently planted in Austria, which is quite a small country with less than 10 million inhabitants. While Niederösterreich in the northeast contains the most famous Austrian wine regions such as Wachau, Kamptal and Kremstal, the southeast Austrian districts of Carnuntum and, especially, Burgenland (home to 5,000 hectares of vines and an enormous lake called the Neusiedler See) are equally fascinating areas with many top-notch bottles readily available worldwide.
The Neusiedler See (or Lake Neusiedl) is the central feature of the Burgenland's terroir. The lake is 75 percent contained within Austria (the remainder is Hungarian) and is around 13 miles long. It covers more than 120 square miles but is nowhere more than six feet deep! Such bathtub geography promotes warm, wet winds that significantly influence the vineyards that dot the surrounding countryside.