|Austria - Wachau|
The Wachau is a stretch of the Danube Valley between Melk and Krems, a landscape of high visual quality. It preserves in an intact and visible form many traces - in terms of architecture, (monasteries, castles, ruins), urban design, (towns and villages), and agricultural use, principally for the cultivation of vines - of its evolution since prehistoric times.
The Wachau is an outstanding example of a riverine landscape bordered by mountains in which material evidence of its long historical evolution has survived to a remarkable degree.
The architecture, the human settlements, and the agricultural use of the land in the Wachau vividly illustrate a basically medieval landscape which has evolved organically and harmoniously over time.
Located in the heart of Lower Austria, the most northern federal state, the Danube Valley between Melk and Krems is one of the oldest cultural landscapes of Austria. The climate is determined by (warm) pannonic influences from the east and the cold winds from the north which result in a very specific air circulation which is further enhanced through the Danube.
The Wachau can date back its first settlements as far as 25.000 B.C. Prove for this is the Venus of Willendorf from that time, one of the mayor archeological findings of Austria. More recent the Romans brought their culture and especially the first vines to the region, on the southern bank of the Danube several buildings from this time remain. In medieval times winegrowing became one of the mayor sources of income in the Wachau and monasteries from Upper Austria and Bavaria were setting up vineyards and wineries throughout the Wachau as they already recognized the special circumstances for winegrowing.
The world cultural heritage, which the Wachau was awarded in 2000, includes 13 municipalities in the Wachau and the Benedictine monasteries of Göttweig and Melk as well as the old city center of Krems. With a population of about 23.000 inhabitants Krems is the commercial hub of the region which has about 77.000 inhabitants.
Able to trace back its first vineyards to the time of roman settlement, the winegrowing area of Wachau rose to its highest dimension in medieval times. After the second world war the focus of production turned to high quantity which could not be maintained in the labour-intense stone terraces. Little by little the wine terraces were abandoned and the name Wachau was often misused by neighbouring wine regions.
In 1983 the leading winegrowers of the region formed an association which should bring the Wachau back on track and emphasize its uniqueness. This association “Vinea Wachau Nobilis Districtus” grew to over 200 members which commited themselves to a strong self-regulation. To vinify wines only from the Wachau and to rely on natural grape sugar and late harvesting for making the most celebrated wines of Austria.
The specific characteristics of the landscape are highly visible to everybody visiting the Wachau. The Danube cut its way through extremely hard primary rock which resulted in a very unique and striking landscape which is further enhanced through the stone terraces.
Being one of the favourite touristic spots of Austria, the Wachau could work on protecting it’s landscape and culture relatively early and resulted in being awarded World Cultural Heritage in 2000. Next to all natural amenities of the region, history is very visible for all visitors to its high number of old castles and ruins as well as it’s ecclesiastic background, still apparent in the two majestic monasteries of Göttweig and Melk