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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
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Jul 19, 2021

In this show I speak with Roman Horvath, a Master of Wine, is the Winery Director of Domaine Wachau, which is among the leading wine producers in Austria. The Domaine  is actually a cooperative, meaning it is run by and owned by individual growers, with Roman bringing them all together under his leadership. But whereas most co-ops in Europe produce seas of mediocre to plain BAD wines, Domaine Wachau has been cited as one of the best co-ops in the world and is known for making wines of origin and pure flavor.

Photo: Domaine Wachau

The Domaine has a full range of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that reflect their unique terroir – from small vineyard plots on steep terraces along the Danube to regional wines. Roman coordinates the vintner families, who work to capture the terroir of the historic wine region of Wachau. These wines are splendid and show how the co-op system can work well when under the right management.


Here are the show notes:

  • Roman tells us about his path through the MW and to becoming the managing director of Domaine Wachau. He gives us some great insight into the MW program (spoiler – it’s probably not what you think!)

Photo of Roman Horvath, MW: Domaine Wachau

  • We discuss the structure of Domaine Wachau and what makes it such a successful cooperative (along with Produttori del Barbaresco in Piedmont and La Chablisienne in Chablis). We talk about the success of this co-op versus the thousands of others in Europe and the formula for great wine.


  • We discuss Wachau, the small (3321 acres/1,344 hectares), narrow valley carved out by the Danube through marble and mineral rich, amphibolite (metamorphic rock), and quartz-based gneiss (said "nice) rock. We talk about the effect of the Danube, climate patterns, and the individual 155 Rieden (single vineyards like the famed Kellerberg, Achleiten and Singerriedel), as well as the vital importance of the stone terraces (terrasen) to mountainside viticulture in Wachau.

Photo: Domaine Wachau

  • Roman tells us about the style we can expect from the Grüner Veltliner and the Riesling that grow in Wachau, and factors that make a difference in style – from terroir to aging. We talk about why screw cap is fantastic for young wine but why cork is a better bet for aging wines.


  • We discuss the two classification systems that Wachau is part of – the national DAC system, which includes a Burgundy-like place-based classification system (Gebeitsweine for Regional Wine, Ortswein for Village wine, Riedenwein for single vineyard wines) and Wachau’s own classification by ripeness under the Vinea Wachau, which includes wines labeled Steinfeder, Federspiel, and Smargd (in order of lightest to heaviest)

Map: Wine for Normal People book

  • We wrap with a conversation about climate change and the future for Wachau. Roman mentions some excellent other Austrian regions: Burgenland for reds, and Kremstal, Kamptal, Wagram, Traisental for whites.

This conversation gave me a new appreciation for Wachau and for successful co-ops. Domaine Wachau is great and I know I will appreciate Grüner Veltliner and Riesling from the majestic area more than I ever have before!


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