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October 23, 2006

Land of Sturm and Uhudler

Last week Mausi went to the Steiermark on a business trip. The Steiermark is one of the Austrian Bundesländer. It is situated in the South East of Austria next to the Slovenian border. The Austrian colleagues were extremely hospitable and took us on a short trip early in the morning to see a bit of the local scenery.

We had driven through fog in the valley but were met by this glorious morning sunshine on top of the hills.

Tha landmark in this part of Austria are green hills rather than high mountains. The hills are covered with vineyards and must be a splendid sight when the leaves are turning colour. The landscape reminds you of Tuscany in Italy rather than Austria, although the two tall trees behind the house on the photo above are not cypresses but poplars.

As it is the case with almost every region where wine is grown small winegrowers struggle against the big ones to survive. Most of these vineyards have been in the possession of one family for a long time. Quite a few Austrian winegrowers possess land on both sides of the border. Sometimes the border goes right through one vineyard.

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A part of the Austrian-Slovenian border and chestnuts being roasted for us

At this time of the year the harvest is already finished and we had of course to taste the local goodies like 'Sturm' and roasted chestnuts - a fantastic combination, if I may say so. Sturm is what you get when yeast had been added to the grape juice and the fermentation process has just started. The sugar content is still high and the alcohol concentration still rather low which easily tempts you to drink more of it and faster than is good for your head. But in combination with hot chestnuts that are roasted on an open fire and salted to get the skin off them more easily it is just great.

A small winegrower selling homegrown and homemade products

Apart from the Sturm there were other goods on display buy and take home with us like chestnut honey, wine and an assortment of schnapps from different berries. Everything looked quite tempting.

On the last evening of the conference we all went to a 'Buschenschank' for a meal and a drink. Here the winegrowers are allowed to sell their own wines and a cold meal, not a hot one. You can get wine, water, juices but neither beer nor coffee. The meal consisted of homemade bread, cheese, different kinds of ham and cold meat. After having tasted the red and the white wine I eventually ended up with a glass of 'Uhudler'. Sounds dangerous and I believe it is. It the same as 'Sturm' but made from wild grapes instead of cultivated ones. It has a very fruity and probably slightly drier taste than Sturm. Even in small doses it speeds up your digestion like nothing else. But I enjoyed it. It was a pity we had to drive home almost 800 km the next day and so had to take it easy on the wine.

I hadn't been to this part of Austria before and I must say it's a beautiful area. See for yourself, if you have the opportunity. October is quite a good time to be there.

Posted by Mausi at October 23, 2006 04:34 PM

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