A tour through the wine country of sunny Burgenland is a true pleasure – for oenophiles as well as architecture fans. Over the past years more and more Burgenland vintners have favoured a building style that presents the centuries-old art of viticulture in a modern, aesthetically appealing way, demonstrating how successful the symbiosis of wine and architecture can be.
The Hillinger Winery, for example, charms visitors with its spectacular architectural style, yet is quite literally integrated into its environment. Taking advantage of the earth’s climate, most of the building is buried into a slope, which is planted with grapes. The visible part of the structure, with the cube-shaped tasting lounge, rests on slender columns, seeming to virtually hover above the ground. The large panorama window affords views far across the vineyards and the Leitha Mountains. Wherever possible, nature was incorporated into the planning process. An example of this would be the natural light for the underground production facility, which is among the most modern in Europe, that is supplied by eight pyramid-shaped skylights protruding from the ground.
Many traditional wine estates have not been rebuilt but expanded in an aesthetic manner, such as the Heinrich Winery in Gols. Despite its large dimensions, the wine-production hall gives off an unmistakable feeling of lightness. The structure is also remarkable for a number of well planned details. The large overhang of the roof provides additional open-air storage and work space that is protected from the elements, while the natural transverse ventilation moderates the temperature in the interior.
The wineries are not the only place to sample the internationally acclaimed Burgenland wines. There are plenty of tempting alternatives – although contemporary architecture remains a constant companion. The cube-like, glass-walled Mole West, for example, located literally on top of Lake Neusiedl, is completely surrounded by water. Here guests can bask in the warm sun not only on the large terrace, but also in the restaurant’s interior, which faces south and can be shaded if necessary by a membrane construction on the outside of the building. From inside as well as out, guests can enjoy spectacular views across the enormous steppe lake as far as the horizon.
At the end of an eventful day, the time comes to think about lodgings for the night – and this is another area where a traveller is spoiled for choice in Burgenland. Some prefer accommodation with a modern design, such as the Wohnothek am Ratschen, while others wish to experience typical Pannonian architecture, like a traditional Burgenland farmhouse or an overnight stay in a castle. Both have their charm: one offers lodgings in modernistic cottages with loft-like interiors and a great deal of wood, while the other is delightfully nostalgic, with massive ceiling beams, walls full of nooks and crannies and white-washed surfaces. Incidentally, a particularly good example of modern architecture surrounded by traditional Pannonian buildings is the Franz Liszt concert hall in Raiding. Like the farmhouses around it, the restrained, symmetrical structure is characterized by white walls and wood floors, but the large windows in the foyer offer a view of Liszt’s birthplace and blur the boundary between interior and exterior.
While Burgenland offers many exciting and impressive examples of contemporary architecture, one should by all means visit the historic castles of the region as well, such as Forchtenstein Castle, Lockenhaus Castle and Güssing Castle. Esterházy Palace is one of Austria’s loveliest Baroque palaces and – it nearly goes without saying – also operates its own winery. Which brings us back to our original topic: wine. So this would be a good time to relax with a fine glass of Blaufränkisch – a typical variety of the region – and relive the experiences of an eventful day spent exploring the Burgenland countryside.