A tour through the wine country of sunny Burgenland is pure pleasure – for oenophiles as well as architecture fans: over the past several years more and more Burgenland vintners have favored a building style that presents the centuries-old art of viticulture in a modern, aesthetically appealing ambiance, thus demonstrating how successful the symbiosis of wine and architecture can be.
The Hillinger Winery, for example, charms visitors with its spectacular architectural style but is integrated into its environment in the most literal sense: to take advantage of the earth’s climate, most of the building is buried deep 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. For example, natural light for the underground production facility, which is among the most modern in Europe, is supplied by eight pyramid-shaped skylights protruding from the ground.
Many traditional wine estates have not been rebuilt but rather expanded in a very 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 thought-out details: the large overhang of the facility’s 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.
One must not sample the internationally acclaimed Burgenland wines right at the winery; there are many 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. One 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 through a membrane construction on the outside of the building. From inside as well as out, one enjoys spectacular views across the enormous steppe lake as far as the horizon.
At some point near 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. Some prefer accommodations 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 apartment 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 its 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 Center 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 glass of fine Blaufränkisch – a variety typical of the region – and relive the experiences of an eventful day spent exploring the Burgenland countryside.
With 300 days of sunshine the Burgenland is the perfect spot for growing wine. Stop in one of the many wine taverns around Eisenstadt and enjoy some local wine.Austria's Eastern Edge