We opened the cidery three weeks earlier than usual this year and while I would like to say its because we’re more organized or committed the simple truth is that I wasn’t going on holiday this May. Last year Sean and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary which falls in the middle of May and we decided that we wanted to cycle the Danube. After all if 25 years of close proximity haven’t wrecked your marriage a strenuous cycling trip might just finish the job! We started off in Passau in Germany and decided to cycle the 350km to Vienna in Austria along the Danube. Navigation was easy – just keep the big, wet, blue thing on your left.
Although we were looking forward to the trip anyway we were excited to learn that we’d be cycling through Austria’s cider producing region on the way – the MostViertal. We decided to make a detour and fully explore the local cideries – called Heurige’s in Austria.
The day we were due to hit the MostViertal was actually our longest day of cycling, adding the cidery focused detour only increased our mileage and to compound matters that day we faced a continuous strong headwind. It was tough going and we were looking forward to a refreshing beverage on the way. Imagine then our crestfallen faces when we hit the first Heurige and found out that none of them opened until the next week! Noting our dejected countenances the lady cleaning up and getting things ready kindly allowed us to have a look around since we were there. Cider in Austria is called Most and is actually made primarily from pears rather than apples. Its a regional speciality and the Most-houses where the cider is made are all of similar construction. The buildings frame four sides of a large courtyard with access through a large archway in one wall. The farmers accommodation fills one of the four walls around the cobbled courtyard and the farm buildings and cider production area take up the other three. In the centre of the courtyard that we visited was a big wooden crushing machine. Originally horse or donkey driven it crushed the pears under a large wooden wheel into a trough. We saw some of the original wooden presses, large twin basket affairs with a wooden screw pressing mechanism. They were beautifully carved and decorated. We also peeked in the gorgeous thatched barn with soaring wooden rafters where the Most is made and now served at a tasting bar. We carried on cycling through acres of mature pear orchards, beautiful in their spring blossom. It was a lovely day and wonderful scenery but the head wind did not abate and by the time we reached our destination at Ardagger we were bushed. Morale took another dive when we realised our hotel for the night was not actually in the village but a further 2km uphill! We reached our hotel – a lovely old fashioned coaching inn opposite the village church and were shown to a sumptuous room. Here we realized the cider-gods had decided to smile on us. From our hotel room window we looked directly onto the MostBirnHaus. The regional cider museum!
We presented ourselves at the door promptly at 9am the next morning as it opened and had an instructive tour of the museum before an early tasting at the bar. All the cideries in the region supply product to the museum and interestingly they all use the same style bottle. It has a square base to reflect the square construction of the Most houses in the region. As a pear cider we found it sweeter and lighter in flavour than a typical apple cider but wonderfully refreshing with lots of sparkle. After tasting a good selection of the Most on offer and purchasing a couple of bottles for our lunchtime picnic we wobbled away on our bicycles.
Before our trip we were unaware that cider was even part of the Austrian cultural heritage. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the MostViertal and it was by far and away the most beautiful part of our bike ride. If ever you plan a trip to Austria, I would heartily recommend you make time to visit this hidden corner. Drop by the MostBirnHaus and raise a glass of pear cider in the traditional german toast – Prost! to the Most!