Spitz, March 2016. Anyone who has tried apricots from other regions will recognise the special quality of the Wachau apricot immediately: not only do they look plump and pretty, they also taste exceptionally sweet and juicy with a strong apricot flavour. The fruit was therefore awarded EU protection in 1996.
The origin of the Wachau apricot
Apricots first originated in China. The fruit has been cultivated here for some 4,000 years. According to recent research, the apricot was not brought to the Danube region by the Romans but rather via the Pontic area and Danube way - probably around the mid-1st century - at the same time as the fruit was beginning to make its way from Asia to West and South Europe. The fact that fruit-growing was already taking place in the Danube region during Roman times is clear from the writings of Eugippius - 'Vita S. Severini' on the life of St. Severinus.
The background of the Wachau apricot
The Wachau apricot was previously grown for private consumption. Then in the 19th century, commercial production began. At times, infestation by grape phylloxera threatened to curtail the source of income from Vienna. Fruit growing experts and tree nurseries therefore developed the Klosterneuburg apricot from various different species and this remains the dominant species today.
The apricot at the crux of history
During the 20th century, the success of the Wachau apricot was stopped on two occasions. The Second World War disrupted sales. Then in the 70s, competition from other types of fruit was so fierce that prices slumped and many fruit growers were forced to halt production of the apricot. Today the Wachau apricot is undergoing a renaissance: some 20 different sorts of apricot are grown in Wachau today with 167 Wachau apricot farmers guaranteeing the fruit's origin and unique quality flavour and taste as part of the 'Association for the Protection of the Wachau Apricot'.
Original Wachau apricot quality seal
Reasons for the special quality of the EU-protected Wachau apricot include the unique climate, the soil and in particular the combination of different climates. The high temperature difference between day and night temperatures, especially during the ripening phase, also has a direct influence upon the flavour, smell and body of the fruit.
Each spring, some 100,000 apricot trees transform Wachau into a fragrant pink-white sea of blossom. This phenomenon is particularly impressive across the stretch between Rossatz and Arnsdorf. Here these charming trees are very tightly packed. A boat trip or cycling tour through the Wachau region is recommended at this time - the perfect way to enjoy this blossoming landscape is to take a picnic to enjoy on the way.
In Wachau, July stands for the apricot harvesting season. All along the main roads you will see colourful stands where you can buy freshly picked apricots. The ripe fruits are carefully harvested by hand using a 'Wachauer Marillenzistel', a traditional basket for picking the apricots. The basket is narrow and tapered, therefore making it easier to reach the higher trees and ensuring that the pressure on the apricots at the bottom of the basket is not too great.
Whether they are freshly picked, baked in dumplings, cakes and strudels or boiled down into marmalades, fruit stews or fruity and delicious brandies - the Wachau apricot is sure to set your taste buds tingling and as such is featured on many menus in local guesthouses and top restaurants in Wachau. The Jell guesthouse in Krems and Bacher restaurant in Mautern are particularly well-known for their apricot specialities.
Each summer, the Wachau apricot is honoured with its own festival during the traditional Spitz apricot festival (Spitzer Marillenkirtag- 22nd to 24th july 2016), a tradition which dates back more than 50 years. Fluffy apricot dumplings, fruity apricot punch and delicious apricot brandy are on the menu each year, much to the delight of visitors. The highlight of the programme is the traditional parade of the apricot King and Queen which runs through the area and ends with the bestowal of the Golden Apricot. There is then a two-day celebration of folk dancing and singing. July is the apricot festival in Krems. (Alles Marille - 15th to 16th july 2016)
Home-made apricot schnapps and delicious apricot liqueurs are served in most bars in the Wachau region. Traditional Wachau-based companies have begun to specialise in producing high quality distillates and liqueurs, including the Hellerschmid and Bailoni distilleries. If you arrange it in advance, you are welcome to watch the production taking place and, upon request, can take part in tasting sessions.
There are numerous top quality apricot products available for you to being home from your trip to Wachau. The products on sale range from top class marmalades to delicious chutneys, sophisticated liqueurs and distillates and fine apricot natural cosmetics.
Information & Bookings:
Donau Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH
A-3620 Spitz an der Donau, Schlossgasse 3
T: +43 2713 30060-60
F. +43 2713 30060-30
Donau-Niederösterreich Tourismus GmbH
Mag. Jutta Mucha-Zachar
A- 3620 Spitz, Schlossgasse 3
T: +43 2713 30060-24
F: +43 2713 30060-30
www.donau.com , www.wachau.at