Tuesday, 29. September 2015

"Wachauer Apricots PDO"

In our new "Genuss Region" series we will present each Austrian region to introduce its specific geographical characteristics and its first-class products.The first part in this series deals with the Wachau Apricot.

Wachau is located on the southern edge of the Waldviertel forest in northwestern Lower Austria. Wachau is best known for two products: its wine and its apricots. This article is about the latter. The apricots from the Wachau region are characterized by an especially full, fruity flavor that is the result of the specific climatic conditions.

The Austrian name for apricots is "Marille", a word that dates back to the Italian name "Armellino", which was derived in turn from the scientific term.

How did apricots come to be grown in the Waldviertel region? Well, that's a long story. It starts in China, the ancient homeland of the apricot. There the Chinese a grew them as early as 3000-2000 B.C.  After this time, the cultivation of the fruit spread further west until it arrived at the middle Danube in the 1st Century (at the latest).

The orchards in the Wachau region have a long tradition as they were already used during the period of the Roman Empire.

Starting in 1890, apricots began to be grown on a large scale. The Phylloxera blight raged at the time in the vineyards of the region and caused widespread damage, which is why many winemakers switched to growing apricots.

In 2003, the "Original Wachauer Marille" association was founded. This recognizes that the name "Wachauer Apricot PDO" may refer only to fruits grown in the communities of Aggsbach-Markt, Albrechtsberg, Bergern in Dunkelsteinerwald, Droß, Dürnstein, Furth, Gedersdorf, Krems, Maria Laach, Mautern, Mühldorf, Paudorf, Rohrdorf Krems, Rossatz-Arnsdorf, Senftenberg, Spitz, Stratzing, Weinziel am Wald, Weißenkirchen, Schönbühel-Aggsbach and Emmersdorf.

Today, the region is home to about 100,000 apricot trees.

As mentioned above, the excellent flavor of the fruit is contributed to the specific geographic characteristics of the region. The Wachau region is located at the foothills of three major climates. The foothills of the warm Pannonian climate exude warm air from the east. Moderate air comes in from the west via the Atlantic Ocean and cold, often wet air masses come in from the north. These three factors ensure for constant air circulation. The average annual temperature is a cool 8.8 degrees Celsius. Since large temperature differences prevail especially at harvest time, the flavor, aroma and ingredients will be affected. In addition, the ground soil plays a role in the flavor. In the region there are mainly weathered primary rock soils that are mixed at lower altitudes with loess, a type of sediment.

All this helps to make the Wachau apricots a particularly aromatic delicacy.

The apricot trees bloom between March and mid-April and are harvested from mid-July to mid-August. The harvest still takes place by hand. This is a major effort, as the apricot trees have a pattern of ripening. Ripe fruits must therefore be harvested using traditional baskets up to five times per year.

Mainly Klosterneuburger Apricots are grown in the Wachau region. These belong to the Kegelmarille family. They are medium sized, 45-60 g in weight and have a conical or tapered shape. The color is honey yellow or red and often you can see brownish and reddish spots. The flesh is orange to reddish orange, and is firm and juicy.

Apricots have a lot of healthy ingredients. They have the highest content of provitamin A (carotene) of all varieties of fruit and also contain a lot of vitamin B1, B2, C and other minerals.

The fresh produce is further processed to make jam, nectar, distillates, dumplings etc. These products are made according to old, traditional recipes and only quality apricots from the region are used.