A complete guide to Austria’s wine and wellness practice
Pleasures are not always required to be guilty. The enjoyment of wine and the pursuit of wellbeing are synonymous among the vineyards of the Kamptal region.
Viticulture in Austria is age-old. It predates even the arrival of the Romans and has enjoyed a healthy evolution ever since. Wine is both culture and agriculture in the alpine republic; a meeting point for taste, tradition, and technology. The quality and versatility of Austrian wines are no longer the secret of sommeliers and enthusiasts and nor are the picturesque wine producing regions with their hospitality, cuisine, and creature comforts. In a predominantly mountainous country, the diverse wine regions embrace the lower eastern extremities of the Alps. Within these wine regions, one can immerse oneself in the local traditions of winemaking in conjunction with wellness experiences.
In many circles, the health benefits of the grape are well documented. Scientific terms such as antioxidants, found in wine, have become household names. Wine, with a long tradition of enjoyment as an enduring symbol of the good life, is almost always present when toasting “to your health!” Thus, the concept of wine and wellness is a natural, perfect pairing.
Let’s get one thing perfectly clear, though. Several words that have come across from English into the German language have taken on additional meaning in their new lexicon. Wellness, while still meaning the deliberate pursuit of wellbeing and health, can conjure visions of personal pampering, spa resorts, and wanderlust within the German sprachraum.
Soothe body and mind
Loisium Wine & Spa Resort Langenlois in the Kamptal wine region is nestled just north of the Danube, only a few kilometres away from the more internationally recognised Wachau in the state of Lower Austria. The white grapes of Riesling and the indigenous Grüner Veltliner dominate these vineyards, while a selection of other native and Burgundian varieties also prevail.
The town of Langenlois is the spiritual centre of the Kamptal. It is here that we find, like a futuristic metallic monolith emerging from the vineyards, the imposing architecture of Loisium: a wine centre, spa hotel, restaurant, and a destination. Perched above a labyrinth of 900-year-old cellars and nestled among the vineyards of the Steininger winery, Loisium is the inspiration and innovation of several local personalities.
Managing director and founding partner Susanne Kraus-Winkler explains how the local Nidetzky family, owners of some of the wine cellars, were looking for a new concept and platform to present this heritage. The building itself draws upon “all kinds of forms and details from the vineyards, the grapes and the cellars to create a very special architecture for the exterior of the buildings, utilising a lot of vinophile details that tell stories about wine and winemaking.”
Within, a world of indulgence awaits. Loisium offers the opportunity to combine that appreciation of the local drop with the concept of wellness, defined by Kraus-Winkler as “indulging oneself from the daily responsibilities to recharge the batteries. It is about relaxing in beautiful surroundings, taking time for self-reflection, and being pampered by spa treatments.”
This synergy is exemplified by the collaboration with spa partner AVEDA, working to create wine treatments specially for Loisium according to strict ecological principles. These involve local essences such as grape seeds (used in peelings), grape seed oil (used in massages), and fresh grapes (for refreshing facials). On the top of the spa menu are the Wine Treatments including a massage that uses grape seed oil from the local Bründlmayer vineyard and a body scrub that uses ground grape seeds and pure grape seed oil. After each treatment, a glass of local wine is served. One can also take time out in the indoor spa area which is attended to by a “spa butler,” or sweat it out in the Finnish sauna, take an amethyst steam bath, and then glide into the outdoor heated pool nestled within the vineyards.
The concept expanded
The Loisium concept has already been transplanted once, three hours’ drive south to the Austrian state of Styria, with plans for another in Alsace, France. This pairing of wine and wellness is further epitomised in southern Styria with the home-grown Vinoble cosmetic brand and day spa. CEO & Founder of Vinoble, Luise Köfer, produces Vinoble skincare products in the company’s base at the foot of the Sausal Wine Route in Austria. Expounding the concept of “vinotherapy” Köfer reveals the basis of her products that are derived “from precious essences from the grape and the vine.” The surrounding local landscape is intrinsic to this philosophy.
“Being in a wine growing region, it is important to incorporate local raw materials. For example, we receive the grape seeds from the vineyards surrounding our facility. Another example is the red wine we use in our facial masks. It is produced by the wine-growing estate right next door.
“Respectful interaction with nature and its precious resources is very important to us. Natural ingredients guarantee the highest levels of efficacy.Here guests can enjoy signature Vinoble spa treatments such as a Sauvignon facial mask and Barrique Wine Bath alongside the sweeping slopes of neighbouring vineyards,” says Köfer.
Not limited within the borders of Austria, the marriage of wine and wellness is epitomised also in France at wine spa Les Sources de Caudalie where one can travel to the source of modern vinotherapy’s history. Paying homage to the natural active ingredients of the grape, owners Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas have offered self-developed body rituals with their skincare brand Caudalie in the Bordeaux wine region since 1999. Fancy soaking in a bath with exfoliating grape pomace, indulging with a luxurious face mask, or perhaps getting a cabernet scrub made from grape seeds, honey, brown sugar, and essential oils?
North of Barcelona in Spain, Hotel Peralada Wine Spa & Golf also taps into the legacy of wine therapy and local winemaking traditions. Situated in the Empordà wine region, the resort’s El Cellar spa provides guests with relaxing grape-inspired sensory experiences. Their extensive menu of face and body treatments aim to provide regenerative benefits for the skin. Try a highly moisturising antioxidant body wrap that uses red wine lees, or a treatment package that includes a grape seed oil body peel, body wrap, and wine spa massage.
Text Christian and Rachael Vance
Photos Mario Pernkopf