"I like going down the tubes."

If you discover the Weinviertel by bike, you won't get past the "villages without chimneys". An insight into the Maulavern cellar alley.

Josef Diem has spent his entire life in his native Zellerndorf and has always dedicated himself to viticulture - no one knows more about the history of the Maulavern cellar alley than he does. The 58-year-old Weinviertel native takes us on a journey deep underground, where grapes were once pressed and wine still lies dormant in barrels today.

Dear Mr Diem, you have been a winemaker for over 30 years and are one of the last businesses in Zellerndorf to store its wine in the Maulavern cellar alley. What makes the cultural asset "cellar alley" so special for you?

Cellar alleys are timeless relics of a bygone era. Our cellar is about 400 years old; my grandfather used to store his wine there. I have taken over the wine farm as the third generation and will hand it over to my son Josef in a few years. Of the more than 80 wine cellars in our cellar alley, there are only three businesses left that store their wine underground. Most have moved their production and storage facilities to halls with refrigeration units, where it is more practical and hygienic to work. But I still like going down into the cellar tube and enjoy the silence and stillness down there. Sitting together in the cellar vaults, you get the feeling that time simply stands still.

Above ground, when you stroll through the picturesque cellar alleys such as this, the feeling of timelessness also creeps up on you.

Most of the cellar alleys were built outside the villages along hollow roads, with the winepress houses lined up along the slopes. None of the buildings has a living space, a bathroom or a kitchen; their only use was for wine pressing and subsequent storage. The buildings were not heated - hence the name "villages without chimneys". The Maulavern cellar alley is somewhat untypically situated on a hill ridge, which is why the cellars were dug very deep into the earth. Our cellar can be reached by descending 40 steps, so it is a good four metres below ground - but in Retz, there are cellars that reach up to 20 metres deep into the earth and are connected by a "labyrinth" of some 20 km long.

With its 1.2 kilometres, the Maulavern cellar alley is one of the longest and oldest in the entire Weinviertel. What is there to discover in the cellar alley?

Maulavern is very originally preserved and surrounded by vineyards. In contrast to other cellar alleys, the winepress houses here have never been converted into residential buildings, so, visually, little has changed over the past centuries. The house walls are white, the roofs are tiled and the doors have typical Weinviertel patterns such as stars, suns and diamonds. In the middle of the alley, as with Pillersdorf or Platt, you will find the Radlerrast, where walkers, hikers and of course cyclists can quench their thirst. Along the cellar alley, there are three field marmots, as a pilgrimage route once passed through here. At the beginning of the alley, there is also a cellar museum, and at the end again the Rankl cross awaits, which stands on the site of the former court of Zellerndorf.

What wines are grown in Zellerndorf?

Grüner Veltliner is our main variety, for sure. I think 50% of all vines in Zellerndorf are Veltliner, and we also have many different white wine varieties - from Sauvignon Blanc to Gelber Muskateller to Chardonnay. In terms of red wine, the Blaue Portugieser was once strongly represented, but to my personal regret, it has been replaced by the Zweigelt in recent years. PIWI wines, which are made from grapes of fungus-resistant grape varieties, are also becoming more and more popular here. In the future, they will certainly account for even larger proportions as they are not only environmentally friendly, but they also reduce costs and are not as labour-intensive. Demand for them is also increasing at the cellar alley festivals.

Speaking of cellar alley festivals, these attract not only locals, but also many cyclists from near and far.

Absolutely! Cellar alleys are not only of cultural and historical, but also of touristic, importance. In addition to the official cellar alley festivals, many winepress houses are used for Heurigen events and are, of course, also for guided tours. It is well known that the Weinviertel is a great cycling destination. For example, the Weinviertel DAC Cycle Tour and the Weinviertel Cellar Alley Cycle Tour all pass through our cellar alley. So, if you want to explore the Weinviertel on two wheels, you won't miss Zellerndorf - we warmly welcome all cycling visitors to our Heurigen at Maulavern cellar alley.