cellar lanes, © Niederösterreich Werbung / Michael Liebert

The quintessential cellar lane

What makes up a genuine Weinviertel cellar lane?

We have put together an overview of the key elements that make up an authentic Weinviertel cellar lane (Kellergasse) for you here.

Built by the original growers that worked the land, the deep, long cellars accessible via the press houses at the side of the lane were purely functional, put up to serve a practical need rather than to satisfy any particular architectural ambition. They were exclusively used for making and/or storing wine and other agricultural produce. These structures comprise three main elements: the pressing house (or a simple entryway if there was no pressing house), the cellar entrance (mainly the steps downwards) and the tunnels. The walls of the pressing houses were mostly made from unfired clay or bricks, before being given a lime wash. The white walls and the blue-green colour of the wooden doors painted with copper sulphate give the historic cellar lanes their characteristic charm.

Pitched roofs and decorative escutcheons

The most common roof shapes are pitched and half-hipped, while in some cases lean-to roofs are found. A classic pressing house has a double main access door set slightly to one side, opposite the access to the cellar tunnels. In some regions one side would be shut off with a metal or wood grille during the fermentation period, allowing the gases given off to escape while securing the pressing house from the outside. The imaginatively decorated escutcheons around the lock are another special feature. The other half of the pressing house facade has one or two windows, as well as a trap opening close to ground level, through which the grapes were funnelled inside the building. Not just used for ventilation, the windows also allowed light to enter the pressing house. Sometimes the pressing houses had additional ventilation shafts. The wine presses (barrel, screw and beam presses) would be positioned on the same side of the structure as the trap and windows. Down in the tunnels, the barrels were usually lined up alongside one another on one side.

Keeping the rain out

As the pressing houses are mostly built into slopes, they also feature construction elements known locally as ‘Reia’ or ‘Schlufs’. Positioned at regular intervals, they ensured that rainwater would drain away from the building, in the absence of guttering.