June was chock-full of adventure and education here at Circo Vino! We attended Vie Vinum, caught up with our Winery Partners, and immersed ourselves in authentic Austrian culture for 10 glorious days! We did not get much rest, but the unbelievable wealth of experiences we shared made it all worthwhile. Read on for a recap, and thanks for traveling #withthewinecircus!
Vie Vinum 2018
Vie Vinum and the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) team up every two years to host this grand event in Vienna’s historic Hofburg Palace, and their hospitality and organization made the 20th anniversary of the event a huge success. With over 500 wineries participating, and thousands of trade professionals and consumers visiting, it was a busy three days, to say the least. The Circo Vino team was joined by our friends Donny Sullivan, Patrick Ballow, and Kristen Clausen from The Source Imports in California. Ti Ngo, Erick Cadena, Tara Patrick, and Tara McDonald, all respected sommeliers and beverage directors in California, were also in attendance, as well as Candid Wines’ Steven Fladung. Our cohort must have tasted 300 wines between us! In addition to visiting our Winery Partners at their booths, and tasting through some fantastic wines from Austria’s other producers, the AWMB sponsored several in-depth seminars, which we were thrilled to attend. Some of the highlights included:
“The Old Wachau?” was a guided tasting/in-depth history lesson presented by the Vinea Wachau, with expert panelists Emmerich Knoll III, Anne Krebiehl MW, and Roman Horvath MW. They walked us through the soils, climate, and interesting history of Austria’s most famous wine growing region, as well as exploring the aging potential of the Wachau’s two staple varietals, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling. The tasting spanned nearly 50(!) years of Wachau production, and illustrated the unbelievable potential of this historic region.
“Wiener Gemischter Satz – Capital Wine of Vienna,” gave us the dirt on the vineyards of Austria’s capital, where the traditional field blend Gemischter Satz is grown. The ever-exuberant Fritz Wieninger, along with his WienWein compatriots, guided us through the various soils and microclimates around Vienna, giving us a glimpse into the diverse expressions this historic blend is capable of. The tasting was broken down into four flights, each highlighting a different aspect of Gemischter Satz, and illustrating the effects that vineyard, varietal makeup, maturity, and winemaking style has on the finished wine.
“The Great Wines From the Themenregion,” hosted by a group of area vintners including Michael Reinisch, explored the indigenous grapes Rotgipfler and Zierfandler, as well as the region’s well-known St. Laurent and Pinot Noir. This seminar was a particular treat, highlighting the unique Thermenregion terroir and shedding light on some interesting tidbits of knowledge. For instance, while it’s extremely obscure these days, the traditional blend of Rotgipfler and Zierfandler was once widely distributed. It is estimated that over 2,000 bottles went down with Titanic in 1912.
In addition to the grand fair and numerous side events, we were honored to attend some delightful social events in the evening. It was wonderful to relax and get to know our fellow wine lovers from around the world.
The AWMB Welcome Reception gave us a glimpse of what we were in for, with scores of wines to taste, a fantastic buffet, and a lovely atmosphere on the gorgeous Donau Canal:
…Followed by “Nussberg Fest,” an evening of food, wine, and festivities in Wien’s vineyards, overlooking the city:
Vie Vinum and the AWMB pulled out all the stops for this year’s event, and the sheer scale of what they were able to put together left us awestruck. Between the fair, countless side events, and three days of wonderful after-hours get-togethers, it’s a wonder that we got any sleep at all! Many thanks to everyone who made this possible!
Vineyards, Cellars, and Home-Cooked Meals
It’s no secret that we adore our Winery Partners. Not only are they each extremely talented and dedicated to their craft, they are also wonderfully kind and generous human beings. After Vie Vinum, we hit the road to visit our Austrian friends, and their hospitality was overwhelming. We’re going to let the pictures do the talking here…enjoy!
Ingrid Groiss welcomed us at her winery and heuriger in Breitenwaida, where we toured her vineyards and cellar, and learned some fascinating history of the area. Also, her mom made us lunch:
Then we headed east to Krems to visit Goose Gansberger and Fritz Miesbauer, of Stift Göttweig. They showed us around their recently renovated cellar, and tasted us through the Göttweig line:
The next day found us next door in the Wachau to meet with Peter Veyder-Malberg. We met him at his Buschenberg vineyard, talked soil and climate, and then he treated us to a vertical tasting of that same vineyard from 2017 back to 2008, his first Wachau vintage:
From there, we headed over to see Wachau luminary Emmerich Knoll, who took us on a drive through his Pfaffenberg, Loibenberg, Kellerberg, and Schütt vineyards. Yoda, the winery dog, was along for the ride just to ensure that everything went smoothly:
After a tour of the nearly 300-year-old estate and cellar, we were treated to a vertical of Malat’s Silberbichl Riesling stretching back over 15 years, as well as verticals of his Grüner Veltliner Gottschelle and Pinot Noir. Michael and his father guided us through the different vintages with weather and harvest memories, giving us a deep understanding of just how much thought and effort goes in to making a quality wine. It was an incredible opportunity to taste through these wines and experience their full potential for development. As if that wasn’t enough, Gerald brought out a special treat to cap off the tasting, a 1998 Pinot Noir Trockenbeerenauslese. Minds blown, we retreated en masse to Pulker’s Heuriger for a decadent dinner and blind tasting of even more cellar rarities:
We weren’t done yet. After a restful night in the exceptional Malat Hotel, it was off to the Thermenregion for a visit with Familie Reinisch in Tattendorf. Hannes gave us the lowdown on his terroir, and then proceeded to school us something fierce in the cellar. We learned how he comes up with the traditional Rotgipfler-Zierfandler blend, and deeper in the cellar we were treated to a breakdown of the painstaking vinification that produces their stellar single-vineyard Pinot Noirs:
The last leg of our journey took us to Styria to hang out with Armin Tement at Domaine Ciringa. The lush hillsides and cool forest breeze provided the perfect venue for yet another incredible vertical tasting. Armin took us back in time to the beginning of his Slovenian project, Sauvignon Blanc Fosilni Breg, and we were amazed at the aging capability of this wine. Even at nine years old, the inaugural 2009 Fosilni Breg was as true to character and full of life as the barrel sample of the 2017. After a hop over the border to check out his Ciringa vineyard in Slovenia, and a tour of the most photogenic cellar in Austria, we talked shop with Armin over dinner at Magnothek:
Auf Wiedersehen, For Now…
The wine business can be an intense and tricky maze. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of marketing, scores, critics, and technical details, and we tend to lose sight of the most important element–the humans behind the wine. If our journey taught us anything, it was that this whole industry, and all its trappings, ultimately boil down to the vision, passion, and hard work of a few individuals who have dedicated their lives to producing something that transcends description. A bottle of wine is a capsule, not only of terroir and vintage, but also of the intent and emotion of the winemaker. Our travels this month served to expand our understanding, and helped connect us to the human side of winemaking in a new and visceral way. In that spirit, stay tuned for our next few newsletters, which will be a series exploring the personal side of the winemaking community. Until next time, keep calm, and enjoy the wine! Prost!