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Delhi Wine Club
VieVinum 2012: The Great Austrian Wine Party

Posted: Monday, 11 June 2012 10:32

VieVinum 2012: The Great Austrian Wine Party

June 11 : VieVinum, the biennial wine show held in the historical Hofburg Vienna on 2-4 June was a Great Austrian Wine Party for over 850 wine importers, journalists, sommeliers and restaurant owners invited to taste not only Austrian wines from all regions but also its fascinating culture and cuisine, thanks to the well-oiled machinery known as AWMB, writes Subhash Arora who was as impressed with the organization as the wines.

Click For Large ViewInvited by Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) the 850 professionals were in for a great Austrian wine party treat as they could taste wines from all their four regions; Lower Austria (Wachau, Kremstal DAC, Kamptal DAC, Traisental DAC, Wagram, Weinviertel DAC, Carnuntum, Thermenregion), Burgenland (Neusiedlersee, Leithaberg DAC-Neusiedlersee-Hugelland, Mittelburgenland DAC, Eisentberg DAC-Südburgenland), Styria (Southeast , South and West ) and the small region of Vienna (Wien).  Besides all their whites, reds and the legendry sweet wines one could also savour wines from the close by countries like Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and even Spain, Portugal and Italy etc.

Parties Galore

But the party continued in the evenings which were extended tastings for the captive audience with local cuisine, interesting locales and great company and bonhomie. The welcome party aboard the Badeschiff (a restaurant on an old boat anchored in the Danube canal near the city center) was a long drawn out affair with plenty to eat, but more importantly a lot to taste and drink. It was an indication of things to come with the presentation of a well-made catalogue of 32 wines for the evening. Perhaps 4 hours would be par for the course to taste them all and that was the time one could spend, eating and meeting old friends.

Let’s go Red, Let’s go

Click For Large ViewAnother line-up was the next day on June 1 when one could pace oneself to taste over 180 of their red wines from the great vintage of 2009 at Vienna Hofburg-perhaps the organizers knew that many of the partygoers would love to stay with the Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc or the dessert wines Austria is better known far. Details are in the previous issue of delWine.

Hurray Heurigen

A party at a Wiener Heurigen may be a trip to the past when these taverns were owned by the wine producers, where they could sell their own wines with limited food in a casual atmosphere at reasonable prices. The modern day laws are more flexible and a party in an informal setting with wider selection of food and wines is a common practice. One always looks forward to this welcome party at an AWMB event. You may never remember that the party was at Heurigen Fuhrgassl- Huber but I could tell you there were 43 wines to go through - and mind you it is a gross violation of the code of conduct to get drunk at such parties- and I have never ever seen a person out of control-well, almost!

Big Austrian Wine Party

After a day’s hard work, attending seminars and tasting wines, drinking cups of coffee, courtesy the Board which had made the rendezvous at a central spot with Wi-Fi and laptops for the bloggers, tweeters and Facebook junkies, it was time to party again. This time it was BIG and the venue was in the lush and beautiful city park. Kursalon Vienna is one of the most enchanting concert halls of the city built around 150 years ago in the style of Italian Renaissance, at one corner of the park.

Click For Large ViewIt looked like we had entered the wrong place, what with a huge line of long formal dresses and DJs and bow-ties. Not the journos’ idea of a big party! It turned out that the venue was right- but it was at another part of the edifice where a mini classical music concert was also about to start.  With 900 guests around, there were people, people everywhere and plenty of drops to drink. Oops-bottles!  Young and pretty ladies with a wine catalogue welcomed you. Although the whole ensemble came out of the participating wine producers this evening with 143 wines to taste, I decided to cancel the tasting and stick to moderate drinking (most difficult project for such evenings!). The food was catered by Das Schwarze Kameel (The Black Camel), the 400 year old well-known restaurant of Vienna which used to be frequented by Beethoven and is known for its outstanding catering including the well-known Summit in 1961 when John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev  met in Vienna.

Although a party like that would set the organizers back by €200 a head for food alone, our sources reveal that a sum of €100,000 might have been spent at the grand event that was unarguably the best event ever managed by any such programmes-of course the wines were sponsored. The organizers were benevolent enough to give two complimentary invites each to the sponsoring producers who were happy to get the opportunity to network with the right audience. It was a bonus to see 5 of the producers later stomp their feet and strum guitars on stage with Michael Moosbrugger of Schloss Gobelsburg (wines imported by Aspri Wines) beating the drums and making a nice cuvee. On popular public demand, one saw ‘Willi the Kling’ do a solo performance followed by the DJ playing hip shaking rock and pop music, making a few people go to the dance floor and shake a leg.  The gist of what everyone said while leaving that evening was ‘What a Great Austrian Wine Party!’

7 Elements of Uniqueness

Click For Large ViewJune 2 and Let the Show begin! Skipping through the pleasantries and verbose speeches, Willi Klinger, the MD (Magnetic Dynamo) of AMWB took the stage for two back-to-back seminars on why people should think Austrian, drink Austrian.  

Unique climate with colder temperatures in the north helped by the hot Panonian winds from the South East make it a perfect climate for ripening. The terroir is rocky, loess, volcanic giving diverse soils for cultivation. Grape varieties are of course different with a majority being local grapes, making their wines rather interesting. Austrian culture and tradition are unique with a lot of human factor involved in making wines.

Austria believes more and more in sustainability with 75% committed to IP (Integrated Protection in Viticulture); 20% of the farms are organic. Österreich, as the locals call it, makes authentic and artisanal wines with a vast majority of wineries being owned by small families. This is also a challenge for the wine producers because being small they may produce unique wines but the costs are high and export marketing is more difficult, what with language being a barrier too for the small producers. So they are happier exporting to Germany, Switzerland though US is a good market due to a wide spectrum of appreciating consumers. Austria has a relatively easier-to-follow appellation system unlike Italy or even France.

RESPEKT for the soil

Click For Large ViewGoing the biodynamic way but in a different format than the official certification by Demeter, the company that has the authority to do so, 15 producers banded together in 2006-07 and showed what respect for nature and mankind meant to them. At a conference attended by a packed house (there were two of these seminars), the passion and philosophy was well conveyed and the tasting of 15 wines was a good opportunity to enjoy the biodynamic wines with a difference. For a first-time attempt, it was an interesting seminar but will need a bit of tweaking to make the audience more attentive. Linking each wine with one aspect of RESPEKT didn’t augur well for my attention span or perhaps I expected something more and different. I did learn though that Biodynamic is already a registered trade mark in the USA and perhaps it may be for a few other countries in future.

The names of these 15 growers-Paul Achs, Judith Beck, Kurt Feiler-Artinger, Karl Fritsch, Michael Goëss-Enzenberg), Andreas Gsellmann, Gernot Heinrich, Johannes Hirsch, Fred Loimer, Hans Nittnaus, Bernhard Ott, Gerhard Pittnauer, Claus Preisinger, Franz Weninger and Fritz Wieninger, may not mean much to us in India yet, but they draw a lot of RESPEKT in Austria and overseas, especially in the knowledgeable circles.

First Growths- Erste Lagen

Click For Large ViewThought there is no official recognition for the ‘First Growth’ vineyards in the Austrian laws, the Association of Traditional Austrian Wine estates formed an association – Österreichiche Traditionsweingüter in 1992 to classify the outstanding vineyards of Danube region (Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental and Wagram). Erste Lagen classification applies only to Grüner Veltliner (GV) and Riesling. The Association has defined and accepted 60 vineyards sites as Erste Lagen sites, according to Michael Moosbrugger, Chairman of the Association.  Through the participation of 23 members one could taste wines from some of these vineyards at the VieVinum.

But a real treat was the tasting of 200 wines from 100 of the best Erste Lagen sites in Austria as well as Germany, through a joint programme with the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) of Germany.

Sweet, Sweet Wines

This important and popular seminar did not dwell on the effect of residual sugar on diabetes or calories- it is usually assumed that since the quantity taken is so low, it won’t have any problem with the system. It is also generally assumed that high sugar level has no effect on the system since it is in a natural form. Under the chairmanship of Lynn Sherriff MW, the current world scenario of sweet wines was discussed amidst the tastings of 3 flights of wines from Germany, Austria, South Africa, Sauternes and Tokaj. The consensus was that this segment was not getting the attention it deserves with sales not growing.  As Tim Aitkin MW suggested and the panel agreed to look into it, the organizers would pursue the possibility of forming a body of producers of all sweet wine styles globally, an arduous task but worth giving it a shot.

Click For Large ViewThere were several seminars that were useful for the visitors but one noteworthy seminar was on old vintages. A 25 year- vertical vintage tasting of Smaragd wines (GV or Riesling from Wachau with an alcohol content of more than 12.5%), one wine each from two complementary vintages and from each producer,  was one of the highlights. These wines have a long ageing potential and a tasting of wines going back 25 years and still being fresh and crisp was a true evidence of it.


The energy and efficiency of AMWB oozes out; not only is every seminar reported the very next day, the infinite pictures of the previous day’s events are uploaded on their website while the whole of Vienna sleeps. Whereas in every event held anywhere in the world, it takes  weeks and at times months for the reportage-at times making it merely a history and statistics, the reportage remains as vibrant as the ‘groo-vee’  Grüner Veltliner, the signature grape that is increasingly getting popular throughout the world.

Wine and No Health

If the Show sorely lacked one thing (other than being a primarily Austrian show like a big diamond ring with a few small diamonds like Slovenia, Croatia, Spain, Italy and Portugal around it to add to the beauty and give an international look), it was wine and health seminars. With the mounting number of studies pointing to a direction that alcohol, including wine, may harm the health, especially certain forms of cancer, it is important that every international forum of this nature and stature must include a Master class that dwells on the latest studies so that the wine drinkers are well informed about both the positive effects and negative, if any.

Farewell Party

Click For Large ViewWhen the exhausted exhibitors were packing up after an extremely busy show-from the looks of it about 15,000 people had gathered during the 3 days- the wine party shifted the venue to two places, one of them being the signature wine bar of the city, owned by Wein & Co, a big retail player in the city.

Slanted Door is a popular Vietnamese Restaurant in San Francisco since 1992. The owner and Executive Chef Charlie Phan has been a fan of Austrian wines for a long time. Willie managed to get him to visit Vienna where he cooked with his team of chefs on the last evening-again with over 30 wines to choose from. The tapas size helpings evaporated as soon as they came to the table and if it weren’t for Willi’s deft hands on the piano that distracted the 60-70 people in the room, we would be eating and drinking all night long.

Perhaps next VieVinum may see an Indian star chef cook Indian snacks and show the right door to a matched Indian food and Austrian wine. Christian Dworan, the Manager for Asia would have a big plate to handle but quite a doable project.  

Viva VieVinum

How did the people react to VieVinum in general?  If one talks of the Austrian wines, they remain as expensive in the minds of people as they were before they came to the show; they are as seductive as before, for people whose palates are in the know. After the end of the long 4-day party session, everyone was even more convinced that the world needs to enjoy more Austrian wine.

Indians certainly would love the Grüner Veltliners (value is still available in these wines), Riesling (if you can afford it, there are some fabulous wines available because of the different terroir and the passion that goes into making them).  Sauvignon Blanc was a discovery in the sense that these are in no way less than the NZ Sauvignon. With the Indian palate shifting gradually to Marlborough, there will be a positive shift or increase in demand for these beauties from Austria. Reds will continue to be a niche market- with Blaufrankisch, Pinot and Cuvees making some headway in the mid-upper segment. Sweet wines still have a long way to go.

Click For Large ViewAWMB handled the organization very deftly. Behind the smiling faces and helping hands, there was two years of organization, after all. As Susanne Staggl, the senior-most manager puts it, ‘we shall now start working on the next VieVinum 2014’. As John Clerides, a Canadian importer from Vancouver aptly put it,’ Willi is such a nice guy. He makes everyone so happy, so comfortable and is so friendly that at the end you forget about everything else and say how to help this guy who is a good friend of mine.’

And as you bid farewell to a beautiful city and a wonderfully organised Show, you say ‘Danke Schön, Aufwiedersehen and … Viva Vienna, Viva VieVinum’.

Subhash Arora


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