Every couple of years Vienna plays host to what, in my humble opinion, is probably the best wine show in the world, VieVinum.
Over a handful of what always seem to be so very hot and humid days it is possible to taste the length and breadth of Austria in the stunning environs of the Hofburg Palace and varied satellite locations around the city, the fine core program and show complemented by myriad off piste events hosted by various wineries, collectives, and importers.
The show sees around 15,000 visitors over the course of the symposium, with 500 Austrian producers augmented by around 100 international wine estates. That’s a hell of a lot of wine in anyone’s book.
It’s always an amazing educational and thought-provoking trip, but this year my journey there was made especially sweet as I was travelling with some of my very favourite people in the wine business, namely Mark Cuff (The Living Vine), John Szabo MS, Magdalena Kaiser (WMAO), and Bernard Stramwasser (Le Sommelier).
The four days I spent in Vienna this time around were all simply wonderful, but I’ve listed some of my highlights below.
The Set Tasting, Organised In Flights: Great Sauvignon Blancs and Pinots
The huge set tasting the day before the opening of the show proper has for me been one of the most enjoyable elements of the entire VieVinum programme since I first started attending.
This year the focus was on Sauvignon Blanc with 1,248 hectares planted in Austria, Weissburgunder (read: Pinot Blanc) with 1,971 hectares planted, Morillon (read: Chardonnay) with 1,617 hectares under vine, Grauburgunder (read: Pinot Gris) with only 226 hectares, Blauburgunder (read: Pinot Noir) with 616 hectares planted, and finally Sankt Laurent (read: Saint Laurent) with some 732 hectares.
The tasting took place in the magnificent Landtagsaal of the Palais Niederosterreich, which as you can see from the picture above is really quite something.
I’ve always been consistently impressed by the planning and execution of such a complex tasting, and this time around the pouring team handled the three sessions of tasters throughout the day with considerable aplomb. My fellow tasters appreciate the way you handled the myriad logistical challenges of such an enormous undertaking… and I think I saw Magdalena Kaiser making many notes about how the event was organised.
Personally I enjoy the way that this kind of tatsing format allows you to both go at your own pace, and also choose your own vinous adventure.
Despite it being a “leaf day” in the biodynamic calendar, I felt that the wines were showing rather well. I particularly enjoyed the flights of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Saint Laurent, with a special shout going out to flight #12, a selection of Sauvignon Blancs from the more “natural” side of the tracks. There were certainly some wines in there that would have some Toronto Sommeliers twiddling their moustaches, that’s for sure!
The Best Old World Pinot Noir Outside Of Burgundy
This collaborative tasting between the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) and the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) was a direct response to a recent tasting by Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW entitled “The World’s Greatest Pinot Noir Today, Outside Of Burgundy” that focused exclusively upon New World examples of the varietal, overlooking the many superb examples from Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Alsace, and, of course, Austria.
The series of four blind flights were served at the absolutely perfect temperature, which is no mean feat when the un-air conditioned rooms of the Hofburg Palace were stiflingly hot (bar the Styrian room!).
The commentaries by Anne Krebiehl MW, Andreas Wickhoff MW, Stephan Reinhardt (robertparker.com) and the almost omnipotent Willi Klinger were informed and eye-opening.
Observing the differing styles of Pinot Noir from these countries alongside each other was a fascinating academic exercise, and I doff my cap to the organisers of this excellent seminar/tasting. I’m always drawn to the more ethereal, delicately perfumed, lighter examples, and there were a few that pushed all the right buttons for me.
I had honestly forgotten how divine the Pinots of Switzerland could be, as we rarely see them in the Canadian market, if ever.
The CulturBrauer Artisanal Beer Tent
Although it wasn’t actually an official part of the show, I’m a little sad that it took me until the last few hours of the last day of my Austrian trip to find this little oasis located just outside the main entrance to the VieVinum show. Ice cold artisanal beer is certainly a welcome respite after a full day of tasting and talking about wine, and so when I found this shaded spot my colleagues feared that they would never see me again!
“What time are you guys going back to the hotel? I’m with Jame right now and he will likely stay at the FREE beer tent he just found” – Group WhatsApp message from Bernard Stramwasser, Le Sommelier
If the truth be told, I spent around an hour there and managed to make my way through everyone of the eight brewers’ beers on offer, as well as a bottle of their collaborative Austrian Lager styled after the the first Austrian lagers, made before refrigeration, and hence with a little more alcohol and hops (when hops were used more for preservation rather than as a flavour component). And quite delicious it was too.
The Nussbergfest, held rain or shine!
Every VieVinum, on the last day of the show, the winemakers of Wien (read: Vienna) host a fabulous celebratory party within the vineyards of Nussberg, a hallowed site overlooking the city of Vienna.
I’ll have to admit that in all the years I have been attending, this was the very first year that it didn’t coincide with a huge thunderstorm and downpour, and although the Nussberg party is always a great laugh, the fine weather this year made it all the more special. The food was also especially good, and probably my meal of the trip despite its incredibly casual nature… that blood sausage was simply heavenly.
And, much to my surprise, the music was rather great… I can be a bit of a music snob at times, but when the DJ came on he was superb. I had forgotten just how much I love Hot Chocolate’s Everyone’s A Winner. Cue me shuffling about doing the “Dad Dance” fuelled by quite a few glasses of some top-notch Gemischter Satz (read: Wien field blend wine).
Everyone’s A Winner, Baby?
Quite apropos given the circumstances.
VieVinum, you never fail to satisfy.
What a memorable end to a truly memorable trip.
Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that was a quick but extremely satisfying trip.