By Wines of Austria, a certified “Good Food Fighter

Austria’s wine country is indeed beautiful – but it is even more beautiful when experienced personally. No one knows this better than the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB), which is why the organisation invites the most important international wine specialists to Austria for the incomparable bi-annual Wine Summit. Through a range of wine tours, Austria’s wine country is explored through its wine-growing areas, its winemakers and, of course, its wines.

Some of the Canadian contingent acclimatising themselves

Between the 28th and 31st of May, 167 wine journalists, wine critics, select wine traders and sommeliers from 33 countries participated in the AWMB‘s Wine Summit 2011. During these four days, the specialists participated in one of four wine journeys that they were offered to choose from – Niederösterreich (Lower Austria)BurgenlandSteiermark (Styria) and a general “Newcomer” trip.

Looking down to Vienna from Nussberg

The AWMB‘s purpose for holding the Wine Summit 2011 was to show what is typical as well as special about each wine-growing area and its wines. Of particular importance was the integration of the traditional Austrian kitchen as well as age-old cultural jewels such as Schloss Hof, Schloss Esterhazy, Stift Göttweig and Schloss Stainz.

Along with wine tastings, the wine journeys offered walks through vineyards, in-depth seminars, boat trips on the Danube river and Lake Neusiedl (the Neudsiedlersee), Schnitzel cooking courses and even a small fitness programme.  The Wine Summit 2011 culminated with a brilliant finale – the “Big Austrian Wine Party” – with all of the guests coming together to celebrate, of course, Austrian wines.

Nelson Siu, WINE.Luxe Magazine, Hong Kong, HONG KONG: “I would really want to give a big thanks for your highly organised and really impressive arrangement, and the most informative tour I’ve never seen before. I should say this is the top top quality event organised in the world. We have to learn from you in Hong Kong and really hope to see your good work in the future!”

Cat Lomax, Direct Wines, Berkshire, GREAT BRITAIN: “The whole visit was incredibly well organized, well run and well thought out. I now have a much greater understanding of Austria and its wine producing regions.”

Samantha Fairgrieve, Liberty Wines, New Covent Garden, GREAT BRITAIN: “It was the most precisely and proficiently wine organised trip I have ever been on. It gave a wonderful overview of a very interesting country for wine.”

Rasmus Holmgård, Mad + Medier, Copenhagen, DENMARK: ”Every time I visit you my craving for more and deeper knowledge of Austrian wine grows exponentially. That, if anything, surely is a definitive proof of your success!”

Demei LI, Food Science Department of Beijing University of Agriculture, Beijing, CHINA: “It was so great to have such a wonderful trip with you… I will have a wine course lecture and will choose this Austrian Wine Summit as an example of HOW TO ORGANIZE WINE EVENTS.”

Elissaveta Zaharieva, EzWineTalk, Sofia, BULGARIA: “It was a very special journey for me as it gave me the unique opportunity to be part of a range of professional events and relate to distinguished Austrian wine industry leaders and international wine professionals.”

Reva K. Singh, Sommelier India, New Delhi, INDIA: “I have come away with a greater understanding of Austrian Wine and so much else surrounding it. Plus many happy memories! Thank you for all you did to make the trip so enjoyable and a perfect mix of work and play.”

Chuck Byers, Two in a Vineyard, Whitby, CANADA: “I enjoyed the `United Nations Meeting of the Wine Trade´ and am so very happy about the events.”

Welcome to Vienna Party at the Nussberg Vineyard

Saturday, May 28th, over 170 guests gathered from across the globe atop one of Vienna’s best-known and well-respected vineyards: Nussberg (and as we sit here sipping on some GV from there as we write this, we can assure you it wasn’t just the atmosphere.) The exact location: one of vineyards of Rotes Haus where they put on a terrific showing of not only their own wines, but of their fellow wine growers in the area. The view alone is enough to take your breath away, but we have to admit, the delicious wines crafted from Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and the signature Gemischter Satz (field blend) helped quite a bit!

In other years, the entire evening – tasting to dinner to party – would likely have taken place here, but inclement weather and less-than-desirable cool temperatures led us underground to the Rotes Haus heurigen where traditional fare, live music and, of course, more wine kept the party going late.

Some traditional entertainment

Here, red wines of Vienna were introduced to the group including Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and a variety of blends in addition to more white wines. If you’re not familiar with the wines from Vienna here’s a general rule for what you can expect: Mineral-rich soils lead to minerally driven white wines red wines; conversely soils from the more southern areas lead to supple reds and full-bodied whites that are heavily respected globally.

We mentioned the signature Gemischter Satz (check Eric Asimov’s article from last year here too.) Don’t be fooled by it’s title of “field blend,” this wine still has very specific guidelines that must be adhered to in order to be labeled under this term. Originally, this style of wine was mastered because as a protection against irregular vintages, but the now widely accepted style has grown to be something of pride for the this region.

The rules: First of all, all the grapes in the blend must be harvested, pressed and vinified at the same time. Which means if you don’t like what you put together you are out of luck. Second of all, the wine must be made from minimum of three and up to 20 different grape varieties. The grapes made my sourced from one or many vineyards, but like all wines the single-vineyard classification can only be used if all grapes are sourced from the same vineyard site – the most notable of which is generally Nussberg.

Nussberg is a vineyard site that has recently been rediscovered by new and innovative producers. The wines here are dry and crisp, but with incredibly complexity due to the influence of climate and the soils here. The vineyards are located on a southern slope that is highly affected by the Danube River, the Panonnian Climate and the Viennese woods. The soils predominantly consist of porous sand, gravel, chalk which attribute to the smokey flavors often found in the wines. In a word: yum.

And some traditional Viennese food

A few more fun facts about Vienna? Vienna is the only city in the world that has a large proportion of highly respected vineyards within it’s city limits. Additionally, Vienna offers residents and visitors the chance to travel to other wine regions at the drop of a hat due to the extensive train system that stems from the city. How’s that for a wine-loving culture? Ever have a Viennese spritzer? You guessed it, that white wine and club soda cocktail has a place of origin of Vienna…and it’s not because they don’t enjoy their wine and want to dilute it…let’s be honest, this allows them to drink more and it’s refreshing on a summer day.

Overall, the Austrian Wine Summit really kicked off with what Austrian wine has been telling you to do all along: Taste Culture. From the heurigen to the traditional wines, attendees left with a real sense of Austrian wine culture. (A trip to Wein & Co. later in the night only solidified these thoughts, but that is a story for another day.)