The bus ride to Vienna is a chance to grab some sleep for most of the bus. Staring out the window, I see frozen parts of the Danau river. Amazing to see huge ice chunks floating; a reminder of how cold it remains. In the city we get about 30 minutes to walk to our next stop and take some photos, see some history. Fortunately 30 minutes is plenty of time in a city like Vienna with very little history. For example, Klaus points out a building that was a prison and tells the story of the architect committing suicide after it was built because they forgot to add bathrooms. Not sure if it’s true, but a good story. We have time for a quick coffee and I insist on have authentic Sacher Torte in Vienna. Klaus recommends ordering it 'mit schlag' or with a pile of whipped cream; a very nice pick me up.
We arrive at a wine bar and head to the basement where the Austria Winemarketing Board, presents “Wine from Austria, A taste of Culture.” We are treated to a powerpoint presentation/sales pitch of Austria’s growth in the wine market, and maybe a last kicker just in case we weren’t sure if we would sell Austrian wine back home. Currently Austria is working on promoting their individual wine regions, working to set wine laws specific to each region, using peer panels to taste wines for approval, and finally trying to build regional varietal identity. They make the comparison that Marlborough, New Zealand is now synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc and they want folks to think of Gruner Veltliner when you mention Kamptal, Austria. They are well on their way, at least in our store.
Gustav Strauss waits patiently and as the AWB finishes their presentation we are ready for his wines from Steiermark (Styria) located southeast in Austria. Positioned in the foothills of the Alps, they see cold nights and very hot days. Many of our customers are probably familiar with Strauss’ Sämling 88, aka Scheurebe, grape. We have sold a lot of this wine. There are only 20 vintners in Gustav’s area and the steep hillsides equates with all hands-on manual labor. Gustav tells us the people in his town have one leg shorter than the other to help them stand on the hills. I tried to watch his gate to see an obvious limp, but didn’t see it. Maybe he has a lift in one shoe. This region is making a name for its Sauvignon Blanc and Muskateller varietals. All of his wines are excellent and I am very excited about the 2008s coming to the store.
Klaus then takes the group on a walk and “illegal” train trolley ride getting lost in Vienna to find our dinner restaurant. It’s our last meal together and the troops definitely look worn. The smiles at the table are many, but the conversation is a bit more quiet than usual. I don’t think we have the energy to muster much talk and those awful thoughts of getting back to work are creeping into our reality.
Thank you Klaus and company for a most memorable and perfect trip to Austria. As it was my first time there, I have nothing to compare it to, but I can’t imagine a more passionate, quality driven, fun and educational trip than this one. Before boarding the plane, I made sure Klaus promised to take Craig next January. Craig, be sure your passport is ready to go, and bring your long underwear.
Klaus will be at Wine Authorities on Thursday, April 30th for a special Austrian Wine seminar. Details on our website calendar.