Austrian wines have exploded on to the wine scene in the past few years which can often leave unfamiliar consumers confused and overwhelmed by the plethora of Grüner Veltiner and Blaufränkisch wines – many organic, most from small, single vineyard plantings. One of the best resources Austrian wine consumers can turn to are those that import the wines – the ones that really know them inside and out, know the market and know the potential each has to become your new favorite wine.
This month we sat down with , Sariya Jarasviroj Brown & Anne Zakin of Circo Vino. Here’s what they had to say:
1. What makes Austrian wine so unique? What makes it stand out from other regions?
The main varietals grown in Austria: Gruner Veltliner, Reisling, Zweigelt, Blaufrankish and St. Laurent, while being individual in character, all have a similar thirst-quenching appeal that leaves you wanting a second glass after the first is finished. The great depth of flavor, versatility for food pairing, and overall refreshing nature of the wines make Austrian wines unique because at all levels and price points from everyday drinking to collectors items, these are wines that can be enjoyed – taken seriously, yes, as genuine fine wine – but really shared at the table in every stage of evolution.
For us, Austria stands out because the country presents a complete package. The wine growing culture in Austria is deeply tied not only to the rich history of the region, but also to the current, cosmopolitan global community. It is an accomplishment for wine growers in this region to so introspectively care for and create place centered wines while at the same time endeavoring to understand where these wines find their place in the global market. Among the wine growers we work with, there is no sacrifice in quality, expression of place, or creativity even as they explore what it means to be part of an international wine community.
2. What influenced your decision to work with Austrian wines?
We love all things Austrian, Austrian wines being at the top of that list. Love is an inexplicable feeling, is it not? For us, it was really not a choice, we saw an opportunity to bring a fresh face to the Austrian wine community in the USA and we couldn’t help ourselves. Our company is not yet a year old and we started it from scratch, with our own family investment and in a bad economy. Perhaps insanity is what influenced us?
3. Which producers do you import? Highlights?
From Burgenland we work with Weingut Claus Preisinger. In the Styria we work with Sattlerhof. In the Thermenregion, we work with both Johanneshof Reinisch and Weingut Schellmann. From the Traisental, we work with Weingut Markus Huber. In the Wachau, we work with Weingut Emmerich Knoll and Weingut Peter Veyder-Malberg. We also work with Franz Reinhard Weninger of the Austrian Weninger family in Horitschon, Burgenland but we work with their Hungarian property.
We seek partnerships with wine growers who care deeply about their vineyards and take that care into the cellar and beyond. We enjoy working with individuals who are creative, curious and have a great sense of humor. We are interested in bringing an experience to your table through the wines we import.
4. Which states are you distributed in?
Currently you can find Circo Vino wines in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, Vermont, Connecticut, Alabama and Washington D.C. There is a different portfolio composition in each state and we continue to open up new markets. Currently, our most widely distributed wines are those of Markus Huber and Emmerich Knoll.
5. What’s your favorite Austrian varietal? Region? Why?
Whatever happens to be in our glasses at the moment – because its in our glasses and most likely delicious.
6. What’s your favorite food & wine pairing for the season?
Recently, we had a simple pasta dish of homemade tagliatelle in truffle butter with American sturgeon caviar paired with a 2008 Rotgipfler from Johanneshof Reinisch. This was particularly unforgettable.
7. Where do you see the future of Austrian wine heading?
At the moment it seems that the sky’s the limit. For a small country and growing region there are numerous dynamic wine growers who have yet to be “discovered.” We all recognize that Austria is, in some respects, limited by its size but as new markets in Asia and Europe are opened it seems that Austrian wine will expand into the imagination and pallets of wine lovers globally. In the USA, we see a movement to making Austrian wine accessible to the average wine drinker with more selections available under $25. Our goal as a company is to bring more Austrian wine to dinner tables everywhere in America so ultimately we see the future of Austrian wine heading right into your house.
8. Anything else you’d like to add?
It’s okay to drink it even if you can’t pronounce it. In fact, you might like it and find that you can’t live without it. Prost!