Hannes Richter

The Delights of Austrian Wine

Hannes Richter

Dr. Michael Häupl holding a handful of grapes

Austrian wine has clearly become more popular in the US over the past ten years. Due to its unique and interesting characteristics it has received very high ratings from wine critics and sommeliers alike.  Representatives of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and the Austrian Tourist Office, as well as an Austrian wine broker, talked with Austrian Information about the primary reasons for this increased interest in Austrian wine and their current marketing strategies.

Marketing Austrian Wines in the U.S.

The managing director of the Austria Wine Marketing Board, Willi Klinger feels that the reason for the growing awareness of Austrian wine is due to the increasing development of fine American cuisine and drink and the growing appreciation Americans have for this world of enjoyment. Austrian wine is a very distinctive product with a unique Austrian character. Austrian wine producers have discovered many interesting niches where they can successfully market their wines, and their emphasis on quality has not gone unnoticed.

The Austrian Wine Marketing Board has neither the budget nor the personnel that would allow them to make major inroads in the American market. Despite the limited quantities produced in Austria, 1.3 million liters were sold in the U.S. last year. Earnings this year are expected to be clearly greater than those of the previous year. The strategy is to target people who are already familiar with Austria and have an interest in trying good Austrian wines as well as wine-lovers who are interested in wine with character.

“By inviting opinion makers to visit Austria the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, in cooperation with the Austrian Trade Comission and the Austrian Tourist Office in New York, has successfully promoted Austrian wines. Leading wine magazines such as Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, International Wine Cellar, BTI, Wine & Spirits, are represented as well as food magazines that feature wine. Wine tasting events are held usually in a small relaxed setting, and representatives from the press, sommeliers, and trade organizations are present,” explains Klinger.

What American wine enthusiasts and sommeliers particularly value in Austrian wine is that it complements so many different dishes. “Austrian wine makes food shine,” as the saying goes, and sommeliers win new enthusiasts every day. When a ‘Grüner Veltliner’ is recommended, the response is almost always very favorable. It has great taste, is favorably priced and can be easily combined with almost any food.  ‘Riesling’ from Austria also enjoys a good reputation.

The Austrian red wines have also been gaining favor and a recent article in The New York Times spoke of “The unspeakable delights of Zweigelt”. Apart from the red wines, the sweet wines from Burgenland, “Austria’s liquid gold,” are gaining in popularity.

In addition to the prime region of the Wachau, wines from other regions such as the valleys or “Tals” (Kremstal, Kamptal, Traisental) and the newer cultural areas of Wagram and Weinviertel are gaining acceptance. There are also the red wines and stronger whites from ‘Carnuntum’ and the ‘Thermenregion’ (region of the hot springs) - with Lower Austria offering the greatest variety. Still largely unknown in the United States are wines from the province of Styria and the wines of Vienna. Vienna has been successful in producing not only the typical ‘Heurigen’ wine but also wine of premium quality.  “All in all, we say to friends of music and wine: Austrian wine is like Mozart in a glass - elegant and light, but never superficial. Just like Mozart’s music.”

Austria Wine Marketing Board
Prinz-Eugen-Straße 34/7
A-1040 Vienna
Tel: +43 (1) 503 92 67
Fax: +43 (1) 503 92 68
E-mail: info@winesfromaustria.com

Promoting Austrian Wine in the U.S.: From the Wine Importer to the Wine Consumer

According to Klaus Wittauer, whose export company represents and promotes top selections from most of Austria’s wine producing areas, interest in Austrian wine has increased significantly because of the improved quality of Austrian wine. This increased awareness of Austrian wine in the U.S. could already be detected some ten years ago, when premium Austrian red wines were produced for the first time in significant quantities. “In order to achieve excellent ratings in the American market, we had to offer very good red wines, particularly when organizing wine events and dinners. Cooperation with top sommeliers was crucial as were the articles written about Austrian wine in special trade magazines,” explains Wittauer.

The average American wine drinker turning to Austrian wine is still a thing of the future, however. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us in terms of creating our own niche on the menus of restaurants or on the shelves of wine shops.” Wittauer’s mission to introduce Austrian wines to America involves working with wine producers as well as with importers. “I have to select the wines, help wine producers with labeling (because every U.S. state has its own regulations with regard to labels), sell the wine to the dealers and help them sell the wine to wine shops and restaurants. Finally, while California or French wines sell themselves, I have to help the businesses sell our wine to the consumer. I organize wine tastings in wine shops and try to ensure that Austrian wine is offered to the customers,” says Wittauer.

“It is also important that the wine offered in the wineshops is sold quickly before it gets too old. There are wine shops offering old wine that has become inadequate due to summer heat or transportation issues. For someone interested in buying Austrian wine for the first time, this could also be their last purchase. Therefore, it is important to me as  an importer that I go back to the store and replace the old wine.”

In Wittauer’s view, Austrians involved in the hotel and restaurant business in the U.S. can help promote Austrian wine by including Austrian wine on the menu. He is convinced that Austrians living in the U.S. should ask for Austrian wine because the more Austrians show an interest in Austrian wine, the better the distribution will be.

Klaus Wittauer 
Select Wines Inc.
14000 Willard Road Chantilly, VA 20151
Tel. 703-631-8100  fax 703-222-9894

Austrian Wine Country - An Exciting New Travel Destination for the U.S. Traveller

Establishing Austria as a country for wine travel was a new, innovative marketing initiative launched by the Austrian Tourist Office in New York several years ago. By offering trips to Austria under the rubric of “New Baroque - A Newborn Legacy of Wine, Architecture, Music and  Travel,” the campaign was able to target very select groups interested in wine. Austria has always been a popular travel destination for those who appreciate classical music, and this offers an excellent opportunity to access this market by offering cultural experiences associated with wine travel.

A large marketing campaign has therefore started this year, focusing primarily on wine travel and highlighting Austria’s food and classical music culture. “We have focused on classical music lovers in New York and Washington, D.C. because of their high interest and consumption of imported wine (60% consume imported wine once a week). Informative advertising is placed in supplements of magazines such as Opera News, or the Washington National Opera Magazine. Promotion is also done by way of WQXR Radio, The New York Times’ classical music station, offering a better understanding of the highlights of Austrian wine travel through short stories,” explains Michael Gigl, Director of the Austrian Tourist Office for North America.

The Austrian Tourist Office in New York has also created and posted a series of topics on its website (www.austria.info/wine) and is sponsoring a wine exhibition in New York in September in cooperation with the Austrian Trade Commission and the Austrian Cultural Forum. The exhibit, “The Austrian Winery Boom” will open at the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York on September 5, 2007. It highlights and features the spectacular wineries which have been designed by internationally acclaimed architects in Austria.

What is unusual about Austria as a destination for wine travel is that, unlike California’s wineries which are managed by corporations, much of the wine producing business in Austria has been run by families for many generations.

For the Austrian Tourist Office, this was an excellent opportunity to reveal new regions for travel. Burgenland, for example, was not known as a popular travel destination, nor is Vienna known as a destination for wine enthusiasts. Styria will be added next year, and discussions are on-going with Lower Austria. In Burgenland, the life and work of the famous Austrian composer Josef Haydn, a native and a devoted wine enthusiast, will be part of the cultural visiting program. A wide variety of wines and cultural programs will be offered to the American tourists as well as the opportunity to visit some beautiful but less traveled regions of Austria.

Austrian Tourist Office
120 West 45th Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10036
phone: 212 944-6880
email: travel@austria.info

Wine Exhibition
“The Austrian Winery Boom”
Austrian Cultural Forum in New York September 5, 2007 - January 12, 2008

Wine and architecture in Austria represent a unique cultural connection. Top international architects are building spectacular wineries in Austria.

The vineyards in Austria cover 51,000 hectares and are located primarily in the east and southeast of the country. Among the wines produced there, white wines make up the larger portion and are cultivated in 70% of the vineyards. Twenty-two white wine varieties are permitted for high quality wine production. Red wine (13 varieties) represents the remaining 30% of the vineyards.

The average harvest yields around 2.5 million hectoliters of wine, the largest part of which is consumed in Austria. Although Austrians consume 73% of their own production, exports have increased considerably over the past years.

Austria has approximately 6,000 small wine producing estates, many of whose financial existence is based on the selling of wine directly on the premises. More than half of the wine-growing country consists of estates with over 5 hectares of vineyards. They are highly competitive. Wine estates that are regarded as large by international standards (more than 200 hectares), are rare in Austria.

Austrian wines are of very high quality. Approximately two thirds of the wines are Qualitätswein, with some of these belonging to the best white, red and sweet wines in the world.