The combination of a superb vintage and an impeccable source have led to an outstanding new addition to our Society range. Martin Brown joined Sarah Knowles MW in Austria to find out more.
Members really can explore these wines with confidence - but where to start? I humbly suggest our new Society's Grüner Veltliner would be as good a place as any.
Our 'Society's' range aims to provide members with benchmark examples of a region or style, and our buyers put in a remarkable amount of work into sourcing them.
Sarah Knowles MW, our buyer for Austria, had wanted to add the country's signature white grape to the range for some time; Weingut Stadt Krems represented an impeccable source, and the new Austrian vintage proved the right time.
Throughout our full-bodied two-day itinerary, the quality of the 2015 wines was never far away from conversation. A ripe, dry and - for most growers - comparatively easy vintage, the wines have no shortage of the freshness that characterises the grape but complemented by a generosity of fruit that suits easy-drinking styles particularly well.
The main purpose of our trip to the regions surrounding Vienna was to sign off this new member of the gang, and Stadt Krems was the first stop we made. Having tasted - and loved - the initial samples back in the UK, I was curious to see the winery that fashioned it.
The modern building (its new press house had just opened in 2015) in the centre of a thriving university town appeared to belie Stadt Krems' position as one of Austria's oldest wineries. Context, however, is everything, and it was fascinating to find out how this portfolio of wines came to be made here.
I had been lucky enough visit Austria once before and had been struck by the friendliness and hospitality of the locals then as much as on this trip; so in many ways it felt fitting that this generosity is rooted in the very formation of Stadt Krems.
The winery, which remains owned by the town of Krems, was born from a public hospital, founded in 1210. Both its founder, Duke Leopold IV of Babenberg, and several elderly patients left inheritances to ensure the upkeep of the hospital, including a number of vineyard holdings. After accruing a number of plots, the city took the decision to open a state winery (originally located in the town hall!) to make use of these resources. Quite a lovely story.
Today, the charming Fritz Miesbauer is the driving force behind the winery, ably assisted by an enthusiastic young team, producing wines that have their own generosity and friendliness.
Having joined from the local co-op in 2003, Fritz took the reins of a winery that was producing wines with potential, but in a slightly risk-averse spirit, and transformed Stadt Krems to a quality-driven labour of love, converting the winery's numerous vineyard holdings (predominantly in the Kremstal area) to wines that speak of their origins with distinction, but which are also delightfully fun to drink.
Evidence of the past 13 years of transformation can be found everywhere you look here. 'This tasting room was our warehouse until 2006,' said Fritz as we made our way to a glorious wood-panelled room to try the new Society wine and some of Stadt Krems' other offerings.
The vineyards themselves cover an enviable portfolio of holdings around the city itself. For the maiden Society's Grüner Veltliner, the majority of the fruit comes from the Weinviertel to the east, as it performed especially well in this vintage.
I'm biased, of course… and yet, this new wine has already sailed through a blind tasting back at Society HQ; and you know you're onto a good thing if a wine can shine every bit as brightly in a grey Stevenage tasting room as it did at source!
The wine ticks every box for what Sarah calls 'a fridge-door staple': good value, fruity, authentic and delicious; but I hope it also serves to open a few minds and palates to the grape - and Austrian wine in general - itself.
For the curious, a quick 10-point crash course on Austrian wine should get you up to speed on the basics quickly and painlessly!
Find out more about our flagship Exhibition Grüner Veltliner here
Where to go next?
Get to Know Austrian Wine >
Return to Trip Overview >