An Austrian Tale

by CWA @ 19 Nov 2018
An Austrian Tale Johannes Gebeshuber is a driven man. Starting a winery in 1998, the man has worked hard to make Weingut Gebeshuber the force of reckoning that the winery is today.

Speaking with CWA during an informal wine-tasting while promoting Austrian Wine Week at LeVel 33, Gebeshuber is a passionate man, and this trait can be seen not just in his wines, but also the way he talks about Austria his home country, and his business practices. In fact, he is so full of pride for the region that around 80% of the winery outputs revolve around the rare grapes that are indigenous to Austria, the rotgipfler and zietfandler grapes.

Because the grapes are not easy grapes to raise, there is a need for careful maintenance that has to be done by hand from the workers in the winery; they have to carefully tend to the leaves and take them out in order to tackle rot that can occur from rain and winds. Gebeshuber states that additionally, a different challenge arises in that because not many people have heard of these grape varieties, they have a small share of the wine market in comparison to other wines made from more conventional grape types.

Gauging the popularity of the wines is a little difficult. Due to Gebeshuber’s reluctance to mass market these wines, their main source of getting the word out on their products has always been word of mouth.

“We don’t go to supermarkets.” He states, matter of factly. “So what we do is we approach sommeliers, we approach high-class restaurants, and we talk to them.” While not sure of the figure, he estimates that there are around 15 restaurants in Singapore that carry his wines, making it a niche figure.
“For me it’s very important that there is a good sommelier who knows my ideas of winemaking, and he can introduce my wines to his guests. To me, there is no sense to put a bottle of, (let’s say) zietfandler on the shelf of the supermarket, I don’t think someone would buy it." He cites the reason for this as not just a lack of awareness by the masses, but also because the wines are expensive.

To combat that, he states that he conducts staff trainings to teach them how to talk about the wine and emphasizes the importance of talking to sommeliers, especially from Austria, since Rotgipfler and Zietfandler grapes are a part of the country’s identity.

“We started with a lot of grape varieties, and I always knew that we would want to export because there is a lot of strong competition in the market and as a winery, we are rather young.” He stated. However, after a few years in business, he decided to shift the concentration to focus on the two particular grapes.

“ I didn’t like the idea to have everything.” He said, referring to making wines of a large variety that everyone else in the market had. “ We have some grape varieties that you wouldn’t find anywhere else, so the idea was, after a few years,  to focus on these grapes.”

Both types of grapes produce two of the most unique, complex white wines that we have never quite tasted before. Gebeshuber assures us that because of the complexity of the tastes, the wines should be tasted at different types after opening and pouring, as the aeration of the wines and times mean that at different times the tastes and scents that get given off changes.

When asked what he would pair the wines up with, Gebeshuber admits that as a vegetarian, he may not be as good with food pairings with his wine.

“What I really know is that it’s very good with seafood.” Gebeshuber says. “It’s also very good with traditionally Austrian dishes, like the wiener schnitzel, deep fried chicken. For vegetarian dishes, perhaps I would pair it up with fried vegetable noodles with a lot of chilli.”

When we commented that the dish sounds fairly similar to the Singapore taste, he laughs. He has been to Singapore before, and loves the food here.

Wine Category Manager of Octopus Distribution Networks Michael Leitner, who is also a close personal friend of Gebershuber, gave his input as well.

“I like it a lot with stingray,” He says. “Stingray would go perfectly with this.”

“Maybe even a soft-shell crab?” Gebeshuber asks laughingly.

“Yes, and even maybe chilli or black pepper crab. The taste of the wine can handle a little bit of spice. So for chilli crab, which is the most popular of Singapore dishes, this would go very well.” Leitner concludes.