Austrian Wine Christening and the 2015 Bacchus Prize…
The tropical nights and desert-like days of the 2015 growing season are behind us now, and there’s a great deal going on in the cellars of Austria’s winegrowers, where diligent work is the order of the day. Thanks to the summer’s bounteous heat, this year’s wines are already showing particularly handsome varietal character. But the wines of Austria are blessed not only by good weather, but have also been blessed from the spiritual side. Austria’s annual christening of the wine took place this year in the Weststeiermark, where the Steinhalle in Lannach offered fitting surroundings, combining modern architecture with a welcoming atmosphere. Appropriate as well was the choice of the officiating cleric: Father Franz Brei, known as ‘The Singing Priest’, is a native of Steiermark. He blessed the christening wine (a Schilcher wine from the current year) with the name ‘Gustl 58’, to honour a social initiative originating in the community of St Stefan ob Stainz, one geared to aiding individuals who have become disadvantaged at the hands of fate or society. Austrian wine queen Katharina Putz poured the first glasses of the newly christened wine, and there was no better occasion to let the crystal ring than the bestowal of the 2015 Bacchus Prize on August Schmölzer and the San Francisco restaurant standouts ‘The Slanted Door Group’!
August Schmölzer: Actor, Author and Motivational Speaker
His roots in Weststeiermark and connexion to its marquee wine Schilcher reach back to August Schmölzer’s days in the cradle: born the son of a farmer in St Stefan ob Stainz, he resides there still at age fifty-eight. But his acting career keeps him on the road a great deal; he travels around the world for film productions and performs on the most prestigious stages in the German-language sphere – as well as having made a name for himself as an author. In fact, he is a skilled chef, and of course one cannot dine without the appropriate wine – Schmölzer is particularly fond of wines from his native Steiermark. In 2005 he established the ‘Initiative for Spiritual Growth – Gustl 58’ with the expressed goal of encouraging children and youth, supporting individuals in need and promoting peace and tolerance in the political realm. Wherever August Schmölzer sets foot of the face of the earth, he does so as an ambassador for humanistic and cultural values.
The Slanted Door: Austrian Wine Heads West, Strikes Gold
What do wines from Austria have in common with Vietnamese cuisine? They meet one another under a slanted door in a restaurant in San Francisco, where they are organised by excellent sommeliers into exciting pairings. To put it another way, twenty years ago, Charles Phan founded San Francisco’s ‘The Slanted Door’ and developed it into one of the most beloved restaurants in the USA. Every week – seven days, lunchtime and dinner – more than a thousand diners are pampered with individually interpreted Vietnamese dishes. And on their wine list, specially tailored to this style of cookery, Austria has claimed a strong presence since the very beginning, since the fresh and natural character of her wines matches brilliantly with Vietnamese cuisine. The much-lauded restaurant can be considered a trailblazer for Austrian wines in the USA. Since the original Slanted Door opened, six sister restaurants have been born out of the concept. The 2015 Bacchus prize was accepted by Gus Vahlkamp, who has been working in The Slanted Door as a sommelier since 2006.