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The trade and marketing agency Austrian Wine conducted a stay-at-home tasting online Tuesday that allowed 120 participants from Canada to sample the latest vintages and exchange ideas with wine makers. The virtual conference was scheduled when the annual showcase in Toronto last November was cancelled because of the pandemic.
Members of the Ontario wine community, including sommeliers, agents and media, received individual wine packages that included 100-millilitre samples of four selected wines from the participating wineries who were selected because they have wines available here. Each Canadian invitee was asked to select from a list of 28 producers for tastings kits to be assembled and shipped ahead of time.
Fifteen-minute tasting slots were open by appointment, allowing winery representatives to introduce their wines and answer questions.
Despite all the upheaval created by COVID-19 in 2020, Austrian wine exports were up in value and volume, with Germany, Switzerland and the United States representing the three largest markets. Austrian wineries were able to sell more wine through retail channels when restaurants around the world were forced to close. Sitting in 12th position, Canada’s interest continues to grow, especially in Quebec, this country’s largest importer of Austrian wine.
Rudolf Rabl, whose family winery is in Langenlois, in the Kamptal region, says everyone continues to associate Austrian wine with its most widely planted grape variety, gruner veltliner. “The interest is in gruner veltliner, gruner veltliner, gruner veltliner, riesling and then red wines,” he said lightheartedly during our 15-minute tasting window.
This was the third stay-at-home tasting organized by Austrian Wine, following similar events in Britain and Poland. Organizers and participating wineries believe the format will likely continue even when in-person events return. An added benefit of virtual events is that smaller family operations are more likely to get involved if they don’t need to invest in flights, hotels and other travel expenses.
“Is it necessary to fly over to Ontario for a half-day tasting event or do we have other ways, better ways, of connecting?” says Lena Funke, export manager for Domane Wachau, one of Austria’s leading estate producers. “This format works so well. It’s so interactive and we’re so happy to be able to speak about our wines with people again.”