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Every year in September, Austria's Schloss Grafenegg becomes a hotspot for the international wine scene. In 2022, the tasting of wines from "Erste Lagen" the Austrian Traditional Wine Estates (ÖTW) will be expanded to include Rieden wines from the Wachau, Styria and Burgenland.

Slurping, spitting and eager typing on the keyboard. These are almost the only sounds at the Silent Tasting in the picturesque ambience of Grafenegg Castle. In between, you only hear the occasional whisper and the hurried footsteps of the winemakers pouring samples of their best wines into the guests' glasses.

In such a quiet working atmosphere, the Austrian Traditional Wine Estates (ÖTW) present the new vintages of their Erste-Lagen wines to the international professional audience. This tasting has been running for several years in several rooms of the castle under optimal tasting conditions. Previously, the magnificent Knights' Hall had served for years for the first presentation of the single vineyards. At that time, the wines were lined up at long tables ready for tasting - and the interest of the wine fans was enormous. Crowds and time pressure made it almost impossible to concentrate on the wines. So the ÖTW had the idea to try a separate tasting for the trade press.

Grafenegg Castle is the venue of the Austrian Single Vineyard Summit Josefine Reisauss

The premiere of the new Erste Lage tasting with wine journalists and critics from European countries took place in the tower room of Schloss Grafenegg on 6 September 2013. For the first time, the wines were not grouped by wineries but by vineyards - and served by the winemakers themselves. Once again, however, the organisers had to realise that the course of the event did not quite do justice to the wines. They strived for improvement.

Inspiration from Germany

After an excursion to the preview of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter - Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates) Great Growths, which has long enjoyed cult status among merchants and tasters, the framework conditions for the ÖTW's First Site Tasting were redefined. Since then, the invited wine professionals have been able to taste at their own personal pace and rhythm and in their own individual order. Each seat at the Grafenegg tasting is equipped with six glasses, a spittoon, water, neutral white bread and a Riedenbüchlein for reference. The list of wines with all technical and geological information is available in digital and printed form. With the help of so-called order forms, the tasters order six wines each, which the winemakers pour into the glasses shortly afterwards. In view of the almost silent service and the generally prevailing whispering tone, this format is called "Silent Tasting".

Concentrated atmosphere at the tasting Josefine Reisauss

Strong together

Initially, the tasting of the Erste-Lagen wines, which came exclusively from Kamptal, Kremstal, Traisental and Wagram, lasted two days. But these were soon no longer sufficient, as not only the number of guests, but also the number of ÖTW wineries and thus also those of the wines grew steadily. In addition, the strong community spirit in the Austrian winegrowers' community fuelled the expansion of the event. The traditional wineries readily followed the idea of integrating other regions into their event. Thus, the wineries from the Leithaberg in Burgenland were the first to join the event by inviting the international trade press to visit their area one day before the Grafenegg Tasting. The representatives of the Carnuntum and Vienna wine-growing regions organised a first tasting in the Lower Austrian baroque castle of Petronell in 2018, before the wine professionals moved on to Grafenegg.

In the meantime, six top wineries from Vienna and 20 from Carnuntum have joined the ÖTW. In 2019, the Eisenberg and Leithaberg regions presented themselves in the state rooms of the Vienna National Library in the run-up to the Grafenegg tasting. The following year they came to Grafenegg and spent a whole day pouring their wines. In 2021, the STK group (Styrian Terroir and Classic Wine Estates) took part in an additional tasting day. From then on, at the latest, the Grafenegg Tasting will bear its new name: The "Erste Lagen Preview" became the "Austrian Single Vineyard Summit".

Winegrowers serve the wines Josefine Reisauss

2022 will see the biggest programme yet

There is also news for the upcoming tasting from 5 to 9 September 2022. For the first time, the Vinea Wachau will also complement the event with its single vineyards, while the Thermenregion will invite tasters to visit in advance and the Weinviertel will be a guest on one evening. Thermenregion and Weinviertel, as new ÖTW member regions, are to be integrated into the regular tasting programme of Grafenegg with first-vineyard wines within the next two years.

The tasting now lasts five days and includes almost 500 of Austria's best wines. From a small group of around 20 wine journalists and critics who gathered in the tower room of the castle in September 2013, the number of participants has recently grown to almost 300. In order to offer space to all those interested, the tasting places are allocated in shifts, referred to as "slots". Those who register early can choose between the individual days as well as morning or afternoon. Late registrants can currently still grab remaining places in one or the other slot.

The complete 2022 programme with slot booking for wine professionals

Photos: © Josefine_Reisauss - Austrian Traditional Wineries

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