IN CONVERSATION WITH ELISABETH HAUSGNOST
Wine is the great passion of Elisabeth Hausgnost.
She grew up in a winery near Krems and studied viticulture in Klosterneuburg. After some years of international wine trading she decided to start her own business - Wein & Genuss (wine & relish). Every year she selects the best wines from Weinviertel and other regions in Austria and sells them in her wine shop, supplying the top restaurants and arranging the best choice of Austrian wines for customers all over the world.
Six years ago she started with her own production of Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC (available in our shop) in Guntersdorf. A no compromise exceptional Grüner Veltliner from the Weinviertel - no effort spared and it shows.
Classic nose, fresh apple with creamy minerality, a hint of cracked white pepper (perhaps less than is typical for Weinviertel due to the huge amount of care given to this wine), with some green cress notes.
She describes the vineyard as a place of harmony, growing and relaxation.
I grew up in a winery near Krems and as a child all I wanted to do was drive a tractor and become a winemaker.
My surname before marriage was Altenriederer meaning 'old vineyard' so maybe it was my destiny, but my father was not happy because I was a girl. “Why do you want to become a winemaker?" he would ask. I would reply: “Because it’s the best thing for my life, this is my dream, my passion.”
I went to study oenology and in my class there were just two women. I enjoyed it very much. My second biggest passion was a wish to travel.
As my younger brother was in line to take over my parents' 15 hectares of vineyards I went to work for a huge winery in Germany. At first I thought I wanted to work in the wine cellar then they asked me to present the wine at the weekends.
I thought it was beautiful making the wines but I really enjoyed telling people what was so great about the wines. This took me more into marketing and I began studying international trading at university as an evening course.
This took me to Taiwan where I was in charge of setting up a wine trading company. I was in charge of building up the business, arranging their shops, buying the wines from all over the world and the marketing of the wines.
Today, attitudes have not really changed in Austria when it comes to female winemakers. I am close to my family and glad that my brother took over the family business as it gave me the chance to do other things.
Being a woman, I have never felt disadvantaged. I think everybody can do what they like when they do it with engagement and are willing to work hard.
How did you end up with a wine shop?
I met my husband when he took over my old job, export manager at Stift Klosterneuburg, the biggest private winery in Austria with a 900 year old history.
Shortly after marriage we took the plunge and built our own house. I designed the house as I wanted room for our future children and a wine shop.
My first child Katarina was born in 2006 and I opened the shop in 2007.
I wanted to sell wines from all over the world and also from Weinviertel. The range of products changed frequently. I only sold wines suited to my own taste.
People spoke about how outstanding the wine shop was as it always had new and exciting wines.
And your own wine brand?
In 2010 I decided it was time for me to create my own wine. We are a village of 120 hectares of vineyards known as the wine quarter, but most of the producers sell grapes to bigger companies rather than produce their own wine.
My passion was to produce a wine from our own village of Guntersdorf in the heart of the Weinviertel. I bought half a hectare on a rolling hillside, not too steep, which had 18 year old Grüner Veltliner vines on it.
I then went to my favourite winemaker in the area, Franz Stift located in the Ròschitz village and we made the wine together. The name of the wine is Mitanaund, in Austrian dialect it means ‘together’. We make the wine together and we should drink it together.
The vines are visited almost daily by the family, grape bunches are checked, pruned, rotated for sun exposure and handpicked. I produce just 4,500 bottles a year.
My first vintage made it into Oz Clarke’s book and in 2012 my third vintage made it into the SALON top 260 Austrian wines book. The SALON competition is the hardest in Austria. Only the best wines will go into the book and there is no ranking.
2012 also saw the introduction of a Reserve wine as it was such a rich year - this is a complex dining Grüner Veltliner of the highest order.
How do you promote Austrian wine around the world?
Austria has a lot of small wineries but they cannot be both good winemakers as well as good marketing experts etc. Making wine is my passion not my job.
My job is to promote Austrian wine all over the world. I have just launched a company in Poland to sell Austrian wine. One of my partners is my Polish au pair.
What do you love about Austria?
I love everything about Austria. The landscape, climate, skiing and of course the wine.
Your favourite Austrian dish?
My favourite food is the fish Forelle. This is a classic dish of freshwater trout with crispy buttered skin, perfect with Grüner Veltliner, classic. I want people to know how good Austrian wines are with food whether light or a heavy steak. Much better than drinking water, coke or beer with food.
And if you weren’t a wine maker?
If I was not a winemaker I would become an architect. It is important for me to combine work with my family and that is what I did with our house. I grew up with my mother and father always around. I loved going to visit customers with my father and my children help me in the wine shop and in the vineyard. Work should be something you do because you love it not just to earn money and that is the message I give my children.
Do you drive a tractor now?
I do for fun but not every day!
Of course we have several of Elisabeth's vintages in our web shop.
Grüner Veltliner Weinviertel DAC "Mitanaund" Ref: MITANAUND -
A no compromise exceptional Grüner Veltliner from the Weinviertel - no effort spared and it shows.
On the palate an up-front creamy texture, again with pronounced minerality, some pepper, green tea notes and good concentration of primary fruit, balanced by a crisp green apple and citrus acidity and just the slightest hint of spritz (note: the 2010 now has lower acidity due to maturity). Quite expressive in the mid-palate, with very good length and a hint of green herbs on the finish.