Austria Cider Trip Review

Visit Date: 12th-13th April 2004

Austrian OrchardsWhen you traditionally think of Austria, you think of things such as Mozart, skiing or even Arnold Schwarzenegger…but do you think of cider/perry? Well, until a few months ago I never even known there was a cider or perry culture there. Thankfully I’ve since discovered the World’s Best Cider book by Bill Bradshaw & Pete Brown and that has opened my eyes up to cider culture from around the world. Anyway, after reading the book I didn’t think I’d have a chance to visit there so soon as I did. Earlier this month, out of the blue, I got an email from Wine & Partners (Drinks PR company in Austria) inviting me over for a visit to the Salon des Mostes festival held in the Mostviertel (cider quarter) region in Lower Austria. I pondered on the idea of visiting for a while and then just thought sod it and went and did it! Flights and hotel was booked and off I went for another trip into the unknown.

Austria OrchardsI landed on the Saturday morning in Vienna and met with wine journalist Jørgen la Cour-Harbo, who had flown over from Denmark to report on the festival for his own La Cour communications company. We drove off to meet the guys from Wine & Partners (Brigitte, Daniela & Agnes) in the heart of Vienna and then off to the Mostviertel region. Whilst driving there, you drive through the heart of the countryside on a motorway, with the cider/perry trees coming into full blossom around you. The sceneries on the motorway were just so picturesque and I can’t say I really see that happen a lot over here. I know if someone proposed that now you would have the greens fight this tooth and nail! Anyway, after nearly 2 hours driving we got to our first cider producer in the shape of Mostbaron Bernhard Datzberger/Seppelbauer.

Producer Visit 1 –  Mostbaron Bernhard Datzberger/Seppelbauer

Seppelbauer ProducerThis producer is run by the Datzberger family (Bernhard & Brigitte; Their 3 kids Harald, Jürgen & Tanja) and have been in the cider producing game since 1987.  They make around 60-70,000 litres of cider/perry a year and make cider around 3 times per year. From what I could gather is they don’t ferment all their juice in September/October when it is picked, but also store some juice in stainless steel reserve tanks (where I believe sulphites added to stop fermentation and yeasts added at later time when necessary) where they can then ferment it at a later date and therefore can create cider/perry all year round. If the fruit is of low sugar, then they do chapitilise (add sugar prior to fermentation), though this hasn’t been needed to be done lately. The main thing they like to experiment with in their cider is the acidity and tannins, whilst the alcohol ABV is not their biggest concern. They said all fruit is picked by hand, it is then crushed/mashed and then pressed in a horizontal cider press. Once this has been done it is transferred to 2,000-3,000 litre stainless steel tanks to ferment.

Cider SamplesThe tasting session put on had around 12 different things to try and varied from ciders to perries to even their own schnapps they make. One thing I learnt early from this was that they taste cider/perry over there like it is wine and not traditionally back home like a cider. This meant they swirl it round the mouth and then spit it back out. I really can’t get my head around that style of tasting, as it’s not really in my nature to waste a drink like that, but I tried to adapt where I could. They then throw away what they don’t drink too. It all seems too wasteful/disrespectful in my opinion after the producer has put such effort into making it to then just spit it out. Anyway, below is some tasting notes of what was drank. Though they all came so thick and fast, I rarely had much chance to take pictures, notes and drink!

Notes
Seppelbauer - Taster 1 3 different producers created this. Presentation took place in early April in Vienna. Most expensive at €10. Lightly sweet. Tangy with acidity. Smooth. Similar to apfelwein. Not high tannins. Citrus notes.  7.5%
Seppelbauer - Taster 2 Smells like white wine. Very acidic/tangy. Mix of apples and pears. Schweizer wasserbirne pear with Florina apple.  2012 this was producer in. Can barely tell it’s a pider.
Seppelbauer - Taster 3 Same as 2nd one but 1/3 apple and 2/3 pears. Less acidic. Very wine like.
Seppelbauer - Taster 4 More tannin based and pear based. Fruit came down before fully ripe. Mainly speckbirne pears. Lovely perry. Moderate acidity and very Moreish.  Like pear wine. Medium sweetness
Seppelbauer - Taster 5 Pure apple. Not too dry. Light acidity. Very fruity. Summer red variety. Very refreshing.
Seppelbauer - Taster 6 Cider mixed with spirit. Like an apple vodka based drink but more flavour to it. Apple schnapps. Lots of ethanol on the nose. Tastes better than it smells.
Seppelbauer - Taster 7 Added co2 to the drink. Light and fruity. No real acidity. Very easy drinking. Sweet with drier aftertaste.
Seppelbauer - Taster 8 Summered apple aged in oak barrel. Blend of 2 and 3 year old cider. Lots of ethanol. More apple schnapps than brandy.
Seppelbauer - Taster 9 1/3 apple and 2/3 pear. 3%. Bit too Sweet. Lightly syrupy. No real acidity or tannins. Doesn’t taste alcoholic.
Seppelbauer - Taster 10 Gin. 27 botanicals and 7 different flowers used to create this. Sons secret recipe. Floral. Not usually gin fan but it’s an interesting experience.
Seppelbauer - Taster 11 Light nutty smelling spirit. Lots ethanol. Full of lots of flavour. Made from Rowanberry
Seppelbauer - Taster 12 Made from dorschbirne perry. Floral and light cheesy smell. High in acidity, Moreish, tasty. 10 year old in bottle. Lots of depth.

Fireside Chat

Fireside Chat PhotoOnce we had a lovely time visiting this producer, we headed on down to our hotel for the night, which was a spa retreat type place in the absolute middle of nowhere. Having had half an hour or so to chill out, we then headed to the conference room for a fireside chat. This consisted of 3 guest speakers telling the audience about how and why they got into the cider business and their experiences along the way. The guest speakers were Michael Stöckl, August Kottmann & Gianluca Telloli. All of this was done in German, so I had the translations done by Brigitte (From Wine & Partners) thankfully and got the general gist of what was being said.

Michael said he first got into cider around 20 years ago, where back home in Germany it was only popular in the over 50’s age bracket and as added with soda or water. He ran a restaurant at the time and wanted something different to put in there and there was a big champagne style cider movement at the time. He tried out apfelwein in his restaurant and surprisingly went down very well, though some were a little confused by it. After this he did a sommelier course and when he came back he discovered he didn’t really like the current incarnations of apfelwein at all. So he went on the hunt internationally to find stuff that he liked. During this he went to Asturias and met up with ice cider producers from Canada. He was amazed with what he saw and opened up his eyes to what is possible. From 2002 he started serving apfelwein from a wine glass, as he saw this is the level cider should be considered as. In 2007 he met his partner in crime, Andreas Schneider, at one of the shows and since then they have been running an annual cider show in Frankfurt. He is now considered the first cider sommelier in the world, though he says the title was something that was given to him and he didn’t think of himself as that until that time.

Next up was August, who is a restaurant owner and heavily into gastronomy. He was originally a farmer, though that didn’t interest him like apfelwein did. When he started out apfelwein was heavily unpopular and considered a poor mans drink. That has since changed over time and he officially trained himself as a chef back in 1984. He wanted to try and get the best out of local produce with the help of apfelwein. He has since trained younger chefs for competitions and try and inspire them to get the best out of the apples and pears. It was interesting to hear things from a chefs point of view and how food can work well with cider.

Last to speak was Gianluca, who is a cider producer from the French/Italian border on the Alps. He originally started with a wine background and producing wine at high altitudes. Then one day he tasted an apple from a tree there and it was so sour. He asked why that was to his 80yr old neighbour, and was told it used to be made for cider. Apparently cider used to be more popular in Italy until Mussolini forbid anything French (language, cider etc). He then got taught more about the cider by his neighbour and the neighbour became his mentor. He started the Maley (Italian word for apple) cider company up and the rest is history as they say. Their cider is made in the champagne method and has also experimented with making ice cider too. He then went on to show everyone a couple of his ciders. My opinions on them were as follows:

Notes
Maley - Taster 1 Prosecco style. Light ethanol. Fruity smell. Soft on tongue. Light sharp, sour and acidic. Little tannins. Interesting and decent. Wine like. Dry finish. 5.5%. Nice balance
Maley - Taster 2 Sweet but not sickly sweet. Lovely fruity smell. Mild sour/acidity. Juicy. Lightly more tannic. 3.5%. Easy drinking. Would go with dessert.

After the fireside chats, we then proceeded to have dinner, which consisted of a 3 course menu and all the courses were infused with apples and pears in some shape or form. Lovely jubbly!

Producer Visit 2 – Reikersdorfer

Reikersdorfer ProducerThe second day started the same as with the first and we had a visit to a producer on the cards. This producer was called Reikersdorfer and is run by the Reikersdorfer family. They run both a tavern and are a producer too. They have been in the cider making business since 1991, where back then there was only 5 producers in the region. This has now grown to more than 60 that there currently is today. The trees they use are either over 100 years old or only 20-25 years old. Apparently between 1950-1990 the region had lots of trees cut down due to no expected production and the region lost out hugely because of this. There are around 100 different pear varieties in the farms region and only 10-15 are considered for a single variety juice. The rest are mainly used in blends. Like the first producer, they only handpick their fruit. During cider making season they pick the apples/pears up to twice a day and only pick ones that have fallen onto the ground. They don’t like to pick direct from the tree due to the high tannins involved. After the apples/pears have been mashed, they too have a horizontal cylinder press and use this to press their juice out. Apparently they add sulphites after the pressing and then leave it a day in the stainless steel tanks. After this time, they then add yeast to start fermentation and once fermentation is complete they add sulphites prior to bottling. This producer is a little on the smaller scale and only produces 25,000 litres a year and also produces schnapps too. During our time there we were followed around by their cider cat everywhere and sampled 6 different ciders/schnapps. The comments I had on them were as follows:

Notes
Reikersdorfer - Taster 1 Made from pears. Stieglbirne variety. Sweet. Lightly syrupy. Not most exciting. Tastes nice for a juice
Reikersdorfer - Taster 2 Speckbirne variety. Bigger variety of pears. Sour, wine like. Good acidity.
Reikersdorfer - Taster 3 Landlbirne variety. More acidic. Tangy. Not hugely my thing.
Reikersdorfer - Taster 4 Sparkling, Smells very fresh, Smooth, Juicy & little acidity. A little sweet. Mix between juice and cider. Halted fermentation with pasteurisation on this one. Speckbirne cider/ Stieglbirne juice.
Reikersdorfer - Taster 5 Plum based schnapps. Kriecherl. Lots of ethanol. A bit too much for me.
Reikersdorfer - Taster 6 Pear schnapps. Powerful. Very similar to previous one.

Producer Visit 3 – Mostelleria

Moselleria ProducerOnce we had finished with this producer, we were whisked off to the next producer, Mostelleria,which was run by the Farthofer family. They are predominantly in the spirits/distilling business and do make a little cider/perry on the side too. They are heavily into the organic scene and everything they do has to be organic. That’s not of a huge importance to me, but it can be to some I guess! They started out in 2003 and then moved to their current premises in 2007 after a few successful years predominantly making their Mostello. At present they only make around  1,000-2,000 litres a year of cider, 40,000 litres a year of Mostello (pear based port style drink) and 40,000 litres a year of other spirits. Their other spirits ranges from rum to even their award winning vodka (2012 vodka of year). From a fruit point of view, they prune their trees to a small height so they don’t fall a great height and damage the fruit. They prune them twice a year. Once in the winter with shears and once in the summer by hand, so it doesn’t damage the trees. From a production point of view for cider, they do similar things to the previous 2 producers, though as I said before it is all about the spirits based business for them in general. Their current setup is very modern, sleek and classy. They also mentioned again about the lack of use of cider/perry trees from 1940-1970, as the government encouraged people to cut them down and gain money from selling wood etc. To me it sounds like the government were completely mad during this period in destroying such a rich heritage! After a tour of their site, we of course got to taste some of their offerings. Here’s my opinions on them too:

Notes
Mostelleria - Taster 1 Mostello dessert wine. Dry, 2009 produced, fresh, Pear notes & Light acidity. Drying feel with Light oak in taste.
Mostelleria - Taster 2 2007 sweet mostello. Plums and raisins.  Good pear based port drink. More oaky flavours coming through. Perry juice fermentation that was stopped by brandy.

 

Mostello Pouring

Above is the way they like to pour the Mostello from the barrel. It’s a different way of doing things. Also you will notice the baroness uniform of the Mostbaroness, which is of traditional style.

Salon des Mostes Cider Festival

Salon des Mostes Festival VenueAs we were behind schedule on the time, we put pedal to the metal and headed off to the main event, the Salon des Mostes, in Schallaburg. This was a cider festival set in a castle in the Schallaburg region. The setup was spectacular/picturesque and looked amazing before you even got in the place. Once in, the setup was fairly simple and producers organised according to region. First off you had the ones from the local Mostviertel region, then from further afield in Austria, Germany and across the rest of Europe. Anything from French to Czech Republic producers. The one major thing lacking was of course a producer from the UK. It would be great to see how the rest of Europe sees our cider and in my opinion would show how great and unique our cider can be!

Salon des Mostes FestivalThe format of the festival is the complete opposite of your standard UK cider festival. People came here and paid a higher entrance fee (€15) and then got to taste whichever ciders they liked (in small quantities) and very little actual buying of cider takes place from what i could see. Though maybe I was just too into my cider to notice this! It seemed like it was more of a showcase for cider than a place to get merry with friends. Whereas back home entrance is usually a low price (free or a couple of £) and you buy by the half/pint and very little in terms of tasters are on offer. I personally prefer it how we have it set up back here in the UK, but I guess that might be more of a cultural difference.

All in all I had a great trip in Austria and it was very interesting to see how their cider culture is and how things are done both the same and differently over here. Here’s a few more things I learnt whilst over here:

Austria Cider Culture

Historically there was always a culture with cider/perry making and they locally call the drink ‘Most’. Though this culture was missing for a large part of the 20th Century and revived from around 1990 onwards when producers kick-started the cider/perry business. Predominantly it is perry they produce and it is made in a wine style. It’s similar to apfelwein from Germany in style/taste and their cider/perry is lacking in tannins. Though by the sound of it this is definitely by choice and they prefer their drinks to lack tannins.  Instead of saying “cheers” when having a drink, they say “Gesundheit” (health) and your drinking partner would say “sollst leben” (just live it).

MostbaronsMost Barons

In 2003, a group local of cider makers got together to form the Most Barons. Together as a group they help promote all good things about cider and are considered the specialists in their field. They are now formed of cider producers, restaurateurs, hotelkeepers and distillers and currently only 20 are in this elite group. They even have their own dress code and their own currency! All in all they do appear to do a great job for their industry and region. Maybe it’s something that we could do back home in the UK too?

Moststrasse

MoststrasseThere is a 200km trail going through the Mostviertel region called the Moststrasse (cider trail), which does exactly what it says on the tin – It’s a signposted trail across the beautiful countryside of the Mostviertel region and takes in many cider producers on route and over 300,000 trees line the trail. I haven’t been on the full trail myself, but just taking in some of it whilst going between producers, it looks like a good plan to do in the future with more time on my hand! Some of the scenery there is just sublime and the cider/perry aint bad either.

Austrian Cider Farm House

Typical to have a square based building (maybe around 40m x 40m) with a couryard in the centre.

Overall Opinion of Austrian Cider

My opinion of their cider is it’s very similar in style to the German equivalent apfelwein and is very wine like in taste and a lot more refined than your traditional cider back in the UK. It can be a little sour at times, but overall it’s of a good quality and an interesting alternative to what we have back home in the UK. I rarely saw anything over there that was remotely cloudy and it had to look pristine like a wine does. It’s interesting they see and perceive it as the same quality as a wine in Austria and not in the beer category that it is put in back home. It’s not necessarily my preferred style of cider/perry, but it is still tasty never the less. The culture there is great and it’s definitely worth a visit to see cider/perry from a different perspective.

Photos

Seppelbauer Producer

Seppelbauer - Barrels Seppelbauer - Courtyard
Barrels Cider House Courtyard
Seppelbauer - Bottling Machine Seppelbauer - Stainless Steel Cider Barrels
Bottling Machine Stainless Steel Cider Containers

Reikersdorfer Producer

Reikersdorfer - Cider Bottles Reikersdorfer - Cider Cat Reikersdorfer - Cylinder Press
Cider Selection Cider Cat Typical Cylinder Press

Mostelleria Producer

Mostelleria - Vodka of the Year 2012 Award Mostelleria - Guide to Making Cider Mostelleria - Barrels
Vodka of Year 2012 Award Guide to Making Cider Mostello Barrels
Mostelleria - Barrels Mostelleria - 19th Century Cider Press Mostelleria - Distillery Setup
More Mostello Barrels 19th Century Cider Press Distillery
Mostelleria - Cider Barrels Mostelleria - Shop Setup Mostelleria - Shop Setup (2)
Cider Barrels Shop Setup Shop Setup (2)

Miscellaneous

Pear Tree in Blossom Cider Selection Brought Home
Pear Tree in Blossom Ciders Brought Home

Special thanks to Wine & Partners (Brigitte, Agnes & Daniela) & Mostviertel Tourism Board for their great hospitality on this trip.

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Cider Monger said,

    Really interesting read!

    It seems that generally from your visit, the Austrians treat cider more like wine, both in production and in drinking. Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see any reference to the ABV, is it higher like wine? Also, what type of apples are they using in production? It looks like mostly sweets from the colour and your comment on lack of tannins, but I’m curious as to what you perception was.

    Cheers,

    Alex

    • 2

      TheCiderBlog said,

      Hi Alex,

      Yep it’s seen as a form of wine over there. Very similar to how the Germans generally see Apfelwein. ABV wise it is more on the higher end of the cider scale, than fully the wine side of things. In general you will find them around 7-8.5%, which is similar to home. There is occasionally low ones around 3-4%, but that’s more the minority. Austria is very predominantly pear based, but from the apples I’ve seen them mention, then they are dessert/cooking apples. If you use Google Chrome to easy translate websites, then http://www.most-wiki.at/ is a good site to read up on their pears and more of the region in general.

      Cheers,

      Nick


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