Just days before Paul Darcy, of Darcy and Huber Selections, left New York for Southern California, I caught up with him to catch a few words on Gemischter Satz and wines from Vienna.
So, what inspired the inception of Darcy & Huber Wines, and how did you come to represent the wines of Vienna?
We started Darcy and Huber, and first launched wines in the US in April 2009. We decided to focus on Vienna because Carlo and I grew up in Vienna, and out of all the great wines there, only one—Fritz Wieninger—was represented in the US. Fritz has always been a catalyst. He once described himself as the midwife…he helped nudge young winemakers along as they took over their parents’ wineries…These were the places that I used to visit with my family. These were our local wineries. When we put them together, we had quite an extensive list. In January 2009, I met with Carlo in Vienna. We ran around and tasted some wines, and were really excited by the new intent in Gemischter Satz.
Are Gemischter Satz wines a specialty of Vienna? How did the creation of these field blends come about?
Fritz and a few other guys were keen on trying to bring back a dying tradition. They had just won a Slow Food award. Vienna’s Gemischter Satz wines were the only wines in the world to be included in the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The timing was perfect. We wanted to represent the kids that we grew up with…it didn’t make sense to travel the world…we’re not wine business people. We’re wine drinkers…and with the whole Slow Foods movement, we thought—Why don’t we jump on this? Gemischter Satz was just establishing itself as a darling wine.…it’s not just about terroir, it’s tradition, and I think people dig the story.
Gemischter Satz has been around many hundreds of years. And wine has been made in Vienna for over 3,000 years…The tradition of making field blends is big in Austria, but vineyards are hard to come by in Vienna…vineyards can be one and a half acres…and with bad weather you could lose your entire crop if you plant only Grüner Veltliner or Riesling. But if you plant many varietals, something will work…
Field blends disappeared almost entirely in the 60’s and 70’s. The Austrian government became very keen on expanding its potential exports. Wine was something it could export. The wineries were given state grants to replant their vineyards, using a different trellis system, to produce higher crops….A lot of old wineries that’d planted field blends, they were ripped up in favor of high yielding vines like Grüner Veltliner.
A group of young winemakers—Wien Wien—Rainer Christ [vineyard pictured above], Fritz, Richard Zahel, and Michael Edlmoser, got together to try to promote the Viennese tradition, seeking old vineyards and the grapes that grew best. They were the catalyst for this resurgence ten years ago. Only in the last two to three years have people started to take notice. Now the group has expanded to include Mayer am Pfarrplatz and Cobenzl (a winery that is actually owned by the city of Vienna).
Yeah, I’m moving out with my family to become the Californian distributor for The Austrian Wines. We’re heading to San Diego next week.
Carlo is staying here. He has also been consulting a restaurant on the Lower East Side, Edi and the Wolf, with Edi and Wolfgang from Seasonal. Edi & the Wold is inspired by “Heuriger”, the casual neighborhood taverns popular in Ban and Frauneder’s native Australia, and focused on the wines from Vienna. Some of the private wine tastings start at eleven and go until everyone collapses.
We pretty much have the east coast under wraps, so I’ll fringe forward to the west coast, the Left Bank…I’m very anti-regulation and in many states I can only be an importer. In California, you have a lot more freedom. In the next six months, we plan to be selling wine online.
Here’s something to look out for—the first week in May, there’s the Austrian Uncorked event—May 2nd in Beverley Hills and May 4th in NYC. Last year, there were over 100 winemakers present. Should be great!