Interview with an Importer: Michael Nelson & Savio Soares of Savio Soares Selections

Austrian wines have exploded on to the wine scene in the past few years which can often leave unfamiliar consumers confused and overwhelmed by the plethora of Grüner Veltiner and Blaufränkisch wines – many organic, most from small, single vineyard plantings. One of the best resources Austrian wine consumers can turn to are those that import the wines – the ones that really know them inside and out, know the market and know the potential each has to become your new favorite wine.
This month we sat down with Michael Nelson and Savio Soares of Savio Soares Selections. Here’s what they had to say:

What makes Austrian wine so unique? What makes it stand out from other regions?

The unique autoctone grapes with their inherent qualities , the huge number of small family-run wineries making truly delicious wines and the cool climate around some truly old soils and vineyards.

What  influenced your decision to work with Austrian wines?

I have been advocating for German wines since the early 80’s and when Austrian wines started to arrive in the market with a new and improved philosophy, I immediately took notice of the high quality, the wonderfully dry style for the whites and elegant mineral profile of the reds. Considering the revolving power struggle of French regional devotion and the New World’s fruit generosity, Germany was always a lost treasure and written off as too sweet, too confusing for the regular consumer. Austria not only gave us new exciting fresh fruited grapes but the old-world soils and traditional methods of winemaking, combining the old and new together. It was exciting to watch the world love something new, something delicious and then even use it as a gateway to this end of the European vineyard chain.

Which producers do you import? Highlights?

Josef Aichinger, Summerer, Familie Bauer, Thiery-Weber, Gerhard Pittnauer and Gernot Schreiner

Which states are you distributed in? NY, NJ, MA, CA, NC, SC, IL

What’s your favorite Austrian varietal? Region? Why?

My favorite wine from Austria is Riesling and Gruner Veltliner from Kamptal. Riesling growing in mineral rich soils (Urgestein) and GV growing in Loess soils. I find that Kamptal brings balance and weight to the inherent qualities of these two grapes, which is found from  entry level to top quality wines from this region. It is also a region with more consistent level of quality despite vintage differences and thus having a positive commercial impact.

What’s your favorite food & wine pairing for the season?

A dry and rich Gruner Veltliner from Kamptal with OSSO BUCO served with a GREMOLATA prepared with fresh horseradish, parsley, lemon zest and garlic.

Where do you see the future of Austrian wine heading?

Towards more individuality in vinification. What I mean is the vinification practices will be more unique to each producer as they see it important to their voice, not simply following a trained process. This we begin showing more regional terroir expressions through a more natural and less manipulative work in the cellar: through spontaneous fermentation, lower dosages of SO2, lighter/gentler filtration and the use old barrels (wood) along with stainless steel. I think this will help define the uniqueness of each winemaker’s style while allowing nature’s voice to be reflected a bit more.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to see less and less new (oak) barrique being used as well as more focus on the red autoctone varietals. Austria does not need to copy Italy with the idea of super-tuscan, heavy, super extracted wines. There is too much mineral complexity and steely tension, mixed in such joyous pure fruit, to let the masking of manipulation and over-seasoned oak conceal.

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