Austrian entrepreneur Matthias Krön founded Groszer Wein in 2011, together with Markus Bach. Recently, Matthias & Markus have embarked upon a second wine project – the Almásy Collection – which aims to promote outstanding wines from the countries of the former Danube monarchy, and to bring the region closer together across national borders through the wines. Working in collaboration with the Almásy family and Sarah Heller MW, a collection of eight wines has been created. Matthias Krön answers the most important questions concerning the project, the Almásy Collection:
How did you come up with the idea of joining forces with the Almásy family and Sarah Heller MW to create a wine collection?
Our estate Groszer Wein is located right on the Hungarian border. From our vineyards on the Eisenberg we can look out to Hungary, Slovenia and the Steiermark. Working on the Eisenberg – the iron mountain, through which the Iron Curtain once passed – one thinks almost daily about the history of the region, about the common tradition that connect us with all the countries that lie between the Carpathians, the Alps, the Danube and the Mediterranean.
For many years now, we have been supplying the Almásy family with our selections from Groszer Wein. We have brought our guests to their castle again & again, and have become friends of the family.
While discussing the family’s long and adventurous history, one subject that came up was the Almásys’ desire to reconstitute their formerly Central European wine cellar. Sarah Heller, Master of Wine, who also has roots in Austria, was present during one of our joint visits to Bernstein Castle. That’s when the idea arose, to develop a top-quality series of ‘Crus From East of the Alps’.
The Almásy family has a long history at Burg Bernstein. What in particular fascinates you about the Almásy family and Bernstein Castle?
The family owns the only Hungarian castle that is still in its original state and remains in family possession. Relocating from their original home in Transylvania to Hungary and Slovenia, the Almásys arrived at Bernstein, where they suddenly became Austrians in 1922; they were actually only transposed from one part of Hungary to another part of Hungary – but then the region around Bernstein Castle was suddenly declared Austrian territory.
For generations the Almásys had been travellers, adventurers, techies & eccentrics, who were always on the lookout for a new experience. Travelling to China as early as the 19th century, discoveries in and about Africa and art-loving grandmothers are quite normal in their family.
One famous family member was Láslzo Almásy, the renowned explorer and discoverer. His life provided the character model for the novel ‘The English Patient’, which later even became a film. One detail in his story is particularly curious: at seventeen years of age he built his first plane, with which he crashed and broke all his ribs. But that did not stop him. His niece, Maria della Pace Kuefstein-Almásy, the daughter of his brother János, was also very adventurous: she was Austria’s first female stunt pilot! And this thirst for exploration and the drive for adventure have persisted to this day: Bernstein Castle is regularly closed in winter, so they can pursue recreational activities such as riding by motorcycle from Burgenland to Iran.
Which wines does the Almásy Collection currently offer and how were they selected?
The Almásy Collection currently comprises eight wines: Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent, Harslevelu, Pinela, Grüner Veltliner Brut, Fetasca Negra & Furmint. We work together with renowned sommeliers in countries like Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia & Romania. Peter Schleimer coordinates all the various tasks, proceedings and products in Austria. Sarah Heller makes the final selection from a large number of candidate wines, which are then bottled exclusively for the Almásy Collection. With this diverse collection, we want to take wine lovers on a journey to discover once-famous and now often forgotten vineyards in Central and Eastern Europe.
What do the numbers on the Almásy Collection wine labels signify?
On each bottle in the Almásy Collection, the distance from Bernstein Castle to the region or vineyard where the grapes originate is listed as our reference point. However, we deliberately leave the country of origin unmentioned, in order to emphasise the cross-border, international nature of the Almásy Collection. The three classic means of transportation preferred by the Almásy family depicted on the wine label reveal more about which type of discovery the wines represent: wines with a motorcycle on the label are easy-drinking wines, come from a larger wine region and are just plain fun to drink. Wines featuring an automobile on the label come from a more precise terroir, such as an individual village, and are already more complex & sophisticated in terms of drinking pleasure. Wines with an aeroplane are distinctive single-vineyard-site wines, specialties and rarities that Sarah and her team have found in one of the cellars of Central Europe.
In the spring of 2018, the Almásy Collection was presented for the first time at the VinExpo Hong Kong – whither now does the journey lead?
Our next stop is ProWein in Shanghai in November 2018. But that’s just the beginning! The Almásy Collection is a voyage of wine discovery for every adventurous oenophile: on the palate, in the mind and in the heart.