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Wine+Partners looks back at 2023

by Marion Topitschnig
The Wine+Partners Team, December 2023

An intense, varied, exciting – albeit economically challenging – year is drawing to a close. The Wine+Partners team looks back on 2023 and shares our best experiences, greatest successes and favourite personal moments.

Porträt Ute Watzlawick
Ute Watzlawick, Owner & Senior Project Manager © Anna Stöcher

Charting the future of beer – and we're part of it!

Nearly everything in my professional life revolves around wine. But only nearly...for some time now, I have also been focussing intensively on beer. That’s with good reason – among people who care about what they eat and drink and where the products they consume come from, the age-old cultural asset of beer is gaining in importance. To be more precise, it is the individual, regionally characterised beers away from the mainstream that are attracting more and more attention.

In upmarket restaurants, it is now unthinkable to serve just any old industrial beer. Beer has become a matter of attitude – whether at the bar of a trendy pub or in the fridge at home.

It's been a pleasure to experience the dedication and quality awareness with which many regional private breweries work, because they want to defend their respective brewing culture against the globalised beer of large corporations. And I am delighted that we will also be able to support these endeavours in the coming year. As an agency, Wine+Partners takes the quality standards of good beers very seriously: we already have two qualified beer sommeliers on our team.

Porträt Bettina Bäck
Bettina Bäck, Senior Project Manager © Anna Stöcher

Colourful and always something going on

I will always remember 2023 for being a colourful, challenging, diverse year, crowned with wonderful moments and successes. With great curiosity, I immersed myself in the premier tier of German Riesling with Gut Hermannsberg. The winemakers from Carnuntum really swept me off my feet with their team spirit and drive. This year, we conquered Switzerland for sommelier great Marc Almert, rediscovered Istria with the Kozlović winery and rethought agriculture and cuisine with Austria's Koch.Campus think-tank.

I wouldn't want to miss out on a little more pink in my life, I realised at the Langmann Schilcher winery. And with winemaker-pilot Reinhard Muster, I travelled to lofty heights and philosophical depths.

A big thank you to my fantastic customers and everyone who shared my enthusiasm.

Porträt Astrid Rauch
Astrid Rauch, Head of Media Relations © Anna Stöcher

Wine is love

Wine is not just wine. It is an expression of culture and joie de vivre.

It is admirable to see the passion and dedication with which winegrowers practise their craft to produce an outstanding wine. After all, wine is not just wine, but a symbol of joie de vivre and a means of bringing people together and enjoying good times. Doktor Wunderer is a special addition to the world of wine. With their fresh, light Grüner Veltliner from the coolest corner of the Weinviertel, they turn every dinner into a harmonious celebration. Or the Tuscan winery Tenuta Monteti. Only French grape varieties are cultivated at this picturesque winery, which concentrates on just three wine styles. And then there is Birgit Braunstein, the great pioneer of biodynamics in Austria. She produces great terroir wines from shell limestone and slate soils, wines full of inner tension and aromatic depth that are among the best in Burgenland. With this in mind: enjoy the holidays with great wines. Because wine is love.

Porträt Lydia Schima
Lydia Schima, Digital Project Manager © Anna Stöcher

Natural enthusiasm

Do you know how beautiful Austria actually is? You probably did...I hate to admit that I haven't spent much of my time exploring Austria's landscapes and cities. Over the last few years, but especially in 2023, I have been able to fill this educational gap. And when friends from abroad visit me, I tell them: "Come for longer, you can't just see Vienna."

It's much better to ride an e-bike through idyllic southern Burgenland, stop off at the friendly winegrowers and taste the characterful Blaufränkisch and Welschriesling wines (stay hydrated and all that). You should familiarise yourself with Austrian brewing culture on a tour of all eight CulturBrauer breweries and fall in love with the variety of beers and their respective regions. And you can also travel a little further, right across Austria, and let off steam in the "vinophile playground" at Baur au Lac Vins in Zurich.

These imaginary travel plans remind me of what I am particularly grateful for this year: that my job and my customers show me Austria and everything that makes it so beautiful.

Porträt Marlies Auer
Marlies Auer, Digital Project Manager © Anna Stöcher

A year packed with milestones

What a great year! My time at Wine+Partners was characterised by numerous highlights, fascinating customer projects and impressive success stories. It started with a press trip to Chile to one of the country's most renowned wineries, Viña Montes. Over the course of the year, I was able to share the captivating stories of the Vinea Wachau producers association, the stylish Bar Campari and the multi-award-winning FJ Gritsch winery. For the Association of Independent Private Austrian Brewers, I successfully implemented digital communication for the entire year and thus set an important signal for the future. I am particularly pleased that I was promoted from Digital Project Manager to Head of Content in November. Since then, I have also been responsible for the Wine+Partners editorial plan and am the strategic lead of the digital team. I look back on this successful year with pride and am already working on new highlights for 2024, such as the 20th anniversary of Eduardo Chadwick's Berlin Tasting.

Porträt Catherine Walbridge
Catherine Walbridge, Strategic Consultant & Translations © Anna Stöcher

Cutting-edge adventures

My first year at Wine+Partners brought many challenges and surprises – and it was full of exciting people that I was able to bring together with international media professionals. One of them is Marco Simonit, the inventor of the innovative and ground-breaking Simonit&Sirch vine pruning method. When I visited him in the summer together with journalist Gerhard Hofer (Die Presse), we were both fascinated by his charisma, passion and deep understanding of nature and vines. With his revolutionary approach, he also inspired one of the international greats in wine journalism, Jancis Robinson, whom he visited in the south of France, as well as experts from all over the world at Arlberg Weinberg in Lech. I am not only looking forward to 2024, but also to the visionary ideas with which Marco Simonit will make headlines in the future. Watch this space...

Marion Topitschnig
Marion Topitschnig, Redaktionsleitung © Anna Stöcher

"Here to stay"

This quote comes from Gerhard J. Lobner from the traditional Viennese winery Mayer am Pfarrplatz. It refers to alcohol-free wine - a topic that has been with me since I started at Wine+Partners in the summer. It all began with a tasting of de-alcoholised beverages and immediately after its release we were also allowed to try the Gemischter Satz with a halo on the label from Mayer am Pfarrplatz. Like me, top sommelier Katja Scharnagl is delighted with the increasingly number of high-quality alternatives in the no- and low segment and Waltraud Scharnagl, wine range manager at SPAR, sees this as an important "topic for the future". Regardless, I'm looking forward to everything that's yet to come and to many more adventures at Wine+Partners – with or without alcohol.

Porträt Franziska Katterbauer
Franziska Katterbauer, Project Assistant © Anna Stöcher

An "eventful" year

At the end of 2022, I was appointed as the new "Ms. Single Vineyard Summit" – a challenge I embraced from the beginning. I realised exactly what this meant and the responsibility this position entailed in the summer, when it was not just the streets of Vienna that were sweltering due to the heatwave, but also my head!

But all the effort, the dozens and dozens of hours of planning were worth it: my greatest sense of achievement was ultimately when, after getting up very early to make the final preparations, I stood in front of a tasting room full of 120 international experts – and was able to breathe a sigh of relief. An added bonus in addition to the smooth organisation? The somms at the yodelling course and the weather which also played along, making "my" first ÖTW Single Vineyard Summit something very special.

Porträt Casiana Sirbu
Casiana Sirbu, Project Assistant © Anna Stöcher

More responsibility = more room for creativity

Now that 12 months at Wine+Partners are behind me, I can say that 2023 was not only my first full year at the agency, it was also a year of building relationships. This applies to both my colleagues and clients, and in my day-to-day work. Exciting projects gave me plenty of opportunities to put my knowledge and skills into practice and then learn from them – not just from my successes, but also mistakes. A constant cycle that I really appreciate.

Creativity and personal contact have crystallised over the course of the year as the two pillars of my work - both things that I enjoy enormously. I was able to fully live this out during an intense summer involving a photo shoot with Langmann winery and two press trips to Carnuntum. I'm grateful for the inspiring dialogue with customers and the small network of journalists that I've built up. And also for being part of a fantastic team!

Henrike Heinicke
Henrike Heinicke, Projektassistentin © Anna Stöcher

Sharing passion

I have been actively supporting the Wine+Partners team since March 2023, drawing on my deep background in wine. By joining PR, I can share my passion for wine and enjoyment with the world and feel like I've finally arrived – with clients such as Tenuta Monteti in Tuscany, Gut Hermannsberg on the Nahe and salami maestro Stastnik from Austria, this has been a particular pleasure. A highlight for me was being able to support top winemaker Markus Molitor with his exciting new project in the Saar, which allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. A sparkling highlight was the collaboration with the Sekt producer Vaux in the Rheingau, which made my heart beat faster for sparkling wine. I am delighted to be part of such a great team and am excited to see what the next year will bring.

Porträt Sarah Wapp
Sarah Wapp, Junior Social Media Manager © Anna Stöcher

A highlight every day

The 2023 year was simply fantastic for me! It marked my first full calendar year in which I was able to accompany the digital team in supporting our customers. I particularly appreciate the creative atmosphere that characterises our team. Planning and implementing Instagram reels and posts as well as designing videos and photo shoots for our agency and clients such as CulturBrauer, Eisenberg DAC and Dorli Muhr winery have become favourite tasks for me. This also includes the conception and realisation of ad campaigns.

 I look back with pleasure on our joint Dine+Define staff evenings, trips and events. My participation in the Gault&Millau gourmet fair with CulturBrauer and their first joint trade fair appearance at GAST in Salzburg will remain fond memories for a long time to come.

Victoria Nitsch
Victoria Nitsch © Private

Best of indulgence

I've been part of the inspiring team at Wine+Partners for two months now. My first day made an immediate impression with a staff trip to Salzburg, which not only strengthened our team spirit, but also gave me an insight into the diversity of the wine, beer and culinary sectors. Within a very short space of time, I was able to take on responsibility for two very exciting projects that gave me an insight into the best of both worlds: with its pioneering spirit and creative drive, Weingut Doktor Wunderer shows how excellent wines can be vinified in one of Austria's coolest wine regions. And with Slow Brewing, the association for outstanding beer quality, we have also set ourselves ambitious goals for 2024. I am looking forward to the challenges and successes that the coming year will bring.

Porträt Birgit Indra
Birgit Indra, Office & Event Manager © Anna Stöcher

Kruste&Krume - delicious teamwork

There are many interesting projects with Wine+Partners, but one in particular will always remain in my memory: Kruste&Krume, the first Viennese bread bakery with an adjoining flour moulder, founded by Barbara van Melle and Simon Wöckl. I was involved in the press work for the 5th anniversary of Kruste&Krume, and as part of this, I completed a team bread baking course with 12 colleagues. I was able to learn a lot about my colleagues in a completely different environment and task focus. I was also able to experience how differently a sourdough "reacts" depending on how it is handled. Highly recommended!

Richard Pawulski-Saunders
Richard Pawulski-Saunders © Anna Stöcher

Exciting variety

I've been supporting the office team since autumn and what I've loved about Wine+Partners right from the start is the team spirit and the "warm welcome" you get here. I was quickly able to take on responsibilities and am grateful for the trust that was placed in me within a very short time. Every day I am surprised anew by how varied and diverse my job is, as well as how colourful and enriching the entire team is. I am already looking forward to the challenges and challenges that the coming year at Wine+Partners holds in store for me.

Porträt Marina Krenn
Marina Krenn, Controlling & Finance © Anna Stöcher

Full steam ahead

Turbulent is probably the best way to summarise the past year – my first full year at Wine+Partners. The external circumstances with cost explosions, staff shortages and cost-cutting measures did not make it easy to operate economically. Nevertheless, I will chalk up 2023 as a success. That is because, apart from our great customers, with whom we were able to implement exciting projects and celebrate great achievements, it fills me with great joy every day to be part of this fantastic team. Roll on 2024!

Porträt Dorli Muhr
Dorli Muhr, Owner & Managing Director © Anna Stöcher
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Spectacular rarity

Building an image, achieving a position on the global market, setting up a dynamic distribution system - all of this takes time. Entrepreneurs from other industries smile with pity when I predict that it will take two decades for a new wine brand to "catch on". But that's the reality: the wine industry is extremely slow. Anyone who promises faster success is either naive or a liar.

The "Douro Boys" are a wonderful example of this. When we started to present the wines from the Douro in 2003, no one crowed about it, and I was often embarrassed by the lack of interest and ignorance shown towards the producers from the Douro.

Twenty years later, everything is different. For the launch of the anniversary cuvées in April, retailers, importers, restaurateurs and the press travelled from all over the world to celebrate with the Douro Boys, but above all, to get their hands on some of the precious bottles of red wine and tawny. In just two hours, more than 600,000 euros were realised.

The five Douro Boys have created what is probably the most extraordinary Tawny in the world to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Each winery released particularly rare barrel-aged wines, from the 2000 vintage, back through 1992, to the 1950s, 1930s and even from 1860. It is not only the long storage time that makes this wine spectacular. Some of the lots, matured for decades in wooden barrels in the Douro Valley, are incredibly concentrated and show the legendary "Douro Bake". Others matured in Vila Nova de Gaia, in cool, shady surroundings. They bring an incredible freshness. Together, these wines create an almost infinite complexity. A work of the century.

And it shows in the most beautiful and impressive way that great wines cannot be made quickly, but that many things have to come together: the knowledge of generations, the best soils and the appropriate varieties, a great deal of patience - and not least many years of continuous communication work.

It is a privilege for me to be able to work with the second and in some cases even the third generation of a company. So much experience, so many insights, so many surprising moments. And always so many questions, so many doubts and so many new perspectives.

This industry is the most beautiful in the world.