Karl Zanzinger oversees the Vinea Wachau archive, caring for over 6,000 bottles of Smaragd. He’ll be guiding visitors through the cellar on 6th August aand 10th September, and inviting them to taste the wines.
After the corona slowdown earlier in the year, Karl now faces loads of work. Or, actually, carton-loads of work. As manager of the Vinea Wachau archive, he verifies the information on the labels of all wines sold under Vinea’s Steinfeder®, Federspiel® and Smaragd® brand names. Does the label correspond with the inspection number, varietal and alcohol content recorded in the inspection report? Does the wine meet the quality requirements for the particular Vinea brand? Those are just a few of the details Karl Zanzinger examines. If the wine checks out, he enters it in his list and returns the bottles to the original vintner, who keeps them in his own archive. Smaragds are the exception here: these wines are sorted and kept in the Vinea Wachau wine archive.
The archive, including its wine cellar, are located in the village of Spitz. The archaic stone walls witness to the Wachau’s past, having served as the press house of the Niederaltaich monastery until 1803. The abbots also used the building as a summer residence. Today, the building belongs to the municipality. Karl sees it as an unusual place to work. The former English and history teacher took charge of the archive in 2014. It’s a pleasant task, and he enjoys doing it.
What do you need to do the job well? Get along well with people. “Numbers aren’t really my thing. But I like being with people. That’s why I instantly agreed when the board of Vinea asked me,” Karl recalls. He has a calm and thoughtful way about him. An advantage when coordinating efforts among the more than 200 Wachau vintners – personalities in their own right – he works with. “It’s very unusual for a wine to be incorrectly labelled – most mistakes are because someone gets the inspection number wrong,” he observes with a grin. Less of a problem than getting the grapes wrong. But the faulty label still has to be corrected. Wines can only be marketed once all of the label details match requirements and the inspection report.
How many wines are kept in the archive? “We would really need to count them,” Karl says and smiles. Fortunately not the individual bottles, it’s enough to do the math. “About 6,000 bottles of Smaragd are stored here on 20 shelves. The oldest goes back to 1986, when it was still labelled “Honifogl”, Karl recalls. Each new vintage takes its place alongside the others.
The keeper of the wines will open the cellar to the interested public for the first time in August 2020. Guiding visitors on a tour of the archive, the retired history teacher will serve up both fact and fiction. Not to mention the odd sample from the archive.
As the Wachau’s main varietals, Grüner Veltliner and Riesling also predominate among the Smaragd wines in the archive. But Karl also knows the region’s wider variety, including Steinfeder and Federspiel wines, through his work. “We also have Pinot gris, Traminer and others, but the rarest drop to come my way has been a Bütenmuskateller. Personally, I enjoy Grüner Veltliner the most, as well as the occasional Neuburger, because it’s so drinkable.”
Born in the town of Spitz, Karl was all but weaned on wine. And he’s also familiar with the practical side: “Every year I enjoy helping with the harvest.” So he continues, tireless, even in retirement. Sitting around doesn’t seem to be his thing anyway. That’s obvious in summer, when he loves scooting around on his Vespa.