This is a thrilling new phase for all of us at Rosenthal Wine Merchant, and we greatly look forward to introducing you to the treasures we have found on this new, yet also deeply familiar, path.
While France and Italy have comprised the primary locus of our activity since the beginning, we at Rosenthal have always had a particular affinity for the wines of the Alps: the iconic Carema from Luigi Ferrando was the very first wine Neal ever imported, and it remains his desert island wine to this day; Neal was the first major US importer of Jura wine, commencing a relationship with the legendary Jacques Puffeney in the mid-1990s; we were early proselytizers of the Valle d’Aosta’s vinous bounty; we launched five thrilling relationships in the Alto Piemonte within the same year; and in the late 2000s, after years of flying into and out of the country, we finally began exploring Switzerland’s Valais, plunging ourselves into a little-experienced wonderland of mostly indigenous varieties and joining forces with four fantastic growers there.
Following the Alps eastward into Austria, then, felt as natural to us as breathing. It barely needs to be said that Austria’s long, rich viticultural history is a treasure trove for lovers of wine and of terroir, and the country’s vinous output already reaches a wide audience worldwide. Of course, the seemingly ubiquitous Grüner Veltliner still looms large in the American market’s consciousness, checking the “crisp white wine” box for many a value-minded consumer; the magisterial wines of the Wachau continue to fill collectors’ cellars; and a growing natural-wine movement in Austria has led many to begin farming more responsibility and adopting more risks in the cellar. Still, our search for meaningful wines is not a quest for sellable varieties, expensive trophies, or ideologically pure product; it is a search for people—for growers that do what growers everywhere do: reckon with their land, their history, their culture, their climate, and their markets as best they can. Those who do so beautifully, produce wines that stimulate mind, palate, and spirit alike; and it is wines like these that are our raison d’être as an importer.
It was through our longtime friend Monika Caha, in fact, that we were able to meet these four growers whose wines, approaches, and personalities resonated so deeply with us. A Vienna native and the former chef-proprietor of Kaffeehaus in Chelsea in the 1990s—among the first restaurants in the United States to spotlight high-end Austrian wines—Monika began her business in the early 2000s after the events of September 11th interrupted her plans to open a new restaurant in New York City. Over the ensuing years, she and her longtime partner Toni Silver have built a small but diverse network of outstanding Austrian producers and helped them find clients abroad. Happily, Monika’s aesthetics and ethos align closely with our own: while nearly all the growers she represents are either practicing or certified organic, and a handful are comfortably categorized as “natural,” she, like us, eschews dogmatism, seeking characterful wines that satisfy the senses and ignite the imagination.