For his latest wine project the award-winning winemaker, Lenz Moser has returned to Austria to team up with one of the country’s fastest rising stars, Markus Huber, to create a new wine they believe will help re-invent Grüner Veltliner, one of Austria’s most important grape varieties, and potentially introduce it to new drinkers all over the world. Richard Siddle caught up with Moser to understand just why he is so excited about New Chapter Grüner Veltliner and what makes it so different.
Lenz Moser and Markus Huber share the same vision for New Chapter – to celebrate and confirm Grüner Veltliner as the grape variety that best shows Austria’s ability to make world class wines.
It’s fair to say if it was not for the Moser family the Grüner Veltliner grape variety would not be as well known outside Austria as it is today. A wine style that sommeliers all over the world turn to time and again to pair with such a vast array of dishes and cuisines.
It was Lenz Moser’s grandfather, also called Lenz, who first turned his attention to what this grape variety could do in the unique granite and sandy soils and climate of Austria, introducing the trellis system still used today. When it was his grandson’s turn to stamp his mark on the variety in the 1980s he did so by introducing a range of premium, food-friendly single variety Grüner Veltliner styles, that used clear, attractive labels and easy to understand names, such as Laurenz, to help market the variety in its own right.
Moser is also as much a wine marketing expert as he is a winemaker. For him the two go side by side, which is why he is so excited by the New Chapter project as it is much an exercise in brand building as it in making a new wine.
This is not the start of a winemaking relationships that is going to spin off into multiple wines, across reds, whites, sparkling and rosés. New Chapter is about putting all its focus behind one brand and one brand only. Only then it can achieve its ultimate objective of creating a brand that helps elevate Austria’s position in the world of wine.
Meeting of minds
It is also a meeting of minds and personalities and the first time that Moser has worked in partnership with another winemaker to make a wine together. But then Moser and Huber are hardly strangers. Austria is one of the world’s more smaller wine producing countries and the two have been working in each other’s peripheries for some time.
Moser says he has followed Huber’s career closely over the last 20 years and is full of admiration for how he has effectively become the “King of exports” making up close to what he claims is a third of Austria’s wine exports to the UK. But perhaps more importantly, in terms of working together, he says he has been a “huge fan of his attitude, his character and ethics and of course his wines”.
It was during the long months of lockdown that the two got together and started talking about mutual passions and quite quickly the idea of creating a new style of what you might call a modern Grüner Veltliner blew up into a full blown project culminating in creating a new company together, Lenzmark wines, and the creation of the New Chapter brand.
They both had a shared frustration that what they considered to be one of the great white grape varieties in the world is not really known outside the German speaking world. “If you go to New York or Tokyo then it is not really there,” says Moser.
If it is in international markets it tends to be at the cheaper end of the spectrum, without the necessary quality to be widely respected by critics and the trade, adds Moser. “It’s hard to pronounce, it’s often too spicy and gets lumped together with wines from other German speaking countries,” he says.
The time was right, they felt, to re-introduce it as a quality, premium stand alone variety with a look, a style and a personality that would appeal to the modern wine drinker anywhere in the world. A wine that is proud of its €30 price position and helps people reconsider Austria as a whole as a premium wine producing country.
It’s why the design for New Chapter is not like anything else from Austria. No castles, or pretty villages or mountains. Its loud yellow backdrop is designed to stand out from afar on a retailer’s shelf. Moser says it has long been a “dream” of his to use an “elegant” French bottle design that works for an Austrian wine.
If was to capture the attention of an international audience it needed an English name that encapsulated what it is was all about – hence New Chapter.
Grüner for the world
The two were also very clear they wanted to create a “Gruner for the world” to enjoy. To do that they had to break down exactly what should go in the final style, for this is a wine that is very much the sum of its parts where the blending skills of these two highly experienced winemakers can really come to the fore.
“We pick out 20 parcels and then blend according to the style we want,” says Moser, who quickly stresses Huber is the hands on winemaker of the two, who is putting the parcels together. “But we do the blends together. That is when we can create something special – when the human element really matters.”
To help get that blend right Moser and Huber benchmarked it against the major international premium wine brands – like Cloudy Bay – they felt were helping to set an international standard for what consumers expect.
“We tasted so many wines and eventually discovered the one thing common factor all these successful global white wines have is they are all very easy to understand. They are wines to be drunk. Not analysed over hours on end.”
They also surveyed over 200 people to get their feedback on the style of wine they would be interested in drinking. The key responses were around wanting a “powerful” yet “elegant” white wine.
Which is what Moser believes they created with New Chapter. A wine, with 13%, that crucially passes the drinkability factor. “You just want to have another glass of it,” he says. A wine you can drink with your partner in half an hour. That’s the sign of a globally successfully wine brand, he adds.
Friendly consumer wine
For Huber it is about creating a wine that is “not opulent, yet powerful” that carries both zippiness on the tongue, but also elegant primary fruits, a complex finish, but overall a friendly wine.
To get to that point has seen Moser and Huber come up with what he calls their “secret recipe” which is effectively 95% Grüner Veltliner blended with a vital 1% of five other varieties, including a combination of Austrian indigenous varieties and a touch of Sauvignon Blanc. Each crucial, he insists, to the overall taste, quality and performance of the wine.
He says hopefully their combined experience of blending both large and small volumes of wines comes through with New Chapter. “Just adding 1% of a particular variety can change a wine completely,” he claims.
“We wanted to get away from the super peppery Austrian style and to have more floral notes,” he adds. A wine that reflects the limestone and chalky soils from where the grapes come from.
He concedes he would not have been able to have made this style of Grüner Veltliner when he was working with his father in the 1980s. Then it was all about pepper and spice in the wine. “We did not have the consumer in mind too much. We were thinking about the typicity of an Austrian wine.”
In fact, it is thanks to his many years of experience making wine all over the world, including most recently in China, that he has been able to go back to Austria, and with Markus Huber, look at Grüner Veltliner in a completely different way.
He now very much realises that “the most important thing about winemaking is your audience”. He adds: “My aim is to please the consumer. To give them the same experience that I get from my favourite wines.”
They also both realise they won’t have got New Chapter 100% right with its first release. That can come only come with time.
“We know this is at least a 10 year programme,” says Moser. “We are two people making one wine, focused on giving the consumer an experience they want.”
Which is another reason for only having one SKU.
The time and dedication taken to get the first New Chapter blend out to the market appears to have worked. The wine is already in 25 countries within a few months of its launch in March and Moser hopes it will be in 40 markets by the end of the year. It is on sale in the UK with Bibendum.
Moser says he is delighted by how quickly the wine has been picked up and whilst a number of importers are businesses that either he or Huber work with already, they have also been able to “get good distribution with new importers too”. “We have been really pleased about that as that is what we want to be doing. Reaching new people,” he adds.
Part of New Chapter’s brand strategy is to create an aspirational premium wine that it can build up year by year. The wine is produced from 100 hectares of vines, 50 of which are owned by Huber, and 50 are leased out. Production in year one is around 50,000 bottles, with year two forecast to reach 250,000 and then “quite a bit” of expansion beyond that.
He concedes it has not been plain sailing to “get to the end result” but that they are both “super happy” with the results, particularly now they can see how well it is working in the market.
They also believe they have created a new wine brand concept that has not been done before. A brand that is looking to re-invent, re-purpose a single grape variety and use it to champion the country from where it is made. “We looked at the market and wanted to create a wine identity on its own,” he says. “We believe we have done that. That is why we only have one SKU. The only extensions we will have will be larger formats.”
A brand that can also work across the “three pillars” of the trade: on-trade; e-commerce; and retail. It’s important for New Chapter’s success that it can build distribution in all three areas. Moser says he is pleased to see Bibendum really getting behind not just the New Chapter project, but other Austrian wines, including Markus Huber’s own wines.
Interestingly the New Chapter site includes an e-commerce platform where it promotes the online players it is working with in each market and can direct consumers direct to their sites to complete the sale. Moser says he sees that as a new “service” that producers will increasingly want to – and have to – provide their suppliers.
It also fits very much into New Chapter’s ethos to be a brand that is much more than just its own sales and position in the market, but what it can do to promote Austrian wines in general.
- If you want to find our more about New Chapter wines go to its website site here.
- The wine is available through Bibendum in the UK. Bibendum is is a supplier partner to The Buyer.