Sekt & the City: Viennese Celebrations with Schlumberger

A look in the extensive cellars of Austria’s oldest producer of Sekt, or sparkling wine

Schlumberger’s 2.7-km labyrinth of 300-year-old wine cellars is in Vienna’s 19th District | Photo: Schlumberger

Schlumberger: Austria's first Sekt | Photo: Schlumberger

Schlumberger wine cellar

Schlumberger’s 2.7-km labyrinth of 300-year-old wine cellars is in Vienna’s 19th District | Photo: Schlumberger

Celebrations in any form or guise would not be the same without “popping the cork” from a bottle of bubbly. This enviable association, cultivated over centuries by “brand Champagne”, has elevated the sparkling wine category to lofty positions of luxury, the froth of crystal, catwalks and the christening of ships. However, when a product is associated less with being consumed as “sacrificed”, it’s a challenge to convince a public that this occasional wine is more than just part of the show, that it can also be one of the delights of regular dining.

 

The Schlumberger success

This challenge is a constant carrot that motivates Austria’s very own “Grand Marque” house of bubbles, Schlumberger. It was Stuttgart merchant Robert Schlumberger who, in the early 19th century, found himself in Reims, the home of Champagne, and a seven-year stint as cellar master at the oldest Champagne house, Ruinart Père et Fils. Following a chance meeting on a Rhine river cruise with Austrian Sophie Kirchner, love blossomed, and a move to Vienna followed, to establish the country’s first Sekt, based on the traditional Champagne techniques.

Schlumberger’s success grew amongst Vienna’s elite, with the founder of the company ascending to hereditary nobility as “Edler von Goldeck”. So today you can find the name on another of the group’s labels, Goldeck, which specialises in a purely Austria-centric Sekt using Grüner Veltliner as the underlying variety.

The elevation of sparkling wine to a “gesture” is never more present than in the festive season, and for Vienna, the opportunities to strut, evoke and parade the many facets that fine Champagne and Sekt can offer is not lost amongst the details of Schlumberger’s balance sheet. Speaking with Director of Public Relations for Schlumberger, Benedikt Zacherl, these winter months account for 50% of the total Sekt sold in Austria, and for Schlumberger alone, half of their bottles are sold in some form of promotional packaging, gift box or special label.

And so to centre stage, and what better environment for Schlumberger to strut their stuff than on the stages and private boxes of Vienna’s plethora of balls, and the pièce de résistance, the show of all shows, the Wiener Opernball. For many years, this coveted platform to position the company’s portfolio as the bubbles of choice amongst the globetrotting, aristocratically-inclined guest list, was out of reach, supplied from another Vienna-based producer. But with a new contract on offer, and Schlumberger’s extensive portfolio of brands, plus associative distribution-only labels that happen to include one of my favourite prestige Champagne houses, Louis Roederer, the stage is set. On 7 February, the corks will bounce from the gilded ceilings of the Vienna State Opera, and depending on status or ticket price, bottles of either Roederer or Schlumberger’s specially cultivated cuvée will grace the crystal wear into the wee hours.

 

Variations on bubbly

Schlumberger: Austria's first Sekt | Photo: Schlumberger

Schlumberger: Austria’s first Sekt | Photo: Schlumberger

Schlumberger’s portfolio is centred around the traditional styles one would expect from such an established house, with the standard brut doing most of the leg work. All base wines are 100% Austrian, and all are made using the traditional Champagne method, where secondary fermentation happens in the bottle in which it is sold. It is however the Rosé, and especially the Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay, that really sees an expression of variety.

Produced from Blauer Burgunder (Pinot Noir), the Rosé is aged on yeast lees for 18 months, softening the texture and rounding the lifted wild berry flavours via a creamy refreshing mousse. The Chardonnay Sekt sings with an elegant, long and giving palate, perfect with a buttery white fish dish. These and the other styles in the line-up, including a Blanc de Noir, and a Brut Nature Sekt (made with minimal dosage), are readily available on the market, and very good value at around €12 retail.

Schlumberger’s “prestige cuvée” is the vintage DOM (not to be confused with Dom Perignon), a collaboration with top vintners Manfred Tement, F.X. Pichler and Illa Szemes. A more traditionally-based wine blend using only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it is aged on lees for 24 months, and exhibits what one would expect from a no-holds barred sparkling, beautifully balanced with brioche and cashew nut notes, and a creamy, vanilla apple finish. I tasted vintage 2006, but it is the 2007 that is now on offer.

 

Visit where the magic happens

Access to this label is enhanced when considering where it is produced. As you step out onto Heiligenstädter Straße from the Spittelau station in the 18th District, its yellow façade across the street at the doorstep of Döbling (19th District) welcomes you into a 2.7 km labyrinth of 300-year-old cellars. Visits and tours are offered where the production method is witnessed first-hand, and a sparkling selection of Sekt is waiting for your indulgence in the tasting room.

 

For information on visiting hours and tours, plus information on all of Schlumberger’s wines, please visit their website at: www.schlumberger.at

For more on Schlumberger see “A Story of Love and Bubbles” in Nov 2011 TVR.

 

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