Accessing One of Europe’s Greatest Wine Cellars
To establish one of Europe’s finest, most significant wine archives and cellars is no mean feat.
Peter Pühringer – a German construction engineer and fund manager who spent over €80 million restoring the Palais Coburg after he bought the ruined former summer residence of Ferdinand von Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in the late ‘90s – is a confirmed wine lover and historian with a penchant for protecting the fragile and often judicial nature of the fine and rare wine legacy.
Six caves underneath the hotel and residence of the Palais, some built within and around the original foundations of the 16th century fortress walls that once kept the Turks at bay, others being designed and built under modern architectural guidance, house over 50,000 bottles of fine and rare wines with a market value of €25 million.
Each cellar has a theme: Old World – which includes wines from Austria, Germany, Italy and Spain; New World – the wines from Australia, Chile, Argentina and North America; France – a dizzying display of the world’s greatest wines from vintages back to the 1800s; Rare Wines – as if the wines in the other cellars were accessible in every wine shop; a Champagne cellar which was the original "refrigeration" room where blocks of ice were allowed to evaporate; and finally, a small but mighty cave that comforts 120 years of the sublime sweet Sauterne wines of Château d’Yquem.
Touring the caves
My tour was conducted by one of the four sommeliers at the hotel, Wolfgang Kneidinger, an aficionado with a library’s worth of knowledge and an affable personality that easily wove storyline and fact into a mould of juicy enticements.
The undisputable challenge with such an array of wine splendour at your disposal is how to make it accessible, unintimidating and above all else enjoyable!
So many things can go wrong with such an enterprise if not for a disciplined strategy, followed by all members of the wine team continually keeping the stock details up-to-date, thereby allowing the consumer to confidently choose a wine from the "bible-esque" wine menu with 5,600 listings.
One may easily assume that these consumers are of the leather-patched-elbow variety, but the truth is more diverse, and includes an array of visitors and diners who are happy to let down their guard and play.
This was exemplified by a group of South Koreans who decided to sit around the long wooden table in the French cellar, and with two masked wines presented to them, one being a 100 point, perfect-scored wine, they proceeded to bet amongst themselves on which wine was which.
It is unmistakably clear that this is a cellar for celebration, not one to gather dust and mystery until its contents pop up in a Sotheby’s auction sometime in the future. Enthusiasts and wine lovers have a world of wine at their feet, and it is only a matter of creating your own way of enjoying the revelations on hand.
To collect or enjoy
Of course, part of this catalogue of wine will never be touched by the lips of even the owner, for the motivation is not only one of sensual pleasure, but also of a respect and obligation to protect the many lineages and rarities that the world of wine has so beautifully provided us over the centuries.
An example of this is potentially one of the world’s oldest existing "drinkable" bottles of wine, stuck nonchalantly amongst the rest of the German cuvées as if it were just another listing. The 1727 Riesling Apostelwein from the Rheingau is not enclosed behind an inch thick glass cabinet, but easily plucked from the rack and viewed like any other – magnificent!
It is hard to fathom the extent of Pühringer’s passion for wine, but one can estimate that it has no boundaries, as emphasised by his new hotel in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the Park Hotel Vitznau, with a wine cellar rumoured to be even greater than his Viennese one.
Cellar tours can be organised through the contact details below, for a fee. However, the motivation here is to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grab some friends and enjoy drinking some wine amongst the boxes and arches of the caves, which would "unofficially" negate this cost.
Otherwise, look out for the many master-classes, structured tastings and educationals (done in conjunction with the Austria Wine Academy) that will be sure to leave you with a memorable wine experience.
For information about the cellars or
wine experience offers please call
(01) 51818 - 810