We learnt about [Austrian] wine by drinking everything else ...

By co-founders Daniela Pillhofer & Peter Honegger

Our journey as Newcomer Wines began back in 2013. We were studying in London and would be sitting together for weeks, trying to come up with a project or idea that would allow us to put the curriculum from our studies into practice. In a way it was one of the early stages of ‘cross-pollinating’ the theory side - the kind of lectures and seminars we would attend at campus - with the practice side - trying to launch a product or better, a venture that would allow us to put our learnings into real life.

At the same time, Shoreditch and East London was slowly becoming a place for young businesses with restaurant projects opening of the likes of Brawn, The Clove Club, Sager & Wilde and Lyle’s, who would all go on to define the next decade to come and would somehow put us in one of the globe’s most energetic areas when it came to gastronomy, wine and hospitality culture. But before all of this became a reality we were still wondering what it would actually be we’d like to start or launch. 

At some point in summer 2013 we came up with the idea to focus on AUSTRIAN WINE - something we enjoyed and passionately drank with friends and family back in Vienna but at that time was rarely seen and available in the growing [East] London restaurant scene that would later become defining customers and friends, and who would eventually allow us to expand our horizon - not just from a cultural point of view but by giving us a context to what we do. In a way, by drinking and eating ‘everything else’ we learnt about Austrian wine.

From Austrian Wine Revolution to The New Old World

A few months after launching our wine shop in Boxpark Shoreditch, we went on holidays to sunny Alto Adige and one evening a waiter came to us with a bottle of ‘Caroline’ made and bottled by Martin Gojer - farmer and owner of the small biodynamic farm ‘Pranzegg’ on the foothills of the Dolomites. It was a wonderful experience drinking something so pure and profound - to this day it remains one of those moments we will remember forever - but more than that it started a conversation in our head: Why would we keep ourselves from exploring wines and importing growers purely for the reason that they did not fit into our initial ‘Austrian only’ selection. It felt weird, especially as 100 years before this, these growers were in fact all from the same cultural heritage - people from the same background with a common history rooted in the Alps and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. After a visit to Martin and the farm we knew that opening up our self-defined dogma would mean that we were able to think further and eventually reconnect what was always connected before, regardless of how political borders might have been reset and changed in the meantime.

As our horizons were growing we also began to have an increasing awareness of sustainable agriculture and its inherent connection with the future of wine growing around the world. Just like with many other things, time and more importantly the winemakers and people around us helped us to understand that what made their wines truly stand apart was the fact that they hadn’t just adopted organic viticulture as a minimum, in many cases biodynamic or regenerative principles were already being enacted. Making changes to ensure that our selection of growers celebrated these notions was a lot more than just a moral choice - it was supporting, as our friend and grower Christoph Hoch puts it, using ancient techniques to create ‘a new and modern form of agriculture’, working with nature rather than against it.

Future classics in the making —made by people and nature working together.

So what is next? From nomadic hermits living a simple life out of conviction to young and dynamic new generation winemakers who are trying to balance respect of traditional family businesses with the need for evolution and more often than not a change of approach in the vineyards and the cellar. Can you compare? Is one better than the other?

Looking beyond the rabbit hole of technique, philosophy or style we need to foster exchange and share new ideas — allowing [vine] growers and producers to be a role model for modern organic agriculture way beyond the wine industry.

Wine should be a tool for us to talk about greater ideas and concepts  and if we continue to go beyond and cross-pollinate the future is bright.