Sporting a pixie haircut, knee-high stiletto boots, and a patterned Michael Kors dress, H.S.H. Princess Marie von und zu Liechtenstein is looking more Hollywood royalty than old European royalty. Formerly Austrian countess Marie Gabriele Franziska Kalnoky de Korospatak and now wife of Prince Constantin von Liechtenstein, third son of the reigning prince, she certainly has a glamorous streak. After all, she used to work for New York fashion PR and event company Bismarck Media. But beneath all that is a self-proclaimed country girl who fell in love with wine after getting down and dirty at her brother-in-law’s vineyard during a school holiday in the early ’90s. “My sister asked me to stay at her husband’s vineyard during harvest time and I thought it was fun to earn a bit of money,” she recalls. Following that, she would help to sell the bottles from the winery at fairs in Vienna – all during her days as a student. This love for wines was reignited when she was placed in charge of promoting the Princely Wine Cellars in 2013. Today, the certified sommelier travels the world to tell the story of the Princely Wine Cellars, whose history can be traced to the 14th century. Here, she speaks of the uniqueness of the offerings from its ancient vineyards.
Those working for the royal family used to be paid by barrels of wine, and the wines were not for sale. And while I would love to take credit for commercialising the enterprise, the family actually started selling the wines in the ’50s. Our vineyard was really a bit of a sleeping beauty which people didn’t pay much attention to. We simply woke it up, lifted it up with a new spirit, and made it work. We are still working at making it produce new things.
The wine estate has vineyards in two countries: a 4ha vineyard in Vaduz and a 40ha vineyard in north Austria, near the Czech Republic. The latter sees very cold winters and hot summers, whereas the climate in Liechtenstein, which is surrounded by mountains, is more moderate, with warm winds in the day that help to dry out the grapes after the cold nights and rains. The climate is similar to Burgundy.
Our vineyards are proof of how sustainable our methods are: We are still producing amazing crops after 600 years. Today, we try to work even closer to nature by observing and respecting it, but while I am a huge fan of biodynamic wines, often we forget that biodynamic methods use a lot of copper to combat fungus, and that damages the soil. So I wouldn’t say that we are a biodynamic winery, but we adopt an approach that is less harmful to the environment. Last year, while visiting Bordeaux, an old winemaker told me that only with living soil can you get a living product. So I am happy to report that there are lots of creepy-crawlies in our soil!
The Austrian and Liechtenstein vineyards have a combined production of 120,000 bottles – though we are probably reducing the numbers to produce higher quality reserve wines, something which we started to do around 2010.
Our wines have been performing well at various challenges in Europe and Decanter Asia, receiving a couple of gold medals and over 90 points at Decanter. About six years ago we sent in five wines to an expo in Hong Kong and all of them won prizes, which is an unusual achievement for any winery!
Some of our best vintages include 2009 and 2012, which had a very hot and dry summer that provided the perfect ripening conditions for our merlot. We also have some vintages from the ’80s and the white wines, which are very crisp and light, have aged fantastically well.
Wines need a fun story to tell and we have a great story – after all, everybody likes a story involving princes and princesses (laughs).