• Visiting the Cider Baron in the country of the pear trees

    by Gregor Sieböck

    In his family business, Josef Farthofer is the fifth generation to produce fine spirits and pear cider. That's why there is a large Josef V on the schnaps bottles. The Edelschnaps distillery Mostelleria lies amidst the enchanting Mostviertel region between the rivers Danube and Enns and the Vienna Woods. Ancient pear trees and centuries-long tradition shape this stretch of land, which is considered the largest closed fruit-growing region in Europe.

    The Mostelleria
    The Mostelleria
    Josef checks the distillation process
    Josef checks the distillation process
    Tasting the Edelbrand (fine brandy)
    Tasting the Edelbrand (fine brandy)
    Doris the cider baroness
    Doris the cider baroness

    During the reign of the Empress Maria Theresia, farmers in the Mostviertel received silver coins if they planted pear trees. Which is why the population soon grew to over a million pear trees in the region. Cider was also a popular drink in the cities at the time of the industrial revolution and the emerging workforce, but experienced a decline after World War II because Coca Cola and lemonades replaced the cider. The farmers cut down the old pear trees and turned their orchards into fields. Only 300,000 pear trees survived the structural change and were only appreciated again in the last few years of the 20th century, when the cider experienced a renaissance. By now, a lot of cider is once again being pressed and new cider pear orchards are planted - such as the communal cider pear orchard in the immediate neighbourhood of Mostelleria. Together with fifteen other businesses from twelche townships, Josef Farthofer farms the orchard with 12,000 cider pear trees.

    The cidre pear orchard above the Mostelleria
    The cidre pear orchard above the Mostelleria
    in the cidre pear orchard
    in the cidre pear orchard

    Josef Farthofer was distilling his first schnaps at the of 15. Then he went to the school of agriculture, a professional training for schnaps distillery and even earned a university degree in economic education. Together with Doris Hausberger he then obtained a free licence and continued running his parents' schnaps distillery. The two of them knew from the very beginning that they wanted to distil their spirits only from organic fruits. For water they use the primary rock water from their spring in a nature reserve in the nearby Mühlviertel (mill region). The modern distillery with copper cauldrons is sustainably heated with elephant grass from their own cultivation and with fruit stones left over from the schnaps distillery. The excess of energy is also enough for the local kindergarten and school.

    The distillation process
    The distillation process
    The distillation process
    The distillation process
    Distillery
    Distillery
    Josef with a glass of elephant grass
    Josef with a glass of elephant grass
    Elephant grass and fruit stones are used for burning
    Elephant grass and fruit stones are used for burning

    The fine distillery Farthofer delivers its blackcurrant liqueur, the gentian schnaps, the Swiss pine schnaps (with Swiss pine cones from the Styrian nature reserve Zirbitzkogel) and the black bread schnaps to Zotter. Joself distils the latter from old black bread that the organic farmer who delivers bread in the region would have to throw away otherwise. Whatever remains after distilling the bread schnaps is fed to Josef's livestock or used for the biogas plant. The ash from the boiler is scattered in the cider pear orchard as fertiliser.

    The Mostelleria has the largest assortment of fine organic brandies and organic liqueurs in Europe. Josef Farthofer invented the Mostello, a pear dessert wine that is stored in barrique barrels and made following the portwine method. It tastes delicious. And his organic vodka was elected the best vodka in the world at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, winning the IWSC Trophy 2012. And organic: that is not something Josef and Doris are willing to discuss, they already knew in their youth that that is the only way for them. Back in the old days, farmers used to work organically, as well, without chemicals, and everything worked just fine. Why should it no longer work today.

    The world's best vodka comes from the Mostelleria
    The world's best vodka comes from the Mostelleria
    Gentian schnaps (for Zotter)
    Gentian schnaps (for Zotter)
    Black bread schnaps (for Zotter)
    Black bread schnaps (for Zotter)
    Swiss pine schnaps (for Zotter)
    Swiss pine schnaps (for Zotter)

    In one word, the Mostelleria is an entirely ecologic company, which is farmed wholeheartedly in accordance with the Earth and its people! That's why it was very inspiring to visit Doris and Josef! As a farewell present, Doris and Josef packed a huge picnic basket for Simone and me and we took it for a little walk in the cider pear orchard. We enjoyed a wonderful picnic amidst the pear trees with a view of the hills of the Alpine foreland. It was a magical conclusion to a wonderful and unforgettable meeting with Doris and Josef! THANK YOU! And finally, we decided to come back here some time... What wonderful presents life keeps surprising us with!

    Picnic in the pear orchard
    Picnic in the pear orchard

    Oh, and this might be important as well: the Mostelleria in Öhling is a show distillery that everyone can visit: It is definitely worth a trip! Find more information at: www.mostelleria.at