Who knew Arizona has a wine circus?
Circo Vino – “wine circus” in Italian – is a wine importing company based in Tucson.
The company brings European wines, mostly from Austria, into the United States for national distribution, along with wines from three Arizona wineries.
Circo Vino arranges shipments of the wines to wholesale distributors that sell them to wine stores and restaurants in states from California to New York and from Florida to Wisconsin.
American wine lovers are thereby learning that Austria and Arizona, little known and underappreciated wine regions, are producing fine wines deserving their attention.
Circo Vino was cofounded and is now solely owned by Sariya Jarasviroj Brown, who even after college didn’t drink alcohol until a friend, who was a sommelier, introduced her to wine.
Surprisingly, her initial exposure didn’t involve drinking wine, only smelling its captivating aromas. However, Ms. Brown was so intrigued that she began reading about wine and soon became fascinated and then passionate about it. She then changed her career plans to go into the wine trade.
Her passion grew strongest for wines made from indigenous, cool-climate grapes. So instead of focusing on Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and other well-known grapes from well-known wine regions, Ms. Brown became enthralled with less familiar grapes such as Grüner Veltliner, Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Rotgipfler, especially from Austria.
The company’s name “Circo Vino” has its roots in Ms. Brown’s performance/entertainment background. She was a competitive figure skater in her youth and as an adult studied aerial dance with trapeze.
Each of the key people in Circo Vino has a circus-related nickname. Of course hers is “trapeze artist.” She considers selling wine as a kind of performance “to entertain the crowd.”
As good entertainment provides, Ms. Brown never has a dull moment in the wine trade. She also appreciates the wine industry is “designed to make people happy, and it makes me feel good to add happiness to the lives of others.”
Other insights she recently shared included, “I love that wine is an industry in the moment, yet steeped in ancient history.” So true, as every new vintage is different, but wines have been made (and sold) for millennia.
Moreover, Ms. Brown finds “the creation of wine is a death-defying act in itself that offers years of entertainment and pleasure.” Circo Vino, indeed!
The wines of Circo Vino I’ve enjoyed recently include a white wine grape I love, Grüner Veltliner (“groon-er velt-lean-er”), which is the most widely grown grape in Austria:
Crazy Creatures (by Malat) 2015 Grüner Veltliner “Kremstal, Austria” ($18): Attractive in the glass and on the nose, but most expressive on the palate where it is strong, fruity and well-balanced. Impressive quality for the price.
Stift Göttweig (by Messwein) 2016 Grüner Veltliner “Niederösterreich, Austria” ($20.50): Forward on the palate with very strong, clean, focused fruit. Also very well balanced and notably complex. It carries its personality over extended length.
Emmerich Knoll 2015 Grüner Veltliner “Loibner, Federspiel, Wachau, Austria” ($31.50): Among the best Grüners I’ve tasted, this beautiful wine is exceptional on the palate: very rich, strong and full-bodied with engaging texture and complexity.
Another white, but from France:
Bernhard & Reibel 2014 Riesling “Tradition, Alsace, France” ($31; 1000 ml): A beautiful example of Alsatian wines with forward fruit accompanied by highly pleasing complexity, seamless integration and strong personality.
Austrian wines that provide even more of a tasting experiences for American palates:
Reinisch 2015 Rotgipfler “Thermenregion, Austria” ($22): This fine white wine from an intriguingly named grape is attractive to the eye and nose, but special on the palate with gorgeous fruit and impressive complexity, integration, personality and length.
Claus Preisinger 2015 Zweigelt “Kieselstein, Austria” ($23.50): This red wine has eye-catching color hue and depth. Its complex nose presages a forward personality on the palate featuring lean-ish but pleasing fruit as well as notable balance, complexity, refinement and length.
And wines much closer to home:
Dos Cabezas 2012 red blend “El Norte, Cimarron Vineyard, Cochise County, Arizona” ($30): My favorite red tasted for this column is a blend of mostly Syrah that far outperforms its price with its wonderful complexity and fruit on nose and palate, as well as excellent balance and great length.
Sand-Reckoner 2014 Malvasia Bianca “Cochise County, Arizona” ($35): This outstanding white is a gorgeous deep-yellow in the glass. It is forward on the palate with rich, well-balanced fruit and carries impressive strength through an extended finish.