If a fortune teller had predicted to the twenty-year old Doris Farthofer that she would eventually discover both her future husband and her dream job working on a farm, she would have burst out laughing and likely asked for a refund. Even today she has a good laugh about it, yet with the knowledge that fate tends to play by her own rules. “As a real Mostviertel local, I grew up on an organic farm where I was literally instilled with a sustainable attitude toward nature and food as a child.” This meant that while other children were enjoying their summers at the town’s swimming pool, she was busy helping out on her parents' farm. Looking back, she smiles: “I have to admit, picking pears and apples didn't interest me very much as a kid.” Nevertheless, the basic values she was taught have shaped her life - and would later prove to be a valuable asset.
“Although I grew up on a farm, I have to admit, picking pears and apples didn't interest me very much as a kid.”
“Everyone who tastes one of our blends should appreciate that we’re not an industrial operation, but rather that each bottle is handcrafted by a family."
From Office Toil to Working with Soil
When she first left home, Doris Farthofer was keen on exploring the wide world: “I'm very much someone who loves my freedom.” Self-assured and driven, she founded her own company, made her mark in product development, and spent her time bouncing from one meeting to the next. Until one day she asked herself, “Is this what I want to spend the rest of my life doing?” The answer to that question, along with true love, ultimately brought Doris back to her roots. “When I met my future husband Josef, who was already flirting with the idea of starting his own distillery for fine fruit brandies, I sold my business, and carved out some time off for myself to gather my strength and recharge my energy. Then I joined him to work on the farm with all my heart and soul.” And ever since 2003, the couple have been busy handcrafting fine brandies at the Biberbach farm. In 2010, they opened the Mostelleria in Öhling and, with their range of more than 50 organic schnapps and liqueurs, now rank among Europe's top organic distilleries with one of the widest assortments around.
A Must-have Pear Wine
On a tour among the shelves of the 1874 cider press house (an historic monument) you may sample a particularly unique beverage: Mostello, a delicious pear dessert wine that, like everything else, is the house's own creation. “After all, cider (or 'must') is the Mostviertel’s signature drink with a centuries-old tradition. Without it, the numerous picturesque four-cornered farms and the typical landscape simply wouldn't exist. The massive estates, often perched on a hill – which ‘cider has built’, as they say here – are a reminder that back then, farmers owed their wealth to fruit orchards. Nurturing this cider tradition over the years has ensured that millions of fruit trees still grace the region today. And in the last 20 years, there has also been something of a cider renaissance - the taste of the countless pear varieties is just amazingly diverse and complex in terms of its aromatics.” This is one of the main reasons why the couple have been working so intensively with this fruit - and taking it more ‘mainstream’ with their innovative approach. “One of our unique in-house creations is Mostello, a pear dessert wine composition. We first refine cider pears using the port wine method. Four fully ripe, native Mostviertel pear varieties are harvested by hand and gently pressed. Then we briefly ferment the juice before deliberately halting the fermentation process by the addition of our own organic cider pear schnapps. This blend then matures in seasoned oak barrels and may be served as an outstanding complement to delicious gourmet meals.” It was, however, a different fine spirit that allowed the pair to achieve their international breakthrough: they were awarded the IWSC Trophy for the world's best vodka in 2012. “Before that, we were just a small organic schnapps distillery from the Mostviertel region, but this award propelled us into the realm of Olympic-class spirits.”
Despite their relatively rapid growth, the Farthofers haven't sacrificed sustainability or authenticity, two of their core values. They use elephant grass grown in their own fields to heat the still and cellar house. Then there’s their own malt house, enabling them to create individual flavour profiles: “Everyone who tastes one of our blends should appreciate that we’re not an industrial operation, but rather that each bottle is handcrafted by a family that runs the farm themselves, which includes growing, harvesting, cleaning, malting, mashing, and distilling the grain, and of course employing people for all these steps.” And they make a point of keeping their production routes short. Once they get too long – like the 13-kilometer stretch between the two sites in Öhling and Biberbach – they are redesigned. “We're currently planning a new production facility directly in Biberbach to minimize such transportation routes.” And since 2020, they've maintained an inspired symbiosis with Seitenstetten Monastery: “We've been privileged to use their large cellar vaults, which had languished empty for years, for the storage of our Mostello and whiskey barrels. We lease them from the monks and the cellars are once again being used to store barrels, as in days of yore. Plus, it means we don't need to build an additional cellar, which puts less stress on the environment. It’s definitely a win-win situation!” And because conserving nature and using natural methods are a priority in everything they do, the spirits end up in glass bottles. No wonder the Farthofers' motto is “From field to bottle.”