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This pine liqueur is taking the world by storm

This pine liqueur is taking the world by storm

Wholesaler Joseph Hofer, based in Erdenning, is 227 years old and has been a member of the family for nine generations. No less impressive: the current owners can call themselves the largest producer of Swiss pine liqueur in Austria. And: Since 2005, the fine wine has also found its way across the Atlantic and is available in 49 US states. Anyone who calls Hawaii their home or vacation destination can consume Irdninger pine liqueur.

Jürgen, Elke and Julian Haas – with the support of a staff member – are currently adhering to this tradition. Jürgen Haas took over the company in 1998 and has a lot to say about the company's business history. The family hails from St. Johann im Pongau and once found their way to Erdenning as a result of the expulsions that accompanied the French Wars. Robert Hoover established a wholesale business there – which at the time offered: local produce such as grains, gingerbread and seeds as well as everyday items made from wax.

A fine selection of wines, liqueurs and spirits can be purchased at the Josef Hofer shop on Irdninger Hauptplatz

© KLZ / Dorit Burgsteiner

In a further step, a large farm was added and the company soon received a high award from the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In the 1920s, the product range changed towards what is on offer today. “Through trade relations with Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia, raw wine was brought from these countries and then vinified, stored and bottled here.” Later, the production of spirits was added and a move away from trade in local products was added.

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Pine liqueur as the main product

It is the spirits that are the main focus today. The most important product is pine schnapps, which has won the Gold Award several times, for example two years ago at the “World Spirits Award”. “There was a time when a lot of people were making pine liqueur. That's why we said we wanted to make a good recipe,” says Jürgen Haas. Once this was achieved, “we got the ‘Zerbenz’ trademark protected throughout Europe.” Exports to USA in 2005. “I met our business partner online. “The setup was complicated; it took two years before the first bottle could reach the United States,” Haas says.

Hoover pine liqueur carries the brand name

Hoover's pine liqueur has the brand name “Zirbenz”. The family has won gold with him several times, for example in the “World Spirits Award”.

© KLZ / Dorit Burgsteiner

In 2018, a new 300 square meter production hall equipped with a fully automatic packaging system was built. “In 2023, we sent the first shipping container containing pine nuts to the USA,” says Haas proudly.

Pine stone from Mortal

The pine trees from which the schnapps are made come from Murtal. We have three suppliers on hand, and on average about four tons and kilograms of pine trees are processed every year. Among the many customers – some of whom have been supplying for 100 years – is the Rewe Group, of which Billa belongs. “Our products are available in 125 branches in Styria and Burgenland,” says the company's president.

What are your plans for the future? “Among other things, we want to expand the range of products related to stone pine trees and we also want to produce vinegar,” says Haas.

The handover will take some time, but son Julian, who works as production manager, is already at the beginning stage. “It's a lot of work, you're constantly working. I asked him if he wanted to,” says Jürgen Haas. “After graduating from high school and serving in the army, I trained to be a bartender. From then on, it was clear that I would get a foothold in the company,” Julian confirms. In doing so, he ensures the existence of Joseph Hoover's wholesale company, which has carried the name since 1815, for another generation.