Jun 10, 2016

Sex sells! Wine is no exception.

Have you ever heard of a grape variety called Domina? Well, no worries, Domina only plays a minor role in the German wine market and has only locally some importance. The total vineyard area of Domina is about 400 hectares and almost 85% (340 ha) are planted in Franconia (Franken). Here it has got some awareness as this region originally is a designated white wine region and yes, Domina is a red variety.

Bocksbeutel of a single-grape wine, made of the variety Domina
Typically wines made from Domina are deep red, almost black, full bodied but earthy and high in acid and tannins. Earthy and smoky flavors, paired with dark fruit like blackberry make up their bouquet. They usually don’t reach to the elegance of a Pinot Noir (aka Spätburgunder), which is also widely grown here, but nevertheless it has got its fan base among the red wine connoisseurs. This is why you find lots of pure Domina wines in Franconia, whereas in other regions it is often used as a partner in blends to take advantage of the dark color and its extracts.

So, where is the hook to the headline? What is so sexy about this all? Well, in Germany the word Domina nowadays has quite a juicy sound. The original meaning of it (abbess) is not in use anymore but it is used now for a dominant lady in a sexual meaning (in English: Dominatrix). Think of black leather, strong and dominant attitudes, that’s what the Domina wines are associated with. What a marketing coup, isn’t it?

Well, to come to the defense of the cultivator of the grape, Peter Morio, when he crossbred this grape from its parents the Blauer Portugieser and Pinot Noir back in 1927 the word Domina still got its original meaning. What a prospective naming!

Billboard ad of Domina wines in the cooperative winery of FranconiaToday, with respect to our understanding of self-determination and the right of sexual autonomy, the sexual card isn’t played much in the marketing of the Domina wines anymore, but recently I found an old billboard with an ad for Domina wines, leading the way down to the cellars of a big cooperative winery. At least this made me quite curious about what I would be faced with in the deep dark vaults of the cellar. So you see, it still works!

In other words: Ten weeks of workout can make you feel sexy again, so does one bottle of Domina. 

Mar 25, 2016

Happy Easter! Wine out of eggs?

Eggs are all around these days, also in the wine cellars. No kidding! But this time it's nothing to do with Easter, I promise.

At the moment we are facing the next trend in wine cellars in Germany. Well, actually this is not a new method at all, at least it is one of the oldest ways to produce wine, but it is revived by winemakers and transfered into the present. Wine out of the egg!

After vessels of wood, plastics, steel and wood again, it's concrete this time. Eggs made of concrete, to produce and mature wine. One would think this is just wool-gathering or esoteric nonsense but the results proof sceptics to be wrong. Part of this actually is kind of esoteric as the egg is seen as a perfect shape to let energy (and wine) homogenious circulate. No lumps and bumps. But honestly, the wines out of eggs I tasted up to now totally satisfied me and refuted my skepticism.

At least some of the most recognized vintners here in Franconia use the egg by way of trail. One of those, the Weingut am Stein, sitting in the famous vineyard called Würzburger Stein, already is beyond the test and trail phase, as they built a completely new cellar for their seven concrete eggs, where some of their best Silvaner grapes mature. Besides this there are also some amphoras buried here where wine matures "on its mash", just like it was made in the early days and still is widely done in Georgia, where the Qvevri called amphoras originally come from. The Qvevri is also shaped like an egg, an as said, used since the beginnings.

But what makes up this wines? No idea if just my mind played a trick on me, but the samples I tasted were quite smooth and rounded, like the shape of the vessels. But there is some evidence that could explain this a bit. Of course the unhampered flow of the juice and the yeasts foster the homogenious fermentation and maturation of the wine. Experts are at odds if the concrete facilitates the micro-oxidation because of its porosity. Recently I had the chance to talk to an academic of the leading research instistute, the Landesanstalt für Wein- und Gartenbau in Veitshöchheim (regional institute for wine and agriculture), who contradicted this theory. As the concrete usually is quite aggressive against acid it has to be prepared against this, otherwise it would completely neutralize the acids in the wine. By this preparation the pores are closed so that there is no chance for oxigen to come through.

Another theory is that the thick concrete covering sees to it that the temperature is somewhat buffered, but this is also with a stainless steel vessel and temperature control. Actually it is harder to cool the juice during fermentation within the egg. So this seems also not to be the reason. But what's it then?

My personal theory is that a vintner, who is engaged in trying this new methods, is much more sensitive and caring for his wines and therefore could only produce excellent wines. And probably at least there is something inbetween science and belief. The egg is perfectly shaped to the Golden ratio, let it be esoteric, which closes the circle to the beginning of this post.

Let it flow... ah, and Happy Easter after all!

Mar 3, 2016

100th anniversary of the Scheurebe

Let’s go back, way back, back in 1916. We are looking over the shoulder of Dr. Georg Scheu, who is breeding vines at the regional office of winegrowers in Alzey, in the German wine region Palatinate. He is working as a viticulturalist, cultivating seedlings of vitis vinifera, to create new noble grapes. Indeed he is already known for the creation of many crossbred grape varieties. Somewhen in 1916 Georg planted the seedling number 88 of a hybrid and this one should become his heritage.

A flat rounded wine bottle, called Bocksbeutel, of Scheurebe. A noble grape of Germany.
A Bocksbeutel of Scheurebe from Franconia
This grape gathered the best of both of its parents, the Riesling and the Bukettraube. Wines made of this grape have a distinctive aroma (German: Bukett) of one of the parents and the racy acidity of the other one. The new grape variety is named for his discoverer Scheurebe (“rebe” means in German “vine”).

Today, one hundred years later, the Scheurebe is under the Top 10 of the white grape varieties in Germany. It also plays a role in Austria where it still is called Sämling 88 (Seedling 88), because of the 88th seedling Georg Scheu planted back then.

Scheurebe is the German answer to the Sauvignon Blanc. Usually highly aromatic, dominated by rich blackcurrant aromas supplemented with grapefruit, gooseberry and elderflower. Well-made wines of the Scheurebe are full-bodied. Often they are produced semidry, so they have some residual sugar, which compliments quite well the flavors.

The Scheurebe, I had in my glass, was from the German wine region Franconia, you could recognize this by the shape of the bottle, called Bocksbeutel. This one is from a town called Sommerach on the Isle of Wine, a lovely piece of land completely surrounded by the River Main.

Let’s praise Georg Scheu for this great breeding 100 years ago!


Feb 12, 2016

Ten out of forty thousand - a nice selection of a great collection

How many bottles of wine do you store in you cellar? Ten, twenty or even a hundred? What about 40.000!? Yes, forty thousand. That’s the number of bottles that an elderly married couple in Würzburg, Franconia, collected over the last 40 years. And this are just the bottles which were stored away. Uncounted the wines that were drunk by Wolfgang and Luise Koegel, since they were infected with the wine-virus back in the 1970s. They made it their hobby to drive through the German wine regions and visit wineries almost each weekend.

A selection of ten ripe wines of a collection of fourty thousand. Vintages between 1976 and 1993.
Ten out of forty thousand
They amassed this great collection and till this day they open a bottle each day. Now in their 90th the lease of their cellar was resigned and they had to decide what to do with all those wines. Be it fate or coincidence, they converged with Martin Steinmann, the owner of the wine estate Schloss Sommerhausen, who instantly was stunned by this compilation of German wines of the last 40 years.

But what to do with those wines? Taken by inquisitiveness about this hoard, Martin agreed to care about this fanciful assortment. The challenge was not only the mere number of the bottles but also that there were almost no duplicates, which made it barely impossible to commercialize this selection. By another coincidence the Vinum wine magazine got attention of this. This and the fact that the Koegls had no commercial interest with their wine heritage saw to it, that they bore the idea to salvage this for charity purposes.

Martin Steinmann of the wine estate Schloss Sommerhausen hosts a tasting of old wines
Tasting for charity
“Transferring all the bottles to one of the cellars of the Weingut Schloss Sommerhausen was a challenging task, but the bigger exercise was - and still is - to screen and classify the bottles”, Martin comments this. The idea was to pack six bottles each into a cardboard box and merchandise them as a surprise package. The net profit of this benefits the charitable organization Wine Saves Life e.V. supporting child welfare in developing countries.

Besides this, Martin hosts a surprise wine tasting of ripe wines each month. Lucky me, I could attend one of this tastings. We had a line-up of ten white wines of vintages between 1976 and 1993, dominated by the German Riesling grape, but also one of Muskateller, of a Traminer and of a Scheurebe. One surprise was, that all of the wines were still drinkable, but the bigger surprise was how excellent some developed and matured. Especially Riesling with some residual sugar matures pretty well. The typical fruity flavors are complemented by balmy notes like honey, resin or wax.

You need not to collect 40.000 bottles but you could consider to store away some of your favorite wines for later. Much later! Ah, and if you don’t want to wait until then, I know from good authority, that there are still some surprise packages left. You could try to get one via the Vinum magazine (www.vinum.de/weinsammlung). See also www.winesaveslifes.de and www.sommerhausen.com for more information.

A 1993 vintage of a Muskateller Spätlese from the Ortenberger Schloßberg. Weinbauversuchsgut Schloß Ortenberg, Baden
1993 Ortenberger Schloßberg
Muskateller Spätlese
Label of the 1989 Wachenheimer Fuchsmantel Riesling Spätlese

A 1989 vintage of the Riesling Spätlese from the Wachenheimer Fuchsmantel vineyard. Weingut Probsthof, Rheinpfalz
1989 Wachenheimer Fuchsmantel
Riesling Spätlese

A 1984 vintage of Riesling from the Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube vineyard. Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schloßbockelheim, Nahe
1984 Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube
A 1983 vintage of Riesling Spätlese trocken from the Forster Ungeheuer vineyard. Weingut Acham-Magin, Rheinpfalz
1983 Forster Ungeheuer
Riesling Spätlese trocken

A 1983 vintage of Scheurebe Spätlese from the Niersteiner Petersberg vineyard. Weingut Heinrich Braun, Rheinhessen
1983 Niersteiner Petersberg
Scheurebe Spätlese
A 1983 vintage of Riesling Auslese from the Dürkheimer Michelsberg vineyard. Weingut Karl Schaefer, Rheinpfalz
1983 Dürkheimer Michelsberg
Riesling Auslese
A 1976 vintage of Riesling Auslese from the Johannisberger Hölle vineyard. Weingut Johannishof, Rheingau
1976 Johannisberger Hölle
Riesling Auslese

Feb 5, 2016

Franconian wine boarded the Ark of Taste

In one of my early posts I told you about a very special wine from Franconia, called “Alter Satz”. The specialty of this wine is that it is vinified from a great variety of grapes -35 in total - which grow together in a single vineyard and are harvested and vinified together. This viticulture is known as “Gemischter Satz” (mixed planting).

Two typical Franconian Bocksbeutel wine bottles filled with a special wine called Alter Satz
Alter fränkischer Satz
What in the distant past was something like the perils insurance for the vintner to ensure that even in bad years he can harvest at least anything is nowadays a precious refuge of biodiversity. But there remained not many of those spots, because this doesn’t fit into a modernized, even industrialized viticulture. Especially in the German wine region of Franconia some vintners sustained such vineyards and preserved this tradition. Here this is called “Alter fränkischer Satz” and the Slow-Food organization recognized the deserving protection of it.

In the truest sense of the motto “eat and drink what you want to preserve” the Slow-Food Foundation for Biodiversity nominated the “Alter fränkischer Satz” as a new passenger to the Ark of Taste. The Ark of Taste lists more than 2000 heritage foods, plant and animal species from all over the world, which are at risk of disappearing. It focusses on the pleasure of good food with the commitment to the region it comes from and to the environment. By consuming those produce everyone can contribute to their preservation, because only if there is demand they will be produced. To be part of this Ark is a great honor for the tradition of Franconian winemaking.

You want to know how this wine tastes! Well that’s a pretty tough question and there is no easy answer. Take thirty and more grape varieties which are in different composition in each vineyard and in different degrees of ripeness. Harvest and vinify them together. Do I need to explain more? This is a too complex equation to solve. Each wine and each vintage is unique, and that’s what makes this so outstanding and worthy to preserve.

Jan 4, 2016

The Alsace: French wine with German cousinhood

A wine form the French AOC region Alsace paired with as marinaded goat cheese
Gewurztraminer from the Alsace
Alsace, the wine region in the north-east of France, has quite a rumbling history and changed its national affiliation several times between France and Germany in recent centuries, of course not always by choice as you can imagine.

Nowadays there is no conflict about the national belonging anymore but nevertheless the people there maintained a pleasant mixture of both nationalities. The exquisite cuisine definitely is influenced by the French. But people in the Alsace still widely speak a German based accent, no surprise, the Alsace is just across the Rhine from Germany. So the region is closer to the German wine region Palatinate (Pfalz) than to the other French wine regions. This is the main reason why the viticulture is more influenced by the German wines than by the French ones.

The Vin d’Alsace got AOC status, but other than in the other French regions it usually is made of a single grape rather than as a Cuvée of several grapes. The dominant varieties are the traditional German grapes like Riesling, Sylvaner or Gewürztraminer. More than 90% are white wines.

The Gewurztraminer (spelt without the German “ü”) got intensive flowery and spicy flavors (spice means “Gewürz” in German), low acidity and often some residual sugar. So has the one I choose this time.

The Gewurztraminer traditionally pairs quite well with a tarte or with goat cheese. I went for the second option and served with honey and spices marinated cream goat cheese together with the wine.

Santé and zum Wohl!

Dec 18, 2015

Relaunch of Franconias Bocksbeutel

From time to time you find posts from me with this rounded flat bellied bottle called Bocksbeutel, which is the quasi trademark of Franconian wine.
Today the newly designed Bocksbeutel was presented to the public. The silhouette remained almost the same but it became more "edged".

The design was made by the renowned German designer Peter Schmidt, this is why the bottle is named Bocksbeutel(PS).

What do you think of this new appearance?
Two typical Franconian wine bottles called Bocksbeutel in new design
Bocksbeutel PS - Photo credits: Haus des Frankenweins / Rolf Nachbar