Saturday, December 12, 2009

In the glass: Volker Raumland Sekt Estate - The Discovery of the Year – Eichelmann 2010

Picture: NV Raumland Riesling Brut

Everyone (in the wine business) in Germany is talking about Volker Raumland and his Sekts. He got one of the four prestigious awards of the Eichelmann 2010: “Discovery of the year”. And what is so special this year is that the wine award went to a producer of sparkling wine, which is called Sekt in Germany.

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world, which is not well know around the world. Germans drink lot of sparkling wines, although in general less quality-conscious than the French. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany, roughly 500 million bottles. Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt houses, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt estates tend to be in the demy-sweet and sweet range, while the Sekts of smaller estates and the wine makers are mostly in the brut and extra brut range.

There is a dozen or so large Sekt houses. Most of these large Sekt houses were established in the 1800s. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the champagne houses, the large Sekt houses have all moved to the charmat method as main method of the second fermentation after World War II. Like the champagne houses, Sekt houses do not own vineyards, but purchase the base wine from winemakers.

The smaller Sekt houses, like the large Sekt houses, do not own vineyards, but also buy the base wine from winemakers. They also tend to have a long history and often links to the champagne region, beautiful facilities and old cellars for the second fermentation and storage. The big difference is that they typically have not gone the route of tank fermentation but continue to ferment in the méthode traditionnelle.

Increasingly, there is a number of top quality winemakers, who, in addition, to their still wines, have started to include Sekts in their portfolio. These Sekts are typically vintage Sekts, from a specified vineyard, made of specific grapes, often Riesling, in the méthode champenoise and with little or not dosage (brut or extra but). While the first fermentation typically takes place at the winery, the second fermentation is often not in the cellar of the winemaker but in the cellar of a Sekt house that bottle-ferments for other wineries.

Raumland belongs to the third group but is kind of unique in Germany. Raumland makes a bit of still wine but is clearly focusing on his world class Sekts. The Raumland Sekts are like Champagnes, without copying them, feels the Eichelmann 2010.

Raumland grows his fruit in three different vineyards:

(1) Dalsheim, Rheinhessen with 4.1 ha which is also home base for the estate. These vineyards are planted to Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay;

(2) Hohen-Sülzen, Rheinhessen with 1.5 ha planted 100% to Pinot Noir and

(3) Bockenheim, Pfalz with 4.0 ha located 5km to the south of Dalsheim which is also Volker’s hometown. Riesling from these vineyards is used for Sekt whereas miscellaneous red wine varieties are vinified as still wine.

We had the

NV, Raumland Brut, Riesling, Euro 12

Tasting notes: Very light yellow in the glass, with ribbons of small bubbles and a light mousse, elegant tasty nose with pear and green apple overtones, with a noble and earthy austerity on the palate, lasting finish, 12% alcohol, 89 Schiller Wine Points.

Here is a description of how Volker Raumland makes his Sekts.

(1) Very careful and painstaking hand selection. The grapes are placed in small 15 kg boxes to assure that none of the fruit is scarred or damaged. Grapes are picked at 75 to 80 Oechlse, the optimum must weight for sparkling wine.

(2) Whole cluster pressing to preserve fruit aromas, no maceration, no mashing and no pumping of the juice.

(3) The “Champagne press program” with a duration of four hours, involves careful segmentation of the juice. The separation involves the first run (5%), the middle run or “heart” (50%) and the last run or taille (10%). To control phenolics the press is stopped after the last run. These figures coincide with champagne where 67% of the juice is used. First run and last run juices are used for the basic Sekts such as Cuvée Marie - Luise and Cuvée Katharina (named after the Raumland’s daughters) as are lower quality portions of the middle run. The better part of the middle run is used for the Prestige varietal Cuvées and the very best for the Grand Cuvee Triumvirat.

(4) The exception to the above is using the Saignée process by bleeding off prefermentation juice to make the Rose Prestige Cuvee (10% Pinot Noir) gathering juice for the Rose Prestige Cuvee (100% Pinot Noir).

(5) The time laps between harvest and the start of fermentation is a maximum of three days. Because of the earlier harvest for champagne grapes, fermentation starts already in September and often goes past November. The Pinot varietals and Chardonnay also go through a malolactic fermentation which lasts anywhere from two to six weeks depending on the PH of the wine ( high PH- fast malolactic, low PH- slow malolactic).

(6) After completion of the fermentation the wine is left on the fine yeast for maximum benefit. The wines are filtered and cold stabilized before Tirage. Tirage involves adding .24 gm/l of sugar and cultured Champagne yeast (sourced from Epernay in Champagne) and capping the bottles with a crown cork. This then starts yet another fermentation capturing CO2 which develops a pressure of six bars in the bottle. They are stored horizontally for maximum yeast contact for a minimum of 12 months to 12 years, depending on the quality of the Sekt.

(7) Four weeks before the Sekt is finished the bottles are hand riddled. After disgorgement a 1.0% dosage of a high quality wine is added to the prestige cuvees and 1/2% dosage to the Tête de Cuvee Triumvirat. The best quality dosage goes to the highest quality Sekt.

(8) The Sekts are stored in a four stories deep cellar to achieve optimum ripeness and “pin point” mousse. The Sekts are continuously monitored and tasted to assure optimum quality. All Sekts, including older vintages are freshly disgorged before they leave the estate.

Raumland Sekts are imported by Rudi Wiest into the US.

Schiller Wine – Related Postings

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German Wine Basics: Sekt

Wine ratings: German Wine - Eichelmann 2010

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