Thursday, August 19, 2010

Barth Primus is Germany’s First Sekt Made with an Erstes Gewaechs Wine

Pictures: Norbert Barth with Christian G.E.Schiller and Barth Primus

Barth Primus is Germany’s First Sekt Made with a Erstes Gewaechs Wine

The Wein und Sektgut Barth in Hattenheim, Rheingau, has released the first ever German sparkler made from a Erstes Gewaechs base wine. The novelty was named Barth Primus. I had a chance to taste the Barth Primus with Norbert Barth a few weeks ago in Germany at the Barth Estate.

Germany’s Sparklers

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.

Picture: Barth Vineyard in Hattenheim

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.

Grosses/Erstes Gewaechs Wines

The Grosse Gewaechs and Erstes Gewaechs wine concepts were introduced a few years ago. These terms basically mean the same thing but for some reasons the latter is used in the Rheingau and the former in all other wine regions. We are talking about fully fermented, dry wines of exceptional quality, like the Grand Cru wines in neighboring France.

Picture: Norbert Barth, Tasting

It should be noted that as a rule Grosse Gewaechs and Erstes Gewaechs wines are always sold as QbA wines – Qualitaetswein besonderer Anbaugebiete, which often American consumers do not touch. QbA wines, under German law, are allowed to be chaptalised, with the purpose of increasing the alcohol content of the wine. More than half all German wines are QbA wines.

Hattenheim in the Rheingau

It is remarkable: For its entire length of nearly 560 miles, the Rhine flows north with one exception – a 28-mile stretch where the river changes its course. Here, it flows to the west, thereby enabling both the river and the vineyards facing it to bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. This is the Rheingau, one of the medium-size German wine regions. Hattenheim lies about in the middle of the Rheingau wine region, close to the famous Eberbach Abbey. Eberbach Abbey dates back to the 12th century, was erected by monks of the Zisterzienser order from Clairvaux in Burgundy and is known for its Steinberger Vineyard.

Wein und Sektgut Barth

The Barth Estate is one of the leading wine producers of Hattenheim. The Estate was founded in 1948 and Norbert Barth, the current owner and manager, took it over in 1987.

Today, the vineyard area totals 11 hectares, mostly planted with Riesling (70%), followed by Pinot Noir (20%).

The Barth Estate is a member of the VDP.

Barth Primus

Aside from growing vines in some of the Rheingau's famous vineyards, the Estate is particularly well known for its stellar Sekts, produced according to the traditional champagne method. After the first fermentation, the base wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. It is then stored for 24 months and hand riddled, creating a Sekt of highest quality.

The 2007 Barth Riesling Erstes Gewaechs Hattenheimer Hassel served as base wine for the Barth Primus. "The project is exciting because it is not easy to own sparkling wine so voluminous - a first for us. We are proud to be the best thing that has to offer a Riesling turn, then, "said Norbert Barth.

Picture: Barth Primus Magnum

The Barth Primus will be presented to the general public and auctioned off on September 25 in the Eberbach Abbey, as part of the traditional VDP autumn auction.

Norbert Barth made a total of 470 Magnum bottles (1.5 liter), signed and numbered them.

Wein und Sektgut Barth, Hattenheim, Germany

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  1. Bei der Jubiläums-Weinversteigerung des VDP Rheingau am 25. September im Kloster Eberbach präsentierte das Wein- und Sektgut Barth aus Hattenheim seinen edlen Sekt BARTH Primus erstmalig der Öffentlichkeit. Die hohe Qualität des ersten und einzigen Sektes in Deutschland, der aus einem Ersten Gewächs Wein hergestellt wurde, überzeugte die Bieter. Die von Norbert Barth handsignierten Magnumflaschen wurden zu einem beachtlichen Preis von 121 Euro pro Flasche unter den Hammer gebracht.

    Die Prädikatsweingüter aus dem Rheingau brachten bei der VDP Weinversteigerung Spitzenweine der jüngeren Jahrgänge sowie Unikate aus einem Jahrhundert auf den Markt. "Wir sind begeistert von der hervorragenden Resonanz auf unseren Sekt BARTH Primus", erklärt Winzer Norbert Barth nach der Auktion. Mit handwerklichem Geschick, feinem Gespür und Geduld ließ er seinen besten Riesling nach der traditionellen Flaschengärung zu einem der edelsten Sekte reifen.

    Der Sekt BARTH Primus ist zum Verkaufspreis von 121 Euro (inkl. MwSt.) pro 1,5 Liter-Flasche über das Wein- und Sektgut Barth zu beziehen.

  2. Very informative. Will add you to my RSS reader!
    I was recently very impressed by an Sekt from Vienna.

    Definitely piqued my interest to try more German and Austrian sparklers.