Thursday, February 23, 2012

Blogging for Organic Wine – New Ways of Wine Experience: The Organic Wines of Oekoweingut Hubertushof at Prowein 2012 in Germany

Picture: Ecovin Logo and Zeit fuer Biowein

Oekoweingut Hubertushof in Lieser in the Mosel valley belongs to the more than 200 wine makers in Germany who are members of Ecovin. Ecovin is an association of German wine makers who produce organic wine.

Picture: Oekoweingut Hubertushof Wines with Ecovin Logo

As part of the Prowein 2012 in Duesseldorf, Ecovin is doing a presentation of organic wines lead by Dirk Wuertz: “Dirk Wuertz and Friends: Blogging for Organic Wine – New Ways of Wine Experience.” I am honored to be one of the “friends” of Dirk.

Blogging for Organic Wine at Prowein 2012

Dirk Wuertz contacted his facebook friends asking who would be interested in tasting organic wines and writing about them. I responded and was assigned the wines of Oekoweingut Hubertushof. My posting and those of my 19 fellows bloggers are all released today and tomorrow. Dirk Wuertz is in the process of linking them up and they are figuring prominently, I guess, at the events of “Dirk Wuertz and Friends” at the Prowein 2012.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Dirk Wuertz at 2010 German Twitter Wine Awards

Dirk Wuertz is well known in the German wine scene. He has his own winery, which is very much export-oriented; I recently enjoyed oysters with a bone dry Dirk Wuertz wine at 10 Bells in New York City. Dirk is also the Betriebsleiter (General Manager of Operations) of the VDP Estate Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim, Germany. Last but not least, he is one of the stars of the German social media wine scene, with a very popular wine blog and occasional video wine shows in the internet, and the organizer of the German Twitter Wine Awards.

What is Organic Wine? Organic  and Other Green Concepts of Winemaking

Last year at Weingut Meinklang in Pamhagen in Austria in the stone cave below the winery with Werner Michlits, where Werner showed us his magic cow poop and other ingredients for biodynamic farming, I was really at the forefront of wine making with an ecological mindset. There are many others on this route. But these “green” winemakers come in different colors. I just tasted the Santa Julia wines of Familia Zuccardi, who produce mass wines in Argentina with organic grapes. Argentina, in general, is very well suited for organic wine making. “We practice sustainable agriculture in the vineyard” said Yann-Leon Beyer when I visited Domaine Leon Beyer in Alsace in France. The Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley produces wine according to the natural wine concept in the midst of the city of Berkeley without owning any vineyards. Researchers have found out that from a point of view of minimizing the carbon footprint, New Yorkers should drink Bordeaux instead of domestic wine from California. The following tries to shed some light on the different concepts of “green” wine making including organic wine.

Organic (Bio in German) generally means the use of natural as opposed to chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. The key is: no chemicals. Organic wines are changing the look of vineyards, literally. Whereas vineyards of the past commanded neat rows rid of all insects, rodents and weeds, organic vineyards are now replacing costly and damaging chemical sprays with environmental partnerships. Pesticides are giving way to introducing low-growing plants between vine rows that host beneficial insects that keep the pest insects in check.

Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic is an approach following the rules and ideas of Austrian philosopher-scientist Rudolph Steiner.

Sustainable farming means farming in a way that will allow for continued farming throughout the ages. In its broadest interpretation, sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Although nowhere defined by law, there are many certifications available for “Sustainable Wine.”

Natural: The idea behind natural wine is non-intervention and a respect for Mother Nature. Natural wines are hands-off wines produced with as little intervention as possible. Generally, the concept of natural wine relates more to what happens in the wine cellar rather than what happens in the vineyard. Again, nowhere is the term defined by law; it is left open to interpretation. Typically, only natural yeasts are used, the fermentation is slow, there is little or no use of new oak barrels; and there are no filtrations or cold stabilization.

Carbon Footprint: The carbon neutral label comes from a different angle: global warming. All economic activities have a carbon footprint, including wine making. Carbon neutral wineries are trying to make a contribution to the general efforts of reducing the emission of carbon dioxide. Belgrave Park Winery in Australia, for example, is a completely carbon neutral vineyard and winery.

Water Footprint: A new thing is water footprint, reflecting the concern that the planet is moving into a period where water becomes more and more scarce.

For a primer for "green" wines see: Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

Organic Wine Making in Germany: Bio Label

Germany introduced comprehensive organic legislation - and the Bio label - as part of an European effort in 2001. The Bio label is a hexagonal logo with the inscription "Bio". The Bio label is not a wine specific label, but a general food label.
Picture: Bio Label in Germany

As for wine, the German/EU regulations only provide rules for organic grape growing in the vineyard. The wine making part in the cellar is not covered by the current German/EU regulations and Bio label. Just a few days ago, however, the EU came out with a broadening of the legislation to also include the wine making part, which will become effective with the 2012 vintage.

Organic Wine Making in Germany: Ecovin Label

While the Bio label is a government and general food logo, the Econvin label is a NGO and wine specific logo. In the German-speaking countries there have been non-government organizations that had issued labels for organic food long before the advent of the EU organic food regulations and the Bio label. Their labels are still used widely as they significantly exceed the requirements of the EU regulations.

Picture: Ecovin Logo

When it comes to wine, the Ecovin label is – with the Demeter label- the most important one. The Ecovin logo is a stylized grape fruits with Ecovin on top. Importantly, the Econvin certification covers the whole process of wine making, comprising grape growing in the vineyard and wine making in the cellar.

Lotte Pfeiffer Mueller is the current President of Ecovin. I have visited her and her Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker and written about the wines of Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker: Excellency and Ecology: Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker, Rheinhessen, Germany

Oekoweingut Hubertushof

Ecovin member Oekoweingut Hubertushof is in Liesen in the Mosel valley. The Weingut has been run by the Botzet family for the last three generations. 70% of the vineyards is devoted to Riesling, Müller-Thurgau und Kerner. From the Oekoweingut Hubertushof web site: “On the remaining 30% we cultivate Blauen Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Domina and Pinot Meunier (also known under its German name of Schwarzriesling) and Dornfelder. Most of the ground can be called "steep slope" with gradients of up to 65%. The soil of our Terroir is derived from Devonian slate. Rich in humus and calcium, it stores the warmth of the sun and passes it on to the vines and the grapes.”

Why is the winery called Hubertushof? “The statue of Hubertus, the trademark of the Oekoweingut Hubertushof, dates from the year 1901. In 1923, Hubert Botzet, father of Hermann-Josef Botzet, received the statue as present on the occasion of his Communion. In his honor we have called our winery Weingut Hubertushof since 1979. Since 2008, Hermann-Josef works successfully together with his son Hubert, a certified winemaker.”

The Oekoweingut Hubertushof wine portfolio is a traditional Mosel portfolio with dry, fruity sweet and noble sweet white wines as well as red wines. But of course, all wines are organic wines. The most expensive wine is a 2005 Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese. The portfolio is broad. Entry wines start at Euro 7.50.

Mosel Wines

Germany's picturesque Mosel valley has been a prime wine-growing region since the Romans first planted there. The area is known for the steep slopes of the region's vineyards overlooking the river, up to 65° degrees. Blessed with abundant rain and sunshine, a long growing season and rich soil, the Mosel produces some of the finest Riesling wines in the world. The Mosel is mainly famous for its crips, low alcohol and high acidity Riesling wines with a hint of sweetness.


“Since we have always strived to cultivate the vines in a manner which treated nature with the greatest of care, we converted our production in 2007 completely to ecological methods and joined the largest institution for ecological winemaking, ECOVIN. Ecological winemaking exhibits the following aspects:

-    Integrated, holistic cultivation
-    Rejection of synthetic, chemical pesticides , herbicides and genetic engineering ( cultivation areas should be as large as possible )
-    Use of natural compost in place of artificial fertilizer
-    Encouragement of biodiversity and protection of beneficial plants, insects and birds
-    Creation of habitats for plants and animals e.g. sowing of clover in winter, blooming plants in spring and rape.
-    Building of trust through independent supervision
-    Quality achieved by low yields
-    Wines of character through the use of careful processing
-    Preservation of the cultivated landscape
-    Wide range of classical German vineyards

In comparison with conventional estates the cultivation in ecological estates relies heavily on manual work in all phases from the soil cultivation and pruning through to the processing of the grapes.”

The Wines I Tasted

I tasted the following 3 wines. The labels of the 3 wines includ the Bio logo and the Ecovin logo. In addition, the labels indicate: “Wein aus Trauben aus oekologischem Anbau – wine made from organically grown grapes”. 

Picture: The 3  Oekoweingut Hubertushof Wines

2011, Hubertushof Lieser, Blanc de Noir, Pinot Meunier, trocken, Fassweinprobe

Pinot Meunier (also known Black Riesling) is one of three main grapes used in the production of Champagne (with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Dark yellow in the glass, banana and ripe apple on the nose, mineral, crisp, refreshing acidity, dry.

2011, Hubertushof Lieser, Edition Nr. 1, Riesling Hochgewaechs, trocken, Fassweinprobe

Light yellow in the glass, pineapple and cherry on the nose, restrained acidity, fresh and fruity, dry.

2011, Hubertushof Lieser, Riesling Elite, halbtrocken, Fassweinprobe

Light yellow in the glass, grapefruit and green apple on the nose, restrained acidity, fruity, comes across as rather dry though labeled as off-dry.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Natural Wines of the Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley, California

Visiting Jared Brandt and his Donkey and Goat Winery – Natural Wines Made in Berkeley, California

Excellency and Ecology: The Wines of Gebrueder Dr. Becker in Rheinhessen, Germany

Wine Event: President Obama and the First Lady eat at the "Green" Restaurant Nora and have a "Green" Spottswoode Wine

The Millesime Bio 2010 in Montpellier, France: A Discovery of Organic and Biodynamic Wines at the one of a Kind Wine Trade Show

Benzinger Wines Served at the 2010 "Green" Annual White House Correspondents Dinner

The Natural Wines of Terroir in San Francisco

Skype and Biodynamic Winemaking - Winetasting in the US with Winemaker Werner Michlits, Weingut Meinklang, in Austria

At the Forefront of Biodynamic Winemaking: Visiting Werner and Angela Michlits and their Weingut Meinklang in Austria

Julia Zuccardi from Familia Zuccardi in Argentina Visited the US to Introduce New Santa Julia Wines

One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC

Visiting Yann-Leon Beyer at Maison Leon Beyer in Eguisheim in Alsace

Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

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