Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Visiting Rotkaeppchen-Mumm - the Second Largest Producer of Sparkling Wine in the World - in Freyburg (Saale-Unstrut), Germany

Pictures: Rotkaeppchen Sekt

I visited – with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim – the Rotkaeppchen Sekt House in Freyburg (Saale-Unstrut) in the former East Germany. This visit was interesting for many reasons.

First, Rotkaeppchen is one of the few East Germany based enterprises that have succeeded in the United Germany. Typically, East Germany based enterprises were bought up by entrepreneurs from West Germany. In the case of Rotkaeppchen, it was the other way around. Rotkaeppchen succeeded in establishing itself in the German Sekt market und has bought up several West Germany based Sekt Houses over the past years, including Mumm. The Rotkaeppchen-Mumm conglomerate is today the largest Sekt producer in Germany, accounting for almost half of the market. Germany is the largest consumer of sparklers in the world; 1 out of 4 sparklers produced in the world is consumed in Germany. Rotkaeppchen-Mumm has also branched out into the spirits and still wine markets.

Second, after Freixenet, Rotkaeppchen-Mumm is now the second largest producer of sparkling wines in the world.

Third, most of the German Sekt Houses have beautiful chateau-type facilities with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage. So does Rotkaeppchen.

German Wine Basics: Sekt

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world. Sparkling wine produced in Germany is called Sekt.

Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method as well as in the transfer method, invented by Rotkaeppchen. There are three groups of Sekt producers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt Houses that 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. In addition to Sekt, Germany produces semi-sparkling wine, which is called Perlwein. But the production of Perlwein is small.

There is a dozen or so large Sekt Houses. They produce more than 2.000.000 bottles each annually. 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 in France, the large Sekt Houses in Germany have all moved to the charmat method as main method of the second fermentation after World War II. Like the Champagne Houses, the Sekt Houses do not own vineyards, but purchase the base wine from winemakers. More than three quarters of the base wine used to make Sekt is imported from other EU countries, essentially Italy, France and Spain. Sekt can only be labeled as Deutscher Sekt if it is made exclusively from German grapes, which is rare in the case of the large and the smaller Sekt houses. Most of the Sekt Houses have beautiful chateau-type facilities with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage. Overall, these Sekts are reasonably priced, are of good quality, but with the introduction of the charmat method are no longer in the same class as their counterparts in the champagne region.

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.

Finally, 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.

For more details see: German Wine Basics: Sekt

The Rotkaeppchen Story: From Kloss and Foerster to Rotkaeppchen-Mumm

The story of Rotkaeppchen Sekt began in 1856 when the brothers Moritz and Julius Kloss and their friend Carl Foerster opened a wine store in the valley of the Saale and Unstrut rivers, in the eastern part of Germany and started to produce “Champagne”.

A legal dispute with the French Champagne producer Heidsieck + Co., Reims in October 1894 led to Kloss + Foerster’s traditional German brand ‘Monopol’ being renamed Rotkäppchen. The label has nothing to do with the color of the Sekt, but is named after the bottles’ distinctive red cap.

Pictures:  Rotkäppchen Sektkellerei Freyburg / Unstrut.

After World War II, the Kloss + Foerster Sekt House – in the eastern part of Germany - was nationalized by the communist regime and became VEB (Volkseigener Betrieb/Company owned by the People) Rotkäppchen Sektkellerei Freyburg / Unstrut. Guenther Kloss - the grandson of the founder – fled to West Germany and reestablished the Kloss & Foerster Sekt House in West Germany in 1952.

During the period of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) until 1989, VEB Rotkäppchen Sektkellerei Freyburg was the only sparkling wine producer in East Germany.

After the collapse of the GDR, Rotkaeppchen was privatized in 1993 in a management buy-out. Senior staff (60%), led by Günther Heise, took over, together with West German Harald Eckes-Chantre and his daughters (40%).

About 10 years later, in 2002, Rotkaeppchen bought from the Canadian Seagram Group, the Sekt brands Mumm, Jules Mumm and MM Extra and integrated the legally independent companies Godefroy H. Mumm & Co. Sektkellereien in Hochheim, Matheus Müller Sektkellereien and Chantré & Cie in Eltville and Rotkaeppchen Sektkellerei in Freyburg in the new Rotkaeppchen-Mumm Sektkellereien.  In addition, in 2003, Rotkaeppchen-Mumm bought the small Sekt House Geldermann.

Today, the Rotkaeppchen-Mumm Conglomerate produces about 170 million bottles of Sekt annually. Rotkaeppchen-Mumm is the largest German Sekt producer, accounting for more than 50 percent of the German market. Worldwide, it has become the #2 following Freixenet.

Touring Rotkaeppchen in Freyburg

We were treated to a very entertaining tour of the Freyburger Sektkellerei, which is an impressive industrial monument, because of its completeness and the quality of the architecture. The main construction phase was between between 1880 and 1900. The construction of the large administration building was in 1889. In 1893, the courtyard was covered with a glass roof. This resulted in an industrial complex comprising the production facility, administration, warehouse, outbuildings and a restaurant (the building today is not more) in the Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Baroque.

Pictures: The Rotkaeppchen Sektkellerei in Freyburg

In 1896, the huge oak wine barrel with a volume of 120,000 liters was made, using 25 oak trees. It is in the so-called Domkeller and is decorated with precious carvings.

The Sekt Brands of the Rotkaeppchen-Mumm Conglomerate

Here is a list of the various Sekt brands that come today under the roof of the Rotkaeppchen-Mumm Group.

(1) Geldermann - Geldermann is a small Sekt House in Breisach, which makes its Sekt exclusively from French wines imported from the Loire valley in the traditional method ( méthode champenoise). The two Germans Deutz and Geldermann founded a Champagne House in 1838 in the Champagne, and the Breisach (Baden) outlet became their German branch in 1904 for tax reasons.

(2) Mumm + Co. and (3) Jules Mumm – The Champagne House Mumm was founded in Reims in 1827 by the 3 German brothers Gottlieb, Jacobus and Philipp Mumm; they named it Champagne House P.A. Mumm, after their father, the German banker and wine merchant P. A. Mumm. After the death of Gottlieb Mumm, the Champagne House P.A. Mumm was broken up into two: G. H. Mumm + Co. (named after Gottlieb Mumm’s sonaGeorg Hermann) and Jules Mumm + Co. (named after Jacobus Mumm’s son Julius Engelbert).

Jules Mumm created the famous Mumm Cordon Rouge in France. In 1910, after the dissolution of Jules Mumm + Co., G. H. Mumm + Co bought back the rights of the brand Jules Mumm. So, all the Mumm brands were again in one hand at that point.

Following the end of World War I, the French Government confiscated all of the Mumm's property, although the Mumms had lived in Champagne for almost a century, because they had never bothered to become French citizens. The Mumm family returned to Germany and settled in Frankfurt am Main.

In 1922, the Sekt House Mumm + Co. was founded in Germany by Godefroy H. von Mumm. In 1970, the Canadian Seagram Group bought both the French Champagne House G.H. Mumm and the German Sekt House Mumm + Co.

Mumm Napa is one of California's méthode traditionnelle sparkling wine producers, a joint venture between the French G.H. Mumm + Cie and the Canadian Seagram Group.

In 2002, the Canadian Seagam Group decided to divest from both the French and the German Mumm branches. Pernod Ricard bought the Champage House G.H. Mumm and Rotkaeppchen bought the German Sekt House Mumm + Co, including Jules Mumm.

(4) Matheus Mueller Sektkellerei – the Sale of Mumm and Co in 2002 by the Seagram Group also included theSekt House Matheus Mueller In Eltville am Rhein. The Matheues Mueller Sektkellerei was founded by Matheus Mueller in 1811.  His two sons Matheus Müller jun. und Friedrich Franz had learned how to make Champagne in the Champagne. MM Extra became one of the most popular Sekts over the years.

(5) Mocca Perle - Sekt with a hint of coffee

(6) Rotkäppchen Sekt - the flagship Sekt

(7) Rotkäppchen Alkoholfrei - the flagship Sekt without alcohol

(8) Kloss + Foerster  - the Sekt of the founders of the Rotkaeppchen Sekt House in Freyburg, which had been restarted after World War II in West Germany; Rotkaeppchen recently acquired the rights to the Kloss + Foerster Sekt from the Kloss family.

Spirits and Still Wine

At the same time, Rotkaeppchen-Mumm has acquired a number of spirit brands: CHANTRÉ, Mariacron, Zinn 40, Echter Nordhäuser, ECKES Edelkirsch. In addition, it has also still wines in its portfolio now.

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