Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Best German Wines and Winemakers - Falstaff Deutschland Wine Trophies 2012
For the second time, the Falstaff Trophies Deutschland have been awarded. The wine/food/travel journal Falstaff has been around for a number of years, issued in Vienna, Austria, and reporting about wine, food and travel from an Austrian perspective, for Austria-based readers. About two years ago, Falstaff expanded into the German wine and food scene and started to issue a German version of Falstaff in addition to the well established Austrian version. As part of its expansion, Falstaff has created the annual Falstaff Deutschland Wine Trophies, to be awarded to 5 German wine personalities.
For last year's winners see: Falstaff Deutschland Wine Trophies 2011
The second year’s winners are the following.
Roman Niewodniczanski is Winemaker of the Year
Roman Niewodniczanski is the owner of and winemaker at Weingut Van Volxem, which is located in Wiltingen in the Saar valley in what used to be called the Mosel Saar Ruwer region, now just Mosel region. Weingut Van Volxem is a winery with a long history.
Roman Niewodniczanski is from the Bitburger Beer Dynasty. He bought Weingut Van Volxem in 1999. Weingut Van Volxem was owned and managed for 4 generations by the Van Volxem family. Roman studied economics before turning to winemaking.
After taking over, he invested heavily in the vineyards and the winery. 2000 was the first vintage bottled by Roman Niewodniczanski.
The Weingut Van Volxem vineyards total 45 hectares. Gottesfuß is very particular vineyard, planted with 100 years old, ungrafted Riesling vines (and a bit of Pinot Blanc). Not many producers have ungrafted hundred-year-old vines.
The Falstaff Jury characterized Roman Niewodniczanski’s wines as concentrated and mineral. “These are natural wines with the potential of the famous Saar wines of 100 years ago. The winemaker and owner has succeeded in awakening the sleeping beauty Weingut Van Volxem which belonged 100 years ago to the best wine producers in the world.”
Since Roman Niewodiczanski took over, he has been on a mission to have the estate once again produce the top wines in Germany and regain for his estate the reputation it had 100 years ago, not just in Germany, but around the world. He is a staunch believer in terroir and dry wine production. His aim is to produce essentially dry wines from specific terroirs, which match any of the finest white wines in the world.
Roman Roman Niewodiczanski practices biodynamic viticulture and looks for extreme ripeness and low yields by late harvesting each vineyard several times to pick only fully ripe grapes. In the cellar, Roman Niewodiczanski follows the natural wine approach, by gentle and prolonged fermentations using wild yeasts and judicious skin contact.
The runners-up were Bettina Bürklin-von Guradze of Weingut Bürklin-Wolf in der Pfalz and Peter Schnaitmann of Weingut Schnaitmann in Württemberg.
Christian Stahl is Newcomer of the Year
Christian Stahl of Weingut Stahl, Franken, is Newcomer of the Year 2012.
The Runners-up were Philipp Kiefer und Dominic Stern with PinoTimes from the Pfalz and Andi Knauß with Parfum der Erde from Württemberg.
Sebastian Bordthäuser is Sommelier of the Year
Sebastian Bordthäuser, Steinheuers Restaurant Zur Alten Post is Sommelier of the Year.
The Runners-up were Jürgen Fendt, Restaurant Bareiss in Baiersbronn and Marcel Helbig, Restaurant Vintage in Köln.
Manfred Pruem Received the Trophy for his Live Achievements
Weingut Joh. Jos. Pruem is – without doubt – one of the most exceptional producers of wine in Germany. Although the Prüm family were well established as viticulturists and winemakers, having been tending vines along the banks of the Mosel since the 17th Century, the Joh. Jos. Prüm estate only came into being in 1911, when the property was divided up among seven heirs. One of them, Johann Josef Prüm (died 1944) laid the foundation for the estate as it is today, his son Sebastian (died 1969) continued his work. Today it is run by the third fourth generation, Dr. Manfred Pruem and Wolfgang Prüm, with Manfred’s daughter Dr. Katharina Pruem.
The estate has 33.5 acres of vineyards planted with Riesling. The Joh. Jos. Prüm portfolio includes a number of great vineyards, but it is undoubtedly the vines in the Wehlener Sonnenuhr on the opposite bank to the town of Wehlen and the Graacher Himmelreich that are most readily associated with the estate.
The Riesling vines of Weingut JJ Pruem are grown on the region's decomposed blue slate soils, at incredibly steep inclines. The vines are own-rooted (non-grafted). Grapes are meticulously hand harvested and destemmed before being gently crushed into steel tanks where they ferment almost always with native yeasts before being moved into 50-plus-year-old, 1000-liter oak casks where they age until bottling. There is minimal CO2 pumping. As Joel Payne notes in the Gault Millau WeinGuide Germany, the JJ Pruem cellars are, as they always have been, barred to visitors and Dr. Manfred Pruem is usually silent when asked for details of his vinification process, although I am sure there is nothing to hide. These are wines of great aristocracy, renowned for their precision, focus and finesse. The JJ Prüm wines have a reputation for being very long-lived.
All JJ Pruem wines are sweet-style Rieslings. Weingut JJ Pruem does not produce any dry wines. A few miles up the river Mosel, the climatic conditions are about the same as in the German part, but Mosel wines from Luxembourg tend to be bone dry. How does this work?
Many wine drinkers, in particular outside of Europe, when they see a Riesling in the shelves, have the association of a sweet-style wine. This is however misguided. Rieslings as a rule are dry wines. Of course, there are the famous sugar sweet Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein and Schilfwein wines from Austria and Germany, the Sélection de Grains Nobles from France, the icewines from Canada and other Rieslings, made from botrytized, dried or frozen grapes. The grapes that go into these wines have such a high sugar content that there is nothing you can do to make dry wines out of these grapes. They inevitably produce nobly sweet wines. Weingut JJ Pruem produces these kinds of wines. But apart from these exceptions, which account for only a tiny share of total production, Riesling grapes in Germany have normal sugar content at the time of fermentation and tend to produce dry wines, when fully fermented – like in Luxembourg.
However, modern cellar methods allow winemakers in Germany to produce wines with a touch of sweetness. There are principally two methods applied for making Rieslings with a touch of sweetness. First, you do not let the fermentation run its course and stop it; as a result, you get a sweet and low alcohol wine. Second, you let the wine fully ferment to a normal alcohol level and then add Suessreserve (sterilized juice) to achieve the desired degree of sweetness. These sweet-style wines are a kind of niche wines in Germany, although there is a renewed interest in them. In any case, they remain very popular outside of Germany, notably in the US market.
A word on chaptalization, i.e. adding sugar before the fermentation: While the wine regions with a warmer climate battle against too much sugar in the grapes and allow – for example in California – to add water to the must, a cool climate wine country like Germany has the opposite problem – not enough sugar. Accordingly, for wines that are labeled as QbA Qualitaetswein or below QbA wines – which is more than half of Germany’s production - chaptalization is legal and normal. But Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese and the other predicate wines upwards the quality ladder are not allowed to be chaptalized under German law. Or, if you chaptalise them, you cannot sell them as Kabinett, Spaetlese, or Auslese. You need to sell them as QbA wines.
I have not seen any JJ Pruem QbA wines recently, although there have been some in bad years. So, the sweetness you taste in all the JJ Pruem wines you find on the shelves today is natural, in the sense that it is sweetness that was in the grapes, when they were harvested, produced by Mother Nature.
I have met the daughter of Dr. Manfred Pruem, the charming Dr. Katharina Pruem: JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans
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