Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Celebrating Riesling and my Birthday at Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany

Pciture: Wining and Dining at Weingut Schaetzel, Nierstein, at the Occasion of Christian G.E. Schiller's 60th Birthday in June 2012

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Kai Schaetzel at Weingut Schaetzel in 2011. Fore more on Kai Schaetzel and his Wines see: A New Fixture in the Reemerging Red Slope of Nierstein - Visiting Kai Schaetzel and his Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany

I turned 60 at the beginning of this year and was at the time of my birthday in Madagascar. My wife Annette organized a very nice birthday party there, with Malagasy music, Malagasy wine and food, and our Malagasy friends at the home daughter and son-in-law Cornelia and Chris.

Picture: At the Sekt Reception in the Roter Hang with a Guest from Madagascar, former Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo. Although not well known outside of Madagascar, the red island produces decent wine, overwhelmingly at the table wine level with French-American hybrid grapes, but has recently started to make premium wines with vitis vinifera grapes. For more see: The Wines of Madagascar

In June of this year, she organized a second birthday party for me at our home in Frankfurt, Germany, for my German friends and family. She invited family and friends from all phases of my life, starting from school and ending with wine blogging.

The birthday party took place at our home in Frankfurt am Main, but included a side trip by bus to Nierstein, where we were received by Kai Schaetzel, the up and coming charismatic winemaker from Weingut Schaetzel.

Kai took us to the Roter Hang vineyard (red slope), where we were treated to a reception with Raumland Sekt and a gorgeous view of the Rhein valley with Frankfurt am Main on the horizon. We then moved to the Schaetzel Estate were we had dinner in the lovely garden of the Weingut Schaetzel, went through Kai Schaetzel’s current wine portfolio und finished with a short cellar tour.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Dagmar Ehrlich at the 60th Birtday Party and earlier in the year in Hamburg. See more: A New, Very Useful Wine Book: Dagmar Ehrlich’s “Rebsorten ABC”

The bus took us then home to Frankfurt, were the party continued with more wine and cheese, dessert and music. I retired at 3:00 am but some held out until 6:00 am.

One of my guests was the international wine journalist Panos Kakaviatos, who has written a lovely account of the visit at Weingut Schaetzel: “Schätzel in Nierstein, thanks to Christian Schiller’s birthday celebration!” on his Wine Blog "Connections to Wine"

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Panos Kakaviatos at the 6oth Birthday Party

Born, raised and educated in Washington D.C. to Greek parents, Panos speaks English, but he is also fluent in German and French. Panos has become a respected wine journalist – admittedly better known in Europe than in the US – writing occasionally for, inter alia, such respected magazines as Decanter. For more on Panos Kakaviatos see: A Glass of Bordeaux – What Else? – With Wine Journalist Panos Kakaviatos

Kai Schaetzel and Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein

I did not know where we were going until I saw Kai Schaetzel in a car in front us, leading the way up to the Red Slope.

Weingut Schaetzel is located in Nierstein in Rheinhessen. The winery was established in 1850 by Jakob Schlamp. Today, the winery is owned and managed by Kai Schaetzel. The Schaetzel family has been making wine for 650 years, for 5 generations at the General von Zastrow Estate.

Kai Schaetzel: A New Beginning

Kai started to work early at the winery – in 1996, even before he got his “Abitur” (highschool degree) in 1998. He fully took over Weingut Schaetzel from his parents in 2007. In the meantime, he studied business economics in Hamburg graduating with the Diplom Kaufmann degree, served in the army, and interned at wineries, including in the US.

When he became fully responsible, he decided to change course at Weingut Schaetzel and to aim at becoming a nationally and internationally recognized premium wine producer. Of course, with his business degree, he had many other options. But he went for the wine option – making premium wines at a small boutique winery, suggesting, as Kai explained to me, that his decision was driven by a lot of passion for making good wine.

And he has succeeded. In the prestigious Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2011, Weingut Schaetzel moved from 1 to 2 grapes (with 5 grapes being the maximum). “A new fixture in the reemerging Red Slope of Nierstein”, noted the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland.

In the Roter Hang with Kai Schaetzel

We started with a Champagne Reception in the Roter Hang. This steep slope extends for some five kilometers (three miles) with a total of 180 ha (445 acres) around Nierstein on the left bank of the Rhine.

Pictures: In the Roter Hang with Kai Schaetzel at the 6oth Birthday Party

The Roter Hang has a very special terroir, resulting from the drop of the Rheinhessen plateau before human life started. As a consequence of these movements the Roter Hang has a mineral-rich soil, a mixture of iron and clayish slate, which is at least 250 million years old (Permian Period). Further, the slope faces south to southeast, which helps in terms of the solar radiation. The red slate retains warmth, and additional warmth comes from the sunlight reflected from the surface of the Rhine.

Pictures: Images of the Roter Hang in 2011

The Vineyards

Weingut Schatzel’s vineyard area is small, just 5 hectares, with the single vineyards Heiligenbaum, Hipping, Ölberg and Pettenthal in the Red Slope. Riesling accounts for 70%, with the remainder made up by Silvaner and Spätburgunder. In the vineyard, Kai follows ecological principles.

Dinner and Wine Tasting at Weingut Schaetzel

We then moved to the Schaetzel Estate were we had dinner in the lovely garden of the Weingut Schaetzel and went through Kai Schaetzel’s current wine portfolio.

Pictures: At the 60th Birthday Party

Tasting Notes of Panos Kakaviatos

Here are Panos’ tasting notes.

“ReinWeiss 2011. Has a sweet mineral aroma. The palate is tasty, I noted just a slight bit of residual sugar (5.5 grams) but there is good salinity to match. Nothing profound, but for €5.80, a fine bottle of wine.

KabiNett Riesling 2011. I like the nose more here, has more mineral character, albeit with a touch of wet sock. There is a bit of carbon like spritz, oh so light. I was surprised to see the 10.5% alcohol on the back label, as the wine did not seem to be too sweet at all. Nice balance.

Pictures: My Granddaughter Lorelei Schiller in the Backyard. See for Loreley Wines from the Mittelrhein Area: The Wines of Loreley, Germany and here

Reinlös Riesling 2010. The best nose so far, more precise, and a tasty palate that exudes an herbal freshness that is very appealing. A lovely wine, and well worth the price of admission.

ReinSchiefer Riesling 2010. Simply meaning Red Slate Riesling. Here is perhaps the best overall wine tasted today – when price is taken into account. For less than €10 per bottle, you get a tobacco mineral like nose, fine intensity, a lingering finish and excellent backbone coming from quite elevated acidity that is nevertheless unaggressive. I bought three bottles without much thought. The grapes come from various parts of his vineyard, including the red slope “and represents the medium range,” Kai explained.

Pictures: At the Tasting Bar with Kai Schaetzel

Heiligenbaum Riesling 2010. This one costs €15 per bottle and comes from a south-facing vineyard but where there is an ample draft of wind, so it is actually a cooler vineyard. The result is a subtle wine on the nose – not as expressive as the above – with good sap on the palate. The overall balance seems just a touch disjointed, with sweetness and acidity battling it out, if just to a certain extent.

Pettenthal Riesling 2010. A magnificent wine, the best of all, exuding floral aromas, quite delicate on the nose. The palate is powerful in that it has very high acidity – 8.5 grams – but that is well integrated overall. Certainly a wine that will be better in a few years, but even now, it seems to approach an artistic expression. I can understand why the wine is already sold in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Just €20 per bottle – if you can find it.”

In the Vaulted Underground Wine Cellar with Kai Schaetzel

Pictures: In the Old Vaulted Underground Cellar with Kai Schaetzel in 2011

We finished off at Weingut Schaetzel with a visit of the impressive, very old vaulted underground wine cellar.

“The fermentation takes place in this 800 years old cellar” explained Kai. “For the fermentation, each wine gets its own oak barrel. Most of the barrels are 600 or 1,200 liters in size and up to 50 years old.” There are about 50 oak barrels in Schaetzel’s vaulted underground cellar.

Pictures: In the Wine Cellar: Matthias Ehrlich, Ex-Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo and Panos Kakaviatos. See more on Matthias Ehrlich: In the Glass: The Wines of the Industry Giant “United Internet Media AG” Board Member Matthias Ehrlich

Kai concluded by saying: “In a way, we are quite old-fashioned. We use the old methods of our grandfathers. The continuous monitoring and adaptation of the strategy, if necessary, is very time consuming and complex. Overall, each individual wine is the sum of a lot of what Mother Nature did and many small human decisions. Sometimes the progress is in looking back. A prudent combination of old methods with modern processes guide our way of making our wines.”

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