Thursday, October 25, 2012

Schiller in the Glass in Stuttgart, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with a Schiller

My daughter Katharina is currently doing a Masters at the University Hohenheim in Stuttgart in the region of Württemberg in the south of Germany. There, you can find a wine that has the same name as my daughter and I have – Schiller. It is produced by blending red and white grapes before fermentation. Ideally, the Schiller is a field blend, i.e. red and white grapes are planted in mixed lots in the vineyards and are harvested and fermented together. I am not aware of any producer who makes his Schiller as a field blend, but in the old days it was the rule. And it was a very special field blend as it comprised red and white grapes.

The name of the wine has nothing to do with the famous German poet Friedrich von Schiller (although he is from Württemberg). The wine got its name from the verb “schillern”. The verb "schillern" means "to scintillate". Schiller, or Schillerwein, is thus a wine with a scintillating color, reflecting the fact that the wine is a blend of red and white grapes.

Rosé and Schiller

There are basically two ways of producing wine that is in-between red and white wine and often called rosé wine. First, using red grapes, but limiting the skin contact of the juice during fermentation so that only a small part of the red color is extracted from the skin and the wine thus has a rosé color. Second, blending white and red grapes before fermentation or red and white wines after fermentation.

Pictures: Schiller in a Wine Tavern in Stuttgart, Germany

Most of the Rosés on the market these days are wines that are produced 100 percent out of red grapes. Blending finished white and red wines is outlawed in many countries. Interestingly, it is allowed for producing Rosé Champagne and other sparkling wine in France. Blending white and red grapes before fermentation to make rosé-type wines is a specialty in a number of countries, including Germany.

Weinrallye #56 Gemischter Satz – Field Blend

This posting is being published as part of the Weinrallye, a monthly blog event in Germany. Participating wine bloggers - mainly in Germany - are all releasing postings today under the heading “Gemischter Satz – Field Blend”. Weinrallye is the brainchild of Thomas Lippert, a winemaker and wine blogger based in Heidelberg, Germany. The first wine rally took place in 2007. Thomas Lippert is the author of the wine blog Winzerblog. This month's wine rally is organized by the Baccantus  Blog, which is run by Stefan Schwytz and Matthias Lubner.

Some people argue that Gemischter Satz is the true terroir wine. They say that winemakers can resort today to all sorts of tricks if the wine does not come out the way they want it. They can add acid if necessary, or tannins, or color, compensating in the wine cellar for what they did not get from nature in the vineyard. In the old days before the advanced techniques of today became available, they had to think ahead about what their vineyard would give them. One could say that in the way they planted the vineyard you could see their vision of what would make the most complete wine. Going back to Schiller, if they wanted to make a Rose-type wine, they had to plant red and white grapes.

In France, Jean-Michel Deiss from the Domaine Marcell Deiss is a well known proponent of this approach. Jean-Michel Deiss believes that the truest expression of Alsatian terroir comes from field blends. He has planted his best vineyards with numerous grapes, which he harvests and vinifies together. Jean-Michel Deiss treats them as a true field blend, and consequently harvests, vinifies and blends them together. Jean-Michel Deiss' approach is viewed by many as radical. He argues that his goal is a return to the methods, style, and traditions that gave Alsace wines such fame and fortune from the Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century.

Indeed, the Gemischter Satz practice was common throughout Central Europe in a time when most growers had very small vineyards. To reduce the risk of having no grapes - and no income - at all, they planted many varieties. It also was viewed as an approach that produces over the years a wine with consistent quality. To achieve this, they mixed varieties with a different ripening time and with different acidity levels, with a view of minimizing risk and ensuring a consistent quality of wine.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Wine basics: Field Blends

With the WienWein Winemakers in Vienna in the Heurigen Drinking Gemischter Satz Wine

Woelffer Wines from Long Island, New York State

Schillerwein---a German Speciality

In the Glass: 2008 Gemischter Satz, Richard Zahel, Vienna, Austria

In the Glass: 2007 Edelzwicker

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