Thursday, September 5, 2013

Touring (and Visiting 4 Wineries in) the Württemberg Wine Region (Zabergäu), Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Ernst Dautel, Weingut Dautel

I visited with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim the Württemberg wine region for 2 days. More specifically, we spent 2 days in the Zabergäu and had 4 extensive tastings - at Staatsweingut Weinsberg, Weingut Dautel, Weingut Wachstetter and Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen.

The Zaber is a minor tributary of the River Neckar in Württemberg , Germany. It is some 22 km in length and joins the Neckar from the west at Lauffen am Neckar. It has given its name to the Zabergäu, the area between the Heuchelberg and Stromberg hills.

Picture: The Zaber

Wine Region Württemberg

Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 German states that make up Germany. Baden-Wuerttemberg is one of the growth centers of Germany due to its booming export industries. Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are prime examples. Baden-Württemberg comprises two wine growing areas, Baden and Württemberg.

Wine from Württemberg is mainly red wine. The main production area is along the Neckar River between Stuttgart and Heilbronn. There are also vineyards on Lake Constance that belong to Württemberg.

More wine is consumed here (per capita) than anywhere else in Germany - actually twice as much as in the rest of Germany. The German poet Friedrich von Schiller wrote already several centuries ago: “A Württemberger without wine--is that a real Württemberger?”

The Trollinger is the most popular variety, which is grown almost exclusively in Württemberg. It is a nice table wine that goes well with the local food. If you are looking for a premium wine, Lemberger (known as Blaufränkisch in Austria and Kékfrankos in its Hungarian homeland) is the grape variety to go for. The Lemberger made by Weingut Dautel and Weingut Wachstetter, which we had during the tour, can compete with the best red wines in the world.

With 11,000 hectares under vine, Württemberg is Germany's fourth largest wine region. Winemaking cooperatives are very common in Württemberg, number around 70, and are responsible for almost 75% of the region's production.

Wines from Württemberg are hard to find in the US. This is partly explained by the production structure, which is dominated by co-operatives. These co-operatives are known for producing top class wines. But they tend to be less aggressive in terms of penetrating new markets.

Wine region: Baden and Württemberg, Germany 

Schiller in Württemberg

Schiller, or Schillerwein, is a specialty from Württemberg. It is made 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.

Pictures: A “Viertele” of Schillerwein from Staatsweingut Weinsberg at Weinhaus Stetter in Stuttgart

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.

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.

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.

For more on Schiller, see:
A “Viertele” of Schillerwein at Weinhaus Stetter in Stuttgart, Wuerttemberg, Germany
Schillerwein---a German Speciality
Schiller in the Glass in Stuttgart, Germany

Staatsweingut Weinsberg

Staatsweingut Weinsberg is a winery owned and run by the Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg. Germany is a federal state with 3 levels of government: federal, state and local. At the federal level, there is no government ownership in the wine industry, but there is extensive involvement at the state level. In addition, there is government ownership at the local level.

Pictures: At Staatsweingut Weinsberg

At the state level, there are 2 kinds of involvements. First, there are wine estates that are government owned, but operate like private wineries. There are five such wine estates in Germany and all of them are large. Second, there are government wine estates that produce and sell wine, but also fulfill other functions, notably research and education. The second group I understand is treated like government departments and is accounted for in the national accounts in the government sector.

For more, see:
The Role of Government - Government Owned Wineries in Germany

Staatsweingut Weinsberg falls into the second category; it is a department of the Government of Baden-Wuerttemberg. It is part of a school and research institute, which was initiated and planned by Immanuel August Ludwig Dornfeld (1796-1869), the father of the well known Dornfelder grape variety, and built in 1868 as the "Royal School of Viticulture" under King Charles I of Württemberg (1823-1891), the first viticultural school of Germany.

Today, between 30 to 50 students are at the school with the aim to become a Weinbautechniker (vocational winemaker training). This is a winemaker degree below the bachelor level. The school also trains coopers.

As for research, new grape varieties developed here include Acolon, Cabernet Dorio, Cabernet Dorsa, Cabernet Mitos, Dornfelder, Kerner, and Silcher.

Staatsweingut Weinsberg has 40 hectares of vines, some of which are planted in the estate’s solely owned Weinsberger Schemelsberg and Abstatter Burg Wildeck. Riesling, Lemberger and Pinots dominate.

Picture: Starting with a Justinus K.

Managing Director of the Staatsweingut Weinsberg is Günter Bäder. Gerhard Wächter is the Winemaker. Annual production amounts to 20.000 cases. The Staatsweingut also produces sparkling wine and spirits. The Staatsweingut Weinsberg is a member of the VDP, the association of German elite winemakers.

Lunch: Waldschenke Hoernle in Stromberg-Heuchelberg

Pictures: Annette Schiller (Ombiasy Wine Tours) and Katharina Schiller at Waldschenke Hoernle

Weingut Dautel

Weingut Dautel is in Bönnigheim and run by Ernst and Christian Dautel. Ernst Dautel is in his mid-60s. He just transferred formal ownership of the winery to his son Christian, who studied at Geisenheim Collegue and after a number of internships around the world is ready to take over. Ernst Dautel also studied at Geisenheim in the 1970s and then took over from his parents, who had previously delivered their grapes to the local cooperative. In the 1970s, it was a very small operation with just 1 hectare of vines. Since then, Ernst Dautel has expanded to 10.5 hectares of vineyards, all on the eastern extension of the Stromberg hill.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Weingut Dautel

Right from the beginning, Ernst Dautel went his own way. He was one of the first in Germany to ferment and age his red wine in barriques. Also, in the 1990s, he was one of the first winemakers to produce premium blends in Germany, such as the „Kreation Rot“, while Wuerttemberg was and still is dominated by single variety wines. Also, in 1988 he started to plant Chardonnay and other international grape varieties in Germany, which was very rare at the time.

Pictures: Ernst Dautel with Annette Schiller, Christian Schiller and Helmut Seufert

Today, red grapes account for 60%, including Lemberger, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Samtrot, and white grapes account for 40%, including Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. This represent - compared with the rest of Wuerttemberg - a high share of white wines.

Picture: Ernst Dautel

As a member of the VDP, Weingut Dautel is classifying its wines according to the new VDP classification (Gutswein, Ortswein, Erste Lage Wein and Grosse Lage Wein). But there are still elements of his previous classification (1 to 4 stars). Four star wines were wines aged for 2 years in barrique.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Christian Dautel

In the vineyard, Ernst Dautel explained, he is moving to organic vine growing. He has gone a long way but is not yet there. He practices natural vegetation and integrated use of beneficial insects for pest control.

In the cellar, he follows a minimal intervention approach. Pumping and filtratings is kept to a minimum. The wine is made in stainless steel tanks, large wood casks (“Stueckfaesser”) and small barrique barrels, depending on the wine.

Picture: The Wines of Weingut Dautel

Ernst Dautel: “The basis for our strong and characterful red wines is a long, classic maceration. Because of their nice tannic structure, our red wines age very well. For our 4 star wines, the maceration is followed by barrel aging for almost two years, which contributes to a harmonious integration of the oak note. As for the white wines, preserving the flavors and the fine acidity are important for us. A long aging on the lees provides the finesse that characterizes our white wines. You can discover the art of "assemblage in our two white wine blends and their two red wine cuvée partners. A perfect combination of the individual notes of the different grape varieties in the blend is the secret of these great wines. "

Dinner: Dorfkrug in Leingarten 

This is the second restaurant of Uwe Straub, who also owns and runs the Loewen (16 toques Gault Millau).

Weingut Wachtstetter

Weingut Wachstetter is in Pfaffenberg, right in the middle of the village. It is a traditional family operation, with 3 generations living under one roof and working together. Weingut Wachstetter is in particular known for its premium Lembergers (known as Blaufränkisch in Austria and Kékfrankos in its Hungarian homeland).

Picture: Rainer and Annette Wachtstetter with Christian G.E. Schiller

Today, Rainer Wachtstetter is at the helm of Weingut Wachtstetter. He owns and runs the winery now in the 4th generation. It all started with Karl and Ernst Combé, the great-grandfather and the grandfather of Rainer. In particular Ernst left a strong impression on Rainer, which explains why one the Wachstetter product lines is called Ernst Combé line.

Picture: Annette Schiller with Rainer Wachtstetter

In 1979, Ernst Combé - with his son-in-law Roland and daughter Anni – decided to move their wine production by beginning to bottle and sell directly his wine. When Rainer Wachtstetter joint in 1987 the family winery at the age of 19, it was clear that he would push on in that direction. Indeed, since then, the vineyard area has expanded from 3 to 17 hectares and Weingut Wachstetter has become one of the best red wine producers in Wuerttemberg, if not in Germany.

Rainer Wachtstetter is in charge of winemaking today. He has a degree of Weinbautechniker. His wife Annette looks after sales and the accounts, father Roland and mother Anni continue to help. Rainer and Annette have 3 children, Felix, Louis und Anna; Felix helped when we were there.

Pictures: At Weingut Wachtstetter

Rainer Wachtstetter is a founding member of the winemaker group Junges Schwaben; the group was awarded the ArtVinum Prize in 2010 as Europe’s Best Up-and-coming Winemakers. In 2009, Rainer Wachtstetter became a member of the VdP, the association of German elite winemakers.

The specialty of Weingut Wachtstetter is the Lemberger. Rainer Wachtstetter devotes 35% of the vineyard area to this grape variety. He definitely has become one of the best Lemberg producers in Baden-Württemberg.

Stuart Pigott: “Yes, I know that you’re probably asking yourselves who the hell Rainer Wachtstetter is and if a red wine from Württemberg can really be worth recommending this highly, but this is a rare bargain amongst „serious“ red wines. Wachtstetter has been perfecting the making of red wines from the Lemberger grape for over a decade and the result is this medium-bodied, supply tannic dry wine with a wonderful bouquet in which elderberry, plum, baking spices and something floral mingle. Where’s my glass?”

Pictures: Tasting in the Adler

Besides Lemberger and (of course) Trollinger, Rainer Wachtstetter also makes Pinot Noir, Samtrot and Dornfelder. Rainer Wachtstetter is not only a specialist in red wines, but also makes excellent white wines, including Riesling.

Picture: Weingut Wachstetter Wines

Of course, as a member of the VDP, Weingut Wachtstaetter is following the new VDP classification. But you can still find elements of the old Weingut Wachstetter classification. Rainer Wachstetter has devoted a series of Riesling, Spätburgunder and Lemberger at the middle level to his 3 children Anna, Louis und Felix. The Ernst Combé series with red wines fermented and aged in barrique represents ultr-premium wines. The Grosses Gewaechs from the Grosse Lage Pfaffenhofener Hohenberg ( Riesling and Lemberger) represent ultra-premium dry wines.

Since the beginning of the 1900s, the small and cosy Gasthaus Adler – a wine tavern - has been an integral part of the Weingut Wachtstetters. Today, it is only open durng a few weekends in the spring and the autumn. We had our tasting in the Gasthaus Adler, which has room for 60 guests. We did not eat there, but Rainer Wachtstetter explained that the food is very much local food. In particular, the Gasthaus Adler has been known for many decades for its superb Spanferkel, with home-made Spätzle und Kartoffelsalat.

Lunch: Waldhorn am Schloss

Picture: Landgasthof Waldhorn

Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen

The Weingaertner Cleebronn-Güglingen is in Cleebronn. It is a co-operative with about 500 members, founded in 1951. The vineyard area totals about 250 hectares in the Michaelsberg in Cleebronn and in the Kaisersberg in Güglingen. As far as red varieties are concerned, Weingaertner Cleebronn-Güglingen make Lemberger, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Trollinger, Acolon, Samtrot and Trollinger and the white varieties: Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muller-Thurgau, Traminer, Sylvaner and Kerner.

Picture: At Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen

In 2008, the Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen co-operative was on its knees, but has staged a remarkable comeback. Last year, it was named as “Rising Star of the Year” by the Gault Millau wine guide.

In 2009, as part of the restructuring efforts, the wine portfolio was streamlined. There are now 3 lines of wines. The premium line "emotion CG" (CG = Cleebronn-Güglingen) is produced from old vines of selected parcels with considerable yield reduction. The red wines are matured after long maceration in French barriques and bottled without filtration. The other two lines are "St. Michael "(base segment) and "Duke Christopher "(middle segment). About two million bottles of wine are produced annually.

Pictures: Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen

The wines come from the Michaelsberg in Cleebronn and in the Kaisersberg in Güglingen. The Cleebronner Michaelsberg is part of the foothills of the forested Stromberg region. Its isolated location and unusually mild and balanced climate offer excellent conditions for wine making. The Michaelsberg gained historical significance owing to St. Michaels Chapel, which was erected on this hill in early Christian times.

Pictures: Michaelsberg

Gault Millau: “Our last year's "Discovery of the Year"confirmed the award impressively this year. It is absolutely exemplary, with care in that about 280 hectares large co-operative even entry level wines are made. Already the very reasonably priced St. Michael wines offer great every day drinking pleasure. In the middle range, the Herzog Christoph wines are ainws with a very good price quality ration. At the top level, the Emotions GC Riesling convinces with tropical fruit, the Lemberger with character and complexity and the Pinot Noir with a distinctive backbone. The impressive blend of this line is among the best red wines of the region. A sensation is the Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese: With its density, complexity and balance, this is probably the best noble-sweet wine of the last years in Wuerttemberg - Chapeau!”

We had a delicious “Winzerplatte” at the Weingaertner Cleebronn-Guegglingen for dinner.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Role of Government - Government Owned Wineries in Germany

One of the Fathers of the German Red Wine Revolution: Weingut Huber in Baden

Wine region: Baden and Württemberg, Germany

In the Glass: A 2007 Pinot Noir from the Gault Millau Shooting Star of the Year - Estate Baron Gleichenstein, Germany

Wine basics: Field Blends

Wine Maker Count of Bentzel-Sturmfeder in Frankfurt am Main Presenting his Wines from Wuerttemberg, Germany

A “Viertele” of Schillerwein at Weinhaus Stetter in Stuttgart, Wuerttemberg, Germany

Schillerwein---a German Speciality

Schiller in the Glass in Stuttgart, Germany

1 comment:

  1. Ich war auch hier :-)