Monday, March 31, 2014

"Wurzelwerk" Goes America: 3 Vineyards, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines

Picture: Johannes Hasselbach, Alwin Jurtschitsch and Max von Kunow in Washington DC

“Wurzelwerk und Winzers Beitrag” (Root Work and Winemaker’s Contribution) is a fascinating and much talked about project of 4 winemaker friends/relatives from 3 world class wineries in Germany and in Austria.

Max von Kunow (Weingut von Hövel, Saar, Germany), Johannes Hasselbach (Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany) and Alwin + Stefanie Jurtschitsch (Weingut, Jurtschitsch, Kamptal, Austria) shared a portion of their 2012 Riesling grapes with the other 2 wineries and vinified the own portion as well as the 2 portions from the other 2 wineries into 3 separate wines. Thus, they made a total of 9 different wines.

Picture: The Wurzelwerk Team (Stefanie Jurtschitsch, nee Hasselbach, was not be able to join us in Washington DC)

In March 2014, they (except for Stefanie Jurtschitsch – expecting a baby) came for about a week to the US. The main reason was the New York City presentation of their estates at the David Bowler Portfolio tasting. They used the trip to present their Wurzelwerk project to the American public. The March 18 tasting in Washington DC, organized by Rudi Wiest Selections and ombiasy PR and WineTours, was the central event in the US.

Special Wine Event on March 18, 2014, in Washington DC with "Wurzelwerk": 3 Terroirs, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines

Pictures: Wurzelwerk went Underground. The Tasting took Place in the Basement (Domaine Wine Cellars)

This posting is the second posting in a mini-series covering Wurzelwerk and the 3 contributing wineries:

Special Wine Event on March 18, 2014, in Washington DC with "Wurzelwerk": 3 Terroirs, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines
"Wurzelwerk" Goes America: 3 Vineyards, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines
Weingut Gunderloch – The New Generation: Owner Johannes Hasselbach in Washington DC, US
The Wines of Stefanie and Alwin Jurtschitsch, Weingut Jurtschitsch, Kamptal, Austria
Weingut von Hoevel – The New Generation: Max von Kunow in Washington DC, US

4 Winemakers and 3 Wineries

Stefanie and Alwin Jurtschitsch - Weingut Jurtschitsch

David Bowler (US Importer of Weingut Jurtschitsch): Over the past generation, the Jurtschitsch winery in Langenlois, Kamptal, has grown into one of the most prominent top wineries in Austria. Having being run by the three brothers Edwin, Paul and Karl Jurtschitsch, the family-owned winery has now been passed on to the younger generation, to Alwin Jurtschitsch and his partner Stefanie Hasselbach.

This family business succession has been prepared thoroughly. The couple travelled around the world, gathering experience in New Zealand and Australia. Working as interns in famed wineries in France, they got to know the French school of the Old Wine World. “It was a wonderful time and we learnt a lot. Now, we can put the ideas and the experience we have gained into practice back home in the Kamptal”, explains Alwin Jurtschitsch.

Pictures: The 3 of them getting ready

A first step was the change-over to an organic cultivation of the family-owned vineyards. It was followed by a reduction of the wine-growing sites so that they could concentrate of the first-class appellations of the Kamp Tal. And all this went smoothly and with a great deal of sensitivity and respect for tradition.

The wine philosophy also underwent a transformation: “Our wine style became more ‘polarising‘, characterised by the idea of terroirs without compromise”, says Stefanie Hasselbach.

They produce wines which let the vineyards and soils speak for themselves, even about the winegrower who cares for them. “Yes, we are farmers”, Alwin Jurtschitsch stresses, “this is our work, our tradition and handcraft in the best sense of the word.” In the cellar, all this is turned into a work of art. The wines shine in multi-faceted elegance, offering drinking pleasure at highest level without being baroque and heavy. The Grüner Veltliner wines interpret the Kamp Valley’s spiciness at its finest, while the Rieslings impress with their crystalline minerality. The renowned Gault Millau wine guide most recently called the Jurtschitsch winery “the most exciting one in Langenlois at present”!

Pictures: Small talk before the tasting

Max von Kunow - Weingut von Hoevel

David Bowler (US Importer of Weingut von Hoevel): Baron Eberhard “Adt” von Kunow is the owner and proprietor of the small but wonderful von Hovel estate. He made the wines there from 1973 to 2010; however, after a debilitating stroke (from which we are pleased to report he has largely recovered), his son Maximilian (the 7th generation) took charge of the winemaking. Max runs the estate along increasingly organic methods, and like many in his generation, also seeks to create great dry wines. But von Hovel remains a haven for the hauntingly delicate style of fruity Rieslings unique to the Saar river valley, the coolest growing area in Germany. These are crystalline, low alcohol wines from the “old school,” teeming with minerals and flowers in their youth, and often petrolly in their later years. They represent some of the finest values in the Rudi Wiest portfolio.

Picture: Presenting the Wurzelwerk Project - Johannes Hasselbach, Molly Sweeny (Rudi Wiest Selections), Alwin Jurtschitsch, Max von Kunow and Annette Schiller (Ombiasy PR and WineTours)

The von Hövel estate has ownership in the following vineyards; all planted 100% to Riesling:

Oberemmeler Hütte – (17.5 Acres) a monopole of the estate – very light soil, weathered slate, it produces some of the most delicate, subtle, yet steely Rieslings in Germany.

Scharzhofberg – (7.5 acres) deeper, heavier soil, strong weathered grey slate with high proportion of rocks and gravel (70%), it produces more masculine wines

Oberemmeler Rosenberg – the estate owns over 6 acres of the “filet” piece also known as the Rosenkamm, which has many old vine scattered throughout. For example, the 2011 Riesling Estate Spätlese “R” was selected from only those old vines with a yield of only 10hl/ha!

Kanzemer Hörecker – (barely 1 acre) monopole – one of the smallest yet greatest vineyards in the Saar, grey green slate with a proportion clay and red soil.

The estate also owns small portions of the heavy soiled Oberemmeler Karlsberg.

The von Hövel estate produces 5,000 cs and is a founding member of the Mosel VDP. Adt von Kunow was for many years the auctioneer for the annual VDP auction in Trier.

The upcoming Germany (North) tour by ombiasy will visit Max von Kunow and his winery.

See here:
3 Wine Tours by ombiasy Coming up in 2014: Germany-North, Germany-South and Bordeaux 

Johannes Hasselbach - Weingut Gunderloch

It all started in 1890, when the banker Carl Gunderloch purchased the Gunderloch manor house in Nackenheim. As the story goes, he used to trek from Gundersblum, his place of birth, to his bank in Mainz. On these journeys he carefully observed how the sun played off the hills along the Rhein Terrace. Based on these observations he purchased vineyard property that appeared to collect sunlight most efficiently and founded the Gunderloch Estate. Today, the Estate is still in the hands of the Gunderloch family.

Pictures: Listening

The Gunderloch Estate also has an interesting tie to the German dramatist Carl Zuckmaier. Zuckmaier, who became a Hollywood screenwriter, was born in Nackenheim and a friend of Carl Gunderloch. Zuckmaier not only wrote the screenplay for the film "The Blue Angel", but also the plays "The Captain from Koepenick" and "The Devils General". He also used the Gunderloch estate for the setting, and Carl Gunderloch as the main character for his very first play "Der froehliche Weinberg" (the jolly vineyard). In this play Zuckmaier renamed Carl Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" which is where the brand name used on the Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" Kabinett is borrowed from.

The Estate has over 18 hectares of vineyards. In Nackenheim, there are holdings in the Rothenberg (Riesling), the Engelsberg (Riesling, Silvaner, Ruländer and Gewürztraminer) and the Schmitts Kapellchen (Scheurebe and Müller-Thurgau). In Nierstein, there are holdings in the Pettenthal and Hipping both planted with Riesling and the Paterberg with Ruländer and Müller-Thurgau.

Overall the vines on the estate have an average age of 25 years, and Riesling predominates as all but 20% of Gunderloch's vines are of this variety. The remainder is mainly Pinot Blanc (5%) and Pinot Gris (5%).

Vineyard practices include hand cultivation, hand harvesting and low yields with an average of 50 hl/ha for the estate as a whole. Once the fruit reaches the winery it is crushed gently without destemming, and then fed by gravity to the vats where it sees a slow, temperature-controlled fermentation to preserve the fruit character of the wines.

Picture: Presenting

The property and vineyards have remained in family ownership since the days of Carl Gunderloch, who died in 1935, the estate passing first to Gunderloch's granddaughter Elizabeth Usinger and her husband. They remained at the helm until 1965, when their son Carl Otto took on the management of the estate. Until recently, his eldest daughter, Agnes Hasselbach-Usinger and her husband, Fritz Hasselbach, were in charge. Today, Johannes Hasselbach is at the helm of Weingut Gunderloch.

For more, see:
Visiting Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach at their Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

The upcoming Germany (South) tour by ombiasy will visit Johannes Hasselbach and his winery.

See here:
3 Wine Tours by ombiasy Coming up in 2014: Germany-North, Germany-South and Bordeaux 


The Jurtschitsch couple met and studied togather at the Geisenheim University in Germany. When Alwin and Stefanie got married, Max von Kunow, who had studied with them at the Geisenheim University, was their best man. Through Stefanie Jurtschitsch (nee Hasselbach), Johannes Hasselbach was introduced to Alwin Jurtschitsch and Max von Kunow. Before taking over their respective wineries, each traveled and interned at wineries from Australia and New Zealand to Canada.

The Idea

The idea is simple: Each of them harvests on the same day 1500 kg of grapes from a top vineyard. Each of them shares 500 kg of the grapes with the others and keeps 500 kg. Each of them vinifies the 3 batches separately in his/her cellar.

Pictures: Tasting and Discussing

The Implementation

The implementation was a bit more complicated: To start with, the 4 winemakers had to find 3 parcels where the grapes were expected to be ripe at about the same time and could be harvested the same day. The harvest date had to be shiften several times for several reasons. After harvest, the grapes were allowed to macerate for 13 hours. 2/3 of the grapes underwent maceration on a truck, while being transported to the other wineries. Upon arrival at the wineries, the grapes were pressed and fermented with ambient yeast in 330 liter stainless steel tanks. Each winery produced 3 times 300 half liter bottles. Total: 2700 bottles.

The Vineyards

The grapes come from 3 of the best Riesling vineyards in the world: (1) Scharzhofberg at Weingut von Hövel (gray slate); (2) Nackenheimer Rothenberg at Weingut Gunderloch (red shale); and (3) Zöbinger Heiligenstein at Weingut Jurtschitsch (sandstone).

Pictures: Tasting and Discussing

Maximum Standardization

When I heard about the project for the first time, I thought that Max von Kunow had made his wines in a typical low alcohol, fruity-sweet style, Alwin and Steffi in a bone dry style and that Johannes perhaps could have experimented with fermentation in barrique. But this turned out not to be the case. By contrast, to the extent possible, they all did the same in the cellar. They all fermented in stainless-steel tanks, they all fermented the wines in a bone-dry style. The all used the same yeast – indigineus yeasts from the vineyard. The wines are what some people would call “natural” wines - minimal intervention wines.

The Tasting

We tasted the wines in 3 different flights: First, the 3 Scharzhofberg (Saar) wines, then the 3 Nackenheimer Rothenberg (Rheinhessen) wines and finally the 3 Heiligenstein (Kamptal) wines. Within each flight, the Weingut von Hoevel wine was the first wine, the Weingut Gunderloch wine the second wine and the Weingut Jurtschitsch wine the last wine.

Picture: The 9 Wines

As noted earlier, the difference in the wines was much less than I had expected due to the massive standardization of the fermentation process. At the same time, given that massive standardization, the differences in the wines were quite amazing.

The first flight - the 3 Scharzhofberg wines - was the leanest, with a tight acidity structure. The 3 Rothenberg wines were broader and more powerful, fruitier. The third flight – the 3 Heiligenstein wines – was the most mineral flight.

The second wine in each flight - the wines fermented in the Gunderloch wine cellar – all had a touch of sweetness and were the most opulent wines, while those fermented in the von Hoevel wine cellar – the first wine in each flight - came across as more filgran, bone dry and stealy. The wines fermented in the Jurtschitsch cellar – the last wine in each flight - were the most closed wines, with herbal, wet wood notes.

Overall, the wines showed more a wine cellar touch than a vineyard touch. This may change over time.

Pictures: Tasting and Discussing

Classification Issues

With the grapes being grown in one country and fermented in another one, all kinds of labeling issues came up. The wines had to be classified as European Table Wine. The famous vineyard names could not be utilized; instead, fantasy names appear on the label. Finally, the grape variety (Riesling) does not appear on the label. While all this indicates that you have a cheap wine in the bottle, the Wurzelwerk case with 9 0.5 liter bottles is not at all cheap. It sells for Euro 300 in Germany and Austria and was offered for $630 at the Washington DC tasting (by MacArthur Beverages).


Thanks, Alwin, Johannes and Max, for a great evening.

Pictures: Bye-bye and Good Night

schiller-wine: Related Postings

3 Wine Tours by ombiasy Coming up in 2014: Germany-North, Germany-South and Bordeaux

German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013

Special Wine Event on March 18, 2014, in Washington DC with "Wurzelwerk": 3 Terroirs, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines 

Visiting Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach at their Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, German

Weingut Pawis in the Saale Unstrut Region - A Profile, Germany

Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

Impromptu Winetasting with Alexander Jung, Weingut Jakob Jung, Erbach, Rheingau, Germany

A Tasting at Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, Rheingau, with Angela and Peter Jakob Kühn, Germany

Tasting with Rita Busch at Weingut Clemens Busch in the Mosel Valley, Germany

Ernst Loosen Presented his Wines at Weingut Dr. Loosen, Bernkastel-Kues, Mosel Valley, Germany

Cellar Tour, Vineyard Tour, Tasting and Lunch with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley, Germany

An Afternoon with Riesling Star Winemaker Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff in Oberhausen in the Nahe Valley, Germany

The World Meets at Weingut Weegmueller, Pfalz, Germany

Tasting with Johannes and Christoph Thoerle, Weingut Thoerle in Saulheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

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