Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Small, Premium Sekt Producer: Sektkellerei Bardong in the Rheingau, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Norbert and Renate Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

Norbert and Renate Bardong own and run a small Sekt House in Geisenheim, in the Rheingau in Germany. They came over to Frankfurt – a 45 minutes drive by car - to present their Sekt House and their Sekt portfolio to the Frankfurt Slow Food Group. We tasted 6 different Sekts: 3 of them were Bardong Sekts from their portfolio and 3 of them were Sekts, not on sale: The same base Sekt with different dosages, to introduce us to the skill of fine-tuning a Sekt with the right level of dosage.

Sekt in Germany

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany. Sparkling wine produced in Germany is called Sekt.

Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt Houses that only make Sekt and (iii) wine makers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt Houses tend to be in the demy-sweet and sweet range, while the Sekts of smaller estates and the wine makers are mostly in the brut and extra brut range. The Bardong Sekts are mostly brut, with some being extra brut.

Pictures: Norbert Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

There is a dozen or so large Sekt Houses in Germany, most of them established in the 1800s at the same time as the French Champagne Houses. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the Champagne Houses, the large German Sekt Houses all moved to the charmat method (in a tank) as main method of the second fermentation after World War II. Like the Champagne Houses, Sekt Houses do not own vineyards, but purchase the base wine from wine makers. More than three quarters of the base wine used to make Sekt is imported from other EU countries, essentially Italy, France and Spain. Sekt can only be labeled as Deutscher Sekt if it is made exclusively from German grapes, which is rare in the case of the large and the smaller Sekt Houses. Most of the Sekt Houses have beautiful chateau-type facilities with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage. Overall, these Sekts are reasonably priced, are of good quality, but with the introduction of the charmat method are no longer in the same class as their counterparts in the champagne region.

Like the large Sekt Houses, the smaller Sekt Houses – and Sektkellerei Bardong belongs to this group - do not own vineyards, but also buy the base wine from wine makers. They also tend to have a long history and often links to the champagne region, beautiful facilities and old cellars for the second fermentation and storage. The big difference is that they typically have not gone the route of tank fermentation but continue to ferment in the méthode traditionnelle.

Pictures: Norbert and Renate Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

Finally, there is a number of top quality winemakers, who, in addition, to their still wines, have started to include Sekts in their portfolio. These Sekts are typically vintage Sekts, from a specified vineyard, made of specific grapes, often Riesling, in the méthode champenoise and with little dosage (brut or extra but). While the first fermentation typically takes place at the winery, the second fermentation is often not in the cellar of the wine maker but in the cellar of a Sekt House that bottle-ferments for other wineries. Norbert Bardong started his Sekt House that way and still makes Sekt for wine makers, but has over time established his own portfolio of Sekts. Currently, about half of his production is accounted for by Sekt made for winemakers and half for the Bardong portfolio.

See also:
German Wine Basics: Sekt

Sektkellerei Bardong

Norbert Bardong: We do not produce any cuvées, we only make lieu-dit and vintage sparkling wines. The base wines are high-quality Kabinett wines whose fine aromas are to be found in Bardong sparkling wines.

Sektkellerei Bardong was founded by Norbert Bardong in the vaults of the former sparkling wine cellars of Schloss Rheinberg and Schloss Waldeck in Geisenheim in 1984. Norbert Bardong discovered his love of sparkling wine after studying Beverage Technology at the renowned wine university in Geisenheim and completing various internships, including one in the Champagne Region. It did not take him long to reach the decision to refine the wines of his Rheingau home district by himself to produce sparkling wines using the traditional method of classic bottle fermentation.

Pictures: Norbert Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

All of the sparkling wines of Sektkellerei Bardong are produced by hand using this method in order to guarantee their high quality. The base wines for these sparkling wines are Kabinett wines. There are no cuvees at Bardong, only sparkling wines made from one grape variety, from one single vineyard and from one vintage.

For the second fermentation, Norbert Bardong explained that he adds 26 gr of sugar. This produces a pressure of 6 bar (compared with 2 bar in a car tire).

All his sparkling wines mature on the yeast for at least 36 months – just like vintage champagne – and some for even up to 20 years, which helps them to develop their very special fine bubbles, delicious lightness and wonderful mellowness. The legal minimum requirement is 9 months.

Annual production is 100000 bottles. Riesling grapes account for 75 % and Pinot Noir grapes for 15 %.

The Sekts Norbert and Renate Bardong Poured

Norbert and Renate Bardong poured 6 different Sekts: 3 of them were Bardong Sekts from their portfolio and 3 of them were Sekts, not on sale: The same base Sekt with different dosages, to introduce us to the skill of fine-tuning a Sekt with the right level of dosage.

2009 Hallgartner Jungfer, Riesling, Rheingau, brut

2006 Chardonnay, Rheingau, brut

2008 Ruedesheimer Klosterberg, Blanc de Noir, Rheingau, brut

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 4 gr/l dosage

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 8 gr/l dosage

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 12 gr/l dosage

The favorite of the group was the one with the lowest dosage. Interestingly, the least liked Sekt was the one in the middle.

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