Monday, May 5, 2014

What is a Slow Wine? German Slow Wine Tasting with Kai Wagner in Bad Homburg, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Kai Wagner in Bad Homburg, Germany

The Collegium Vini is an association of wine lovers in the greater Frankfurt area, founded in 1951, that meets regularly to taste wine together. This time, the Collegium Vini invited wine book author Kai Wagner to lead a wine tasting and to talk about his concept of slow wine and his book „Die Avantgarde der deutschen Winzer - Slow Wine und seine Erzeuger im Porträt“ (The Avantgarde of German Winemakers – Slow Wine and its Producers) ((Oekom-Verlag, München 2013). Co-author Ulrich Steeger was also present.

Slow Wine

The Slow Wine Movement grew out of the Slow Food Movement. The latter was a reaction to the fast food wave – industrialized, standardized, inexpensive food – that swept over the world during the economic upswing and globalization of the post-war area in the second half of the 1900s.

The German Slow Wine Movement is in its early stages and still in the process of defining itself. It is quite tricky. Slow wine making has to find its place within a number of other, competing concepts that all pursue similar aims: organic winemaking, biodynamic winemaking, sustainable winemaking, zero carbon footprint winemaking, zero water footprint winemaking, natural winemaking, to name the most important ones.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Slow Wine Producer Matthias Adams, Weingut von Racknitz, at 2014 Apfelwein Weltweit, see: 2014 Apfelwein Weltweit - Apple Wine World Wide - in Frankfurt, Germany: Schiller’s Favorites

Organic and Similar Concepts of Winemaking

A couple of years ago at Weingut Meinklang in Pamhagen in Austria in the stone cave below the winery with winemaker Werner Michlits, where Werner showed us his magic cow poop and other ingredients for biodynamic farming, I felt at the forefront of wine making with an ecological mindset. There are many others on this route. But these “green” winemakers come in different colors. I just tasted the Santa Julia wines of Familia Zuccardi, who produce mass wines in Argentina with organic grapes. Argentina, in general, is very well suited for organic wine making. “We practice sustainable agriculture in the vineyard” said Yann-Leon Beyer when I visited Domaine Leon Beyer in Alsace in France. The Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley produces wine according to the natural wine concept in the midst of the city of Berkeley, without owning any vineyards. Researchers have found out that from a point of view of minimizing the carbon footprint, New Yorkers should drink European wine instead of domestic wine from California. The following tries to shed some light on the different concepts of “green” wine making.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Slow Wine Producer Dr. Manfred Pruem, Weingut J.J. Pruem, in Germany. See more on Weingut J.J. Pruem: JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

Organic (Bio in German) generally means the use of natural as opposed to chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. The key is: no chemicals. Organic wines are changing the look of vineyards, literally. Whereas vineyards of the past commanded neat rows rid of all insects, rodents and weeds, organic vineyards are now replacing costly and damaging chemical sprays with environmental partnerships. Pesticides are giving way to introducing low-growing plants between vine rows that host beneficial insects that keep the pest insects in check.

Biodynamic is similar to organic farming in that both take place without chemicals, but biodynamic farming incorporates ideas about a vineyard as an ecosystem, and also accounting for things such as astrological influences and lunar cycles. Biodynamic is an approach following the rules and ideas of Austrian philosopher-scientist Rudolph Steiner.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Slow Wine Producer Steffen Christmann, Weingut A. Christmann, in Seattle, USA. See: The German Winemakers at the Forthcoming 4. Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, Washington State, USA

Sustainable farming means farming in a way that will allow for continued farming throughout the ages. In its broadest interpretation, sustainability refers to a range of practices that are not only ecologically sound, but also economically viable and socially responsible. Although nowhere defined by law, there are many certifications available for “Sustainable Wine.”

Natural: The idea behind natural wine is non-intervention and a respect for Mother Nature. Natural wines are hands-off wines produced with as little intervention as possible. Generally, the concept of natural wine relates more to what happens in the wine cellar rather than what happens in the vineyard. Again, nowhere is the term defined by law; it is left open to interpretation. Typically, only natural yeasts are used, the fermentation is slow, there is little or no use of new oak barrels; and there are no filtrations or cold stabilization.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Slow Wine Producers Lotte Pfeffer-Müller and Hans Müller, Owners of Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker. See also: Excellency and Ecology: The Wines of Gebrueder Dr. Becker in Rheinhessen, Germany

Carbon Footprint: The carbon neutral label comes from a different angle: global warming. All economic activities have a carbon footprint, including wine making. Carbon neutral wineries are trying to make a contribution to the general efforts of reducing the emission of carbon dioxide. Belgrave Park Winery in Australia, for example, is a completely carbon neutral vineyard and winery.

Water Footprint: A new thing is water footprint, reflecting the concern that the planet is moving into a period where water becomes more and more scarce.

For a primer for "green" wines see: Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

The German Slow Wine Concept

The German Slow Wine Concept is still in the process of defining itself. About a year ago, Ulrich Steger released a draft memorandum which is quite helpful in terms of understanding what he and Kai Wagner have in mind. He named 3 criteria that were critical in distinguishing slow wine from other wine, in particular industrial, mass wine:

Pictures: Kai Wagner and Ulrich Steeger, and their book: "Die Avantgarde der deutschen Winzer - Slow Wine und seine Erzeuger im Porträt“ (The Avantgarde of German Winemakers – Slow Wine and its Producers) ((Oekom-Verlag, München 2013).

First, a slow wine has a regional and cultural identity. A Riesling slow wine from the Rheingau region should taste differently than a Riesling from the Pfalz region; a 2010 slow wine should taste differently than a 2011 vintage. A slow wine producer grows those grape varieties that have proven to fit the soil type and the climatic conditions in the region.

Second, slow wine producers are artisanal wine makers. This starts in the vineyard with, for example, harvesting by hand, and continues in the wine cellar, with, for example, a preference for spontaneous fermenting.

Third, a slow wine producer is a winemaker with an ecological mindset. A slow wine producer will typically follow one of the above mentioned concepts of “green” winemaking.

The German Avantgarde of Slow Wine Producers

If you know the German wine scene, the list of slow wine producers included in their book is also helpful to understand what Kai Wagner and Ulrich Steeger have in mind, when they talk about slow wine. They grouped the selected winemakers under several headings.

Die Bio-Pioniere (The Organic Pioneers)

Weingut Brüder Dr. Becker, Ludwigshöhe • Rheinhessen
Weingut Hahnmühle, Mannweiler-Cölln • Nahe
Weingut Thorsten Melsheimer , Reil • Mosel
Weingut Pix, Ihringen • Baden
Weingut Roth, Wiesenbronn • Franken
Weingut Arndt F. Werner, Ingelheim • Rheinhessen
Weingut Wittmann, Westhofen • Rheinhessen
Weingut Zähringer, Heitersheim • Baden

Die Mentoren der Bewegung (The Mentors of the Movement)

Weingut A. Christmann, Neustadt-Gimmeldingen • Pfalz
Weingut Rudolf Fürst, Bürgstadt • Franken
Weingut Dr. Randolf Kauer, Bacharach • Mittelrhein
Weingut Joh. Jos. Prüm, Bernkastel-Wehlen • Mosel
Sekthaus Raumland, Flörsheim-Dalsheim • Rheinhessen
Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Siebeldingen • Pfalz

Mehr Slow als Öko (More Slow than Bio)

Weingut Bickel-Stumpf, Frickenhausen, • Franken
Weingut Dr. Corvers-Kauter, Oestrich-Winkel • Rheingau
Weingut Danner, Durbach • Baden
Weingut Hofmann, Röttingen • Franken
Weingut Kistenmacher-Hengerer, Heilbronn • Württemberg
Weingut Klosterhof Töplitz, Werder (Havel) • Saale-Unstrut
Weingut Martin Müllen, Traben-Trarbach • Mosel
Weingut Schlör, Wertheim-Reicholzheim • Baden

Auf dem Weg nach ganz oben (On the Way to the Very Top)

Weingut Theo Minges, Flemlingen • Pfalz
Weingut Rainer Schnaitmann, Fellbach • Württemberg
Weingut Seeger, Leimen • Baden
Weingut St. Antony, Nierstein • Rheinhessen
Weingut Jean Stodden, Rech • Ahr
Weingut Vols, Ayl/Saar • Mosel
Weingut Wagner-Stempel, Siefersheim, • Rheinhessen
Weingut Klaus Zimmerling, Dresden-Pillnitz • Sachsen

Die Unorthodoxen heute (The Non-orthodox Winemakers Today)

Weingut J.B. Becker, Walluf • Rheingau
Weingut Gysler, Alzey-Weinheim • Rheinhessen
Weingut Heymann-Löwenstein, Winningen • Mosel
Ökologischer Weinbau Krämer, Auernhofen • Franken
Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, Oestrich • Rheingau
Weingut Jürgen Leiner, Ilbesheim • Pfalz
Weingut Zehnthof Luckert, Sulzfeld • Franken

Die Quereinsteiger (The Career Changers)

Weingut von Racknitz, Odernheim • Nahe
Weingut Reverchon, Konz-Filzen • Mosel
Weingut Dr. Siemens, Serrig • Mosel
Weingut Van Volxem, Wiltingen • Mosel

Über wen sprechen wir in fünf Jahren? (Who will we talk about in 5 Years?)

Weingut Knauß, Weinstadt • Württemberg
Weingut Philipps-Mühle, St. Goar • Mittelrhein
Weingut Schmidt am Bodensee, Wasserburg • Württemberg
Weingut Sohns, Geisenheim • Rheingau
Weingut Zum Eulenturm, Briedel • Mosel

The Slow Wines Poured at the Tasting

Another interesting list is the one of the wines poured at the Collegium Vini event. Overall, these were all fascinating, outstanding wines. For many wines, however, participants had questions as to what made them slow wines.

Picture: At the Collegium Vini Tasting

To Accompany the Food:

Weingut von Racknitz Riesling Rotenfels 2011 Vol. 12,5 % 22 €

One of the winemaker from the career changer list. Co-owner Matthias Adams - who takes the lead in the cellar, while his wife is taking the lead in the vineyard - used to be a business execituve, before becoming a winemaker.


Weingut Wagner-Stempel Silvaner Siefersheimer 2012 Vol. 12,5 % 23,90 €

Weingut Luckert-Zehnthof Silvaner Creutz 2012 Vol. 13,5 % 49,00 €

Made from 80 years old vines.

Weingut Bickel-Stumpf Silvaner Barfuß 2012 Vol. 13 % 14,50 €

Kai Wagner: These three producers belong – with Paul Weltner – to the leading Silvaner producer quartet in Germany.

Weingut Knipser Gelber Orleans 2005 Vol. 13 % 24 €

Gelber Orléans is a vitis vinifera grape variety which up until the 19th century was much grown in Germany, but has almost disappeared since then. It has large berries with thick skins and a high yield. In the 1990s, Gelber Orléans returned to Rheingau when the historically interested Bernhard Breuer of Weingut Georg Breuer planted a small vineyard with 500 vines. A few years later, Weingut Knipser followed with experimental plantings of the Gelber Orléans.

Weingut Heußler Grauburgunder Rosswingert 2009 Vol. 14 % 12 €

Weingut Ziereisen Chardonnay Hard 2008 Vol. 12 % 18 €

Weingut Leiner Chardonnay Hadorne Reserve 2008 Vol. 14,5 % 24 €

Chardonnay is not a typical German grape variety - Why was the wine included in the tasting, several participants asked.

Weingut Knipser Riesling Halbstück Reserve 2004 Vol. 12 % 26 €

Weingut Van Volxem Riesling Gottesfuß GG 2007 Vol. 12 % 32 €

Weingut Wittmann Riesling Morstein GG 2011 Vol. 13,5 % 39 €

Weingut Wittmann Riesling Brunnenhäuschen GG 2011 Vol. 13,5 % 39 €

The purpose of the 2 Wittmann wines was to highlight the critical role that the terroir should play in a slow wine – two wines were everything was the same, including what Philip Wittmann did in the cellar, according to Kai Wagner.

Weingut Ziereisen Syrah Gestad 2008 Vol. 13 % 22 €

Again hotly discussed - Why Syrah in Germany? Kai Wagner referred to the climate change.

Weingut Schnaitmann Spätburgunder Lämmler GG 2009 Vol. 13 % 42€

Weingut Schlör Schwarzriesling R 2009 Vol. 14 % 19 €

Weingut Knipser Cuvée X 2006 Vol. 14 % 37,50 €

A classic Medoc cuvée (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot). 18 to 20 months in mostly new barrique barrels.

Weingut Rings Cuvée Kreuz 2008 Vol. 14,5 % 26 €

This is the flagship wine of the Rings brothers – a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and St. Laurent, fermented and aged in barrique.

Weingut von Schubert Riesling Herrenberg Kabinett 1995 Vol. 8 % 12 €

Weingut Müllen Riesling Hühnerberg Spätlese 2004 Vol. 7,5 % 18,90 €

Weingut Weiser-Künstler Riesling Ellergrub Spätlese 2009 Vol. 7,5 % 16 €

Weingut Eulenturm Riesling Trieren Auslese 2011 Vol. 8 % 10 €

As for the last 4 wines, I would argue that a fruity-sweet wine, made by (brutally) interrupting the natural fermentation process, does not qualify as slow wine. But of course, these are wines very famous and sought after in the whole world.

German Slow Wine Producers on schiller-wine

I have written about some of the German slow wine producers on schiller-wine, see:

Excellency and Ecology: The Wines of Gebrueder Dr. Becker in Rheinhessen, Germany

The Millesime Bio 2010 in Montpellier, France: A Discovery of Organic and Biodynamic Wines at the one of a Kind Wine Trade Show

The German Winemakers at the 4th Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle, USA

JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

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

The (Grape) Wines and the Apple Wine of Weingut von Racknitz, Germany

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Organic, Sustainable, Biodynamic, Natural Wines … A Primer for “Green” Wines

The Natural Wines of the Donkey and Goat Winery in Berkeley, California

Visiting Jared Brandt and his Donkey & Goat Winery – Natural Wines Made in Berkeley, California

Wine Event: President Obama and the First Lady eat at the "Green" Restaurant Nora and have a "Green" Spottswoode Wine

Benzinger Wines Served at the 2010 "Green" Annual White House Correspondents Dinner

The Natural Wines of Terroir in San Francisco

Skype and Biodynamic Winemaking - Winetasting in the US with Winemaker Werner Michlits, Weingut Meinklang, in Austria

At the Forefront of Biodynamic Winemaking: Visiting Werner and Angela Michlits and their Weingut Meinklang in Austria

Julia Zuccardi from Familia Zuccardi in Argentina Visited the US to Introduce New Santa Julia Wines

One of Oregon's Pioneering Winemakers - Myron Redford - with his Amity Vineyard Wines in Washington DC

Visiting Yann-Leon Beyer at Maison Leon Beyer in Eguisheim in Alsace

Italian Natural Wines

No comments:

Post a Comment