Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tour, Tasting, and Lunch at Weingut Schätzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Picture: Lunch cum Tasting at Weingut Schätzel with Nanne Schätzel

The last visit (of a total of 21 visits) on the Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014) was at Weingut Schätzel, which is owned and run by Kai Schätzel. Kai was on a sales trip in Northern Europe and we were hosted by Kai Schätzel’s mother, Nanne Schätzel used to run the winery for many years, before Kai took over.

The visit comprised a cellar tour and a fine lunch (cooked by Nanne Schätzel) cum wine tasting. The stunning wines, the historical setting, the hospitality and warmth of this family, the German “Gemütlichkeit”, made the perfect finale for our tour.

Before arriving at the winery we stopped at the Roter Hang vineyard (Red Slope), the famous vineyard with its outstanding terroir. From there we had a breathtaking view of surrounding vineyards, the Rhine River, and the Frankfurt skyline.

In the Roter Hang (Red Slope)

The stretch of vineyards which runs from Bodenheim (south of Mainz) in the north to Mettenheim in the south, is often referred to as the Rheinterrasse. The vineyards of the Rheinterrasse have a favored mesoclimate in comparison with others in the region. The Rheinterrasse accounts for one-third of Rheinhessen’s Riesling wines. The wines from the Rheinterrasse were at some point more expensive than Bordeaux wines.

The Roter Hang (Red Slope) is at the center of the Rheinterrasse. This steep slope extends for some five kilometers with a total of 180 hectares around Nierstein on the left bank of the Rhine.

The Roter Hang has a very special terroir, resulting from the drop of the Rheinhessen plateau before human life started. As a consequence of these movements the Roter Hang has a mineral-rich soil, a mixture of iron and clayish slate, which is at least 250 million years old (Permian Period). Further, the slope faces south to southeast, which helps in terms of the solar radiation. The red slate retains warmth, and additional warmth comes from the sunlight reflected from the surface of the Rhine.

Pictures: In the Roter Hang (Red Slope) Before the Visit of Weingut Schätzel

Weingut Schätzel

The Schätzel family has been making wine for 650 years, for 5 generations at the current location: the General von Zastrow Estate. Today, the winery is owned and managed by Kai Schätzel, who is one of the upcoming young winemakers in Rheinhessen. When he became fully responsible, he decided to change course at Weingut Schätzel and to aim at becoming a nationally and internationally recognized premium wine producer.

As a result, in the prestigious Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2011, Weingut Schätzel moved from 1 to 2 grapes (with 5 grapes being the maximum). “A new fixture in the reemerging Red Slope of Nierstein”, noted the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland. Kai Schätzel continued to move up. Today, he is at 3.5 grapes.

Kai Schätzel

Kai started to work early at the winery – in 1996, even before he got his “Abitur” (highschool degree) in 1998. He fully took over Weingut Schätzel from his parents in 2007. In the meantime, he studied business economics in Hamburg graduating with the Diplom Kaufmann degree, served in the army, and interned at wineries, including in the US.

Picture: Christian Schiller and Kai Schätzel at the Roter Hang Festival

When he became fully responsible, he decided to change course at Weingut Schätzel and to aim at becoming a nationally and internationally recognized premium wine producer. Of course, with his business degree, he had many other options. But he went for the wine option – making premium wines at a small boutique winery, suggesting, as Kai explained to me, that his decision was driven by a lot of passion for making good wine.
vineyard of the estate.

Pictures: In the Garden of Weingut Schäetzel with Kai Schätzel

In the Cellar

The first thing we did after we arrived was to visit the impressive, very old vaulted underground wine cellar with Nanne Schätzel. I visited the cellar before with Kai and I am using here his explainations.

“The fermentation takes place in this 800 years old cellar” explained Kai. “After manually and selectively harvesting the grapes, the grapes are transported to the winery in small boxes. Here the grapes are crushed and remain up to 24 hours on the skins. Through the so-called maceration, aromas are released from the skin and the wines become more complex.”

Then the grapes are pressed. Throughout the whole mash treatment, no pumps are used. The grapes are always tilted gently. “So we avoid injuries on stems and seeds.” The fresh juice is clarified by sedimentation. “That means, we wait until cloudy sediment settles on the ground. What remains above the sediment is then a clear liquid in the tank. Through this natural process we avoid the use of filters. The clear juice flows into the oak barrels in the wine cellar.”

Pictures: In the Cellar with Nanne Schätzel

For the fermentation, each wine gets its own oak barrel. Most of the barrels are 600 or 1,200 liters in size and up to 50 years old. There are about 50 oak barrels in Schätzel’s vaulted underground cellar.

Approximately 70% of the wines fermented with wild yeasts. “The so-called spontaneous fermentation requires permanent control and is somewhat risky. The ancient and natural method gives each wine a chance to find itself and to develop its own character. Again, we stay as much as possible in the background and follow the process. That means in practical terms that we have to control each barrel several times a day. If all goes well, the young wines ferment for about 2 to 3 months and then have most of their natural sugar converted into alcohol. If we feel that the fermentation in the wooden barrels is too rough, we can cool each barrel individually and thus curb the yeasts” explained Kai.

After fermentation, the yeast settles gradually at the bottom of the barrel. “Our single vineyard wines mature until May sur lie and are bottled directly from there with only one pump and filter process. Again, it goes without saying that our aim is to stress the sensitive wine as little as possible and treat the very gently.” Kai said.

He continued: “In a way, we are actually quite old-fashioned. We use the old methods of our grandfathers. The continuous monitoring and adaptation of the strategy, if necessary, is very time consuming and complex. Overall, each individual wine is the sum of a lot of what Mother Nature did and many small human decisions. Sometimes the progress is in looking back. A prudent combination of old methods with modern processes guide our way of making our wines.”

The white wines are slowly fermented, almost exclusively with natural yeast and age for a long time sur lie. Following the traditional mash fermentation the red wines age sur lie for up to 36 months in large oak barrels (600 liter), with frequent manual batonnage (stirring the lees back up into the wine). The primary reasons for sur lie aging are to enhance the structure and mouth feel of a wine, give it extra body and increase the aromatic complexity, flavor/aroma depth and length.

Kai: “Each wine has its own oak barrel, gets its own treatment and has its own schedule. There is no one-fits-all treatment of my wines. We only have five acres and cultivate them almost completely by hand. This size allows us to have a good overview of each barrel in the cellar. In fact, every barrel tastes differently, even if they share the noble character is the Red Slope. This is of course very far from conventional economic thinking, but it works well because our Riesling and Sylvaner wines are very much appreciated by the young audience and young TV Chefs.”

The Vineyards

The vineyard area is small, just 5 hectares, with the single vineyards Heiligenbaum, Hipping, Ölberg and Pettenthal in the Red Slope. Riesling accounts for 70%, with the remainder made up by Silvaner and Spätburgunder. In the vineyard, Kai follows ecological principles.

“Great wines are grown in the vineyard. And because we know this we're trying to interfere with what is happening during the year in the vineyard as little as possible. During harvest time, we watching very carefully what is going on in the vineyard and gradually pick out only the best grapes. So it happens that between September and mid November we are up to 5 times in a vineyard to selectively harvest, of course, by hand.”

Lunch and Tasting with Nanne Schätzel

Pictures: Lunch cum Tasting with Nanne Schätzel

The Wines


2013 Weingut Schätzel ReinRosé
2013 Weingut Schätzel Silvaner
2013 Weingut Schätzel Riesling
2012 Weingut Schätzel Riesling


2013 ReinSchiefer Nierstein Riesling

Kai produces 2 dry wines at the Ortswein level – same treatment in the cellar, but one wine comes from a vineyard with loess and the other one from a vineyard with slate. The Reinlöss (which we did not have) is a bit smoother, softer on the palate than the Reinschiefer. Both are lovely wines. I prefer the Reinschiefer.


2013 Weingut Schätzel Heiligenbaum Riesling
2013 Weingut Schätzel Pettenthal Riesling

This is Kai Schätzel’s premium Riesling from the Red Slope of Nierstein. Pale lemon color, very mineral notes on the nose, coupled with pineapple and ripe pear aromas, medium-bodied, good mouth feel, again mineral and a light floral notes on the palate, all very pleasing.


2013 Weingut Schätzel KabiNett Nierstein Riesling fruchtig

The fermentation was stopped to produce a wine with a bit of remaining sugar.


2011 Weingut Schätzel SpätLese Ölberg Riesling


Thanks Nanne for a wonderful cellar tour, tasting and lunch.

Picutres: Leaving Weingut Schätzel

schiller-wine: Related Postings

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Bourgogne Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Bordeaux Wine Tour 2013 by ombiasy

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Tour, Tasting, and Lunch at Weingut Schätzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

schiller-wine - Related Postings (Weingut Schätzel)

Tasting the Wines of the Roter Hang (Red Slope), Nierstein, Rheinhessen, in the Roter Hang, Germany – Schiller’s Favorites

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