Saturday, October 10, 2015
Tour and Tasting at Weingut Wirsching in Iphofen in Franken with General Manager Uwe Matheus – Germany-East Wine and Art Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)
Following very interesting days in 2 German wine regions that are located in the former GDR area, Saale-Unstrut and Sachsen, we moved on to Franken, the wine producing part of Bavaria.
Weingut Wirsching was the first of 3 wineries we visited in Franken: Weingut Wirsching, Weingut Am Stein and Weingut Rudolf Fürst. The latter has a 5/5 grapes in the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2015. The former have 3/5 grapes.
Weingut Wirsching and Weingut Rudolf Fürst are both represented by the Rudi Wiest Selection in the US, while Weingut Am Stein used to export to the US via Loosen Bros. Imports, but currently is not present in the US market.
At Weingut Wirsching we were received by General Manager Dr. Uwe Matheus. We enjoyed a nice wine tasting with him in the old and famous tasting room of the Wirsching estate, following a tour of the impressive Weingut Wirsching cellar.
Franken, located in the northern part of Bavaria, is boasting a long tradition and some fine terroirs (mostly shell limestone and Keuper, a kind of marl). Its two leading grape varieties are Riesling and Silvaner. Typically, Franken wine comes in the distinctive, dumpily-rounded Franken “Bocksbeutel” wine bottle. The bottle’s unusual shape dates back to at least the 16th century. The Bocksbeutel may only be used for Franken wines. In Germany, it is a sign of excellence, while in the US, many consumers link this kind of bottle shape to lower quality wine.
The Wirsching family has been producing wine since 1630 in the village of Iphofen, a leading wine village in Franken. Today, Weingut Wirsching is one of the largest privately-owned winery in Germany.
In the early 1960's, Hans Wirsching Jr. brought back to Iphofen from Munich his brother Heinrich, who was a graduate business economist there. From then on, these two brothers wrote the great success story of the estate, with Hans Wirsching Jr. focusing on winemaking and Dr. Heinrich Wirsching on all other aspects of the winery. Thanks to their particular dedication to Iphofen's vineyards, Iphofen has developed into one of the leading wine-growing communities in all of Franconia. The 'new style' that Hans Wirsching had given his wines - fresh, reductive, elegant and slim - has become a trademark. The early passing of Hans in 1990 did not change the qualities that make Wirsching wines special.
Today, Dr. Heinrich Wirsching is still in charge of the estate. He is over 80 years of age but looks rather juvenile. While he is still the boss in every-day business, he is actively supported by his daughters Andrea and Lena as well as by management team. Andrea Wirsching, in her fifties, re-joined the family recently to assist her 20 years younger half-sister Lena. They carry on 350 years of family wine making tradition, with the General Manager Dr. Uwe Matheus, who was our host, Wine Maker Werner Probst and Marketing Chef Armin Huth.
Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg: Without a doubt, the Iphoefer Julius-Echter-Berg is one of Franconia's prime vineyard sites. Its namesake is the famous Prince Bishop Julius Echter of Mespelbrunn. Hans Wirsching Sr. is considered 'The Father' here, because in the early 1920's it was his idea to name the best vineyard site of Iphofen 'Julius-Echter-Berg'.
This steep slope that faces to the south, is located in a basin, 280m above sea level at its base and 380m above sea level at its height. The unique soil structure and micro-climate influence the location and distinguish it from Riesling sites along the Moselle and Rhine Rivers. The greyish-brown gypsum keuper soil radiates the sun's heat and releases vivid scents and fragrances. The subsoil readily retains moisture which lets the grapes ripen slowly over a long period of time. The wines obtain their intensity and particular flavour and aroma from a sediment layer of green 'reed' sandstone which is unique to Franconia.
Iphöfer Kronsberg: The Iphoefer Kronsberg is one of the top vineyard sites in Franconia. It's so named after the oak woods, sitting enthroned like a fur cap on the steep slopes facing south, above the vineyards. During the Keuper period, gypsum and lime sandstone were deposited here as marine sediments. Thru weathering the Keuper soil, with its high mineral content, was developed. The slope and the soil's excellent water and heat retention properties can be charcterized as 'water and warmth, under a crown of oaks'.
Combining the Silvaner and Riesling grapes, with the Kronsberg site, yields powerful, expressive wines with a striking acidic structure and a distinctive natural earthy character, yet with significant storability. One can taste the very high mineral content, however, because of the high lime content in the soil, the acidity of the wines is deeply softened. Additionally, in the bouquet, one can discern a very clear, yet subtle fruitiness.
Iphöfer Kalb: The Iphoefer Kalb is a steep slope that faces south. On easily warmed Keuper soils grow delicately fruity, elegant wines with fresh lively aromas. The mild climate and the long growing season allows the vines to absorb the many minerals in/from the dark Keuper soil and gives the wines their fruity and full-bodied character.
The vineyard area is 72 hectares. Output amounts to 48,000 cases. Grapes: 38% Silvaner, 18% Riesling, 10% Müller-Thurgau, 8% Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc), 6% Scheurebe, 7% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), 5% Dornfelder and 8% others.
Uwe Matheus: The grapes are harvested by hand and processed as gently and carefully as possible. Here, centuries-old wine traditions blend with modern technology. In doing so, the freshness and liveliness are preserved in the wines as well as their vintage and varietal character in the form of specific aromas and flavour nuances.
75% of the wines are vinified in the Franconian dry style (Fränkisch trocken) which means residual sugar of less than 4 grams/liter. Even fruity sweet Spätlese wines rarely have residual sugar levels exceeding 15 grams/liter. Vinification is "reduktiv" which implies little oxygen contact with the juice. The maturation of the wines occurs mostly in stainless steel tanks.
90% of the output of Weingut Wirsching is sold in Germany and of this 1/3 at Weingut Wirsching. People like to come to Weingut Wirsching, have a nice tasting and then fill up the trunk of their car.
In the US, only Silvaner and Scheurebe is available, no Riesling.
We tasted 6 wines with Uwe Matheus, all Silvaner.
As the 'centuries-old ancestor' in Franconian Wine Country, Silvaner reflects many Franconian attributes. Experts call it the 'true' Franconian wine. The vines have excellent yield and longevity, but are demanding in terms of site selection. They are stocky in stature, but with irrepressible vitality and energy. In this traditional variety, one tastes, quite strongly, the qualities of the soil. Its medium-sized, juicy grapes deliver a full-bodied, powerful wine with a neutral bouquet and a delicate, mild acidity, which is ideal for dry maturation.
At the Wirsching Estate, the Silvaner is one of the most important grape varieties. In great years, the wine surprises with a playfulness and elegance that is unmatched. Thanks to its unobtrusive nature, it is ideally suited as a companion for many, many foods, both; both, as a simple table wine with a light cold meal or as a noble wine for fine dining. The ideal companion for any menu.
2014 Weingut Wirsching Iphöfer Kalb Silvaner VDP.Erste Lage
2013 Weingut Wirsching Iphöfer Kronsberg Silvaner Alte Reben VDP.Erste Lage
2013 Weingut Wirsching Iphöfer Julius-Echter Berg Silvaner VDP.Grosse Lage
2005 Weingut Wirsching Iphöfer Julius-Echter Berg Silvaner Spätlese trocken
2012 Weingut Wirsching Sister Act Riesling trocken
2014 Weingut Wirsching Iphöfer Kronsberg Scheurebe Alte Reben VDP.Erste Lage
Thanks Uwe for a great tasting and tour of the impressive Weingut Wirsching cellar.
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