Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Lunch, Tasting and Vineyard Walk at Weingut Van Volxem with Owner Roman Niewodniczanski – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Picture: Roman Niewodniczanski of Weingut Van Volxem

Weingut Van Volxem is located in the Saar Valley on the site of a Jesuit monastery in the village of Wiltingen. During the past 16 years, it has been restored to former glories by the investment, initiative and flair of Roman Niewodniczanski. He was our host. We had a wine tasting and lunch, prepared by his charming wife, with him. After lunch and wine tasting, we went with him on a vineyard tour.

Picture: Weingut Van Volxem

Roman Niewodniczanski

Roman Niewodniczanski is not your usual winemaker. His family has no tradition in the wine business, but Roman vividly remembers how his father opened bottles of Egon Müller's stratospheric Scharzhofberger Rieslings for special events. Thus, from an early age on Niewodniczanski gained an understanding of what good wine means, and fell in love with wine.

Roman Niewodniczanski’s family owns the Bitburger-Brauerei and the Geroldsteiner Mineralwasserquellen. He is no longer involved there, at least not a day-to-day basis. His home is Weingut Van Volxem. He lives there and works there.

Roman’s ambitions go beyond his own winery. He is working on reviving German Riesling's prestige of 100 years ago, when it sold for higher prices than Latour, Yquem or Montrachets.

Picture: Rieslingfeier Gala Dinner - the Table of Roman Niewodniczanski, Weingut Van Volxem, with Annette Schiller

Roman Niewodniczanski: 100 years ago, Rheingau, Mosel, Hungary, Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne were the leading wine regions in the world. And of course, the German Rieslings were all dry.

Before buying Weingut Van Volxem, Roman Niewodniczanski studied business economics and geography in Trier. He also worked with Ernst & Young and at the Europäischen Tourismus Institut.


Weingut Van Volxem is one of the oldest wineries in the region. As a result of the secularization during the reign of Napoleon, the winery was acquired by the beer brewer Gustav van Volxem from Trier. It remained for 4 generations in the Van Volxem family, before it was purchased by Peter Jordan in 1993 (Weingut Jordan & Jordan). Finally, in 1999, it was bought by Roman Niewodniczanski and revived under the old name Weingut Von Volxem. With Roman taking over, the circle has once again become complete, with the Niewodniczanski family owning the Bitburger brewery.

Pictures: Lunch Table

Roman Niewodniczanski and his Old Photos, Books and Maps

Sitting down and drinking wine with Roman Niewodniczanski is not only tasting his outstanding wines, but always a journey through German and European wine history. Roman has a vast resource of historical material to draw upon. He likes to use his old photos, books and maps to support his points.

His father was Tomasz Niewodniczanski, a collector of rare maps and manuscripts. This archive would be invaluable when a young Roman decided to pursue the path of a winemaker. He went back to the 19th century and consulted maps drawn up for tax reasons, which showed the best vineyards, many of which had been lost sight of in the 20th century.

Pictures: Roman Niewodniczanski and his Old Photos, Books and Maps


Roman Niewodniczanski bought Weingut Van Volxem with 12 hectares of vineyard land, of which he sold 4 hectares. Now, Weingut Van Volxem’s vineyard area totals 70 hectares. Weingut Van Volxem has become the biggest producer in the Mosel area.

In buying new vineyards, Roman Niewodniczanski’s guiding philosophy is to find the most prized vineyards of the early 20th Century, with the oldest vines possible (sometimes topping 120 years old).

The vineyards, bearing distinguished names such as Braunfels, Klosterberg and Scharzhofberger, are planted with Riesling and a tiny proportion of Pinot Blanc. The average age of the vines is approximately 40-years old, with the Wiltinger Gottesfuss possessing a rare cache of 130-year old ungrafted vines.

The Geisberg Project

Roman talked a lot about the Geisberg project, his most recent adventure. Jointly with Markus Molitor, Roman Niewodniczanski is recultivating an old and highly valued vineyard along the Saar: The Geisberg. Most of the hill had lost its vines by the 1970s and 1980s, a stunning development given that its wines sold for four times the price as Chateau Margaux on restaurant menus in 1900! The new vines were replanted in the spring of 2015.

Picture: 1941 Geisberg


Roman Niewodniczanski (Roman regularly reports on facebook about developments at Weingut Van Volxem. Here is a post from 2015, which catches very well the spirit and philosophy of winemaking at Weingut Van Volxem): While the perfect autumn weather for the last harvest week has begun at Van Volxem and the golden-yellow, heavenly aromatic grapes from our Grosse Lagen (grand crus) will be picked, it’s time to introduce the fantastic performance of our unflaggingly hard-working team in the cellar, which often works late into the night. When the grapes from our steep slopes (which are, of course, hand-picked with multiple passes through the same vineyard) arrive in the press house in small bins, eight workers double-check the quality on a sorting table. This elaborate second selection enables us to spontaneously ferment the musts without the addition of cultured yeasts or other enological aids, such as finings.

Pictures: Lunch and Tasting at Weingut Van Volxem with Van Volxem Roman Niewodniczanski

Our time-consuming work centers on a conscious return to a traditional, artisanal approach and a respect for the distinctiveness of our steep slate slopes. It is this Burgundian idea of terroir and cru, designating the top vineyard sites, which formed the basis for the worldwide success of the wines from the Mosel and Saar during the German Empire. We are committed to this legacy. According to “ideas on natural wine” from 1904, “Natural wine is a pure product of the vine without any additives, and only such natural wine is wholesome and has no harmful side effects. Each natural wine stands out because of its low alcohol content, more intense aroma, pleasant fruit flavor, and fresh acidity; plus it is refreshing and stimulating.” We could not express the passion we have for our product better than with these words by the highly respected Wiesbaden wine merchant Wilhelm Ruthe.

To sum up Weingut Van Volxem’s winemaking philosophy: No fining, filtration, or herbicides, using spontaneous fermentation instead of cultured yeast, lower yields, and hand harvesting instead of using machines.

Following Gernot Kollmann (who now is with Weingut Immich-Batterieberg) Dominik Völk has been in charge of winemaking at Weingut Van Volxem since 2004.

Roman Niewodniczanski is currently constructing a new winery. Roman Niewodniczanski: The new winery will be able to hold three vintages. The new winery is being built by Italian architects.


2009 Weingut Van Volxem Brut 1900 Riesling Sekt
2014 Weingut Van Volxem Saar Riesling Trocken VDP.Gutswein
2011 Weingut Van Volxem Goldberg Riesling Trocken VDP.Grosse Lage

2014 Weingut Van Volxem Rotschiefer Riesling Kabinett VDP.Gutswein
2014 Weingut Van Volxem Alte Reben Riesling Trocken VDP.Gutswein

QLI Tasting Notes: The Alte Reben (old vines) is made from vines that are 50 years old at least. Costing around €10, it displays a bouquet with citrus notes and a real sense of minerality. The mouth is incredibly precise and balanced. There is a delicate, never overpowering acidity, which is beautifully countered by the natural fruit of the ripe grapes. For such a friendly price, you get a concentrated, beautifully balanced, age-worthy wine that will certainly not disappoint.

2014 Weingut Van Volxem Volz Riesling VDP.Grosse Lage
2014 Weingut Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Pergentsknopp Riesling VDP.Grosse Lage

QLI Tasting Notes: Take for instance the most impressive of the wines tasted recently: Scharzhofberger "P" (for Pergentsknopp). Coming from a lieu-dit in the centre of the Scharzhofberger, arguably Germany's best winemaking climat, this wine is truly outstanding. At a young age it already displays a rich, stone-fruit driven, zesty and mineral nose that never lacks a certain freshness to keep your interest. If you dive in, you find a wealth of concentrated layers.

2012 Weingut Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling VDP.Grosse Lage

Vineyard Tour

We ended the memorable visit of Weingut Van Volxem with a vineyard tour.

Pictures: Vineyard Walk at Weingut Van Volxem with Van Volxem Roman Niewodniczansk


Thanks Roman for a great time, great food and great wine.

Picture: Bye-bye Roman

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