Friday, October 16, 2009

Sektkellerei Kessler, Esslingen, Germany

Picture: Kessler Sekt and Speyrer Pfleghof

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, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. See my blog posting of October 2, 2009 for an overview about German Sekt.

There is a dozen or so large Sekt houses. They produce more than 2.000.000 bottles each annually. Most of these large Sekt houses were established in the 1800s. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the champagne houses, the large Sekt houses have all moved to the charmat method 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 winemakers. Most of the Sekt houses have beautiful chateau-type facilities with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage.

Germany's oldest Sekt estate is Kessler, at home in Esslingen in Baden-Württemberg. It belongs to the second group of Sekt producers, i.e to the group of smaller Sekt estates.

The founder learned the trade of making sparkling wines in the French Champagne before importing the art to Germany. Georg Christian von Kessler (1787-1842), originally a businessman from Heilbronn, went to France to seek his fortune and subsequently made his career in the famous Champagne house Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin, founded in 1772. After 20 years he had risen through the ranks to become "associé et co-directeur" and joint partner. He imported the art of Champagne preparation (primarily the process of remuage or riddling) into his home country, and thus German Sekt was born. In 1826, Kessler founded the first Sekt cellar in Germany in the town of Esslingen.

At the Kessler estate, Sekt has been prepared now for 170 years in the grand half-timber house of the former Speyrer Pfleghof in a process of guaranteed bottle fermentation with carefully selected wines (see picture above). The oldest parts of the house actually date back to the 13th century. Here in the ancient, labyrinthine vaults of the cellar, which covers over 2,000 m², about one million bottles mature for up to five years at a temperature of approximately 13 degrees on riddling racks (pupitres) or large stacks. The cool storage conditions mean that the second fermentation takes place particularly slowly.

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