Saturday, February 6, 2010

In the glass: A 2007 Sylvaner trocken "Vom Langen Sterk" from Michael Teschke, Rheinhessen, Germany

The wines of the Teschke Estate, owned by Michael Teschke and situated in a small village in Rheinhessen, Germany, are very special in many respects.

The Teschke wines are outstanding, while they come from a region - Rheinhessen - which is known for winemakers often focusing on quantity and not quality. Rheinhessen is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch.

At the same time, Rheinhessen is among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. This is not because of the terroir, but because of the people. There is an increasing group of mostly young and ambitious winemakers who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. Michael Teschke is one of them.

The Teschke Estate is pushing the autochtone grape varieties of Rheinhessen, in particular the high-yielder Silvaner, and is not following the general trend of planting Riesling or “international’ grape varieties such as Merlot. Silvaner is a grape grown mostly in Italy’s Alto Adige, France’s Alsace, and Germany’s Franken and Rheinhessen regions, often used as blending grape, for example in the Edelzwicker in Alsace and the famous Liebfraumilch in Rheinhessen, with the latter being the largest Silvaner area in the world.

Michael Teschke, however, appreciates the Sylvaner very much (he spells it with an “y”, which is the old style). For him, it is the grape that perfectly captures the soul of Rheinhessen - with its rolling, often green hills and the smell of the fresh grass and the taste of a fresh apple of the Rheinhessen apple plantations. Many of his colleagues however see things differently. They want to move away from the Silvaner variety to other grapes, such as the Riesling. And they appear to represent the majority of winemakers in Rheinhessen. As a result, Silvaner does not qualify to be a Grosses Gewaechs wine in Rheinhessen. I have a hard time to understand this decision, in particular after having tasted Michael Teschke’s Sylvaner. In neighboring France, the recognition of the Silvaner has already happened in 2006 when the Zotzenburg Sylvaner became the first to be designated an Alsace Grand Cru.

Michael Teschke is a bit “crazy’ in his pursuit for bringing out the quality of a – in the view of many – mediocre grape variety to its best. With his pony tail, Michael Teschke presents himself like a 68er. He is also a poet and publishes poems on his web site. I not only like his wines very much, but also his poetry. I wrote about it here.

The Teschke Estate has abandoned the German system of quality categories, such as Spaetlese, Auslese, etc., largely based on the sugar content of the fruit at the point of harvest, and has his introduced its own ranking system. But it does not use stars or grapes or bottles, to name few possibilities, for grading its wines but uses – in German – Praedikatsaerscher, which means “Award - Butts”. Well, he really has his own style. Unusual wines require unusual grades, as Michael Teschke puts it. The one I drank – see below – had been awarded 2 butts by Michael Teschke. Stuart Pigott, the renowned German wine journalist, feels that he is one of the rising stars along the Rhine river. Gault Millau Wine Guide 2010 promoted him from 1 to 2 grapes (out of five).

The Teschke Estate is a family business now in the 3rd generation. The Teschke family comes from an area that since the Second World War is no longer Germany . Michael Teschke took over the Estate in 1998 at the age of 30 after the untimely death of his father. The 7 hectars of land are planted partially with vines that are already 50 years old.

I tasted

2007 Sylvaner trocken “Vom Langen Sterk” 13% Alcohol, Rheinhessen, 2 Praedikatsaerscher, Euro 13 (89 Points)

Tasting Notes: Light straw color with some green hints in the glass, long lasting legs, attack of ripe aromas of peach, melon and apples, a full-bodied wine with strong notes of hazelnut and marzipan coupled with lemon on the palate, very fresh with good acidity, hot, harmonious finish.

A couple of months ago, I reviewed Michael Teschke's 2004 Portugieser, which was Stuart Pigott's Wine of the month in October 2009, here.

Weingut Michael Teschke
Laurenziberg 14
D-55435 Gau-Algesheim

Telefon (06725) 23 31
Fax (06725) 96 36 33

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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! First, I thought I missunderstood the Prädikatsärsche - but then I saw that I didn't. Very unique? Makes me wanting to digg into that topic and see how many different own, individual Prädikat-somethings there are out there! Or maybe you are already working on that?

    The description of the wine makes me want to try it! Thank you.

    All the best from Sweden,