Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Torkel of Hagnau: Pressing Grapes in the Old Days

Pictures: The Torkel of Hagnau with Christian G.E.Schiller

I visited - with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim – the Wine Cooperative Hagnau, a little village at Lake Constanze in Germany. The wine tasting started at a Torkel, an old wine press.

The Torkel of Hagnau

The Torkel of Hagnau is hugh. It dates from the year 1747. This kind of wine press is called Torkel, which comes from the latin word torquere – to turn around. The Torkel in Hagnau looks ancient, but had been in use for some of the wines from Hagnau that people may still have in their cellars - until 1956. In those days, there were 26 Torkels in Hagnau.

Before winemakers started to use a Torkel, grapes had been stamped by feet to produce must. The Romans brought the tree presses to Germany. They were used over many hundred years, until the recent past.

Picture: View of Hagnau, from the Lake

Wine Region Baden

Baden is Germany’s most southerly and - with 16,000 hectares (39,300 acres) under vine – third largest wine region. Despite its size and the quality of its wines, it is not well known outside of Germany, because it exports very little.

Picture: Truck of the Winzerverein Hagnau

From north to south, Baden spans approximately 200 kilometers, and is primarily situated on the right bank of the Rhein river. On the left bank is Alsace in France. Lying primarily in the Rhine rift with the protection of Vosges Mountains to the west and the Black Forrest to the east, Baden’s climate is the warmest in Germany Baden is divided into nine districts; one of them is the Breisgau, where the Huber Estate is located.

1. Tauberfranken, in the northeastern outskirts of the region and neighbouring Franconia. The wines are similar to the wines of Franconia, and are sold in the round Bocksbeutel bottle.

2. Badische Bergstrasse, the vineyards is a continuation of the small region Hessische Bergstrasse. This district is situated around the city of Heidelberg.

3. Kraichgau, just to the south of Badische Bergstrasse, and north-east of the city of Karlsruhe.

4. Ortenau, from Baden-Baden to just south of Offenburg is one of the more well-known districts.

5. Breisgau, from just south of Offenburg and to Freiburg. It has the highest average temperature and the number of sunshine hours of the region.

6. Kaiserstuhl, a cluster of hills of volcanic origin northwest of Freiburg with characteristic terraced vineyards.

7. Tuniberg is situated on flatter land just south of Kaiserstuhl and west of Freiburg.

8. Markgräflerland stretches from Freiburg to the Swiss border at Basel, and is known for its easy-drinking Gutedel wines.

9. Bodensee is situated in the southeastern outskirts of the region, on the northwestern shores of Lake Constance.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Karl Sonntag who was for many years the winemaker of the Winzerverein before he retired a few years ago.

Baden is known for its Pinot wines, both white and red,which account for more than half of Baden’s wine output. Riesling plays only a minor role. by far the most commonly cultivated single variety is Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) with nearly forty percent of the total vineyard area. Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chasselas are the main white varieties cultivated, but none more widely than Muller-Thurgau.

Winzerverein Hagnau

Winzerverein Hagnau is the oldest Wine Cooperative in the Baden region. It was founded in 1881 by Pastor Dr. Heinrich Hansjakob.

The secularization of 1803, when Napoleon tried to reorganize Europe by expropriating the Church and giving the assets to dukes and margraves that were on good relations with him, had an important impact on the economic sitation of the Hagnau winemakers.

Before secularization, for about 110 years, the winemakers of Hagnau were under the rule of the Benedictine Abbey of Weingarten. The wine cellars of the Hagnauer Winzerverein date from these days. These were not bad days. Under the monastery’s rule, the winemakers received as a reward for their work half the wine yield and a field on which they could grow potatoes and vegetables for self-catering.

This changed dramatically after the secularization. The wine makers lost the field on which to grow food and had to bear all costs of wine production themselves, but were paid for their output. As it turned out, prices and revenues kept on falling. In view of the difficult situation of the smallholders, the pastor and civil rights activist of Hagnau, Dr. Heinrich Hansjakob, encouraged them to form a wine cooperative and market their wine themselves. On October 20, 1881, the first wine cooperative of Baden was founded in Hagnau at Lake Constance.

Picture: Dr. Heinrich Hansjakob, Founder of the Winzerverein Hagnau

It currently has over hundred members. In the regions of Baden and Wuerttemberg in Germany, being a member of a wine cooperative is the rule. Independent winemakers are the exception.

The vineyard area is 140 hectares. The grape distribution is as follows: 40 % Müller-Thurgau, 40 % Spätburgunder, 8 % Ruländer/Grauburgunder, 3 % Weißburgunder, 2 % Bacchus, 2 % Kerner, 5 % other, including Regent.

Pictures: In the Cellar of the Winzerverein Hagnau

On average, the yield is 9000 liter per hectar. On 10% of the vineyard area, the yield limitation is much stricter, 4500 liter per hectar, for the production of premium wines.

Wine Portfolio

The Hagnauer Winzerverein wine portfolio is broad, focusing on good quality day-to-day wines. The entry wine in the 0.75 liter bottle costs Euro 4.50. This is a tick higher than what you pay in the Pfalz or in Rheinhessen for comparable quality. However, most wines do not exceed Euro 10. One of those beyond Euro 10 is the 2007 Hagnauer Burgstall Spaetburgunder Rotwein Barrique trocken for Euro 14.90, the Haganuer Winzerverein’s best red wine.

Very popular are the Weissherbst wines, which are rosé wines from a single variety. They are often made in the off-dry style. Interestingly, the Winzerverein has a Weissherbst Eiswein in its wine portfolio, for Euro 19 in the 0.375 liter bottle.

The Winzerverein Hagnau also sells a sparkler, a 2009 Hagnauer Burgstall, Pinot, blanc de noir, brut, for Euro 10.

Winzerverein Hagnau
Hagnau, Lake Constanze, Germany

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1 comment:

  1. Sehr geehrter Herr Schiller,

    ganz herzlich sagen wir Dankeschön für die schöne Vorstellung unseres Winzervereins Hagnau mit Geschichte, Seeregion u.v.m.

    Herr Sonntag hat sich sehr gefreut und richtet Ihnen besonders viele Grüße aus.

    Ihnen alles Gute auf Ihrem großen spannenden Reiseweg in Sachen Wein.

    Sonnige Grüße vom Bodensee

    Anita Schmidt

    Winzerverein Hagnau