Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Premium Apple Wines of Andreas Schneider - Obsthof am Steinberg - in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Andreas Schneider at the Obsthof am Steinberg in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

I grew up with apple wine (Apfelwein) in Frankfurt am Main. Although there are 3 beer breweries in Frankfurt and the world renowned Rheingau and Rheinhessen wine regions just 30 minutes away from Frankfurt by S-Bahn or car, I would say that Frankfurt am Main is a city of cider. Frankfurt has a large number of traditional apple wine taverns, where you sit on communal benches, eat hearty local food and drink sour and tart German apple wine. Typically there is only one apple wine – the house apple wine – available, in some cases made on the premise.

A few years ago, however, a couple of apple wine producers ventured into the art of apple wine making by starting to produce vintage apple wines and special variety apple wines. While the apple wine you drink in the apple wine tavern is as basic as it can get, the apple wine portfolio of the artisan apple wine producers resemble very much those of the Rheingau or Rheinhessen wine makers a few miles away. There is a variety of various apple wines, with the vintage, apple variety, alcohol level, and other information specified. Also, price wise you are in the same range.

Picture: The Skyline of Frankfurt seen from the Obsthof am Steinberg

One of the leaders of this new generation of artisan apple wine producers is Andreas Schneider. I visited him at his Obsthof am Steinberg during my recent stay in Frankfurt.

Andreas Schneider and his Premium Apple Wines

Like in these (grape) wine taverns in the Rheingau or Rheinhessen, when you are in Andreas Schneider's Obsthof for lunch or a drink, you look at the vintage of the apple wine, the kind of apples (and pears) that were used to make the apple wine, the degree of remaining sweetness and other factors. Also price wise, you are much more in the world of wines, with Andreas Schneider’s most expensive wine costing Euro 21 the bottle, a champagne-type sparkling apple wine.

It all started in 1965, when his parents Albert and Waltraud Schneider founded the Obsthof am Steinberg in Nieder-Erlenbach at the outskirts of Frankfurt am Main. Andreas took over from his parents in1993 and began to convert to organic farming. Since 1996, he has been certified by ABCERT AG, Esslingen. In 1999, he opened his apple wine tavern and garden.

On Andreas’ 13 hectares of land, not only apples are planted, but 14 different fruits, mainly of course apples.

In the Apple Wine Cellar with Andreas

Andreas showed me his apple wine cellar. It looks pretty much like a wine cellar. "Our cellar looks just like a winery, with stainless steel temperature controlled tanks, pumps, a press and a lab. We do have orchards and not vineyards, but the process of turning apple juice into apple wine is similar to turning grape juice into wine" says Andreas Schneider. We did a barrel tasting of some of his 2010 apple wines. We stared a discussion but did not have enough time to finish it. All the issues that are hotly debated among winemakers are of course also issues for producers of premium apple wines. We got a bit into the questions of natural yeast, stopping of the fermentation, but did not get far. Frankly, as a wine lover and a apple wine tavern apple wine drinker, it is only after having started the conversation with Andreas that all these questions have arisen in my mind. But I will get back to him.

Pictures: Andreas Schneider with his apple wines in his apple wine cellar

The Obsthof am Steinberg Apple Wine Portfolio

Andreas Schneider currently sells several non-vintage, uncomplicated apple wines (Apfelweine ab Fass) directly from the barrel for Euro 2 per liter.

He offers 11 still vintage apple wines (Jahrgangsapfelweine) in the Euro 4 to 12 per 0.75 liter range. In terms of remaining sweetness, they come as trocken, fast trocken and halbtrocken. Most of them are in the 7% to 8% alcohol range.

I like the 2009 Boskoop Alte Baeume (old trees) with 8% alcohol, fast trocken (almost dry), fruchtige Saeure und wuerzige Frucht for Euro 8.00

The 5 regular sparkling apple wines (Apfelperlweine) are in the Euro 10.00 to 18.00 range, all vintage sparklers.

The top wines are two sparkling apple wines (Apfelschaumweine), both made in the traditional champagne method and both brut. The 2008 Boskoop mit Birne with 8.5% alcohol sells at Euro 12 and the 2008 Wildings auf Loess, also with 8.5% alcohol sells at Euro 21.

Andreas Schneider also sells apple wine brandies and apple juice.

Obsthof am Steinberg Apple Wine Tavern and Events

We parked the car at the Obstof am Steinberg and then went for a walk with our dog Oscar. After the tour, we had a couple of Schoppen with excellent Handkaes mit Musik in the apple wine tavern of the Obsthof am Steinberg. We finished off the lunch with 2 amazing glasses of his top of the line sparklers.

Andreas Schneider is quite an entrepreneur. Every month, he organics a couple of events around the theme apple wine. At the end of February, for instance, you can participate in a barrel tasting of 8 new apple wines moderated by Andreas. His guided tours (with apple wine) through the fruit plantation should also be a lot of fun. On March 13, 2011 he organizes, with apple wine sommelier Michael Stoeckl (Landsteiner Mühle in Weilrod/Taunus) the 3. “Apfelwein im Roemer” event, where cider producers not only from Germany but from other countries as well will present their ciders. This is probably a unique opportunity to get a more global appreciation of what cider can be. The idea behind is to promote Frankfurt's apple wine and Frankfurt as a city of apple wine. I hope I will be in Frankfurt in March and can participate. It is gonna be a lot of fun.

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