Friday, September 30, 2011

An Evening with Lindsay Morriss: The Wines of Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider and her Ideas on How to Raise the Profile of German Wines in the USA

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Lindsay Morriss

The German Wine Society (DC Chapter) of September 2011 event was lead by Lindsay Morriss. The German Wine Society paid her a trip to fly down from Rhode Island, where she resides, to Washington DC in order to do 2 things:

First, Lindsay Morriss just graduated with an MBA focused on the wine industry from INSEEC in Bordeaux. Her thesis was “Raising the Profile of German Wines in the US”. The German Wine Society wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth what this implies.

In her thesis, Lindsay argues that Germany should place more emphasis on promoting other grape varieties outside of Riesling when marketing its wines in the U.S. Lindsay says: “I especially believe there is great opportunity for red German wines such as Spätburgunder, Lemberger, Dornfelder, and others. Germany is the third largest producer of Pinot Noirs in the world and where do you find German Pinot Noir in the US?”

And she feels that “Germany really needs to start promoting its white Pinots (Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris). I’ve tasted plenty of both now, which are very common in Rheinhessen. A good Pinot Blanc or Weissburgunder is refreshing with lots of Mediterranean fruit―no, not tropical―I mean Mediterranean, e.g. mandarin, persimmon, mirabelle (yellow plum), etc. As for Pinot Gris or Grauburgunder, these wines tend to be a bit more earthy—I have found the best expressions to be those harvested at Spätlese level and fermented dry.”

Pictures: Lindsay Morriss Lecturing and Leading the Tasting in Washington DC

Lindsay also feels that, on the question of oak, “since red wine for the most part is only a fairly recent phenomenon in Germany, most winemakers are just beginning to experiment with barrel-aging. Overall, I found most of the red wines to be too delicate to withstand barrique-aging and generally found the extra oak contact to overpower the wine.”

If you want to study Lindsay’s research in more depth, please contact her via her website Lindsay du Vin.

Second, as part of her studies, Lindsay interned at Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein in Rheinhessen. Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is well known in the German wine scene in the US, as it exports about half of its production. Lindsay lead us through a tasting of Georg Albrecht Schneider wines.

Before the tasting in Washington DC, on my last trip to Germany, I had visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider to take some pictures for the event in Washington DC. This was not my first visit of Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider. I had visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider before, and had met owner Ulrike Schneider in Washington DC earlier. Since the US is such an important market for them, the Schneiders come regularly to the US.


Rheinhessen is an area that used to be 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. Lindsay fully agrees: “I used to live there for a number of months and I was never, ever bored with the wide diversity of wines that come from this region. Every time I turned around, I was confronted with yet another grape crossing or a new take on an old favorite -- most of which sadly will never reach the U.S.”

Rheinterrasse, Nierstein and the Red Slope (Roter Hang)

One region of Rheinhessen, the Rheinterrasse, had always been in a somewhat different league, the stretch of vineyards which runs from Bodenheim, south of Mainz, in the north to Mettenheim in the south, often referred to as the Rheinterrasse. The vineyards of the Rheinterrasse have a favored mesoclimate in comparison with others in the region. The Rheinterrasse accounts for one-third of the region's Riesling wines. The wines from the Rheinterrasse were at some point even more expensive than Bordeaux wines.

The Roter Hang (Red Slope) is at the center of the Rheinterrasse. This steep slope extends for some five kilometers (three miles) with a total of 180 ha (445 acres) around Nierstein on the left bank of the Rhine.

Pictures: Rheinterrasse, Nierstein and the Red Slope (Roter Hang)

The Roter Hang has a very special terroir, resulting from the drop of the Rheinhessen plateau before human life started. As a consequence of these movements the Roter Hang has a mineral-rich soil, a mixture of iron and clayish slate, which is at least 250 million years old (Permian Period). Further, the slope faces south to southeast, which helps in terms of the solar radiation. The red slate retains warmth, and additional warmth comes from the sunlight reflected from the surface of the Rhine.

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is located in Nierstein in Rheinhessen. Nierstein sits on the banks of the river Rhine between Mainz and Worms, to the north-west of Oppenheim. Although it does not have an imposing church like Oppenheim, Nierstein has a certain simple charm that its neighbor lacks.

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider

I have visited Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider several times, the first time, when Lindsay was interning in Nierstein. Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider is owned by Albrecht and Ulrike Schneider. The vineyard area totals 15 hectares. More than two thirds of the area is planted with Riesling; other grape varieties include Müller-Thurgau and Silvaner. “We own many very good vineyards and have planted them with Riesling” Albrecht Schneider said. In addition, grape juice, perlé wine, bottle-fermented sparkling wines and grappa-style spirits are also produced.

Picture: Lindsay Morriss at Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider in Nierstein

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller with Albrecht Schneider and his Daughter Susanne in Nierstein

Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider has been exporting for over 30 years, currently about half of its output. Of the export, 70% goes to the US and the remainder to Japan. “Our big markets in the US are are Massachusetts, California and New York” said Albrecht Schneider.

The Wines we Tasted

Here are the wines from Weingut Georg Albrecht Schneider that we tasted.

2009 Riesling vom Kalk Kabinett
2008 Niersteiner Riesling QbA Dry-Style

2007 Paterberg Kabinett
2009 Paterberg Kabinett
2010 Paterberg Kabinett

2009 Dornfelder

2007 Hipping Spätlese
2008 Hipping Spätlese
2009 Hipping Spätlese

2006 Hipping Riesling Auslese

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