Tuesday, May 6, 2014

German Star Producer Weingut Martin Tesch Leaves Prestigious VDP – The Association of German Elite Winemakers, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Martin Tesch in Wiesbaden, Germany at a VDP Tasting in September 2013

The VDP – Verband der Praedikatsweingueter – is the prestigious association of about 200 elite wine producers in Germany. The VDP is in the process of implementing a new wine classification that is radically different from the traditional German wine classification. Not only the VDP producers are adjusting to the new classification approach, there are many other wine producers in Germany who are adopting the VDP approach, many of those aspiring to be also ultimately accepted in the noble VDP Club. While there is a large group of ambitious German winemaker who want to join the VDP, rarely a member voluntarily leaves the VDP. Now, one of the stars of German winemaking – Martin Tesch, Weingut Tesch in the Nahe Valley - decided to quit the prestigious association. The official press release of the VDP only said that the objectives of the VDP and those of Weingut Tesch have diverted too much over time so that it is better for both sides to call it quit. One can only speculate, what the reasons are, but perhaps Martin Tesch did not want to go along with the new VDP classification that he found for his special circumstances too constraining.

Here is what others had to say: Stephan Reinhardt, Der Feinschmecker: Looking back into history: Dr. Martin Tesch from Nahe Weingut Tesch has left the VDP as he told us in a tasting last Sunday night at his winery in Langenlonsheim.

For more than 10 years Martin is doing his own thing: Liter wines, Riesling Unplugged, five single vyd Rieslings; all of them trocken, straight, screwed, very good if not excellent and reasonably priced. However, none of them is designated as Grosses Gewächs. Martin keeps things short and simple rather than complicated. He has done the right step. Good luck, Martin Tesch!

Thorsten Kogge, Wine Blogger: If you have a clear vision and a reputation for quality production, you can do without any kind of umbrella organization. I also find his step noteworthy and wish him all the best for the future. Plans sound interesting.


The VDP is the oldest association of wine estates in the world. In fact, it is the only one of its kind worldwide. No other country has a national organization of the top wine makers of the entire country.

In 1910, four regional wine-growers’ associations joined forces to form the Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer (i.e. estates that sold their “natural” [unchaptalized] wines at auction). These organizations – from the Rheingau and Rheinhessen, founded in 1897 and 1900, respectively, and their counterparts in the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer and Pfalz regions, both founded in 1908 – were the forerunners of today’s VDP. At this time, fine German wines enjoyed a heyday. They were among the most expensive wines, on the tables of imperial houses as well as leading hotels and restaurants.

Throughout the past century, the quality-driven goals and strict standards of the VDP have played no small part in shaping the viticultural and winemaking practices in Germany. With their stringent statutes and their establishment of a German vineyard classification, the about 200 members of the VDP have served as role models and justifiably can be viewed as the vanguard of the nation’s producers of top-quality wines.

Germany's VDP Wine Estates Celebrate 100th Anniversary in Berlin

The New VDP Classification

Although many people think that there is only one wine classification system in Germany – the classification system of the Law of 1971 – this is not correct. There are four approaches to classifying wine in Germany. True, the classification system of the Law of 1971 with its pyramid of ripeness of the grapes at harvest (Qualitaetswein, Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese …) at the center is the standard classification system in Germany and the vast majority of winemakers in Germany use this approach. A large number of winemakers, however, have moved away from the standard, in particular the powerful group of German elite winemakers, the VDP (Verband Deutscher Praedikatswein Produzenten), which has conceived its own classification system. Other winemakers moved to a zero classification system – no classification, an approach very familiar in the New World. Finally, there is a fourth group of winemakers that have designed their own classification system.

See also:
New Developments in German Wine - Annette Schiller at the German Wine Society in Philadelphia, USA 
QbA, Kabinett, Spaetlese….No, there is not just 1, but there are 4 Different Wine Classification Systems in Germany

The VDP Classification

In sharp contrast with the standard classification system, the VDP classification system is based on the terroir principle. The pyramid of ripeness of the grapes at harvest (which dominates the standard German wine classification of 1971) has moved to the backburner in the VDP system. Instead, following Bourgogne, the terroir principle has taken center stage. And here, the VDP has moved from a 3 tiers quality ladder to a 4 tiers quality ladder in its recent modifications, effective with the 2012 harvest. The VDP has added an additional layer to its classification system, which consists now of the following 4 layers. (In brackets, the equivalent quality classes in the classification system of the Bourgogne):

• VDP.Grosse Lage (Grand Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Erste Lage (Premier Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Ortswein (Village level in Burgundy)
• VDP.Gutswein (Bourgogne régional in Burgundy)

Note that for some legal reasons, the VDP has started to use the terms Grosse Lage, Erste Lage, Ortswein and Gutswein with the pre-fix VDP.

Steffen Christmann (Weingut A. Christmann) and Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) Presented the New Wine Classification of the VDP, Germany  

Picture: VDP President and Winemaker Steffen Christmann, Weingut A. Christmann, Wine Journalist Stuart Pigott, and VDP Vice-President and Winemaker Wilhelm Weil, Weingut Weil, Presenting the new VDP Classification at the 4th Riesling Rendezvous in Seattle

Martin Tesch and Weingut Tesch

Dr. Martin Tesch owns and runs Weingut Tesch in the Nahe Valley. The Weingut has been family-owned and run since 1723.

In his mid-thirties, Martin Tesch is a Ph.D. microbiologist by training. He took over Weingut Tesch in 1996 and has presided over fundamental changes both in the vineyard and the wine cellar as well as in the marketing of the Tesch wines.

Picture: Martin Tesch in Mainz at a VDP Presentation

When Martin Tesch stepped in, the vineyards totaled over 30 hectares and the wine portfolio was pretty mainstream, with a multitude of grape varieties, of quality levels according to the German wine law and of styles in terms of sweetness of the wine.

Martin changed this radically.

First, he cut back on the overall output of the winery. All the north-facing vineyard slopes were abandoned as they naturally produced poorer grapes. These slopes have now reverted to nature and helped create habitat and biodiversity.

Next, he concentrated on Riesling and Pinot Noir, the king and the queen of German grape varieties. All other grapes were grubbed up. Today the vineyard area totals 20 hectares of which 17 is Riesling and the remainder Pinot Noir.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Martin Tesch in New York City

Starting in 2001, Martin stopped producing sweet-style wines. All Tesch wines are now bone-dry, except, it seems, for the occasional Eiswein when conditions allow.

Further, he has moved to natural and non-interventionist winemaking and strict yield control of between 20-30 hl/ha. The harvest is manual and he picks the grapes at full ripeness, but avoids botrytis.

Also, he changed and simplified the label design. There are no long words anymore on the label. Each wine is color-coded and has individual artwork to distinguish it.

Finally, Martin Tesch now uses the Stelvin glass closure. It is an ultra-modern and expensive technical fitting; Martin Tesch and an increasing number of his colleagues are very upbeat about it.

Riesling Unplugged

Martin’s signature wine is “Riesling Unplugged”. "Unplugged" by Eric Clapton has always been one of my favorite albums. Clapton recorded the album for the MTV unplugged series. This was a series of CDs recorded live with as much authenticity as possible. Martin Tesch's "Riesling Unplugged" is - like Eric Clapton’s “unplugged” music and the music of the other unplugged CD series artists - a natural wine, with minimal intervention, just as Mother Nature nature intended it.

In the Glass: Unplugged - Eric Clapton and Martin Tesch

Riesling Weißes Rauschen

In a joint venture with the Die Toten Hosen, Martin Tesch produced the wine "Weisses Rauschen". Of course, Martin is in the lead, but Martin told me that the band played an active role in the selection of wine, the name of the wine and the design of the bottle. The wine was named after a song of Die Toten Hosen from the album Zurueck zum Glueck (Back to Happiness).

Die Toten Hosen is the leading German punk band. The members of Die Toten Hosen are Campino (Andreas Frege), Kuddel (Andreas von Holst), Vom (Stephen 'Vom' Ritchie), Andi (Andreas Meurer) and Breiti (Michael Breitkopf).

The band has existed for over 20 years. The debut single "Wir sind bereit" (we are ready) was released in 1982. Their 1000th concert was on 28 June 1997, in the Düsseldorfer Rheinstadium, and was attended by more than 60,000 fans.

In the Glass: 2009 Weisses Rauschen – A Joint Venture of Winemaker Martin Tesch and Punk-Rock Band Die Toten Hosen

Picture: Die Toten Hosen

Riesling People Vol. 1

Martin Tesch has documented his passion for wine and Rock and Roll in a book entitled Riesling People Vol. 1.

This is an unusual book. It explains in a straightforward way, without words, what makes Martin Tesch tick and the wines he produces so special. As a picture-book and travelogue, Riesling People Vol. 1 differs dramatically from the usual wine books. Almost without words, the book tells the story of Martin Tesch and his love for Riesling and Rock and Roll music. It is narrated by black and white photography, printed on glossy paper, and showcases the ecclectic mix of wine and music in Martin's world.

The central theme of the book is the Rolling Riesling Show, which was jointly organized by Martin Tesch and the guitar manufacturer Gibson. Martin Tesch took an audience that was not necessary knowledgeable about wine through six different dry Rieslings and their soil-specific differences. In addition to the Rolling Riesling Show events, the book includes pictures from London wine bars, from Hong Kong, New York, Jancis Robinson and Stuart Pigott, proud Australian importers with the first container of Tesch wines, Martin Tesch at the concert of the Tote Hosen in Trier and backstage with the Düsseldorfer Punk Rockers at Rock am Ring.

Picture: Riesling People Vol.1 and Vol.2

Riesling People Vol. 2

With the 2010 vintage, the Riesling Unplugged, the signature wine of Martin Tesch, Weingut Tesch in Langenlonsheim (Nahe) in Germany, celebrated its 10th anniversary. At this occasion, Martin produced the audio book Riesling People Vol. 2. It is a medley of diverse contributions of a group of friends of Martin Tesch - sommeliers, customers, journalists, writers, chefs and musicians. The sommeliers Natalie Lumpp, Jürgen Fendt, Billy Wagner and others comment on Riesling Unplugged of each of the 10 vintages; Stuart Pigott talks about hunting sharks on the Nahe river. The Rock and Roll Band Die Toten Hosen – Martin Tesch produced the wine Weisses Rauschen with them (see below) – contributed a song to the Riesling People Vol. 2, as did Koester + Hocker and the Group Les Sauvignons. All in all, a highly entertaining and informative audio book about Martin Tesch’s Riesling Unplugged.

Winemaker of the Year 2012 (Stuart Pigott, FAZ)

German wine journalist Stuart Pigott crowned Martin Tesch Winemaker of the Year 2012. Stuart Pigott in the FAZ: “Typically, the "Winemaker of the Year" is a winemaker who has received the maximum points and awards for his or her wines, a kind of a winner-hero who is theoretically superior to all colleagues. Rarely the question of the role of the winemaker comes up. Martin Tesch from the same winery in the Nahe Langenlonsheim has been doing just that for more than a decade. His answer is based on the principle that a winemaker has to stand for a certain type of wine, if he wants to succeed in the market and in the public. Indeed, Martin Tesch succeeded, though in the beginning, when he decided to go for bone dry Riesling (instead of a softer and / or sweeter alternative), he suffered quite a bit, with sales dropping sharply.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Stuart Pigott in Washington DC

But after the initial down turn, sales recovered and Martin Tesch became increasingly successful. The most important expression of its minimalist approach to winemaking of doing in the cellar as little as possible, but as much as necessary, which represented a radical reinterpretation of German winemaking culture, is the spicy-fresh 2011er Riesling "Unplugged" (8 Euros ex winery). The name reflects Tesch’s deep interest in and knowledge of rock music. Already in 2009, he toured with his "Rolling Riesling Show" Germany, a successful combination of his Rieslings and rock concerts. He has gradually redefined the role of the winemaker”.


schiller-wine: Related Postings (Martin Tesch)

In the Glass: Unplugged - Eric Clapton and Martin Tesch

Impressions from the Riesling + Co World Tour 2010 in New York

In the Glass: 2009 Weisses Rauschen – A Joint Venture of Winemaker Martin Tesch and Punk-Rock Band Die Toten Hosen

The Avantgarde Wine World of Dr. Martin Tesch

Tesch Riesling Unplugged 2010 and Duo Favo FAVOriten

Wine Maker Martin Tesch: Riesling People Vol. 2, Germany

Winemaker Martin Tesch, Weingut Tesch in the Nahe Valley, and Rock ‘N’ Roll, Germany 

schiller-wine: Related Postings (VDP)

VDP.Grosses Gewaechs, Erstes Gewaechs, Spaetlese/Auslese Trocken, … Labeling Dry Ultra-Premium Wines in Germany

The VDP - the Powerful Group of German Elite Winemakers - Refines its Classification System, Germany

Stepping up: From 3 … to 4 Quality Levels - The New Classification of the VDP, Germany

German Wine Basics: Grosse Lage and Grosslage (and Grosses Gewaechs)

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

German Spaetlese Wines Can Come in Different Versions. I Have Counted Five.

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

Approaches to Classifying German Wine: The Standard Approach (the Law of 1971), the VDP Approach and the Zero Classification Approach

Germany's VDP Wine Estates Celebrate 100th Anniversary in Berlin

New Developments in German Wine - Annette Schiller at the German Wine Society in Philadelphia, USA

QbA, Kabinett, Spaetlese….No, there is not just 1, but there are 4 Different Wine Classification Systems in Germany

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