It is official, Jesse and Luke have arrived in Germany. While this information may not make the news on any major media outlets, it is news indeed for Hipster Enology as we prepare for our 2012 Northern Hemisphere harvest. Generally, we work in just one designation during any given vintage. This time, we are changing it up a bit and visiting three different winemaking regions of Germany: Baden, Pfalz and Mosel. Even more exciting, we will have the opportunity to work along side many of our German friends whom we met in New Zealand. Although the previous sentence might sound like world-traveling namedropping, this appears to be normal in the ever shrinking small world of the wine industry. Plus, we’re Hipsters, so namedropping is just another finely tuned tool in our arsenal.
Fulfilling our lifelong fantasy of being picked up by a leggy blonde in a Mercedes, our friend Sonja of Zimmerlin Wines picked us up in South Baden in the city of Frieburg to take us to the first stop in our German harvest tour. While we first met Sonja as a cellar hand for Sherwood Estate in New Zealand during the 2011 vintage, she is now an assistant winemaker.
Weingut Zimmerlin rests in the relatively unknown (at least to Americans) Käiserstuhl district of Baden in the small village of Bötzingen. It is a mountainous region that runs parallel to the French region of Alsace separated only by the Rhine. Käiserstuhl makes special wines because they have special loess-covered volcanic soil. (Loess is one of the many geological terms you never knew you needed to know for wine, referring to yellowish windswept deposits of silt.) As is the case in many regions of the world, volcanic soil is extremely fertile and consequently, provides a unique expression of terroir to the grapes growing there. Terraced vineyards rise up out of the flats providing evidence of the now long dormant volcano. And, as if great soil wasn’t enough, the wines of Käiserstuhl also benefit from lots of sunshine.
At Weingut Zimmerlin, we were rapidly becoming enamored with their iterations of Spätburgunder, Grauburgunder and Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir, Gris and Blanc respectively.) This is a winery that defies stereotypes in the wine world in that all of the winemaking staff and cellar hands are women. Bettina, the head winemaker of Zimmerlin commands her ship with a kind of cool that is obviously the envy of everyone who meets her. She is strong, brilliant and makes wines of clarity. One of Zimmerlin’s greatest secrets is minimizing the inflation of their wines and letting them speak for themselves. With a recent label and brand redesign, their bottles are fresh and exciting on the outside – just like what awaits inside.
On our last day with the crew of Zimmerlin, after hand-picking Chardonnay, we took advantage of the Käiserstuhl’s famous sunshine with a picnic out in the vineyard. During vintage it is traditional to drink neuer wein or new wine which is still fermenting wine, with an onion cake akin to a creamy onion pizza. We followed tradition but also celebrated with a bottle of bubbles that Bettina sabered with a butter knife.
Next, we will be spending a few weeks in the Pfalz getting acquainted with the many varieties produced there. We’ll be working at Hanewald-Schwerdt assisting our good friend and former New Zealand housemate Stephan at his family’s winery. We will be employed as vintage vineyard interns hand-picking, leaf thinning, cutting away diseased or tightly bunched grapes while preparing vineyards for harvesting machines.
Lastly, we will be spending the most of our time in the Mosel visiting our friend Johannes, also a former roommate from the land of the Kiwis. Johannes is a second generation winemaker from his father, Clemens Busch at his eponymous winery. Exactly what we will be doing there is uncertain, but we can guarantee that lots of beer will be consumed, and probably some old Rieslings. If it is anything like the rest of Germany so far, it will be amazing.
Stay tuned for the rest of our German adventure. We will post more photos to our facebook page. While you’re there, give our page some love and “Like” Hipster Enology. Also, check out some of the bottles we have enjoyed at CellarTracker. CellarTracker will get a lot of love from us in the near future, so keep an eye out for what we have to say there.