As an enology student, most of your extracurricular life is taken up by tasting wine (so you know what’s out there, what you like and want to make one day) and getting to know new people from the industry (so you know who makes what’s out there, who sells it and who you want to intern/work for). The easiest way to do both at the same time is to go and taste on site at wineries nearby (or far away) – luckily for us students (with little money) tastings in Germany are free of charge 99.9% of the time (of course you’ll always get a snob or two who will make you buy the bottle you want to taste before opening it – what’s the point in tasting it then?). As your free time is limited and you want to taste as many different wines and get to know as many different people as possible, you’re always on the lookout for big tasting events with lots of wineries present and pouring. Each growing region in Germany has its own tasting events with their wines throughout the year but you only get one chance a year to taste everything plus tons of international stuff: the trade fair ProWein in Düsseldorf.
To get an idea of the sheer size, just read the following numbers: 3 days, 7 exhibition halls, 3930 producers, 40.000+ visitors. Naturally, Germany has the biggest hall to exhibit in. France and Italy also have their own. Spirits, overseas wineries (including Spain and Portugal), Austria and organic/biodynamic producers share the other 4 halls.
The fair being open only to industry gives you access to pretty high quality product and personnel but several wineries are represented by their marketing and/or sales guys. Really, the only two countries that actually send their winemakers and cellar staff are Germany and Austria. This is kinda disappointing but very understandable seeing that they have the shortest trip, German is the main language spoken on site, and the southern hemisphere is in the middle of harvest and can surely not have their winemaking staff leaving for three days.
ProWein started on a Sunday morning and went through Tuesday evening; each day being a bit quieter than the previous. Traditionally, Monday is the day that the big buyers show up and have their meetings with the different producers. The tasting staff don’t really have too much time to give you intensive tastings if they are waiting for their big customer. Thankfully, they are usually highly professional so they won’t let you notice. Nevertheless, it is always worth staying put at a desk and accepting the little attention you get once a buyer shows up unannounced as the producers usually pull out the special bottles from under the table to impress them and – since they don’t want to be impolite – give you a taste too. That’s how I got my chance to taste a splendid 1995 Pinotage from high-end South-African producer Kanonkop (well known for their red blends named “Paul Sauer” and “Kadette” consisting of Bordeaux varietals and Pinotage) – a wine I won’t forget for some time! Thanks again to the dude from Moscow who seemed to be a serious buyer!
Before coming to an end, let me tell you about one of the best meetings I had during my three days in Dusseldorf: I was wandering around the top notch German producers (VDP) when a big sign saying “Clemens Busch” caught my eye. I had always wanted to taste his wines so I joined the crowd and asked for a taste. The guy that poured me the wines was Florian Busch, one of the two Busch sons. Those of you who know Luke a little better might be able to figure out what happened next…
Having worked the 2011 Oregon harvest with Luke, I had learned quite a bit about his past, including his and Jesse’s stay in New Zealand for the Kiwi harvest earlier that year. In NZ they had worked with two German guys and yes, one of them was Johannes Busch, the other Busch son! Of course getting to know Flo at ProWein wasn’t only luck – does that make me a stalker? – but he turned out to be a great guy, just as Luke had told me. Let’s hope the best for the 2012 Hipster-Busch harvest! Okay, enough jib-jab, time for wine talk!
The wines Clemens Busch made from the 2011 and 2010 vintage are amazing. 2011 was fairly easy to handle whereas 2010 saw lots of rain, rot and skyrocketing TAs – truly a winemaker’s year! Clemens Busch’s 2010 wines were not deacidified at all resulting in slightly higher RS levels in order to compensate the acid. Needless to say, more than that, he did a perfect job!
My other ProWein highlights included a pairing of five dishes with ten different wines from the US, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile (vinaigrette-dressed steamed asparagus with a juicy Sauvignon Blanc Reserve – YUM!) and a Pinot blind tasting featuring five German and five international Pinots (I ended up getting four right altogether, you just have to love Pinots complexity!).
My verdict on this year’s ProWein is pretty simple: There’s amazing stuff out there! Most of it is very reasonably priced so all you have to do is to go and get it! Here are some of my personal favourites:
- 2010 Diemersdal Estate 8 Rows (South Africa)
- 2007 Beyersklof Field Blend (South Africa)
- 2010 Huia Pinot Noir (New Zealand)
- 2011 Villa Sandi Tardo Sauvignon Blanc (Italy)
- 2003 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa)
One more thing before I go: All the South African producers told me to keep an eye out for the 2012 vintage that is being cellared as you read this. The long and fairly cool growing season looks promising!
Take care and always remember Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous words:
“Wine is bottled poetry.”