ABS Wine Agencies, Fri 02 Oct 2020
We talked to two of our German growers about life, vineyards and the lockdown, firstly Johannes Hasselbach of Gunderloch, in Rheinhessen.
HOW HAS THE 2020 VINTAGE BEGUN FOR YOU, HAS THE WEATHER TO DATE THROWN YOU ANY UNUSUAL CHALLENGES IN THE VINEYARD?
Vineyards and weather have been very nice to us so far this year, it seems like nature wants to make up for the stress this unusual and unprecedented coronavirus situation gives us. The work in the vineyard is a good relaxation pill and a nice contrast to the time in the office. We are a bit ahead of schedule (around two weeks) but the growth has been constant, and we can keep up with the work. We did not have any frost issues so all in all we can be very grateful. Just a bit more rain in the next weeks and we will be completely happy.
You can now see the young grapes on the wines which is a very exciting time as you can get the first ideas about the upcoming vintage.
YOU ARE CURRENTLY CHAIRMAN OF THE VDP RHEINHESSEN, HOW ARE YOU ENJOYING COLLABORATING WITH ALL YOUR RHEINHESSEN COLLEAGUES?
In general, yes, very much, the VDP.Rheinhessen is a very close and dynamic group. When I took over the responsibility in our region in December, we had set some very important goals. But also, here coronavirus has stopped all our ambitions, but that gives us time to sharpen our strategy. The main goal for the future is to strengthen our efforts in the big picture of sustainability. Every generation has its challenges and I think this is the question that my generation now must answer. We see that natural cycles and the climate is changing. We are an association of farmers that see their vineyards and soils as the most important asset, but we also see that it gets more difficult to do the best for our vineyards and at the same time do the best for the environment. Sustainability looks at both dimensions and that is why it is so important.
We have a big responsibility but working together as a team in the VDP we can also be an example or an Idol and influence and motivate people to adopt their way of thinking. And here wine is an amazing communication tool for this ambition, as it stands on almost every dinner table. That is why I believe that every hour of work we invest in the VDP. Sustainability idea is worth it.
WHAT MAKES THE ROTHENBERG VINEYARD SO SPECIAL TO YOU, WHY DO ENJOY MAKING WINES FROM THAT SITE?
The Rothenberg vineyard is the vineyard our winery has been founded on. We see ourselves as employees of our vineyard sites. In this spirit It has fascinated 6 generations of my family and at the same time challenged us to the maximum. When I think of great vineyards in the world they are not necessarily “perfect farming land”. There are always challenges that make the vintners more aware and try to find ways how to comfort this special piece of land the best. And speaking of Rothenberg the hard and steep but also unique red-slate soil, the tension filled amplitude between the warm days and the cold nights, the reduced availability of water that teaches our vines to dig deep…..these are all only examples of the incredible balance between challenges and fascination of having a vineyard which is unique in the world. And with our “cellar philosophy” of minimal intervention we can create wines that are unique ambassadors of this unique sites.
YOUR VINEYARDS ARE CURRENTLY IN TRANSITION TO ORGANIC, HAS THIS BEEN MORE DIFFICULT THAN EXPECTED, WHEN DO YOU EXPECT TO BE FULLY CERTIFIED ORGANIC?
We have been working very close to this idea now for almost ten years. It is an imperative for “origin driven farmers”. But due to our setting on steep slopes we had to amend our philosophy and work with ideas, which are 100% in the organic idea, but as reality has proven not compatible with the formative body of “EU Organic winemaking”. So the problems are not in the vineyards, but in the office;-).
As farmers you should never be dogmatic and in the vineyard, there is not only “right and wrong". On the other hand, we understand that it is important for our partners and customers to have clarity and trust on an official certification. In the end the step is not so huge that we cannot tackle it, so we have decided to enter the official process and our wines are planned to be “officially” organic from the vintage 2021.
I also feel that there is a great possibility to join the discussion on how we find the optimal way of vineyard practise together with the started certification and the sustainability position within the VDP.
GUNDERLOCH IS PRESENT IN MANY INTERNATIONAL MARKETS, HOW ARE YOU MANAGING TO KEEP UP WITH ALL YOUR CUSTOMERS ABROAD DURING THIS NO-TRAVEL PERIOD – LOTS OF ZOOM CALLS AND VIRTUAL TASTINGS?
In fact, yes - and I enjoy those very much. One thing we really miss is talking to our customers about wine and the things we cherish about our profession. Wine is always also something that you want to share with people, as we cannot do that “face to face” Online meetings are an entertaining and easy way to make up for this. Hopefully, this is something that will survive this crisis. I love to visit the markets and spend time with real people, but also, I think this can be a great way of reducing the amount of trips and our CO2 footprint at the same time.
FAVOURITE WINE FOR DRINKING RIGHT NOW AND WHY?
Now I just love the 2019 “Jean Baptiste”. It seems drier and minerally and has a beautiful crunch to it. A nice mixture of a Mosel-like elegance but a substantial powerful taste. Perfectly balanced and drink animating. Locked in and you cannot enjoy the sunshine outside? This Kabinett is your spring in a bottle!