The Franken region does not export very much, at most about 20%. The wines that are exported tend to go predominantly to Scandinavia and BeNeLux, with very little leaving Northern Europe. I’m not sure why this is, as the Franken produces more wine than the more famous Rheingau and Mosel regions. It may be the very traditional nature of the region, particularly the Franken bocksbeutel they use, which although unique is harder to store in cellars and stock in retailers. It also looks a bit old-fashioned. Another reason may be that the general quality of wines in the region aren’t outstanding, and don’t have a history of being so, different to the Mosel and Rheingau. This may be something to do with the choice of varieties, but may also be the nature of the climate. In my humble opinion there is huge potential in the region, as there is great diversity of sites and soils, but they have to modernise and focus on certain varieties in certain areas.
|Weingut Hans Wirsching|
The owner of Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in the Mosel was nice enough to put me in contact with a number of producers in the Pfalz and Franken regions, and this included Andrea Ebert the co-owner of Weingut Hans Wirsching, in the Steigerwald village of Iphofen. Whilst here I had one of the nicest visits I have had in Germany so far. The wine business has been in the family for many generations, growing grapes and selling wine since 1877. The family had great struggles in the early 20th Century thanks to phylloxera, and the region has never got back to the volume it had before then. Like many in the Franken region, a number of varieties are produced in different qualities and styles, but there are a few interesting wines in the mix. Use of traditional barrels is important, but not as important as good fruit from ideal sites. Silvaner is a key variety, and they were the best I tried in the Franken. Click here to read the notes from the tasting I had with Andrea.
|The first barrel purchased at Weingut Wirsching|
After a tasting Andrea was kind enough to take me to lunch at a nearby traditional German restaurant, where I enjoyed a silvaner wine soup (which was creamy and delicious), followed by slow-cooked beef cheek with knudel and red cabbage. Over lunch we had a lovely discussion about the wine business and the future of German and Franken wines in the global market, and I was happy to share my experiences gained from my trip. After lunch we headed up to the vineyards above Iphofen where I was able to better understand the unique terroir they have, and the best sites being south-facing steeper slopes with a fossilised blue-grey alluvial character. As you can see from the photos it had snowed overnight so was lovely, and it was nice to look down on the village.
|Iphofen soil composition|
For those of us who still use pencils, or remember back to their primary school days, you may be familiar with the name Faber-Castell. The Castell family have been counts in Germany for almost 1,000 years, and when a member of the family married with a Faber, they decided to combine the names and were declared a new line of counts. The village of Castell not far from Iphofen was where I had one of the more memorable visits in Germany was not far away, at the Castell winery. The counts of Castell have been making wine for centuries, and their archives trace back the exact time and place that the silvaner grape was introduced into the region. The parentage of the variety is traminer and osterreichisch-weiss (Austrian white), and in 2009 they celebrated the 350th anniversary of the variety in the Franken region. They are quite large by German standards, owning over 70 hectares of vineyards and purchasing fruit for their basic wines. The vineyards are varied between soil-type, steepness and direction towards the sun, and produce a large amount of varieties. Much like their colleagues at Weingut am Stein, the wines are all very good but not fantastic. Click here to read my notes from the tasting.
Click here to see more photos from Day Two in the Franken, Germany.