Weingut Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen region of Germany is one the greatest wineries in Europe if you are in the know. They are the only winery in the world to have received 100 points for the same wine in three separate vintages, for their incredibly rare trockenbeerenauslese (TBA). Johannes Hasselbach hadn’t intended on running his family’s estate, until in 2010 when his father became ill (since recovered), and his sister who had been involved with the winemaking relocating to Austria to work with her husband. An intrepid philosophy led Johannes to travel and explore, and he has slowly began to introduce this into the winery since then. He joined me in the Treasury Gardens of Melbourne on a sunny morning to talk about his journey.
Fritzs Riesling 2010
Lovely and fresh with a little R/S to keep it approachable and friendly.
Qualitatswein Riesling 2010
Orange and mango aromas and a soft acid freshness
Nackenheim Riesling 2010
Slightly more reductive mineralic nose and more rich and concentrated youth.
Nierstein Riesling 2010
Fuller and broader and certainly more approachable now.
Rothenberg Grosses Gewachs Riesling 2010
Dense in the mid-palate, and with such concentration and austerity makes you want to drink it in at least 10 years.
Rothenberg Spatlese Riesling 2010
Some lovely tropical pineapple mango characters, and had fantastic balance and concentration.
Rothenberg Auslese Riesling 2010
More juby glycol texture and viscosity.
Nackenheim Rothenberg Trockenbeerenauslese 2008
Includes the juice macerating on skins for 30 days and takes a year to finish fermenting. The wine is one of the most complex I have ever tasted, as it had the rich syrupy stone fruit and fresh acids, but then showed exquisite oxidative hazelnut and oats.
After two months an important part of my trip has concluded. Important not just because I learnt a lot about wine, but also as I needed work to get a working-holiday visa to remain in Europe all year. After 10 months of solid visits to wineries with a few brief intermissions, I was grateful for a break in wine when I travelled through the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands and Northern Germany before returning to wine, this time on the other side of the fence. Another thing I was grateful for was some money and the chance to stay somewhere for free for a few months, thus saving me some money that I didn’t have. It is with all sincerity that I thank first the Hasselbach family from Weingut Gunderloch in the Rheinhessen, and second Annegret Reh-Gartner and her team at Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt in the Mosel, for their generosity in welcoming me and allowing me to gain first-hand insights into German riesling.
The amphora project continued today, with some more foot stomping and then pressing the juice to rack overnight before being put into the amphora tomorrow. I also used the new markings that I worked on to measure the volume of all the tanks that have wine in them at Nierstein.
Gorgeous view, with leaves changing colour all around.
Lot’s of free run juice from the foot crushing.
Johannes is very happy that his plan is working. He is pressing the grapes for more juice.
An in situ setup in the vineyards where the amphora will live for the next few weeks as the wine ferments.
I managed to lose another day thanks to my back problems, and then worked two half days with reduced duties that wouldn’t make my back worse again. Day 20 Johannes was in Oslo for one of the most inappropriately timed tastings imaginable, right in the middle of vintage. On the following day I was doing a fair amount of observing and not a lot of working, but on Day 22 I got to do something really interesting. Stomping grapes! Riesling grapes!! Stomping grapes is what several members of my family think I’m actually doing by working vintage. I never thought I’d be doing it with white grapes though. The fruit was from one of the Rotenberg vineyards and will go into the amphora in a few days for fermentation. It made for cold and sticky legs but some amazing and hilarious photos as I hope you agree.
Johannes prepares the yeast, mixing in a little juice from the tank to be inoculated.
Johannes adds the yeasts to begin fermenting a barrel of grauburgunder.
Adding some dry ice (CO2) to protect the foot-crushed grapes.
Just when I thought my back was on the mend it decided it wasn’t. It might have been exacerbated by working for two days and being on my feet, with the occasional lifting pushing or bending. By the end of my nineteenth day I was starting to get very stiff and had difficulty moving like before. Now I’m even worse and have resigned myself to see a doctor tomorrow. The few things I got to do before I called it quits for the day was draining the tank of silvaner that had started to ferment on skins, picking some riesling to be pressed and used to start wild ferments, plunge some spatburgunder and continue correcting tank markings.
Perfect time to begin harvesting.
Draining a tank the old fashioned way; gravity.
Johannes plunging the cap on a vat of schwarz riesling.
Not much more to report, most of the same. Johannes was away from Nierstein for most of the day and left me to continue the tank markings which I still don’t understand how they managed to create such a mess to begin with. I took a few photos of Johannes putting some CO2 onto some vats of reds fermenting on skins to protect them from oxidation, and they looked cool.
After a two day hiatus spent mostly resting on my injured back, I returned to the cellars at Nierstein to continue the tank markings. Most of the red grapes were coming in from the vineyards and were being crushed for cold soaking and in then for some, a fermentation on skins. I also got the chance to plunge a ferment, but this time it was a tank filled with silvaner! My second cellar also went off without a hitch.
De-stemmed white berrries after a night soaking, ready to be pressed.
Johannes and Joachim discussing the plan for the day.
Day Fourteen began quite auspiciously, as I managed to strain my back moving boxes of wine which then put me out for two days afterwards. Fortunately things still aren’t busy yet, so I wasn’t missed too much and I didn’t miss too much either. It really is a shame that every day I miss something is a day I don’t have the opportunity to learn anything. Most of the day ended up being spent correcting the markings on tanks at Nierstein, but Johannes did show me how to make the cellar run where each fermentation tank is checked for sugar, temperature and sensory analysis. At the moment it’s not too taxing as there are only a handful of tanks with fermenting wine in them. Come the middle of vintage and the cellar run will take a lot longer.
El Jefe taking me through the steps of testing a fermenting tank.
A half-day at Nierstein saw me attempting to correct the markings on tanks made by some of my predecessors. Somehow the measurements were incorrect so I have to try and calculate the volumes as best I can. It’s taking a little more mathematics than you may think. It also takes substantially more elbow grease and finger-damage trying to get the old markings off. Before this we finished pressing the rest of the silvaner picked yesterday, and also Johannes put some of it with skins into one of his favoured pressure tanks for fermentation.
After a night macerating on skins the silvaner is pressed for racking and then fermentation.
Johannes took some of the pressed juice from the previous day and left it to settle in a couple of glass balloons. This is the juice being racked, before it will go back into a balloon for fermentation. It had a certain amount of skin contact, and he is trialing this method to extract more character from a generally basic variety.
The Vincast - a Wine Podcast with The Intrepid Wino
Wine - Wine People - Wine Culture
A podcast about wine, wine culture and wine people. Every week a different guest from the wine industry joins host The Intrepid Wino (aka James Scarcebrook) for a casual chat about the world of wine.
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