Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Master Wine Maker - Albert Kallfelz

The steep vineyards overlooking Zell an der Mosel (All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
Zell an der Mosel is famous for its Riesling wines. The grapes grow on incredibly steep hillsides - inclines of around 60%. As well as being fit as mountain goats the winemakers must be very talented, too.  I was told that this part of the Mosel wins more awards for its Riesling than any other in the Rhineland Pfalz Landwirtschaft Kammer.  (The Chamber of Agriculture for the Rhineland Palatinate area.)

Some of Herr Kallfelz's gold and silver medals
I was also told that only 3% of the wines produced in all of Germany receive a medal (whether gold, silver or bronze).  Of interest, to ensure the result is not subjective, a machine tests and analyses the wine, instead of people.

The steep vineyards are both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is difficult to use machinery on the hills and most tasks have to be done manually, which is very time consuming.  However, the advantage of the sharp inclines is that they change the land's angle to the sun, making the sun's rays similar to the angle they are in the tropics. With plenty of warm sunshine it's no wonder the Mosel produces fabulous wines, even though it is so far north on the globe [in the northern hemisphere].

It has been a pleasure and an honour to interview three award-winning wine makers in Zell an der Mosel. Of course, I was forced to try the BEST Riesling that I've ever tasted as part of these interviews. It's a hard job being a writer and journalist - but someone has to do it!

While I will be writing more about these wine makers for an article when I'm back home in New Zealand, I can't wait that long to tell you something about them.  Here's a 'sneak preview' of the first in a series of three:
Master wine maker, Herr Albert Kallfelz
Herr Albert Kallfelz is the highest decorated Riesling producer for the whole of Germany.

How long have you or your family owned this vineyard?
104 years.

How big is your vineyard?
I started with 1 hectare and today I have 65 hectares; 25 belong to me, 25 are leased from others and I also buy grape juice from growers with another 15 hectares.

What is the age of the vines?
The oldest are 90 years. I replace and replant new vines every year [on a rotation basis]

How many bottles of wine do you produce per year?
Between 600,000 and 750,000 bottles per year.  These are mainly sold within Germany.

How did you learn wine making?
I didn't do an apprenticeship. I taught myself winemaking and how to market my wine.

Corks versus caps?
I stopped using corks 7 years ago.  I use plastic corks, but not aluminium caps.

My philosophy on wine is the same as what I think about:
  • Liebe (Love) 
  • Freundschaft (Friendship)
  • Fussball spielen (Playing football (or soccer, as it is called in New Zealand))
That is, you can't just study it; you have to learn it for yourself.  You have to get a feel for it. You've got to go with the "feeling in the belly" (gut instinct). 

I want to convince others to produce only high-class, quality Mosel wine, rather than rely on mass production.

Herr Kallfelz in his wine making cellar
Kallfelz Riesling wines tasted: 
  • Merler Stephansberg, Spätlese Trocken (dry), 2010
  • Merler Adler Kabinett, Feinherb (medium dry) 2010  
  • Merler Fettgarten Riesling
  • Urgestein 2007
Overall comments on the tasting: Honey-smooth, full-bodied, almost liqueur-like but fresh on the palate. The gold medal 2007 Urgestein is to die for.

This interview required a translator.  I am very grateful and appreciative to Jürgen Richter for his work as my translator and also to Zell an der Mosel's mayor (Herr Hans Schwarz) and the town council who arranged my interview with Herr Kallfelz. 

Thanks to my husband, TH, for taking great photos and also helping me with the translation as I was writing this piece up.

Last, but certainly not least, my thanks to Herr Kallfelz who took time out of his busy harvest schedule to talk to me and to answer my questions.
Eventful Woman hard at work. Standing is Albert Kallfelz and sitting is translator Jürgen Richter
 All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011

Find out more about:
  • Zell an der Mosel and the area (click on the Union Jack flag to get the page into English).
  • Kallfelz wine (Note: The website is only available in German but "Google Translate" is easy to use for a quick translation
  • My Europe Base, where I have been very comfortable for the last 4 weeks in Zell an der Mosel. Studio, one-bedroom or two-bedroom apartments available for either a couple of days or longer term.  

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