Friday, November 04, 2011

Master Wine Maker - Stephan Fischer

Herr Stephan Fischer in his vineyard (All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011)
I have interviewed three award-winning wine makers while I have been in Zell an der Mosel. I will write more about them when I am back home in New Zealand, but because each wine maker was so amazing I am releasing an early 'sneak preview' for readers of my website.

The first interview was with Herr Albert Kallfelz.

Here's the second interview in the series:

Herr Stephan Fischer

Stephan Fischer's specialty is Mosel Riesling Sekt (Sekt is known in New Zealand as méthode traditionnelle or méthode champenoise or sparkling wine) for which he has won several gold medals.  He has also been awarded the overall prize for the best Riesling Sekt for Rhineland Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate province) three times in the last 10 years.

In addition, he makes exceptionally good dry (trocken) and sweet Riesling wine. While his vineyard has made Riesling wine for several generations, he has only been making sparkling wine since 1984. 

Herr Fischer's steep vineyards
He grows mainly Riesling grapes followed by white, red and blue burgundy grapes. Like other vineyards in Zell an der Mosel, his grapevines grow on steep hills. The Mosel is in the north of the globe and this means that land is usually at a low angle to the sun.  However, the steep sides of the vineyards in Zell an der Mosel changes the land's angle [to the sun] to match what it is in the tropics.

Examining the grapes prior to harvest
As well as the dizzying steepness of his vineyard, hard work, the need to keep a close eye on the weather and the condition of the grapes, Herr Fischer also attributes his success to the small chunks of slate that are scattered across his land. 

This slate is up to 240 million years old and has two big advantages for wine makers:
  • It absorbs heat from the sun during the day, which it then releases overnight to warm the vines and reduce the impact of frost.
  • It contains minerals such as magnesium and potassium. These leach out of the slate when it rains, which enriches the ground.
Here's a summary of some of the questions I asked Herr Fischer:

Interview in action
How long have you or your family owned this vineyard?
I am the 10th generation owner of this vineyard.

How big is your vineyard?
3.5 hectares.

What is the age of the vines?
The oldest are 60 years old.

How many bottles of wine do you produce per year?
Between 15,000 to 25,000 bottles per year (depending on nature and the weather). 
In the cellars and wine making area

Corks versus caps?
I have used aluminium caps for last 15 years, but I still use corks for sweet and red wine. The price of corks went up by 10% per year, every year (due to increasing demand) but the quality went down by 10% per year. So I had to make a decision to change but it wasn't hard. Aluminium caps are brilliant - clean, hygienic, no oxygen can get through and there's no spoilage.

In Germany, Riesling is the Queen of the white wine. The King of the red is spätburgunder (pinot noir). For me, Riesling is:
  • tradition
  • passion
  • my number one.

Advice for new wine makers:
You need to accept that nature guides the wine process. The aromas are built in the vineyard not in the cellar. You can't build aromas in the cellar; they must be in the grape to start with.

Stephan Fischer wines tasted:
  • 2009 Mosel Riesling Sekt, gold medal. This is the best have ever tasted AND better than most champagnes that I have tasted.
  • 2010 Riesling Trocken (dry) - citrus, gooseberry, very fresh 
  • 2010 Riesling Halbtrocken (medium dry) - more peachy, less citrus, smooth, clean, fresh 
  • 2009 Riesling (Sweet) - very sweet but not sickly-sweet. Very smooth, almost liqueur-like.
Stephan Fischer and his award-winnng bottles of Riesling
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).
  • Stephan Fischer wines (Note: The website is only available in German but "Google Translate" is easy to use for a quick translation
  • Interview with the first wine maker in this series, Herr Albert Kallfelz
  • 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. 
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 Fischer. 

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 Stephan Fischer who took time out of his busy harvest schedule to talk to me and to answer my questions.

All photos and text copyright to Eventful Woman, 2011

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