We have recently talked about the wines Weingut Barzen produces in the Valley of the Mosel Rriver in Germany. Today we talk with Alexander Barzen,owner and winemaker of the winery.
Guten morgen, Alexander, and thank you very much for your collaboration. I am an enthusiast of the Riesling and your wines for years. To begin with, where does your passion for wine and the Riesling come from?
It comes from my family. The passion is in my blood! We have 500 years of tradition in my family making wine in the Mosel Valley.
You have a vineyard planted in 1886. You elaborate a Trocken, an Auslese and a Beerenauslese with their grapes. How are these wines as compared to the same wines of other plots you have?
Looking at the vineyard is looking back in time to the 19th century, with the question: how are the grapes planted at this time? This type of Riesling was intended for another type of climate. How does it endure the climate change?
When I produce the wines from this plot I have in mind the differences. To carry out or find the distinction, I ferment the grapes spontaneously, with their own yeasts, and I employ used oak barrels for the Riesling Old vines dry 1886. Old vines 1886 wines are still marked by the typical characteristics of the Riesling grape, but they make a difference, they are deeper and more minerality is present. Normally it takes them to get open, but once past this point, they can age many years in the bottle, especially the Beerenauslese 1886 dessert wine.
What is the yield of this plot in average?
It depends on the type of wine we produce, but it is a very small yield. For the Trocken it is 20-30hl/ha, which is approximately 1 kg per vine. For the Auslese and Beerenauslese is still lower.
What kind of soils do you have in these vineyards?
They are stone slate, Devon style, a mixture of brown, grey and red slate. The soils are very rocky; we reach a percentage of 70-80% of stone, so there is very little soil between the stones. It has a great importance for the mineral character of the wines.
You also produce a barrel Auslese. How is this wine?
The Auslese barrique takes just a little barrel. It has fermented and aged in barrels for three months. The barrels are 225-liter German and French oak, in their second year of use. The main character of the wine is typical Riesling. It is very elegant, mineral and fruity; the acidity is notable, but very well integrated and makes this wine a perfect companion to a dessert or a mature cheese, especially a blue cheese!
Our 2005 vintage in particular still looks like a young wine! 15-20 more years of life left in the bottle. The barrel gives it an “extra” complexity and subtle aroma. If you don’t know, you not perceive the oak in the wine. We still have the vintages 2001 and 2003 of the oaked Riesling Auslese perfect for a vertical tasting!
How is your Riesling Sekt?
Our Sekt is made without coupage of varieties or vintages, it is Riesling 100%. In 2018 we will present a Brut Nature Reserve. Riesling Sekt has a great capacity of ageing in the bottle and the ageing on its lees is incredibly goodl! It has a very fine and elegant bubble, of reductive character. I would put it, speaking of character, between Champagne and Cava. But it is especially marked by the Riesling grape. Drinking the Sekt is eating fresh grapes straight from vine. The profile is more direct and fruity, elegant and feminine.
What is the process for producing the Eiswein? When do you normally do the harvest?
The harvest is made when it is really cold. For this purpose the clusters are left to freeze on the vine at temperatures between -6ºC and -8°C. They are subsequently carefully collected one by one. The elaboration in the cellar is a special one. The grapes are pressed when they are still frozen and this produces an exceptional concentrated must. A prudent and careful fermentation in small deposits is carried out to obtain the unique character of the Eiswein. In normal years, we have to wait until December or January before they freeze well! If they do not freeze in the vine, all the grapes are lost!
Is the harvest manual?
Yes, we do harvest all our grapes manually!
How is the control of botrytis cinerea on the grapes so they are not lost?
We cannot control the botrytis. Everything depends on Nature and weather. We try to train the vines with their leaves, branches and grapes in a loose way, so they are well ventilated. Producing great botrytized wines always carries the risk of losing part of the grapes. The weather is very unstable at this time of the late harvest (late October/early November).
What is your philosophy as a winemaker?
My philosophy is to work in the most natural possible way! A few years ago I went back to use oak casks (one thousand-liter foudre and barrels), because it is a material and a form of natural deposit that complements adequately my wine vision. It is not to disturb the must on its way, only to influence it subtly when it is necessary. It is a very soft winemaking with the aim of representing the character of the grapes, the vineyard and the soil! We do not use large machinery nor extended coupages or transferring.
Which is the wine you are more proud of?
Sure, Riesling Auslese and Riesling Auslese barrique 2001, 2003 and 2005. They are wines that have been produced in the beginning of my “new” old way of working with the Riesling grape. We still have stock to check the power of aging in bottle of these wines.
What is the wine that best represents Weingut Barzen?
The wines Riesling Spätlese Trocken and the Riesling Spätlese Feinherb (late harvest dry Riesling and late harvest fruity dry). They are wines that perfectly represent the grape Riesling from the Mosel Valley and my philosophy of wine. They are examples of great harmony between the varietal, minerals and the way we prepare them. They are very suitable wines to accompany light fish, rice and Asian cuisine dishes, which personally I like, even if not eaten every day in Germany!
What wines you like to drink when you’re not working?
Especially red wines from Spain! Then, depending on the food, a Riesling from the Mosel. If I have, I love also the white wine which is produced in the Spanish Priorat. I am always interested in taste new and interesting wines. Thus, if someone wants to exchange interesting wines from other areas and countries, they can contact me with pleasure!
Thank you very much for your collaboration, Alexander.
Photos © by Weingut Barzen