(Continued from “The Standard-Bearers of Württemberg II” on 7 July 2017)
By the 2nd half of the 20th century, Baden-Württemberg has developed into one of the Four Motors of Europe alongside Rhône-Alpes, Lombardia and Catalonia, and Württemberg has become the home of various world-beating enterprises e.g. Bosch, Daimler, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche as well as numerous Mittelstände (highly specialised SMEs, usually family-owned). But this is a rather modern feat: until the mid-19th century, malnutrition and even starvation were still a threat in Württemberg, which remained generally poor until the mid-20th century. To survive, the people of Württemberg were faced with a stark choice – either innovate, or emigrate.
Württemberg’s psyche may well be encapsulated by the proverbial Swabian housewife (Schwäbische Hausfrau), a fictional character whose international debut came in 2008, when Chancellor Angela Merkel helpfully suggested during a speech in Stuttgart that failing American banks – particularly Lehmann Brothers, which collapsed that year – should have consulted the unassuming yet sagacious housewife on money matters. Frugal, industrious and no-nonsense, the Swabian housewife is known for being secretly rich (hälinge reich), the antipode of la Belle Époque flâneur and boulevardier.
Württemberg remains a well-kept secret on the vinous map. Certain ramifications of the “Trollinger-Republik” (literally: Trollinger Republic) era persist, in that many consumers still equate Württemberg wine to tart, pale, light-bodied and easy-drinking quaffers, a misbelief as far away from truth as the myth that all German wines are sweet whites. Otherwise known as Schiava in Italy or Vernatsch in Austria, Trollinger is as maligned as Carignan (a.k.a. Cariñena in Spain), although it is a heritage variety dating back to the 13th century.
Stuttgart is the only major city in Germany with vineyards within its urban territory. Situated merely 10km to its east, the largely residential town of Fellbach is home to three VDP estates. For centuries, the families of Markus Heid and Rainer Schnaitmann have been growing vines and making wines, whether in mixed farms, via cooperatives or as wine estates. Both organic, Weingut Heid and Weingut Rainer Schnaitmann became VDP members rather late on, in 2013 and 2006 respectively; they represent not only the development trajectory of Württemberg wine, but also its spirit of no frills and no gimmicks, as heralded by their minimalist wine labels.
To be continued…
From vines grown on keuper marl, winemaking process completely free of oak influence. Radiant ruby with amaranth-vermillion reflex, the refreshing nose offers raspberry, redcurrant and rose petal. Sustained by neat acidity, delicate tannins and palpable minerality, the lively palate delivers strawberry, morello cherry and light smoke. Medium-bodied at a healthy 11.5 percent, the berry-laden entry carries onto a juicy mid-palate, leading to a fresh finish. This is Württemberg’s very own sundowner.
From low-yielding vines (27hl/ha) grown on the marl-rich part of Fellbacher Lämmler, the preeminent Große Lage vineyard in Fellbach, extended maceration (more than 4 weeks) followed by 20 months in barriques (50 percent new). Rich garnet with carmine-carnelian rim, the aromatic nose provides mulberry, clove, forest mushroom and violet. Braced by abundant acidity, ripe tannins and rich minerality, the multi-layered palate furnishes damson, nutmeg, sous bois and carnation. Full-bodied at 13.5 percent, the sturdy entry persists through a dense mid-palate, leading to a protracted finish. Requires at least 5 more years of cellaring.
From 40-year-old vines grown on gypsum keuper, vinification in large old barrels. Bright ruby with crimson-pink reflex, the fragrant nose presents blackberry, cassis and wood smoke. Supported by perky acidity, amiable tannins and underlying minerality, the refined palate supplies blueberry, redcurrant and geranium. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the fruity entry continues through an active mid-palate, leading to a tangy finish. An outstanding modern reinterpretation of an old-time classic.
From low-yielding vines (25hl/ha) grown on the siliceous limestone-rich part of Fellbacher Lämmler, extended maceration followed by maturation in 300l casks. Rich garnet with carmine-ruby rim, the scented nose reveals cassis, cranberry, rosemary and iris. Underpinned by generous acidity, velvety tannins and clean minerality, the chiselled palate purveys blackberry, morello cherry, thyme and hyacinth. Medium-full bodied at 13 percent, the intricate entry evolves into a melodious mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. Requires at least 5 more years of cellaring.
The wines were tasted at Weingut Heid (W: www.weingut-heid.de; E: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Weingut Rainer Schnaitmann (W: www.weingut-schnaitmann.de; E: email@example.com) respectively, during a press trip organised by Mrs Diana Maisenhölder (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mr Dietmar Maisenhölder (email@example.com) of VDP Württemberg (www.vdp-wuerttemberg.de).
Jacky I. F. Cheong is a legal professional and columnist. Having spent his formative years in Britain,
France and Germany, he regularly comments on wine, fine arts, classical music and opera.