The shepherd has found its fox again. The leitmotif of the Karl Schaefer vineyard has come back to life thanks to the lawyer and project developer Dr. Job and his wife Nana von Nell—a pair who, since 2008, have been leasing the vineyard for reasons of tradition, and out of a great passion for agriculture and wine. It is a passion that is palpable in their wines: wines that are more vivid, more precise. One feels a translation of their philosophy into the glass; a philosophy to give space to every single wine, allowing them to unfold their own personalities. The engines of this development are the leasers and the team of cellarmen: Gabriel Huber and Patrick Müller. Karl Schaefer and the fox are once again seeing eye to eye.
The sun rises over the mountains of Bad Dürkheim on the 1980s label of the Sonnentropfen (sun drop). And let there also be light in the glass. The sourness works to pleasantly illuminate, and quite directly. Together with a well-bound residual sweetness, it floats delicately along the palate. In the process, it appears filigreed, far from dull. The dynamics of the aromas tell a similar story. At first, the fruit is shaped by citrus notes; afterwards, full-flavoured notes join. A wine that makes the sun rise.
Dürkheimer Spielberg, Riesling trocken, VDP.ERSTE LAGE, 2014
An opulent Riesling with added dimensions and higher complexity. On first impression, the minerals stand out trenchantly, but the sourness provides ample opposition. The fruit lies in the structure of the wine like an opening fan. Notes of citrus fruit and peach are extended by a second impression through appeals of passion fruit. And a languorous structure adds elegance. One can expect nothing more from a young wine. Feel free to leave the wine another three to four years; then all components will have consolidated in a single point.
Herrenberg GG Riesling trocken, VDP.GROSSE LAGE, 2013
Wow! Here the Riesling shows his paces. No big alcoholic bomb is needed to form a flavorful wine. A 12.5 % alcohol content gives a noticeable, extreme thickness. It feels compact and focused. From the middle, a sourness emerges to uneasily tickle the palate. Now the wheat is separated from the chaff. Because of such thickness, only very intense minerals and fruit components can keep up with this wine. Once again, leave it for a few years to enjoy its full potential.
Dürkheim ,,Fuchsteufelsweiß“, Weißer Burgunder, VDP.Ortswein, 2014
To come right to the point: This wine is not available commercially. But the catering trade is delighted by this Pinot Blanc. The use of wood is solved brightly without dominating the fruit. Notes of ripe apple and banana; cream and fruit take care of each other. Animating as a soloist, but even better as a companion to food. (In Berlin, you get the wine in the restaurants Le Soupe Populaire and Fame – more on that soon)
The Interview (with Dr. Job und Nana von Nell)
How did you get involved with wine, work-wise, since you were a successful project developer in the real estate industry in the past?
I originated in an agricultural shaped parental home on behalf of my grandparents. My great grandfather Clemens Freiherr von Schorlemer-Lieser was agriculture minister under Bismarck from 1910 to 1917. And my grandfather was president of the German winegrowers’ association from 1929 to 1934. My grandparents owned the Lieser castle on the Moselle. As a child I spent a lot of time there, near the wine. My father had a fruit-growing business in Perl. So the agricultural influence was happening all along and that is why I wanted to study agriculture desperately. Unfortunately, that did not work because of the numerous clausus in that year, so I studied law, which I thought was really interesting as well – and that is how I became a project developer. After the wild nineties and a nice time as project manager, my wife and I wanted to do something different. Since my wife Nana attended the vineyard of her cousin for several years, the idea to lease that vineyard in 2008 was not so far off. Afflicted with some trouble, we wanted a new start with our first wine in 2009.
You acquired the vineyard in 2008. What do you want your wines to be like?
We are very much influenced by old Dr. Wolf Fleischmann. Because of him, the vineyard evolved into one of the leading German Riesling producers. We want to make wines that are not contingent on alcohol: very thick wines, dry in nature with a nice sourness structure. However, the sourness shall never be the soloist in the foreground, but rather act in harmony.
A new start in a highly competitive field like Germany is not so simple, is it?
Yes, you are right. Germany is highly competitive with enormously qualified colleagues. It is extremely hard to re-establish. You have to question our own quality over and over again. And it is tough. There is a diverse field of perception. You know yourself how much work you have done. But outside the vineyard that message hits home many years later. It feels like the whole thing takes 200 years. But that is how it goes. Haste makes waste.
In your opinion, where is the market moving to?
Five or six years ago young wine drinkers wanted rather young wines. By now, that has dropped a bit. The young wine drinkers, at least that is how I feel, know that wines need to ripen. The German market is constantly stricken by different trends. Four to five years ago, it was the Blanc de Noir, and then it was Rosé. Many ask for Sauvignon Blanc again, which we do not keep in stock though. However, eventually we notice that the Riesling indisputably is on top of German winegrowing again.
Is your Riesling solely “dry out of tradition”?
We love dry wine that is complex and balanced, but we also notice that we have various wine consumers with differing tastes. It’s a learning process. For example, we present a dry wine at a convention, and sometimes we look into surprised faces. Not everyone expects so little residual sugar and directness, especially those wine lovers who have gotten used to residual sugar.
In what direction do you want to go in the future?
We want to keep being a vineyard that has Riesling as a solid product. Of course, you need other types of wine as well. However, we focus on Riesling. In the future, we want to play a leading role in our region. People are expected to associate our name first with the wine-growing region. That is why we remain true to our goal of expanding the Riesling concerning its character of terroir. In 2017, a wine from 2014 will enter the market. It is a red wine that was obtained by fungus- resistant vine stocks. Its name will be “Fuchsteufelsrot” (approximately a pun on flaming mad/ flaming red). A really compact, deep, thick and pungent wine. An extreme wine.
What is behind the label of the “Fuchsteufelsweiss,” which was created by an artist obviously?
It was destiny. We saw the painting of the two fighting foxes at an event organised by VDP: “Art & Wine” in Berlin. We instantly fell in love with it. It is a painting by Tanja Selzer, who lives in Berlin. It hangs in our entrance hall. An expressive and energetic painting. Fantastic.
Where does the reference to the fox on the logo or the labels come from?
Our house is located in the Fuchsmantel. The whole area is a paradise for flora, fauna, and humans. It is situated next to the vineyard. On the logo you can see foxes, the Fuchsmantel, (mountain) and the flag tour. In the vernacular it is also called “small coffee grinder” because of its shape. It is a concise mark in the landscape of Bad Dürkheim. Thanks to history, Fuchsmantel and the vineyard have been closely linked for a long time.
Which markets are you interested in?
We are well-positioned abroad, and we want to expand. Scandinavia, USA, France and especially Paris are ever-present possibilities. In Germany, there is a crowding-out competition going on. Foreign countries love our wines, but here in Germany business picks up speed too.
You have an interesting cooperation with Elephant Gin. Wine and Gin?
Wine and food are inseparable. However, we want to think outside the box and integrate gin into this relation. A glass of wine, a selected food pairing, and gin as a supplement. We are talking to the beverage scene to give the idea some space, and we will begin soon… and there are other plans as well. This year we will exclusively work together with Tauck, an American travel agency. Cruise trips and wine at the highest stage. There will also be a visit to our vineyard. As far as possible, we want to be in attendance because we seek the contact with our customers.
The conjunction of wine and art often is a very emotional experience. “Art in the bouncing room” is an event organised by you two. What happens there?
We host this event twice a year at our vineyard, and use a space of about 200 square metres. It is important for us to show art in busy rooms. In this way, we create atmospheres in the most various ways. Wine goes very well with that.
I can hear that there is quite a good mood in the cellar. Does the cellarman joke all the time?
(laughs) No, that is not quite right, although there is something to it. We really do have great morale here. There is a nice balance between hard work and cosy get-together after finishing time. We have installed a disco ball in the cellar after an American customer recommended it. Primarily, we want to do excellent work in the cellar. The cellar is much more than just an ordinary cellar. It is a meeting place for people and wine – speaking of both staff and visitors.
And the cellarmen Gabriel and Patrick are involved in a school project. Is that right?
There is a project group with the Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium. About 20 pupils of the senior classes produce a wine at the Spielberg and in the cellar, and they are accompanied by the cellarmen. The pupils sell the originated wine and they donate the proceeds to a good cause in Bad Dürkheim.