Minimalism searches his existence in reduction. The basics are accentuated so that a different point of view can be achieved. Winemaking and minimalism? The only things you need for winemaking are grapes and a container for the fermentation. There is a special wine tank in Franconia. A Georgian amphora, called Kvevri. Manfred Rothe is one of 20 winemakers worldwide who ferment wine in Kvevris out of Georgia. Reduction of complexity, the wine is picked and then put into the amphoras up to 11 months. Nothing else. Due to simplicity emerges complexity. In the wine. For all those who like to revert to the origins and who want to discover something new through purism these wines are a splendid enrichment.
KVEVRI 2013, WEIß
This is true Franconian-Georgian interaction in the mouth. Strength meets harmony. The tannins are challenging. The fruit is solid against them and holds its ground. However, the fruit flavour is different. The aromas are rather like cider. Apple, pear and quince show themselves in the nose and on the palate. And yet over time a rich, contrasty flavour arises. Herbs, caramel, little tobacco. It is a wine, one must spend a lot of time with. And it does not become boring. It surprises, new associations come and go. Interaction of mouth and head likewise. The carafe is a must. A wine which needed time to become just like he is now. The taster needs time as well. One has to get involved with it. Then there will be a strong bond between wine and human.
SILVANER INDIGENIUS 2013 ORANGEWINE
Here too, the carafe is a must. The wine needs room to breathe. There it feels home just like his naming. This orange wine might not be an everyday’s wine but it is an enrichment for everyone who wants to reach back a little farer when it comes to flavour. A combination of ripe, compote-like fruit, balsamic-spicy influence and strong structure. Resonating with a good balance. The flavour between nose and palate is very homogenous. Compote apple, quince and nutty facettes create a complex and exciting moment. A wine for sensual moments. And it enhances every well-conceived food pairing.
If you look for a true Franconian you have found just the right wine. No folderol. No wine for the soul. Variety-typical in the mouth, lightly swaying on the palate. There vibrates a pleasent freshness. Mineralics are combined. The fruit is dominant and rounds off the wine. A Silvaner that brings joy to the daily routine.
SILVANER GRANDE 2015
The great Silvaner. It has the characteristics of its forerunner which is shaped by lightness and flow but now everything is more compact. More intense mineralics. More structure and a thicker fruit. Thereby it brings out the main points which matches with lots of dishes beyond asparagus.
You choosed to work with amphora wine. Why?
Originally the idea comes from a vintner seminar which really inspired me back then. It was about minimalism in oenology. The main question was: What do we really need to make wine. The answer is extremely simple. We need grapes. Nothing else. Among other things there was a speaker from Georgia who presented the Georgian wine culture. This event has shaped me deeply. From this point on for me it was clear that this type of wine-making is relevant.
It is not easy to obtain a Georgian amphora, is it?
Correct. Since 2014 the Georgian wine culture has been part of the immaterial heritage of human kind. Since then it has not become easier to get the original Kvevris.
Which grape varieties are suitable for amphoras or which ones do you use?
From my conviction the amphora needs robust grapes. They need to have a hard skin. Because of the maceration ( contact with mash) phenol and tannin are extracted in the fictile amphoras. The more long-lasting and complex a wine has to be in the end, the more these grapes have to have these characteristics themselves.
At our vineyard the Silvaner as white wine is predestinated for the amphora. The other amphora is filled with Blauer Zweigelt. Sure, it is a rather unusual type of grape in Franconia but we have frontier spirit. Because of the climate change we do not want to water needlessly and with it influence the wine. A human would only be compensating. The Blauer Zweigelt, which we have been harvesting for 15 years now, has everything to be all set for the amphora and the structural change in the future.
There is an increasing demand for wines made in the Kvevri. Why are so many people interested in a method of winegrowing which is almost 7000 years old?
The charm of novelty and specialty has reached an impasse. End of the line. Wines are and were designed into shape too much. They have the flavour the market asks for but they do not represent the original anymore. Replaceability occurs. Because of the remarkable structure of Germany and Franconia (small businesses) we have a great diversity of vintners who unlike famous brands have a unique hand writing and diversity. They can very well guide the search after the originality.
What does an amphora wine taste like compared to a “conventional” wine?
The wine of the amphora is characterised by phenol and tannin. Not as much by the primary aromas like citrous fruit. Concerning the flavour these wines are one step ahead. Suddenly, the wine tastes like compote, quince, mash and marc. It tastes like ripeness. You have to get involved with it. Bond with the wine. Then you might become friends. And you should drink it out of the biggest glass in the house. The wine needs room to breathe.
Likewise, you yourself are a cook. How does an amphora wine score? By what foodpairing?
The amphora wine can keep up with quite complex dishes very well. It is a good companion for for example chicory. Conventional wines often cannot do that.
Here are my personal highlights:
- Small pieces of asparagus, blanched. Really astringent with sea salt and capers with olive oil, 2-3 days in the canning jar.
– Sunchoke raw, cut them in slices and roast them gently with shiitake mushrooms, onions and horse radish shavings. Superb.
The longvity is always a matter of debate. How durable are your amphora wines and what is their maturing potential?
In my opinion, the wines have a good longvity because they do not have a prefabricated flavour profile. My amphora wines need five years to show their full range. Before that time they constantly show new images. Around the fifth year the wine is mature. It does not move forward as much anymore like it did in the past. It becomes more harmonious and finds itself. Until the tenth year they are mature wines that fascinate.
There are only 20 vintners orldwide who ferment wine this way outside of Georgia. Why are there only so few of them?
It is not easy to obtain amphoras but there is not just the problem of purchase. One has to fully get involved with this wine. One has to back this concept. Only then you are authentic.
Your amphoras carry 1200 litres each. Classic amphoras can only carry 600 litres. Is there a difference in the end result?
No, I do not think so. What influences the flavour of the wine though is their egg shape. It is the ideal form to transform something. Processes go off without a hitch. But there is no difference between a 600 litres and 1200 litres amphora.
In Georgia amphoras are still used a lot, however these wines do not make it into the wine lists of the restaurants. What role will the Georgian wines play in the future?
Georgia is the poorhouse of Europe. Georgia has 200,000 hectare vine area. One finds it hard to believe but the profession of the vintner does not exist. Everyone makes wine. There were hardly any quality standards because “grandmother’s jam” is always the pick of the bunch. Because of these huge vine area great investors take much interest in it. They are basically overrun by investments and it is not about the traditions of the Kvevri or the old indigenous grape varieties anymore. Because of that they got the status of World Cultural Heritage, to make this sort of wine, to preserve it. I hope that the Georgian market will be able to establish worldwide on condition that this 7000 year-old culture is preserved and saved.
How will the wine develop out of Georgia and in Germany?
At the moment, there are about 20 vintners out of Georgia who celebrate and cherish this culture. Nevertheless, the taste adventure is open for everyone. There will surely be more vintners in the future who start making amphora wines. Although it is still a very tenuous little plant outside of Georgia it will definitely grow.
Your prediction: How many vintners will work with amphoras out of Gergia in 2025?
Twice as many.
Will there be a new amphora at your vineyard?
(laughs) Not in the next two years.
What project do you have for the future?
Minimalistic work. Lend a hand as little as possible. And I want to keep harmonising my wine range. It includes orange wine and unaffected wine. Wines with a long maceration time. I want to extend boundaries. What would a Gewurztraminer or Scheurebe taste like in an amphora?