She loves to experiment, thinks about wine in colours and keeps pigs in the vineyard. Of course we wanted to meet her again; Marie Menger-Krug, one of the six winemakers who participated in Terrific Women Winemaker’s Day at Ästad Vineyard.
Today it is the 18th of March, just over a week since the event in Sweden, and we knock on the door to the pardadise in German Pfalz. Villa im Paradies is the first house on the left-hand side when you drive into Deidesheim from south, number 80 on the street with the so suitable name Weinstrasse. Outside, on the pavement, Easter flowers planted in boxes made of old pupitre. Oh no, that is not a coincidence. This family makes sparkling, as well as white and red wines.
The villa is big and white with wood shutters in light brown. The back garden also big, freshly roused in the early spring. On one side the vinothek, outside some high tables. It is popular to visit the paradise during season, to have a glass of wine or two and buy some bottles to bring home.
Marie turns up exactly on time and we dive directly into one of her specialities. That sparkling beverage, which turns out to be the subject of her diploma thesis at the wine university in Geisenheim. Then, in 2004, a garage wine, as Marie calls it. A very small edition, everything made by hand, by Marie, her mother Regina and with grandpa responsible for the bottling. The extraordinary? Méthod rurale, also known as méthod ancestral or artisanal.
Rurale, the old rural, original method, gives bubbles directly from the first fermentation. Unlike the usual, traditional method where a still base wine gets a new dose of yeast and sugar when bottled and then goes through a second bubbel creating fermentation in bottle. Méthod rurale is not common today, French Limoux is often mentioned as a place where it is used.
Marie picks the most perfect grapes, presses them and lets the must settle for a day. Thereafter cold fermentation in stainless steel tank with inoculated special yeast. When the residual sugar reaches 20-23 grams per liter, time for bottling and then the fermentation is completed in bottle. No sulphur is used during the whole process. Not until degorgement, when a small dose is added. ”The grape quality is exceptionally high,” says Marie, ”that’s why so little is needed.”
The first commercial vintage was made in 2007, selling now is the 2009. Marie makes both a Riesling and a Chardonnay. Which one do we want to taste? We choose the latter and are poured the 2009 Chardonnay Méthod Rurale. Beautiful, clear golden yellow. Pure, fresch fruity with minerality. Round with distinct fizzieness on the tounge. Fresh feeling with good length of golden fruit and minerality. Special. Very nice. Delicious.
”This is nature,” says Marie. ”This is the pure grape, how Chardonnay tastes. Wonderful aromas.”
Of course we wonder about the yeast. At Ästad Marie declared that she loves ”wild fermentation” with the yeast found naturally on the grape skins. In this case she inoculates cultured yeast, capable of working under high pressure. However, she did try to make a few bottles without inoculating. That was a couple of years ago.
”It worked!” declares Marie, but emphasises the high risk involved. Then she thinks for a short while and adds that she perhaps should make some more tests, as it could be ”the purest of nature”. So, perhaps there could be a larger experiment? At least it will probably be a conversation topic around the dinner table.
Because in the Menger-Krug family home, there is much talk about wine. Four generations live together, oldest is grandma with her 93 years, the youngest Marie’s little one year old son. She has three small tractor loving boys together with her husband, winemaker he too. They met at Geisenheim.
The family winemaking roots dates back to 1758. Two estates with 80 hectar of vineyards are under the care of the Familie Menger-Krug. Krug’scher Hof in Rheinhessen comes from Marie’s father’s side and Motzenbäcker, adjacent to Villa im Paradies, from her mother’s.
At Krug’scher Hof in Rheinhessen there are five differet soils and several micro climats, fun when you, as Marie, wants to let the place take its place in the wine.
At Ästad we taste, among others, a fine Krug’scher Hof Weissburgunder Keltic Terre 2013 from limestone. Floral, elegant nose and palatefilling fruitiness, apricots and minerality. Medium bodied with good acidity, pure and well structured. (We should have more Weissburgunder on our tables! A new learning from our trip. Such a good food pairing wine.)
”The name Keltic Terre,” explains Marie, ”is an hommage to the Kelts. They were in Rheinhessen before the Romans, they were wine producers and knowledgeable about nature and herbs.”
The grapes destined to the Krug’scher Hof Riesling Spätlese Herrgottspfad 2012, Marie’s favourite single vineyard, are grown in fatter soil, a total opposite to Keltic Terre. A beautiful Riesling with character: Citrus, stone fruit, white flowers and bicycle tires in a young, nuanced nose. Light on the palate, with minerality, pleasant fresh acidity playing peekaboo and fine structure. Good length, complex with some nutiness and grapefruit.
Back to Pfalz and we walk the few steps from the garden of paradise to the vineyard Reiterpfad, where row after row of Riesling vines sunbathe in the morning sun. We talk about grape growing philosophy. Sustainability.
The vines are neatly tied to the wire by willow twigs in artful knots. The Menger-Krug’s don’t like to use thin steel thread, as it easily can cut into the vine. Instead, they favor the old, traditional willow method.
Between the vine rows, cover crop rules. Grass, flowers and herbs. A deliberate strategy to create biological diversity and a favourable eco system. All vineyards are managed organically and they are certified.
”We haven’t sprayed for more than 20 years,” Marie points out to us. ”If we need to add some extra nutrition we use manure.”
Sustainable production in harmony with nature is the guiding star. Slowly moving inte biodynamics, the use of homemade ”teas” has been introduced (”made in our way and we don’t use any cow horns”) and the moon phases guide the harvest.
The sandstone soil in Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad (yes, this vineyard belongs to the adjacent village Ruppertsberg) gives life to the grapes destined for the Motzenbäcker ”dem Himmel so nah” 2013, Riesling Spätlese trocken, a wine served by Lufthansa in First class since seven years. Fresh, light with delicate fruity nuances where citrus, floral notes and a little vaxieness standing out. Good length with nicely integrated acidity. Yes, heaven is close. Elegant.
Then we come to the pigs… to be continued.
Previously on Lovely Wine Grapes about Marie and the Familie Menger-Krug:
Link to Villa im Paradies hemsida.