It is difficult to watch us jumping around in a blog. But we do. In an international organic wine test, our 2015 vintage got a third place, – a silver medal. We like this, and are proud to show off our medal in German and English. See www.bioweinpreis.de. Bear in mind that the bottles also have their own hand-harvest certificates, giving you the names of everyone who cut out mould and placed very healthy bunches into the boxes. The hand-harvest certificate can be seen here. We obviously were not at the tasting, but are chuffed that our wine mingled with so many well-regarded ones. Yay!
In this bit of the site, you can follow our vineyard story step-by-step, – in fact, the blogposts start in autumn 2012. And no, it isn’t a case of blogging every single cutting sound the shears make. You get to witness each year develop like a dance that gets faster and faster, like a sirtaki, or a waltz with a mad finish, or a head-banking rock-guitar-solo, or a beat that eventually goes trance-like. It goes a bit like this: When we step into ….
… the vineyard at the start of the year, everyone’s asleep. We tap the vines and there is yawning, as if they are about to wake up. Then, much later, and after much work, the elation of seeing the blossom. Probably at around June time. This time feels ike getting into position for the dance, the pose. Next comes the time when we see the little pea-sized berries: This feels like the first couple of turns of the dance, when you can still make out the shapes around you, you lean back and enjoy the music. But the head-spinning finale comes without fail, and it arrives in the shape of the run up to harvest time. Time to hit you with a technical detail, to stop the spinning: When you have scrolled to the bottom of the page, it takes a while before the next posts load, – and the next ones, and the next ones. until the last, err … first one: A Berliner writing about Veltliner („Veltliner“ being pronounced as if the word „inn“ was in there, – hence the brilliant rhyming….). Enjoy!!! And feel free to send me comments and suggestions.
Is the packaging of our wine unique? Does it contain a higher percentage of insecurities than carton?
Anyone who peeked in on my packaging efforts over the last week would probably not have picked out anything unusual at first. Surrounded by the huge metal crate of wine boxes, the labelling machine, the flat-pack cartons, already stamped with nice greenfeatherwine stamps, and an increasing pile of folded cartons. In midst of it me, with the big metal tape roller, rolling the tape over the three sides at a time, short-box-side, from there over the bottom side, and onto the other short-box-side. That leaves you with a nice box to put the labelled bottles in, before doing another 3-side-packaging tape, to close the box. Nothing unusual here.
Yet it seems that once insecurities creep in, nothing is as easy as it sounds. And why did them thingies creep in? I was driving a big truck on that day, well, big-ish, sprinter-size, on a narrow road, battling it out – as I thought – with even bigger trucks coming towards me. „My mirroooooooor“. Ok, so all trucks did fit onto the road without any problems, but it is all in the head. „Did you want any lunch“ they asked, at lunch time. I did not. Until that trip was over, all my nervous energy was focused on nothing else than getting this job done.
Packaging, then. What could possibly go wrong. The tape has many personalities, a very clingy one, a very evasive one, at least. As you are putting the tape roller onto the carton, you don’t know which one will rear its head. If it is the clingy one, the tape is everywhere, between the fingers, on the roller, removing the nice white carton finish from the otherwise brown carton; in fact, it could be everywhere, just not holding together the carton.
Then, next time, you apply the roller more firmly, but the roller is being evasive. And you end up ploughing into the carton like a snow plough, disfiguring the carton instead of leaving tape on it.
More sabotage came from the folded carton section. I had stacked them so that I would be taking up the bottom of the box. But they managed to position themselves the other way round and carton after carton got taped up the wrong way and had to be taken apart again. By the time the scissors fell between the finished wine boxes stacked onto the palette, I was getting worried. Until I realised that every box on this palette that looked a bit like it had been through a storm thanks to some wonky tape was a very good product packaged up in a lot of my insecurities. They are the added value when you buy these boxes. Whatever your insecurities, I am happy to buy them, too.
There was the guy who mentioned Sisyphos to me, as he watched me. He had angels stored in his truck, for a church event. We agreed that his job would be a lot easier, if the angels flew to the event themselves. I think his reference to Sisyphos was a reference to the repetition involved. But repetition is in everything we do, – legal contracts go back and forth many times and the same provision gets reviewed in the wee hours of the morning. The manual work on the vines does not get more interesting where it is applied to the 500th vine. Michael Ende, a favourite childrens’ book author when I was small, has written a book about repetition („Momo“). A carton box, a 100-page contract, a vine that needs treating, – all of them can be as interesting or as boring as you make them to be. So I don’t think you get „bored-packaging“ or „sisyphosed-packaging“. it just looks interesting.
And just to demonstrate how much I had tried to avoid doing the packaging in a situation where those insecurities could seep in. I could do the packaging in the „safe“ home, in our flat. That means that our living room is then just a mountain of ready-made carton boxes. And once you have found a way to put them all into an ooning to take them to the truck, you look like engrossed in some strange ritual, the box-carrying ceremony, when a bus-sized amount of boxes moves location. You see, packaging with insecurities is much, much better. Thank you for reading.
There is excitement. With everyone who helped us pick; with other friends who are curious, we will be opening the 2016 vintage. in preparation, we taste again. Of course, if we taste, the parrots, Marzipan and Erbse, feel like they also need to taste. And check the temperature of the wine. Luckily, distraction is at hand, a walnut is always more interesting than any other item of food or drink, that they may hope to get from us.
There’s just one silly habit: If you get to munch on the most exciting item you constantly crave (in this case, a tiny bit of walnut), then, wouldn’t the best thing be to keep quiet about it? Picture taking a spoonful of the best ice-cream, cake, ripe fruit, or anything else you might have a craving for; and picture going into complete ecstasy on that first spoonful; “MMMMMhhhhhhh; mhhhhhhhhhhhhMMMhh; MHHH; mmmmh; MMMMMMMhhhhh;. I could draw the different octaves, but you probably have the picture.
The parrots have their equivalent noises to react to something as exciting as a walnut. Making the noise, without fail, makes the other parrot rush along in excitement. And then a fight ensues. Just because one is quicker than the other in munching it; or one dropped it; which means the one bit that is left in a beak becomes very contentious. Heavy fighting that can draw blood.
Hence, not announcing that you just discovered this amazing gorgeous piece of nut would be the best safety mechanism to apply. I will talk to them. Maybe they get my suggestion. But not tonight. Tonight, everyone is knackered. From wine tasting and describing of wine flavours. Or from just a tiny bit of walnut. Good night.
Cologne or Duesseldorf?
It sounds like the start of one of those conversations: London or Edinburgh. Adelaide or Sydney. San Francisco or New York. Hong Kong or Singapore. Fribourg or Freiburg. Beirut or Cairo. Manchester or Liverpool. Berlin yes, but which district. Or just the conundrum of whether to move a few streets away, out of reach from the current neighbours. Etc etc etc.
A list of conversations I have had or overheard. Am I restless? Is this post about the travel bug? It is about choices. Where would you live, is a question often disected into intangible motives. Where would you live if money did not matter… if friends/family could be beamed anywhere….. Conversations powered by what we harvest when our inner fields are blossoming with fruits of our own ideas of freedom.
I was reminded of such conversations by a bit on the radio/podcast. She wanted to move to Australia, he wanted to stay in Canada, with the elderly mum. No question. Even if he lost her in the process. He was not up for these dreamy conversations. He knew where he was strapped into life, no need to ponder. Day after day he wanted, it seemed, “direct notification” of whether the family member in need of care had eaten: he chose the comforting food smell as notification and not just a distant online confirmation.
Do wine bottles face the same conundrums when offered to move around the world? Travel-dreaming is precisely what Green Feather bottles are doing at the moment. They want to introduce themselves to new audiences.
It mind-travels itself easily to new locations where Green Feather bottles could sell; a glass of the 2015 between beach sand and the yelps of sea gulls; a glass of the 2014 by a ski-hut’s open fire. But then the practical difficulties and „passport“ requirements of each country hit those bottles, like a sea gull poo dropping from the air.
The good news is that Green Feather is travelling. It has pulled some of these imaginary locations out of the mind game and drapes its chilled aroma molecules over the evening bar chatter of these places. So go and enjoy Green Feather in Montreal, Cologne and two bars in Darmstadt.
The latest addition to Green Feather’s residences is Zwoelfgrad (Martin Luther Platz 1, 50677 Koeln), a wine shop in Cologne. On shelves angled at twelve degrees, Green Feather bottles are mingling with other exclusive wines. Check it out, spread the word, crack open (or gift) a bottle. And if someone asks you „Duesseldorf or Cologne“, you know where to point them…..
„Copper now regaining strength…. yes, yes, he is getting up…..tumbling a bit, mind you….but can he still do it….. Algae’s performance tonight has been mind-blowing, the fans’ screams are deafening….Algae has surprised us all by dominating this fight from the beginning… he will be a deserving champion tonight…..[pause]….ohmygod!…ohmygooooooood!!!!!….Copper is going in for another punch….goodnessgracious meeeeee!….Algae is on the floor!!!!….He – has – done – it… Copper has done iiiiiiit…..He found some strength somewhere and wiped out his opponent when everyone had him written off already… Copper – is – the – winner!!!!!
It could have sounded something like this. The wrangling in Brussels as to which substance certified organic vintners should be allowed to use to fight one of the mildew illnesses that would otherwise seriously damage the grapes, or wipe out the entire harvest. Algae (brown Algae to be precise, in a product called „Frutogard“, containing „phosphonate“), or various Copper products.
If Mohammad Ali had been in the fight above, you would have heard of it. Every paper would throw headlines at you the next morning. You could not avoid knowing. But the same fight struggles to make it through to the consumer’s eyes and ears, probably even as they are munching on grapes, when it comes to knowing what substance has been sitting on the skin of these grapes.
The illustration with graphic images may be lacking. I dare you to mash up stock photos of algae and copper into an epic fight scene. It is happening in my imagination, but it won’t come out in any meaningful way.
But here is an image I can hopefully convey: Imagine you are putting on a onesie out of clingfilm in May and at no count are you allowed to take it off until August. Most importantly, it must not tear. The tiniest rip and you are doomed. In fact, picture something more fragile, very thin crepe-dough poured evenly over your skin and it has to hold for 3-4months. You are walking through rain and it must not come off. You bash into things and it must not come off. You grow (best to picture a toddler in a onesie here, as analogy for the growing leaves) and the onesie must not tear.
In real life, we are trying to put this onesie over all berries and leaves in a vineyard, from May until August. You start with a few tiny leaves that grow into many big leaves in that period. You start with pin-needle berries that grow into pea-sized berries. Unless you are growing a new breed of vines that is resistant to fungus („Piwi“s), any rip in the onesie spells disaster: In this rip, the illness, the fungus, can grab hold of the leaf or the berry. It gets a chance to spread and before you know it, you have lost and the fungus has won. As leaves and berries grow, you need a larger onesie. Otherwise the clingfilm layer gets too thin, allowing the fungus onto the plant. That’s why we watch the plants’ growth and re-apply the „paint“ every week or so to ensure the onesie stays intact.
Then there is the rain. The onesie washes off. Not so much if the onesie is made from synthetic substances. That’s why conventional vintners can spray less often. All the organic substances, algae, copper, baking powder, sulphur, whey, will come off very easily in the rain. And thus need to be re-applied immediately, to stop the fungus spreading in the cracks. Have a spraying machine that doesn’t turn the leaves around to cover both sides? You have lost already. That’s how extreme it is.
What does it mean, if the fungus wins? Organic vintners have lost their entire harvest in years of severe fungus, such as 2016.
As far as covering everything from May to August, everyone is on the same page. Then comes the question what substance works best. This is where, as far as the organic side is concerned, you’d think there’d be a major fight, – an assessment of all pros and cons. But apparently, it happened very quietly. The license to use the algae product in organic farming was not extended in Brussels. And so the choice was gone and copper is the only option.
I am not a scientist, but I understand the concerns at the amounts of copper being thrown into the air between May and August. Not that it should distract from the badies conventional farmers cover their leaves and berries with. But the signal it sends to consumers damages the concept of organic certification at the core: If a consumer decides he would rather buy wine that went through algae spraying (and thus far less copper spraying; it could never replace copper entirely), he/she would have to start the precise research that the certification aims to avoid: ring the vintner, know the vintner, know a lot to ask the right questions.
Picture the vintner who decides it is unethical to go with the copper-only option. He/she loses his/her organic certification. A three-year period is then between the vintner and a new certification. If legislation decides to re-introduce the algae the following year, you might have two vintner neighbours spraying the same thing (algae), one still holding on to his certification; the other one still waiting for three years, because he changed his system on his own accord during one year, on the basis of what he considered best.
I can’t help but at least consider a path away from certification and towards a distribution system that makes sure the consumer knows what we spray.
(Thank you to Johann Schnell for sharing his insights from so many years of spraying with us. And yes, the ruling out of the algae happened a few years ago, so you could argue, the complaint comes a bit late. But until the papers pick it up, it is worth writing about it. This article from 2008 mentions Frutogard briefly.)
Other links (in German): http://kupfer.jki.bund.de/index.php?menuid=1
Should you also see snowflakes looking out of the window, it is easy to change this image slightly and arrive at the mental picture of the yeast floating through the steel tanks during fermentation a few weeks ago. It is fascinating how the flavours of the juice change on a daily basis during this whole process. As the yeast settles to the bottom of the vat, we get a clearer idea as to what the wine will taste like. Since we have a small bit of Bacchus and a larger bit of Silvaner, we will most likely mix the two grapes. One part of the Silvaner spent a small period in a wooden barrel, so we are likely to have two types of 2016 wines: the typical steel-vat style and the one with that buttery mouth effect from the barrel.
One surprise factor each year is how intense the flavours are that are so typical for the type of grape, the Silvaner and the Bacchus. Last year, the Bacchus flavours were really intense. This year, we don’t know yet whether the Bacchus is following in the same direction. You can measure the “Thiole” at the laboratory, to measure whether it will be a “shy” wine or an “outgoing” one.
At the time I was researching this a bit more, various radio stations discussed what the “word of the year” for 2016 was. They were related to facebook (“filter bubble”) and the Austrian never-ending election (“Bundespräsidentenstichwahlwiederholungsverschiebung”). My favourite phrase at the time was one for a device for measuring taste components in the wine (in German): die “Headspace-Gaschromatographie in Verbindung mit einem gepulsten flammenphotometrischen Detektor” (see page 18 of the pdf).
“Spat woa’s, passt hod’s” is the name of our 2015 wine, the green label. It was late, but it was all good. In Austrian dialect. Which could be applied to more than just the wine. Specifically, it referred to when you harvest and what acidity you find in the final wine and whether the acidity needs to be reduced. Germany being such a northern wine growing region, acidity tends to be high. Too high for some. Especially, if you are struggling with tummy aches and reflux. And there are several methods for reducing acidity. But that’s for another day.
This being December, I just wanted to post a few pics to show how dramatically the vineyard changed over the last few weeks, from yellow leaves at harvest stage, to doing the winter work and seeing bare stems; to the frosty image now.
2016, it was very very nice knowing you. Pass my regards to 2017 and let 2017 also be a nice year! Thank you!
in midst harvesting chaos, this is to say a massive big “thank you” to everyone who came along last Saturday, to help us harvest the largest of our three “Stueckerl” or rows of vines. Dylan may have been on our mind, as we cut out bits of mould from grape bunches of high sugar, but also high acidity. As dogs and parrots started to complain where the fun program for the day was. As the coffee flow was restored, thanks to a neighbour coming to the harvest. As we experienced every weather, from fog to rain, to freezing cold, to sunny. As we contemplate what to improve next year. Very exciting times. Have I said thank you yet? (and thank you to our friend Paul for creating such great ‘bigger picture’ shots that we did not have before.)