About this blog

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 ….

vineyard action from steady to spin

vineyard action from steady to spin

… 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.

Green Feather going places

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…..

ready to travel

Copper vs Algae: a fight going unnoticed

„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.

Not a fight scene. No copper. No algae. In fact, the wrong picture altogether.  Possible that Erbse fancies himself as the Muhammad Ali of the parrot world. The raspberry on the beak faking a bloody fight.

Not a fight scene. No copper. No algae. In fact, the wrong picture altogether. Possible that Erbse fancies himself as the Muhammad Ali of the parrot world. The raspberry on the beak faking a bloody fight.


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.

 

grapes and harvest

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

http://derstandard.at/1358305737077/Kupfern-Wein-im-Gerede

https://www.welt.de/wissenschaft/article3228140/Biobauern-spritzen-Schwermetalle.html

Headspace – Our new wine

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).

fermentation

 

Spat woa’s, passt hod’s.

“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!

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Harvest by hand: Like a rolling grape ….

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.)

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Too hot for some

So what if it is too hot in the vineyard for the parrots?  Where do we find Erbse then? Find out in this video:

harvest celebrations

10 months after the 2015 harvest any aches and pains created by the harvesting experience will hopefully be forgotten by anyone who joined us then. And so this is a good time to open a bottle of the finished 2015 Bio-Praedikatswein, nicely chilled, with all helpers and anyone else curious in comparing 2015 to our earlier vintages. If you are interested, email us for more details. We are very excited!

German Wine Organic Praedikatswine

an avalanche of weeds

I always picture an avalanche when the weeds sweep over (or under) our vines.  Experiencing this avalanche helps with understanding the glyphosate discussion: how much manual effort is necessary to keep the weeds in check; the pros and cons of all those methods;  only then can I picture why so many farmers are so intent on holding on to a “simple” chemical that gets rid of this avalanche.

Glyphosate, how I understand it, are designed to travel to the inside of the plant they are applied to, in order to kill it from within. That “drying out” effect is also used on grains and potatoes, which sounds particularly nutty, to spray it on the finished fruit; when usually, one would observe a period of say 6 weeks of no spraying, before harvesting anything. That’s why it is forbidden in some countries.

But coming back to the avalanche and our attempts at dealing with it (manually):  straw has been dealt with in a previous post earlier this year;  but these three images show: 1) the avalanche of weeds; 2) a fleece designed to stop the weeds from growing; and 3) a conventional neighbour’s chemical efforts.

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Or, put together:

compare chemical and organic way of dealing with weeds

vine design

Old vines force you into creativity: the results have changed. At a party in 2013, the decorated vines looked like this. These are more recent designs (thanks to Ute for the input on these):


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