Herbst (Autumn)


An important period in a vintner’s yearly cycle. Unless you believe that cutting the vines in winter has more influence on what you harvest than the harvest itself.


A staccato mention of “Herbst” (and the other seasons, Herbst-Winter-Fruehling-Sommer) is part of the theatre play that Nick is part of at the moment, – a tale on how to remember a friend that is no longer around. On at the Mollerhaus Theatre in Darmstadt and in various schools.  There’s another theatre link: Green Feather Wine can be enjoyed at the Zuckmayer play (Carl Zuckmayer being from Nackenheim in Rheinhessen and thus neighbour to the grapes that made it into Green Feather Wine; Carl Zuckmayer probably ringing a bell in the Marlene Dietrich-context, if not otherwise) “Die Fastnachtsbeichte” at the Neue Buehne in Arheiligen.

Herbst. Winter.

The play gives you an idea that our autumn season was different (see below). As for winter, our wine will be at the Bessunger Christmas Market/Weihnachtsmarkt 2017:

Forstmeisterplatz, Darmstadt, Dec 1-3 and Dec 8-10. Till 8pm. (Fridays from 4pm; Sat/Sun from 2pm)

How was our autumn different? We took stock. I tried to learn new skills in a big vineyard (hence the red wine pic; – even the vineyards looked pink), we both got the chance to let it all sink in. Only when the wine hasn’t been such a prominent feature (feather, the spell check wanted to say, funny) for a few days, could I take it out of the fridge and taste it with an open mind, as opposed to the burdened-with-worry mind I adopt so easily.

“We did that?” – And: can I enjoy the “We did that?”.  And: can I enjoy the many more questions about our wine, thanks to a very touching write-up by journalist Franziska Neuer in this publication.

Germany is very focused on qualifications, so doing something to a high standard without the obvious qualification is alien to many people.  I can respond by throwing in lots of details about thiols; by recalling the longing for a glass and a pipette in a restaurant to cuvee the different raw reds together; or by simply learning to enjoy when Green Feather customers are happy and excited about the bottle I hand over to them. We hope to do this many times in Bessungen. See you there!


Green Feather Wine: On the road….

On the road to complexity:  I was away for a few days over Christmas and, as they say, distance makes the heart grow fonder.

‚So, what. You missed your own Green Feather Silvaner, among all those Alto Adige wines?‘

‚Oh, actually, could be, but I wasn’t even thinking of the wine. I miss the vineyard.‘

‚I don’t know how high the „green carpet“ stands that was sowed in before the winter, I haven’t seen it yet with all the snow, – I miss it.‘

Which sounds ridiculous, since we are about to start the cutting, maybe even Saturday, weather permitting, so that heart will change its mind very quickly, looking at a long row of vines waiting to be cut in the freezing cold.

wine glass tastekin

I made this conversation up to give you the gist of many conversations I had recently, at wine stalls we do, and more generally, when people say „How is the wine?“:  I talk about the vineyard and the person standing or sitting opposite wants me to talk about the wine itself.  Its complex fruit (not sweet though), how it has developed since we bottled it, etc etc.

‚Stop talking about the halfing of the grapes, – you can’t taste it, I want to know what it tastes like!!!‘

‚Well, you can, because as a result of the halfing…‘

‚No o o o o, stop it.‘

I stopped. But I will tell you about the amazing health harvest and the link with the halfing, if you ask me nicely, at our next stall.

Until then, I will try to learn how to tell you more about the comet lander and not so much about the Rosetta orbiter, and this is the only analogy I dare to write down, out of the many I thought of and that were utterly ridiculous.  Living in Darmstadt, we feel a bit closer to 67P than the rest of Planet Earth and it may be difficult to hide that I got totally sucked into the #CometLanding thing.

We are doing wine stuff at the moment: accounting and tasting.  I won’t even try to find a way to fit our accounting into this blog.  Unless you get a philosophical kick out of the fact that the one receipt that went missing (I have searched all folders again and again) and must thus have dissipated, is that of a sieve („ein Sieb“, in German), namely the sieve that separated the grape seeds from the skins („der Trester“), in order to allow us to dry the pips for grape seed oil.  That sieve left us with nothing so far, no oil, not even a receipt :0.

Clearly, the tasting is the more exciting activity: Tasting the 2014 vintage more specifically. Creating various sample cuvees of the wood-barrel part and the steel-vat part; observing how the acid is developing and how it fits in with the many fruit flavours which the Silvaner grape allows us to work with.

We hold that thought until 2015. And leave you with a picture of the most gorgeous bus stop I have ever seen. I have to put my running gear on and race some 10k before 2014 ends. Happy New Year! Guten Rutsch!

bus stop in the mountains  Green Feather wine says Happy New Year

Vineyard update

Our current work in the vineyard resembles a fight with a big octopus (and if you think this sounds like an exaggeration I grant you that). All these long fragile shoots (as in, the octopus legs) have to be fed into an enclosure made of wire, so as to create a ‘wall of leaves’.  A wall that will eventually be home to the grapes (blossom happening at the moment).

spot the two orange heads

spot the two orange heads

I have never tested the fragility of actual octopus legs, but the stuff or shoots we are ‘fighting’ with is pretty fragile, so, yes, there is a fair amount of swearing, if another one bites the dust.  And if we don’t break them, the tractor will: you can probably picture it quite easily how the tractor will rip off any shoots that refuse to go into the wired enclosure and instead try to crawl along the ground.  The ‘wall of leaves’ we create helps the wind breeze through, thus stopping the spreading of the dreaded fungus, and makes the spraying more effective. With any scepticism towards the spraying, bio or conventional, it seems even more important that whatever concoction is applied, it hits its targets, ie the leaves, and doesn’t just ‘enrich’ the air.

The parrots were with me for this task last weekend and seemingly split the tasks between them: Erbse was ‘in charge’ of the ground or the vine stems, whereas Marzipan preferred the leaves. While they might seem like vineyard-pros by now, they have not yet confirmed their participation in the Loerzweiler wine-festival (July 5-8, 2013).

erbse weinberg heften

Green Feather goes Pecha Kucha

The third Darmstadt Pecha Kucha Night on 21 June 2013 at CoWo21 (21 slides of 21 seconds each on 21st at 21h, get it…) offered thoughts on the lives of inventors, philosophers, app-developers, sustainability-in-blanket-wrappers, creatives, development-aid-thinkers, – and dogs. OH yes, and thoughts on wine. You can watch the video of the six Pecha Kucha presentations on the CoWo21 site. But if you prefer to look at the slides, as opposed to the person presenting, a video of the Green Feather 21 June pecha kucha presentation is available here, in German and English.  The parrots weren’t there.  They were busy with the watering can (which is a lie, of course, chronologically). 🙂

Filtering: All blurry to me, gov!

Hier geht’s zur Kurzfassung auf Deutsch.

The 2012 wine is coming along very nicely and had to be tested whether it goes cloudy in heat: We had to test whether your nice 2013 summer wine would suddenly look ‘faulty’ (ie, cloudy), if we enjoy hot temperatures that we can only dream of at the moment, and if we didn’t ‘stabilise’ it.

To kill the suspense: The little protein-flakes did appear in good numbers, as soon as the bottle was put into the oven. So, in a common, if unwelcome decision, bentonite will be applied to the wine to stop the flakes (below) appear.

The test task was seemingly thought up by Sisyphos, since our original test bottle was cloudy, due to the yeast that’s still floating in the wine. So, we had to filter that bottle to make it look like a squeaky clean bottle we were about to serve up, only to push it to go cloudy again.

And so the task became a good training session in filtering: what reference point do I use to check that the wine, after the filtering, looks as clear as you would expect it to be when you buy it. I used a big yellow “A” on a hot chocolate tin: how clearly can it be seen through the glass, after the first filtering, and after the second?

The pictures from our little test-filtering thus serve as a demonstration of a topic that could be discussed well into the night: What is the expectation of the customer? How clear and free of bits does the product have to be? Is what vintners apply to the wine driven by that expectation? And is filtering detrimental to the taste? (The last point being the reason why many high-quality wines are left to clear on their own accord, something we are not yet able to do, – but look out for updates on this.)

Looking forward to discussing your view online or in person.

How clear is that wine? (First Filtering done)

How clear is that wine? (First Filtering done)

One Filter Run (on left) vs Two Filter Runs (on right)

One Filter Run (on left) vs Two Filter Runs (on right)

How clear is the letter “A” on the tin behind the glass?

Vergleich durch s glas

Compare from Top (No Filtering) to Bottom (Two Filter Runs)

Same question: How clear is the letter “A”?

Vergleich-von oben

As above, from Top (No Filtering) to Bottom (Two Runs)

The finished filtered – and very clear looking – bottle hits the heat: radiator (followed by oven):

Clear, - but not for long.

Clear, – but not for long.

Shortly afterwards…., – clarity has all gone to pieces:

The heat adds snow flakes to the wine, - not the best effect on a summer evening.

The heat adds snow flakes to the wine, – not the best effect on a summer evening.

Harvest. Botrytis. And…

…a highly financial day in the life of a Mini-Wine-Producer/Blogger:

Financials? The suspense! I know!  Did we invest in pumps, filters, a press even? No. I just followed Jimmy Wales’ request and gave a tiny amount to Wikipedia. Why? My appreciation for their no-ads rule is growing, as the battle of my ad filters against pop ups intensifies, never mind those freaky ads that remind  you of a google search you did yesterday (that’s soo yesterday).

But I can’t help but think that my “yes, I’ll sponsor”-click had more to do with wine and botrytis. But the basics first: Botrytis, a fungus, can turn the grapes into something very desirable (Noble Rot) or that has to be discarded (Grey Rot). But how do you illustrate the two? My “yes, I’ll sponsor”-click was made, I think, in honour of a fairly good illustration of the latter in its German entry, headed “Grauschimmelfaeule” (“Grey Rot”). Two things I love about this page:  It has a picture of a grey rot affected tomato plant that will put you off tomatoes for a long time: it looks like someone did a meticulous job of knitting a jumper round a tomato plant made out of some very bizarre grey wool. But it also lists the latin names: Botrytis cinerea or Botryotinia fuckeliana. Nothing to add to this.

That Botrytis “f…”s with the grapes is something Frank, Boris, Pascale, Hans, Astrid, etc will remember from our own Green Feather harvest, since we we spent a good deal of our time cutting out the rotten bits from each grape (see min 0.44 in the video). So, the idea that Botrytis can, on the one hand, create “Noble Rot” (“Edelfaeule”, “edelsuess”, in German), something that gives sweet desert wines such a special note that the price sky-rockets, but also create the bad rot, the “Grey Rot”, is hard to get one’s head round. This page is a good read on the subject.

Botrytis on tomato plant Grey Rot Noble Rot Wikipedia

image by Rasbak from Wikipedia shared under GNU Free Documentation License

During our own harvest we got to know each BUNCH of grapes, putting it into the ‘sweet’ bucket, or the ‘not so sweet’-one. That felt like a lot of attention given to each grape. So, how crazy is it to give that kind of attention to each individual BERRY? The effort involved in doing a “Beerenauslese” (“berry selection”) or a “Trockenbeerenauslese” (“dry berry selection”) appears in an entirely new light, after our harvest!  If we were JUST doing an “Auslese”, ie a selection, ie separating the sweeter grapes from the not so ripe ones, then the idea of doing that whole process for individual berries is just staggering: Imagine the long line of vines in front of you and you are standing there with two buckets, one for the berries with exactly the right type of Botrytis (or dried up), the other for the rest. That’s obviously what explains the price, – and what a bummer if after all that effort the fermentation then does not go well….

If you have heard of the French sweet wine “Sauternes” (I giggled my way through this 2011 harvest report) being made with Botrytis, but not yet of the German variety, here are some vintner sites that offer Beerenauslese: these were mentioned in a magazine’s recent tasting: coming from south Germany, Rheinhessen and Austria; I myself remember tasting a very nice Beerenauslese at Wittmann, one of the top White Wine vineyards in Germany (and a bio-dynamic one, too).

But before I consider shelling out for a Beerenauslese, as for financial commitments today, I thought I’d stick to sponsoring (Green Feather’s very own) Nick’s “Movember”-efforts of growing a moustache in support of prostate cancer awareness.  And create my very own wishlist for 2013, which includes taking part in a harvest for a Beerenauslese.

The First Green Feather Wine Fan Post

The first fan mail arrived!

The first Green Feather Wine fan mail has arrived! It’s from Jim (no relations), sent via Franz (with relations) and caused surprised looks from the parrot. Why? I suspect that they like nibbling on bottle corks so much that a parrot and a cork merging into must have looked to them like a glimpse of nirvana. Jim writes: “… ten out of ten for a marvelous wine” and “ …much better than a lot of so called professionally made wines”. This distinction might be correct in one sense, in that we are beginners, but Green Feather Wine is a professionally done wine, we cannot claim that such a nice wine came together in our bathtub. Green Feather Wine claims it needs a professional “Fass” in the same way as “hospitals need vas-es” (to quote one of my favourite John Hegley poem);  (“Fass” being the German term for “wine tank”,  in our case a stainless steel tank.)

Ein wein fass vor der Reining wird von Papageien geprueft

A stainless steel tank or “Fass” has an inspection.

All in all, a parcel (and email) that brought a big smile to my face, – many thanks, Jim!