Cross your heart. As much as the 2020 vintage is growing up unconcernedly, it also brings uncertainty. How to deal with a situation that not even parents, grandparents and many generations before them have any experience with? What is currently driving the next generation of the VDP?
Normally, all the important trade fairs and annual presentations take place during this time. The VDP.estates finally present their new vintage. The VDP.Guts- and Ortsweine from 2019 are bottled and are now actually being presented to the public for the first time. While in April 2020 you can actually look back on the past vintage, the year 2020 keeps you more than busy. Maybe not everything is as you imagined it. Nevertheless everything is given to make the best out of the here and now and to keep hope.
"I've never been more sure than now that coming back home was the right decision."
When you were born into a traditional winemaking family, it is often clear where the journey should lead when choosing a career. That the child will take over the business used to be a kind of unwritten law. "That was never the case with us" Elisabeth Muth looks back. "After high school, at 19, I wanted to get out - away from the country life, into the city. I studied architecture in Frankfurt and Zurich. Despite the ties to her parents' business, the VDP estate Rappenhof, Elisabeth moved to Munich to gain practical experience as an architect. "I enjoyed the time very much, developed my horizons and settled down in the world between art, science and technology. Nevertheless, I missed the other world, the winery and working outdoors in nature and above all the exchange with the wine people". In the summer of 2018 she decided to return, swapping City-Life for country life, architecture office for wine press house, the after-work drink in downtown Munich for the winepress beer in the vineyard.
The wine industry is full of challenges: weather-related dependencies, independence and the acceptance of agricultural professions. In the current time of crisis, the challenge is particularly great. "If you look at the current situation, you could say that I may have chosen the more difficult path - my old life with a secure job may have been easier and would be even more so now. Nevertheless, especially today and at this moment I am more convinced than ever that it was right to come home. What this job, nature, the people and life here in Alsheim give me, can't be compared to anything that any city in the world could ever have offered me".
"For Sure - we miss our guests. It's unusually quiet."
A winery, a hotel and two restaurants: the Keller family is one of the most famous hosts in Germany. What does it look like where normally pleasure-loving people come and go all year round, are greeted with a lot of passion and heart and soul and are carried away by the unique backdrop of the Kaiserstuhl? "Clearly - we miss our guests. It's unusually quiet here with us", says Friedrich, who is responsible for the winery's wine production. His brother Konstantin continues to cook with a small team at the Rebstock Inn. They offer down-to-earth Baden dishes to take away. Meanwhile, the trainees from the kitchen and service department discover new things in the vineyard and cellar - the leaf work starts soon, barriques are filled up - so every hand is needed. "It is nice to see how flexible our team and employees are. We are very grateful for that", but of course the time also allows for a lot of thinking. "I'm thinking about how we can come out of this stronger. I am certain that it will succeed. Maybe it's a chance for us all and for something new. And in the meantime, things are being done for which otherwise there is not so much time. For example, cleaning the wine cellar. And if you know cellars, you know that this can be a lot of fun, considering the wide range of choices, and that some treasures might come to light...
The Kaiserstuhl is known as the warmest region in Germany, and nature is currently developing accordingly. "At the present time, we are as far advanced as never before. This is the earliest budding for us so far," reports Maximilian Stigler from the VDP Stigler Winery. Maximilian believes it is too early to say now what the year 2020 will be like. "It is simply wonderful to see how nature continues its way unperturbed. It simply seems to elude the whole thing. Especially in today's fast-moving times and society, these are reassuring things." It's spring and it's getting warmer every day. In the vineyard Maximilian can switch off and forget what's going on in the world. "In the end, we'll go on like this anyway, we'll replant a vineyard - the earth keeps turning - it always goes on somehow. It will be the same this time, I'm sure."
The Rieslings of the VDP.winery Schloss Lieser - Thomas Haag are drunk all over the world. Typical for the Moselle region, the export share of Lieser Rieslings is therefore very high. "We have been working with many importers and partners for years. They are now family friends. It's hard to see that it affects everyone," says Lara Haag on the phone. Currently she is busy filling the 2019 wines - actually she would be on the road in the next few weeks in the most different countries to show exactly these wines. "Instead, one is exploring one's own homeland anew. We walked along the Moselsteig at the weekend - we haven't done that for ages. You somehow find peace and gain a new awareness of many things". Then things come up that you rarely get to do in everyday life: tidy up the storerooms, decorate the new vinotheque and do a lot of work in the office. But also: tasting wines - "We try a lot with the whole team from the outside business. Wines from us, from colleagues - that's a reward at the end of the day" How will everything change in the future? Lara says: "Maybe it is good to come down for once. You think a lot of new things, think about what you are good at. And above all, I hope that after this phase, everyone will visit the gastronomy a lot - eating and drinking, enjoying themselves and that the regionality will play a greater role in shopping again".
In Flörsheim-Dalsheim, Rhine-Hesse, the work at the VDP.Weingut Keller continues passionately. Three generations are pulling together: Felix Keller and his team are planting a new vineyard, his parents Julia and Klaus-Peter are supplying customers with the new 2019 vintage and filling magnum bottles, while grandfather Klaus is thinking about how to expand the local vegetable garden. "We're guided by nature - it just keeps on going," says Felix. Only one thing is missing somehow: "In spring, between work on the winery, there was often time for a short trip to Burgundy and Beaujolais. They are the most exciting wine-growing regions for us. So it's all the nicer when we can go there again sometime". And until then? Making the best of it.
Everyday work in the vineyard and cellar continues relatively normally at the VDP.Weingut Dr. Crusius. "You just have to think differently about the background. Communication has become even more important. We are in close contact with our partners and customers - sometimes to see if there's something we can do for each other, sometimes just to hear how someone is doing," says Rebecca Crusius, who we just caught on the phone in the cellar. "It brings us all even closer together. Soon our first online wine tasting will take place. People from all corners of Germany and all ages will come together, just virtually". And maybe this is also a format that will accompany the wineries and wine lovers beyond this time...