“WE LOVE THE PLAYFULNESS, ELEGANCE AND LONGEVITY OF SEMI-SWEET RIESLINGS.”
CHRISTOPH SCHAEFER SPEAKS ABOUT HIS WINES AND HIS VINEYARD IN GRAACH.
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Christoph & Andrea Schaefer
VDP:What is so special about your winery?
Christoph Schaefer: Hm, I don't know – maybe it depends on how you define “special”. We are proud of the inimitable character of the single-vineyard wines from our crus in Graach. We have always operated our winery as a small family business. Perhaps the special thing about it is that we specialize in Rieslings with residual sweetness and rather pronounced acidity. And, of course, our beautifully old-fashioned label!
VDP:What is your winery philosophy?
Christoph Schaefer: We love the playfulness, elegance and longevity of semi-sweet Rieslings. During the harvest and in the cellar, we rely on our taste more than the numbers. Nature decides every year what we can offer. We pick the grapes carefully and selectively by hand when they taste optimal. My wife, Andrea, is with our team in the vineyard during harvest and I am in the cellar. 100 % of the grapes we vinify are from our estate vineyards. In the cellar we simply try to preserve the quality that nature has given us. If we have suitable grapes for a dry Riesling, then we also ferment dry. But if I am convinced that the must is better suited for a semi-sweet wine, the fermentation is interrupted as soon as the balance is perfect. We ferment with wild yeasts in classic Fuder barrels. Depending on the vintage, it can occur that there is no dry wine or only Spätlese and Auslese wines. That is nature.
“FOR US, PERFECT RIESLING IS SOMETHING MAGICAL AND REFINED, PERHAPS SOMETHING LIKE A DREAM.”
VDP:For what wine style do you strive?
Christoph Schaefer: We grow 100 percent Riesling on steep slopes. It is important to us that our Rieslings are light, playful and yet very strong in character. They should reflect their origins. The DOMPROBST is rather spicy and wild and the HIMMELREICH is more fruity and charming. Our wines should remain appetizing and never be sticky-sweet. We also prefer our dry Rieslings to be light in alcohol. The tremendous minerality gives the wines tension and flatters the fruit sweetness as a counterpoint. We don’t like to talk about analyses. One should taste the wines and form one’s own opinion. For us, perfect Riesling is something magical and refined, perhaps something like a dream. Light and yet tasty, long-lasting, playful and with incredible ripening potential.
VDP:Which of your wines would you recommend to someone who doesn’t yet know your winery – as an introduction, so to speak?
Christoph Schaefer: Maybe that depends a bit on how experienced the wine drinker is. If someone hasn’t had so much contact with the Mosel yet, we would recommend a HIMMELREICH Riesling Kabinett. For advanced connoisseurs, perhaps our DOMPROBST Spätlese #10.
VDP:Why did you become a vintner?
Christoph Schaefer: My father, Willi, never forced me to become a vintner. I slowly grew into it and I liked the varied work in our family business. It just felt right to continue the tradition.
VDP:Do you have a role model or a mentor?
Christoph Schaefer: I learned a lot from my father. I think he also gave me the peace and serenity that allows me to concentrate completely on the wine when it matters most. I also had a wonderful grandfather, who achieved a lot in the post-war period and saved every last cent for today’s winery building. He and his wife were real “creators”.
VDP:What are your next goals?
Christoph Schaefer: Our main goal is to create a collection every year with which we are satisfied. We are aware that we have a responsibility and will only run the business for a while. At best, one of our two sons will follow in our footsteps. To this end, we strive to preserve and cultivate the values handed down to us. Our goal is to remain a small family business. We love the “manageable” and that we can concentrate on what we believe is essential.
VDP:How do you combine tradition and innovation?
Christoph Schaefer: When innovations make sense, we don’t close our eyes. But as a small family winery, everything is quite manageable and we don’t need too much technology. We are attached to traditions when it comes to our labels and winemaking. Of course, there is always fine-tuning and where something can be done better, we do it.
Photos: © VDP.Weingut Willi Schaefer by Robert Dieth, Axel Kohlhaas, Max Galli, Willi Schaefer, Andrea Schaefer