Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Van Volxem Trade Masterclass

Roman Niewodniczanski (owner of Van Volxem wines) is a tall man. Yes, this blog entry is about his wines, but it’s difficult to focus on the wines before acknowledging, accepting and moving past this observation. I believe he is the tallest gentleman I’ve seen on local soil.

Roman Niewodniczanski
He was here earlier this month to share his views on 9 of his Riesling wines. Wein & Vin was the local organizer of this event.

One needs to understand a little about the man to better appreciate his wines. Roman Niewodniczanski was not ‘forced into’ this enterprise of winemaking. He did not come from a family of wine producers. He made a conscious choice based on freewill to pursue this profession.

He is also a student of history. More than half the time spent during this masterclass was focused on the history of wine making in Germany rather than his wines. He discussed the affairs of German winemaking since the time Romans first introduced winemaking into the country to the current trend in winemaking. He drew our attention to how things changed drastically during the 20th century (highlighting the influence of the World Wars, the displacement of people during these periods and the effect it had on German wine making to show how wine style changed over different time periods). His slide presentation was peppered with sufficient pictures of old letters and documents to not just awe but help one appreciate the passage of winemaking in Germany.

He understands the past, knows what is needed for the present to produce quality wines which he can be proud of, and seems to be comfortable with taking up that pursuit. “Wines should be made not for the purpose of receiving high ratings but to be enjoyed”, he says.

Viticulture and Vinification

And to produce wines to be enjoyed, he favours keeping harvest yield low (averaging 40hl/ha), adopts hand harvesting and a rigorous berry selection process which ensures that only ripe grapes are harvested. Its a labour intensive endeavour, but one nonetheless employed to ensure quality grapes with ample ripeness are harvested. Organic farming methods are used to ensure the land is treated with respect.

In the winery, the grapes are treated to gentle pressing and a slow vinification process in order to retain fruit character and freshness. Indigenous yeasts are used during fermentation to express the individuality of each vineyard (the expression of terroir being favoured in the wines produced). He does not adopt the Pradikat system for wine making or labelling. He goes by producing a single wine from an individual plot to reflect the plot’s unique terroir. He’s contented with it.


Location helps. In order to ensure ripening of grapes, ideal plots have been acquired. Van Volxem’s Scharzhofberger vineyard is located in Wiltingen (a wine producing village located on the lower Saar river). This vineyard has the honour of being classified an ‘Érste Lage’ (a vineyard with a first-class site, denoting exceptional terroir). Adding to this land bank are purchases made in Kanzemer Altenberg and Wawerner Goldberg, both quality sites.


Do I see some common virtues between the wines tasted? Of course there is. When ripe, good quality Riesling grapes are used to produce wines (under a common wine making philosophy) some common traits will arise. Descriptions like slate, mineral, citrus, good fruit presence in the body, racy acidity, good structure and balance, and a lingering finish are qualities one observes across these wines.

The difference at play seems by and large to be the level of ripeness within each wine, the body weight experienced in the mouthfeel and the vibrancy felt in the palate.

The wines tasted were:
Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2011 & 2012
Van Volxem Alte Reben Riesling 2011 & 2012
Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling 2009, 2011, 2012
Van Volxem Altenberg Alte Reben Riesling 2011 & 2012

By and large I find the 2012 vintage to be observing a fuller body, a rounded mouthfeel, more fruit ripeness in flavours (backed by racy acidity) compared to the 2011 vintage. Don’t get me wrong, both vintages reveal good quality, the 2012s just show themselves a touch richer and riper in the palate.

Two ideal 'value for money' wines to try within this range would be the Saar Rieslings. The show the attributes of Van Volxem wines (in differing body weight and mouthfeel).

Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2011
Light yellow with green highlight greets the eye. Mineral and slate aroma notes. Dry, light plus body; mineral and citrus flavours show in the palate, with generous acidity providing structure and extending to the finish.

Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2012
Yellow with green highlights in appearance. Heady mineral and slightly floral aromas which leap from the glass. Medium plus body, a roundness in texture and a rich mouthfeel with lots of ripe fruits (citrus, peach). The ripeness is held at bay by racy acidity which acts as a counterfoil. Intense in flavour, yet refreshing.

I particularly enjoyed the Van Volxem Altenberg Alte Reben Riesling 2012 and Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling 2009. In addition to a rich body with depth of flavours and good weight, they also displayed a certain vibrant (racy, lively) feel in the palate. A little difficult to describe, but great to enjoy.

If you are keen on these wines, you can contact:

More pictures on this Masterclass and be viewed by following the link below:
Van Volxem Trade Masterclass Photo Album

... morgun pathi

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