Biodynamic Rheingau Wines from Peter Jakob Kuhn
Day 2 - Oestrich-Winkel to Boppard
Our day didn’t start as well as we hoped. We pedaled up to Weingut Spreitzer in Oestrich early in the morning and paced around the courtyard wondering where the tasting room was. There were toys strewn around the yard, bringing back some fond memories of my own green and black Big Wheel. Suddenly, a door flew open and we were greeted by Andreas Spreitzer. We first apologized profusely for not having made an appointment and then asked if we might be able to taste some wines. He asked us to come into the house (it was a crisp morning and he could probably see the goose bumps running up and down our bare legs).
Standing in his living room, he delivered the bad news – he was on his way to Munich to present his wines at a tasting and couldn’t spend any time with us. He recommended a few other wineries and also let us know Michael Skurnik imports his wine to the US so we could get it back in New York.
And with that, we were off to Peter Jakob Kühn. This winery has the distinction of being one of the few certified biodynamic producers in the region. For anyone not familiar with the concept of biodynamics, the table below (taken from, where else, Wikipedia) will give you a small idea of rigors – and perhaps insanity – of biodynamic farming:
- Preparation 500 – Cow manure is buried in cow horns in the soil over winter. The horn is then dug up, its contents (called horn manure or ’500′) are then stirred in water and sprayed on the soil in the afternoon. The horn may be re-used as a sheath.
- Preparation 501 – Ground quartz is buried in cow horns in the soil over summer. The horn is then dug up, its contents (called horn silica or ’501′) are then stirred in water and sprayed over the vines at daybreak. The horn may be re-used as a sheath.
- Preparation 502 - Yarrow flowers are buried sheathed in a stag’s bladder. This is hung in the summer sun, buried over winter, then dug up the following spring. The bladder’s contents are removed and inserted in the compost (the used bladder is discarded).
- Preparation 503 – Chamomille, the German chamomile flowers are sheathed in a cow intestine. This is hung in the summer sun, buried over winter, then dug up the following spring. The intestine’s contents are removed and inserted in the compost (the used intestine is discarded).
- Preparation 504 - Stinging nettles are buried in the soil (with no animal sheath) in summer, are dug up the following autumn and are inserted in the compost.
- Preparation 505 – Oak bark is buried sheathed in the skull of a farm animal, the skull is buried in a watery environment over winter, then dug up. The skull’s contents are removed and inserted in the compost (the used skull is discarded).
- Preparation 506 - Dandelion flowers are buried sheathed in a cow mesentery (peritoneum). This is hung in the summer sun, buried over winter, then dug up the following spring. The mesentery’s contents are removed and inserted in the compost (the used mesentery is discarded).
- Preparation 507 - Valerian flower juice is sprayed over and/or inserted into the compost.
- Preparation 508 – Common Horsetail made either as a fresh tea or as a fermented liquid manure is applied either to the vines (in this case usually as a tea) or to the soil (in this case usually as a liquid manure).
We tasted a number of wines in their brand new tasting room, adjacent to their house and wine facility. Quartz plays a special role in the character of these wines since it is such a large component in the soils of their vineyards. In fact, their mid-range riesling is named “Quarzit”. Some short notes about the wines we tasted:
2011 Hallgarten Hendelberg – this vineyard is higher up on the slopes, but has excellent air circulation allowing the grapes to hang longer and develop richer, riper citrus flavors. The more we tasted at other wineries, a pattern started to emerge. As a rule of thumb, Hallgarten wines were reasonably priced and spot on in terms of fruit, minerality and acid. It is now a go-to for us when shopping for riesling.
2010 Oestrich Doosberg – arguably the best vineyard in Oestrich, this example is actually aged in oak for 12 months. The oak is neutral so it doesn’t add much of the vanilla or buttery notes (thankfully!), but it rounds out the flavors and adds a bit more weight to the mouthfeel. This wine, and particularly this vintage, will only improve over the next few years.
Little did we know our day was about to get even better…