If there is a region that was in serious need of insurgence, it is the big central portion of winegrowing in Germany, the Rheinhessen. East of the Rhein, the region was essential to the development of viticulture en Europe, and was once a provider of great, praise-worthy wines (including the priciest wine on the Titanic). But unfortunately, the 20th century had sunk its days of glory way down.
Bianka and Daniel Schmitt
The region is closely associated with an ocean of low-quality wines bearing the infamous name of Liebfraumilch. Rheinhessen, which is the largest viticultural area in all of Germany, has greatly suffered from choosing to focus their production on quantity over quality following the Second World War, which ruined the country and the wine trade altogether. The postwar motus operandi was focused on yields and chemicals, and has left a very sweet and lightly sour taste on both local and international markets, staining the reputation of German wine for the many decades that followed, up to this day. We had to wait until the nineties to see a crack in the opinion of the general public, which was brought by the (re)apperance of producers that made wine with a very high level of quality in mind, notably Wittmann and Keller.
It’s a long introduction to discuss how the project of Daniel and Bianka Schmitt came to sweep the wine world off its feet. But if there is a couple that carried a big chunk of the above mentioned revolution to the natural wine loving mass, it’s undeniably them. Plus, it’s a hell of a romantic story. Bianka, who is originally from Hungary, was doing a stage at the Schmitt winery when she was studying viticulture and oenology. Daniel and her have been in love ever since, and baby Alexander was born a few years later. They converted the family estate of 16 hectares to biodynamic viticulture, distinguishing themselves early on from the rest of the region, which is dominated by conventional agriculture. The number of estates practicing organic and sustainable viticulture are quite rare in this region, which has more than 26 thousands hectares of vines under acreage.
The wines of Weingut Schmitt are now very well established on most of the natural wine communities around the world, including Québec. The blue and orange labels, with a road leading to nowhere and everywhere, can be spotted in a high number of exciting restaurants around the province. They took the time they needed in the cellar to fine tune their no-sulfur ethics, which is now a solid part of their production. Their wines—made of Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Silvaner and more—all share an uplifiting, tonic energy, and the first bottle often have the second one on speed dial.
A remarkable philosophy that most definitely helped Germany getting on board of the revolutionary boat of natural wine — that’s what could be called the Schmitt touch.