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One Brilliant Bottle

organic/biodynamic/natural wines in Vinland

Weingut Tesch Karthäuser

Germany (Nahe)


There are punk rockers loose in the vineyards of Germany.

Well, a few. And they don’t require pesticides.

Weingut Tesch has struck a deal with the long-lived punk rock band Die Toten Hosen (web translator: The Dead Trousers…uum) to market a dry riesling they’ve labelled Weisses Rauschen (White Noise). Winery owner Martin Tesch rather likes rock music and he’s rather determined to bring a new face to German riesling.

‘Dry’ is the key descriptor, a world away from the sweet riesling that many people still associate with Germany. Tesch, following a Ph.D. in microbiology, took over the family winery fifteen years ago. The winery (which dates back to 1723) has seen many Teschs at the helm, though none as radical as Martin. By 2002 he was into an overhaul of the winery, abandoning the poorer-producing north-facing vineyards and getting rid of all varietals except riesling and pinot noir, bringing the area under vine to just 20 hectares. The production of medium-sweet and sweet wines (except for a small amount of eiswein when conditions are right) was halted. Emphasis shifted to single vineyard bottlings.

And the look of the bottles themselves — radically new (and award-winning in design), taking a u-turn away from the traditional German wine language-laden label, into something simpler, and, of all things, colour-coded (using the colours of the London Underground lines!). Not only that, production was now organic, and Tesch began using the Stelvin Lux closure instead of cork. He reduced substantially the selling price of his wines. Wine sellers in Germany were not impressed. Several cut him loose. But Tesch had astutely read the market. What he had done was appeal to new, younger wine enthusiasts tired of the old image of German wine. He was being hip, while at the same time giving more than a nod to the traditions of fine winemaking. The austere man pictured on the labels is his great grandfather.

Recently Tesch teamed up with Gibson guitars and criss-crossed Germany with a concert and wine tour — the Rolling Riesling Show. One of his best known wines is labelled “Unplugged”. Another “Deep Blue”. The names of his single-vineyard rieslings are a bit more traditional. The wine up for tasting is Karthäuser, a name derived from Carthusian monks who once grew grapes on the slopes; a brown-toned image of them is on the label. Like the other sites, Karthhäuser is classified Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru). The grapes grow in weathered red slate, protected from the harsh winds by the surrounding hills. Intervention in the winery is minimal. Says Tesch, “I wanted to leave no winemaking imprint on the wines, to have the wines clearly express their origins.”

Unoaked, unfiltered, unfined, and unplugged.

Weingut Tesch Karthäuser 2009

Light polished gold in the glass. On the nose — clean and delicate, slight turn of spice, another of tropical fruit. Mouthwise, it’s smooth and dry, with an effervescent touch. Tasty restrained citrus with fine mineral overlay. All in all, a delightful riesling of character. Life-affirming. One surely as welcome with classical as it is with punk.  $

Or sautéed salmon.

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