In the context of the wine world, there are terms and approximations that tend to be categorically overused. Calling a winemaker a "pioneer" of x, y or z, for instance, is pretty common. The tendency to lionize winemakers because they farm [obscure varietal x] in [obscure region y] is symptomatic of wine geeks constantly trying to one-up the common knowledge-set in the general lexicon of wine. But what happens when we have a producer whose efforts and convictions to champion an unheralded, but once great, grape need to be genuinely conveyed? And can we make an indirect comparison from style to style to convey the singularity of this bottling without sounding lazy and insincere?
Well, let's give it a shot. Enter: Stefan Vetter, Sylvaner and Franken (or Franconia) in Germany.
There was a time when Franken was a dynamic powerhouse of German wine production. The region's largest city, Würzburg, amassed great wealth from the wine trade, and although many giant domains of old continue to exist, they do so in an almost apparition-like sense of their former glory. Like many of Germany's most important wine-producing regions, the vineyards are terraced and sloped here, meaning the work is back-breaking and brutal. And while Riesling rightfully earns the labor it begets, what about doing the same for a varietal that 99% of wine drinkers have never heard of?
From an economical sense, this is as anti-commercial a concept as you can think of. A guy running up and down the terraced vineyards of a tiny estate to farm and harvest a virtually unknown varietal is just...insane? But what if the wines deserve more buzz? What if - in general style only - they convey the same sense of greatness and reverence as the Chardonnays of Burgundy and the Jura? (note: we're not saying this is Chardonnay-ish or Burgundian or anything like that. We're just saying the styles are similar in terms of complexity, finesse and their ability to be highly highly memorable)
The farming is carried out organically and biodynamically with harvests completed much earlier than his regional contemporaries. The vinification selects for whole cluster press, spontaneous fermentation in used wooden barrels, top ups while in barrel and bottling unfined and unfiltered with no or low SO2.
This is almost unlike anything you'll have ever tasted. It's concentrated and textured yet highly refreshing and, astonishingly, only clocking in at 9% abv. There's ripe, intense orchard fruit backed by searing lime-like acidity. It's floral and delicate but countered by the savouriness of beeswax and fresh garden herbs. The deeper you dive in the more complex and layered it becomes. There's a pinch of sea salt in the finish but it's against the backdrop of tart, crunchy green apple. The texture ripples across the palate seductively before abruptly introducing grippy, tense acidity. Waves of texture, concentration and elegance meet freshness and lightness.
Drink now or hold 5-7 years.