There they are: four wine barrels. 70 meters below the ground. An experiment by three young Franconian winemakers – scientifically accompanied by the Landesanstalt fur wein- und gartenbau in veitshochheim (LWG).
their president dr speaks of a "super idea". Hermann kolesch, of a visible – and soon also tangible – sign of the dynamism and curiosity of young Franconian winemakers.
"we want to see how the high humidity and the constant temperature will affect the wines." johannes burkert, oenologist
Thomas frohlich, max martin and markus hillabrand are the names of the three winemakers who have joined forces under the name "keuper connection. All of them are in their early 30s, all of them have a vineyard of five to ten hectares in size, and all of them want to go new ways. "as an iphofer, i am virtually rooted in the knauf company," explains thomas frohlich. The company, which is present in 86 countries around the world and mines anhydrite and gypsum, operates a mine tunnel in huttenheim that is around 1.4 square kilometers in size. Directly under the huttenheimer tannenberg. There, around 70 meters below the earth’s surface, the wooden barrels with high-quality silvaner from the 2017 harvest are stored. reference barrels of the same harvest stand in the respective wineries. The LWG has joined the experiment. "we want to see how the high humidity and constant temperature affect the wine," explains dipl.-engineer johannes burkert from the oenology and cellar technology department. There will probably be no other influences. The special smell, some 70 meters underground, is unlikely to affect the wine.
The humidity is 80 percent, the temperature 14 to 15 degrees Celsius – year in, year out. "an influence on wine will certainly be there," says burkert. "the only question is how big it will be."the barrels are to be opened for the first time in summer 2018, and the wine will then be tasted regularly. When consumers will be able to buy this special wine is still up in the air. "Maybe we’ll leave it in the tunnel for two or three years," says max martin from zeil am main. There, too, in the Hass mountains, the silvaner grows on keuper – the rock that connects the three young winemakers and gave the "connection" its name.
"i always wanted to try out new ideas and impulses in a team," says thomas frohlich. He and his two colleagues agreed that the best wines of the vintage should be used for the test – and stored in a wooden barrel made from steigerwald oak. "We wanted to experiment with our wines over the course of their maturation," explains max martin. He is already very excited about the result. His assumption: the silvaner will probably ripen more slowly underground than its counterpart above ground in the respective wineries.
500 liters each are stored in the wooden barrels. Whether they will be sold in a bocksbeutel or in a high-quality burgundy bottle is not yet clear to the three winemakers. In any case, the special ripening location is to be made visible on the label. the price should be between 15 and 20 euros per bottle.
Winegrowing president artur steinmann was enthusiastic about the project. "i am happy that we have such a passionate new generation of winemakers," he said. A new generation that is on the one hand rooted in its homeland and on the other hand creative and innovative. Steinmann spoke of a "great novum" and was – in the truest sense of the word – deeply impressed. Franconian wine queen selina werner raved about young and innovative winemakers and was pleased that these winemakers do not work against each other but with each other. For hermann kolesch, yesterday was just the beginning of a "totally crazy idea2. He can imagine that the "stollenwein" will also be vinified in an amphora in the future. And that the silvaner is used for other experiments. The question is always what else the typical Franconian grape variety silvaner can do for local viticulture.
"a totally crazy idea." dr. Hermann kolesch, president of the LWG
A question that the LWG has been addressing for years. The silvaner has already been aged in shell limestone barrels, buried in a clay amphora in shell limestone soil. The "stollenwein" is the latest project, which on the one hand is supposed to bring scientific knowledge – and on the other hand has a certain marketing effect even before the first tasting. Four wine barrels in the mine tunnel are one thing above all: unusual.