Saturday, April 17, 2021

Drinking Wine With Nobelhart & Schmutzig's Sommelier

From Roads & Kingdoms:

Raiding the wine cellar with Billy Wagner

Drinking unique wines in Kreuzberg at the home of Billy Wagner, sommelier and proprietor of Berlin’s Michelin-starred Nobelhart & Schmutzig.

This is an edited and condensed transcript from my conversation with Billy. Listen to the episode for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

"If you want to build a vineyard, that’s a lot of paperwork."

Nathan Thornburgh: All right, well, let’s pour and toast, and then we’ll talk about this beautiful thing. Cheers.

Billy Wagner: This is a wine from 2011 made by Sven Leiner from the winery Weingut J├╝rgen Leiner, from Ilbesheim in Palatinate Pfalz.

Thornburgh: Palatinate Pfalz. Where from Berlin is that?

Wagner: About 220 kilometers north of Strasbourg.

Thornburgh: North from Strasbourg, France?

Wagner: Yes. It’s close to the French border. It’s a wine from a vineyard called The Kalmit, which has limestone soil. It’s a new vineyard, label-wise. In Germany, the German wine law, from 1971, states that only certain names for certain vineyards are allowed to be used, and this was not one of them, because it was too small and nobody had any interest in it and so on. Before that, it had been used but then fell out of use. If you want to use this, now you have to apply to legally use that name on the label.

Thornburgh: It’s still true. You can’t just go to some part and say, “I’m now creating a wine region that I’m going to call Nathania.”

Wagner: Not, that’s not possible.

Thornburgh: A lot of paperwork.

Wagner: Yes. You actually cannot plant just any wine anywhere you want.

Thornburgh: Really?

Wagner: No.

Thornburgh: What about hobbyists and stuff? This doesn’t really exist?

Wagner: That’s obviously something different, for private consumption. If you want to build a vineyard, that’s a lot of paperwork.

Thornburgh: Got it.

Wagner: But there was always wine [in that area]. They could use the grapes from there, but they couldn’t use the origin name on the label. They applied, and in 2010, they were finally allowed to use the name [on the label]. We did a wine with them, a small batch of 300 bottles or so, and it was one cask or so each of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, another. The idea was to reflect everything that grows in the vineyard and to reflect this in the wine, to reflect the origin in a certain way.

Thornburgh: Yeah. This is a lot of different grapes.....