Every month, ‘‘Whose Wine is it Anyway?’’ profiles a German winemaker to give you a behind-the-vines look at the world of German wine. This month, we’re highlighting Jürgen Hofmann and Guido Walter of Fritz Müller. Based in Rheinhessen, Fritz Müller’s sparkling wines are known as the German answer to Prosecco and highlighting the potential of Müller Thurgau.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Jürgen Hofmann and Guido Walter
Fritz Müller is living proof that all good things start with a simple idea – the concept for the estate was invented during a late-night conversation between two friends over wine in 2009. But Jürgen Hofmann, the son of a winemaker, and Guido Walter, a passionate wine merchant, weren’t in uncharted territory.
Jürgen was born and raised in a winegrowing family in Rheinhessen. Much like his classmates in Appenheim, Jürgen helped out at his family’s vineyard when not attending school as a child. He continued to pursue winemaking at the prestigious Geisenheim University, where he studied viticulture and enology. He then took his passion for wine internationally, interning in California and eventually working in South Africa before taking over the family winery in Appenheim in 1999.
Guido, on the other hand, discovered his love for wine later in life. Born in Munich, Guido was first exposed to the beauty of Germany’s wine regions while attending school in the Pfalz. He later received a certification in hotel management at a vocational school, where basic wine knowledge was also part of the curriculum. Guido’s inquisitive nature (he later studied Philosophy at the Munich School of Philosophy) led him to travel the wine regions of the world, eventually completing a sommelier diploma, the WSET diploma, and graduating with the Weinakademiker title from the Austrian Wine Academy in 2003.
The pair’s combined knowledge and curiosity for winemaking led them to a question that started it all: Can Müller-Thurgau be the next Prosecco? While Müller-Thurgau developed a reputation as a lesser quality grape to many in the 1980s, Jürgen saw the misunderstood grape as an opportunity, as his father had cultivated the variety in the past. So, Guido and Jürgen decided it was time to kick Müller-Thurgau up a notch, creating Fritz Müller, a winery specializing in handcrafted semi-sparkling white wine.
“Guido is the artistic genius, the globetrotting philosopher and untiring wine merchant. Jürgen is the hands-on winemaker who skillfully guides the grapes from the vineyard to the bottle.”
Fritz Müller is the German answer to Prosecco, and its vineyards offer a glimpse into the unique style of the Rheinhessen region. The winery’s base wine, Müller-Thurgau, captures the cool climate and calcareous soils of Appenheim. After selling out of the winery’s first bottling in just a few weeks, Jürgen called on vintner friends from his childhood to provide additional grapes. Today, Fritz Müller sources its Müller-Thurgau from 24 hectares of vineyards around the northern Rheinhessen.
As Fritz Müller’s classic offerings gained popularity around the world, Jürgen and Guido took the next step towards expanding their semi-sparkling offerings to include other grape varieties, including Rosé and non-alcoholic wines. Fritz Müller also works with a number of organic vineyard sites, producing an organic version of the winery’s classic sparkling wine.
Fritz Müller, the namesake of both the winery and its wines, is a clever play on the common German first name, Fritz, and the common German last name, Müller. Here, Fritz refers to frizzante (meaning “lightly sparkling”), and Müller is a reference to Müller-Thurgau. Jürgen and Guido classify their wines as Perlwein, the German name for semi-sparkling wine, often marketed as Secco. Thus, the winery’s first bottling, Fritz Müller Perlwein, was born.
The winery’s top priority is to leave the image of Müller-Thurgau behind, instead showcasing the grape’s fresh and fruity flavor, uncomplicated qualities, and affordability. The winery’s branding is just as unique. Inspired by 1920s Bauhaus design, a timeless German style that stands for free spirit, revolution, and innovation, Fritz Müller’s bottles have won multiple packaging design awards.
Jürgen and Guido recommend the original Fritz Müller Perlwein to start, then moving through the assortment based on mood, tastes, and occasion. They also recommend Fritz Müller Perlwein as a base for cocktails; recipes like the “Elder Fritz”, “Müller & Melissa” and “Italo Fritz” can be found on the Fritz Müller website.
“[Fritz Müller Perlwein is] a bubbly wine that begins a carefree evening and lets you continue dancing late into the night.”
Family and Friends at Fritz
It’s clear that there would be no Fritz Müller without the strong friendship between Jürgen and Guido, as well as the support from friends and family. Jürgen’s wife, Carolin Hofmann, is responsible for administration and the back office at the winery. Guido’s partner, Anja Prestel, is a professional photographer and takes all of the winery’s photos for the website. Carolin and Anja are also professionally trained wine tasters and assist in the assemblage, the birth of the Fritz Müller wines.