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 focusing on Stefan Vetter, a winemaker who has been central to the revival of Silvaner in the Franken region of Germany. Vetter farms organically, working old vines on steep, terraced vineyards, where harvesting is done manually. He focuses mainly on Silvaner, exploring the grape’s full potential and establishing his Silvaner-based wines as some of the most celebrated in Germany.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Stefan Vetter
Meet Stefan Vetter
Estate: Weingut Stefan Vetter
In 2010, after attending the acclaimed University of Geisenheim for Viticulture and Enology and working in Austria, an ad in a local newspaper caught Stefan Vetter’s eye. An inconspicuous and small 50-year-old Silvaner vineyard planted in 1958 to Franken’s most celebrated native grape variety near Casteller Kirchberg was up for lease. While most winemakers would have read past the ad without so much as a second glance, Stefan saw an incredible opportunity. He immediately fell in love with the gnarled vines and has since then dedicated his time to discovering the aromatic intricacies of Silvaner.
For two years, Stefan tended to these old vines on the weekends while he continued to manage a vineyard in Austria’s Burgenland region (where he worked 5 years in total). In 2012, Stefan moved to Franken fulltime and leased two more vineyards. Silvaner was to be the star, as his goal was to discover the aromas he could bring out with minimal intervention.
“Silvaner can be much better than just having high alcohol and low acid. It can be as interesting as chenin [blanc] if you treat it well.”
— Stefan Vetter
Vetter’s vineyards are more rustic and pastoral than most in Germany. Here, the landscape is more bucolic, with the vines set on terraces nestled quietly within Franken’s rolling hills and surrounded by the lush growth of the region. The vineyards he cultivates are set either on sandstone or limestone soil, the oldest of which are on original rootstock and were planted as early as the 1930s.
In his vineyards (4.2 hectares, mostly at Gambacher Kalbenstein as well as Casteller Kirchberg), Stefan farms by organic viticultural practices. Instead of herbicides, he uses manual tools like hoes and brushcutters, and all harvesting is done manually.
Stefan is at the forefront of the natural wine movement in Germany. In the cellar, (initially working from a small annex at his grandparents’ house in Iphofen, Stefan now rents a cellar in Gambach since 2014), the grapes are pressed gently, and fermentation is spontaneous, employing each grape’s natural yeasts. There are no fining or treatment agents, and all aging occurs in either neutral oak or newer 300 or 600-liter wood barrels. The hard work at harvest, natural fermentation, and dedication to sustainability throughout the whole winemaking process yields high-quality, multi-layered wines like nowhere else in the world.
In addition to Silvaner (70% of his vineyard area), Stefan also grows Müller-Thurgau (14%), Riesling (8%), and Spätburgunder (8%).
Photo credit: PunchDrink.com
“In Vino Vita est - my motto and aim to promote and preserve the living in the vineyard, cellar and the wines. It's not about creating a product - whoever drinks the wine should experience the complexity and tension that these vines create on this soil.”
— Stefan Vetter