Warmth in climate and hospitality show through in the wines of the Pfalz. When we visited Weingut Messmer, we met with Gregor who runs the estate, but his PR man, father Herbert, dropped in to greet us. Messmer’s flagship wines are the dry rieslings, grauerburgunder and weissburgunder, a little bit of fine gewurtztraminer and muskateller, and spatburgunder. The whites range from everyday wines to “cru” Erste Lage from Michelsberg vineyard, Schawer and Goldener Jost, but they are all driven by purity of flavors. This starts in the vineyard, where Gregor has moved from the common German practice of half-round or even full-round canes to horizontally-trained canes which results in a more even ripening zone and lower yields. During the season, Gregor’s team selectively drops fruit in July, August and September to achieve balance in the fruit. Harvest is done by hand, a practice not taken for granted in the Pfalz. The majority of the whites are whole-cluster pressed and fermented at cool temperatures of 16-18 celsius in stainless steel tanks to preserve the essence of the fruit, aged in tank and released young. To preserve the youthful esters of everyday wines, Messmer began to bottle under screwcap with the 2008’s. Erste Lage will continue to be closed with cork as they have greater longevity and evolution.
Messmer makes a range of spatburgunder including an Erste Lage from Schlossgarten. The small-berried grapes are de-stemmed leaving about 60-70% whole berries and cold-soaked for five days at 6 celsius. This results in deeper color and lifted fruit aromas. During fermentation, Messmer macerates the wine on the skins beginning with pumpovers versus traditional punch-downs, which Gregor believes results in softer tannins at the end. The 2006 Schlossgarten Spatburgunder GG was aged in 60% new french oak, blended and transferred to large wood cask for 3-5 months for harmony. The wine shows intense aromas of black cherries and black currant with hints of tobacco, vanilla and toast. Balanced fruit, acidity and body with fine tannins, oak will integrate in a couple of years’ time.
What impressed us as much as the quality of the wines were the people at Messmer. Having worked at wineries in the past, I understood the importance of hospitality in creating a lasting impression, but it took on another dimension here. Gregor is probably the only person I have met where the word “ernestness” could be used. Where some winemakers could easily avoid meetings with non-native speakers, Gregor made a supreme effort to communicate with us – particularly difficult given our arcane, technical questions. It reminded me that a winemaker’s strong desire to communicate is the same effort he puts into achieving the greatest expression of the wine. Gregor succeeds on all fronts.