Wine as a Scientific, Historical, Economic and Sociocultural Factor: From the Grape to the Barrel to the Bottle

Report by Moritz Schäfer (Master‘s student Chemistry)

Fifteen Q+ students from fourteen different disciplines took part in this seminar, which was organized by Q+ student Dominik Schöffling in cooperation with Dr. Doris Lindner. The first day took place at the distinguished Künstler vineyard in Hochheim on the Main. Here, Prof. Dr. Hans Reiner Schulz, president of Geisenheim University, gave a detailed introduction to enology, the science of wine. Among other topics, he spoke about the origin and distribution of local wine types, and discussed factors like resilience or taste on genetic, chemical, and practical levels.

Next, Simeon Guthier, researcher at the Institute for Historical Regional Studies at Mainz University, briefly summarized the history of viticulture, offering fun facts such as the over 20 kg heavy “syringes”, i.e. devices used to inject powdered sulfur into the soil. Short presentations by Q+ students followed, as Jennifer Guth talked about the significance of climate and weather for viticulture, Katharina Kresse addressed the history of alcohol and consumption, and Paula Schöttke discussed wine as food.

After a hearty dinner, we went on a tour of the production and storage facilities of the vineyard with its owner, Gunter Künstler. Along with extensive explanations of production equipment and processes, Künstler shared some of his personal proverbs, such as “To make something great from something small, something big has to become something small” or “profession comes from calling, quality comes from suffering” (approximate translations – the wordplay does not translate). This hard-earned quality became evident during the wine tasting that followed. Künstler’s aspiration is that his wines be clear as a mountain brook, and create a rainbow on the tongue, as a symbol of the sun and the richness of nature in taste, of the communication while savoring the wine and its nuanced finish. We even got the chance to taste Künstler's favorite wine, the award winning “Riesling des Großen Gewächses.”

The second day of the seminar began on the Marienhof in Laubenheim, the production and storage site for the wine made by our seminar organizer and amateur vintner Dominik. He and his fellow vintner Christopher Dellee led a pleasant tour of the vineyard with an individual wine tasting at each matching section of the vineyard. Here, we were able to apply and expand on the knowledge of the previous day, as we traced the journey of the grape from fallow to planting and growth to the ripe vine.

As part of the tour, we also took part in a young wine tasting, where we were able to try the unfiltered wine directly from the barrel. Many questions were answered, and new ones raised, such as whether the name of local cheese specialty “Spundekäs” is derived from the plug (“Spund”) that seals a barrel (it is indeed, due to the lengthened shape). We learned much more about the further journey of the grapes, from pressing and fermentation to the sweetening with grape juice, as well as other valuable facts, such as why you would take a canary to a wine cellar. Dinner led to a vertical tasting of Dominiks Chardonnay vintages. According to rumor, this tasting went on till kate in the evening, and no one knows exactly how much wine was tasted in the end.

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