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"Not More But Also Not Less." This is the translation of the phrase printed near the base of every label of Vetter wine (and cider), and it perfectly sums up Stefan Vetter’s approach and commitment to his vineyards and wines. He works by hand in the vineyards, using organic and biodynamic methods. In the cellar he adds nothing, allowing for spontaneous fermentation, and uses a mix of used barrels of various sizes with the occasional stainless steel tank if yields are high. The wines spend at least 12 months in barrel, are unfined and unfiltered, and Vetter uses fairly low levels of sulfur or none at all, depending on the needs of the wine.
Stefan is incredibly soft spoken, pensive, careful to compose his thoughts, but when he does it's with a strong sense of resolve. After attending Geisenheim and working a stint in Austria under Hans and Anita Nittnaus, Stefan answered an ad for a vineyard plot of Sylvaner in the Franken, and the rest is (recent) history. Accessible by a forest path, the vineyards were a true delight to behold: green vines and grass covered the hillside, punctuated by old, stone terraces, teeming with wild flowers of all colors. (Helicopter spraying of vineyards is forbidden here, so there is no worry of chemical overspray onto the vines.) Stefan chooses to focus on Sylvaner, an indigenous grape of Franken, well-suited to the terraced vineyards of limestone and red sandstone. His vines range in age, with some ungrafted, planted as early as 1934.
Tasting through his 2014s was an eye-opening experience, as I hadn't previously had the chance to experience the vast scope of Sylvaner's expression when grown on different terroirs. Some wines skewed towards the oxidative, reminiscent of whites from the Jura, while others evoked the linear, chalky intensity of Chablis. If you haven't had the chance to taste what Sylvaner can truly do, this is a great way to get acquainted. Along with the 2014s, we’ve also included his 2015 Apfelperlwein (a sparkling cider made from indigenous apples with no added sulfur), and the 2013 Sylvaner GK (Gambacher Kalbenstein) Sandstein, an exquisite example of the textural complexity of Sylvaner. Enjoy! Cari Bernard
Ungrafted Sylvaner planted in 1934 on a mixture of red sandstone and limestone soils. Evoking thoughts of Chablis with its linear and stony intensity; the palate is bright with tart lemon juice, underripe nectarine, and a chalky minerality. Beautifully nuanced and fresh. Cari Bernard
Unfiltered, this vintage was made in a mix of barrels and stainless steel. Very little sulfur is added, as is the case with many of Stefan’s wines. Beautifully aromatic with notes of fennel seed, wild flowers, and yellow apple--smells of the Franconian countryside. The palate is light as mineral water, fresh and pure, with notes of mixed citrus oils, greengage plum, delicate green apple, and yellow apricot. Cari Bernard
As the name would suggest, the vines are on terraces with limestone soils with vines at around 30 years of age. Whole bunch pressed, fermented and aged in old barrel, unfiltered. Tropical aromas of starfruit mix with freshly milled pine; the palate is lively, fresh, and layered with texture, minerality, flavors of green mango and greengage plum. Cari Bernard
Himmelslüke is sourced from the highest parts of the terraced Gambacher Kalbenstein vineyard, with vines planted in 1970. This vintage took two months to finish fermentation in used barrels and was aged in barrel as well. Sous voile Jura comes to mind, with aromas of oxidized apple, toasted nuts, cream, and herbs. The palate is textured and grippy with notes of savory yellow apple, underripe peach, and orange oil. Cari Bernard
Made from an assortment of Franconian apple varieties, with second fermentation in the bottle, and no sulfur added; the nose is oxidative, with hints of brown butter and apple blossom. The palate is savory and tart, balanced with notes of burnt caramel, yellow apple and a stony minerality: think savory like Asturian sidra but with more bubbles and darker tones. Cari Bernard
The GK stands for Gambacher Kalbenstein, a terraced vineyard site that has concentrations of both colored sandstone and limestone. Because of this duality, Stefan has made two different wines, each one focused on the grapes grown on the predominant soil type. This is the sandstone bottling, which makes for an expressively textural wine. Floral with apricots and peaches on the nose, the palate is savory and spiced with notes of bergamot and yellow apple. Cari Bernard