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October 1997

Minding the Vine in Glottertal

A community-run vineyard hits the spot with its wines and dining possibilities

Out in the loading bay of the Glottertal Winery, men and women with aching bodies and weary eyes gather for the moment that they've awaited all year. The townspeople of Glottertal have brought their annual grape harvest to be weighed, classified, and measured for sugar content, part of the ritual that has earned Glottertal the distinction of being the only Black Forest locale where wine is produced. Anticipation shows in their faces: each farmer is cheered or heckled as the results appear on the video screen overhead. The competition is friendly, but earnest. The people here take wine seriously, because in Glottertal keeping up with the Joneses isn't about buying the latest model car. It's about growing the perfect grape. LOVING THE GRAPES Since its beginning, making wine has been associated with family, feasting and tradition. In Glottertal, located in Baden-Württemberg just east of the French border, vine cultivation is still deeply connected to those principles. The community here is joined by family tradition and the joy of producing quality wine through hard work. The town is nestled at the base of two bountiful grape-growing mountains, the Eichberg and Roter Bur. They host the highest and the steepest vineyards in all Germany, and because of that they possess natural qualities important for producing good wine. The slopes' extreme grade allows intense direct sunlight for a maximum duration each day, and also improves soil quality: the soil is thin and very high in calcium and mineral content, giving the grapes the distinct aroma and taste for which Glottertal wine is known. The Glottertal vineyards are owned and tended by approximately 135 families. Only a handful of those actually earn a living making wine, while the rest produce it for friends, private celebration and personal consumption. Indeed, their intense love of wine, more than love of profit, motivates them to care for the grapes so ardently. Heinrich Würzburger's family has been tending vines for five generations. His father spends his days among the grapes, fighting plant disease or insect infestations that could wipe out their crop in one fell swoop. Würzburger periodically takes vacation time from his job as an engineering manager to tend the grapes full time with his father. "I'm fortunate that my father is devoted to the vineyards full time," says Würzburger. "Our family is close and the happiness that the vineyards bring us is indescribable. I have my father to thank for that." MAKING THE WINE Early each fall the grapes are harvested and brought to the Glottertal Winzergenossenschaft for processing and wine production. The families sell a portion of the grapes to the winery and keep the rest for themselves. It takes roughly one kilo of grapes to produce a bottle of wine, and no matter how small a farmer's crop, the winery will produce the wine. "Harvesting even 10 or 15 kilos of grapes is hard work," says Udo Opel, manager of the Glottertal Winzergenossenschaft. "People want to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and we help them produce that reward." Several varieties of wine are produced here, but Glottertal's trademark is the Spätburgunder Weißherbst, a shimmering gold rosé with a fruity, aromatic taste. It is a true rosé in the sense that its pink color comes from the purple grape skin which is removed early enough in the fermentation process to prevent the wine from turning dark. The Glottertal winery doesn't add white wine to lighten the color, a shortcut that's common practice among mass producers of rosé. MAKING A MEAL OF IT With all that good wine there's bound to be good food nearby. The typical Glottertal menu, a combination of French Alsatian and Black Forest cuisine, complements the region's wine and satisfies even the heartiest appetite. Try a mouthwatering pile of Kässpätzle, tiny dumplings covered in melted cheese, or the heavenly Pfannküchle, savory country pancakes - it's a culinary experience you'll remember, and one that is hard to recreate away from this tranquil setting. Among the Würzburger grapevines stands a small cabin the family built some 35 years ago, the ideal spot for a cool afternoon break or an evening barbecue lasting well into the early morning hours. It is a place to celebrate and appreciate the quiet life the Glottertäler enjoy, and it is there that the secrets of growing the grapes are passed down through generations. Opel, who leads tours and tastings at the Glottertal Winzergenossenschaft, has a refreshing, down-to-earth attitude that characterizes the Black Forest wine-making tradition. "For me, making wine is not about creating the most expensive or the trendiest wine," Opel says. "Every good wine has its own character, and if you enjoy the way a wine tastes, then drink it!" Glottertal offers a relaxing and intimate glimpse into a lifestyle so different from one's own. For winery tours and tastings, call the Glottertal Winzergenossenschaft at (07684) 339.

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