AS the needle curled around the speedometer’s nether regions, I begun to regret asking the representative from ‘Wines of Germany’ whether autobahns remained unrestricted. Clearly taking my curiosity as a challenge, he calmly announced: ‘I’m going as fast as I can’ as we shot past Frankfurt airport’s 600 metre long ‘Airrail Center’. Contrary to Italian press trips where adherence to an itinerary is often a nebulous concept, we actually made our first appointment ahead of schedule…
Tall, blonde, and under his John Deere baseball cap, beaming, Dirk Würtz does wine in a former water mill in the now tranquil village of Gau-Odernheim, Rheinland-Pfalz.
Würtz describes himself as a ‘Web 2.0 nerd and avid Twitterer’ – he in fact started the Twitter Wine Awards, endorsed by the German Wine Institute. But Würtz’s blog came first – an antidote to boredom and despair during hospitalisation. Perhaps quizzing him on the cause – a horrendous cycling accident which wasted the muscles of his leg – was misguided whilst trying to take his photo. Seeing his smile momentarily disappear whilst recounting the details as like watching a dismal cloud eclipse the sun. Fortunately, he soon bounced back, as this image attests.
Bladder Pack vs. Bottle
Until social media found him many followers at home, Würtz focussed almost entirely on export and Scandinavia is still Wuertz-Wein’s key market. Not only is his crisp style of organic riesling a slender bedfellow with Nordic cuisine, but over Brits and Germans, Scandinavians are far more open-minded to how it’s transported, rarely acting the snob over the ‘bag in box’ (aka. bladder pack).
On the plus side, the format requires 90p/c less CO2 then glass and may be packed in tighter when shipping in container. On the minus side, shelf life is shorter. Würtz, who is a proud keeper of biodynamically farmed cows also drew my attention to Werner Boote’s ‘Plastic Planet’, a shock-doc depicting entire islands spontaneously formed of coagulated waste plastic.
Reflecting Würtz’s zany bravery, the current packaging of ‘Mein Wein’ (my wine) is unconventional. Allegedly the result of a four hour photo-shoot with his gay importer, Würtz appears near naked, his modesty concealed by a cartoon cockerel (click for enlargement). ‘The combination of alcohol and skin means it’s not one for the Americans,’ he said whilst giving me a tour of the rectangle. ‘We also resisted putting me on the side where the tap is,’ he said, entirely seriously. However, free from gastro-gimmicks, I worried about the contents’ quality. ‘The mistake would have been to make it less than outstanding,’ he asserted, squirting the light green liquid into my glass with utter accuracy. And in this he is right. A delicate swirl revealed a soft, plush, very approachable and very refreshing wine with angles of ripe apple acidity and a lean, lingering finish. As I sipped, he held up a prototype shoulder bag designed to couthly carry the box. In black leatherette, it evoked an outsize binoculars case. A Velcro secured flap opened to reveal space for the tap.
Realising the wine’s place in the market, Würtz said: ‘it’s just a beverage,’ adding: ‘there’s really no need for another first growth here!’
‘Riesling Love Song‘
In addition to his prodigious written missives via which he actively courts controversy, viz. his blog’s ‘scandal of the week’, Würtz’s meticulously produced videos bring him ever more renown. These include ‘Cola Schoppen’, a celebration of a cocktail blending Coca Cola with dry Riesling. Apparently the somewhat repetitive lyrics were produced in exactly one hour. Expressing a connoisseur’s disbelief at such a heinous, seeming un-Bacchus like act, a tumbler (schoppen) landed in front of me, whereby fragile riesling was camouflaged by the murky, über sweet corn syrup concotion. The result was actually dangerously drinkable, like a slimmer Cuba Libra. Although not to my taste, I have since fantasised about knocking one up as a hangover cure.
As he celebrates two years blogging this month, Würtz confessed to rather liking the offline aspect of his online fame. Notably, ‘King Cocktail’, Dale de Groff lunged into the lyrics of Würtz’s ‘Riesling Love Song’ on noticing him in a SoHo bar. ‘All of a sudden people think I’m important,’ he said, briefly pausing. I sensed cogs begin to grind in his brain. ‘I wonder if there’s money to be made in the blog? But I’ll stay authentic – you have to or you’re fucked…’
Intriguingly, Würtz consults for another winery, Balthasar Ress. An idea which courted much publicity was to lay 200 magnums of special cuvée, ‘Resspekt’ 14 metres deep in a lake for three years. That was in June. Already, half have been auctioned on E-bay. ‘We might have to be careful of divers,’ he half joked.