GERMANY (Kleinfischlingen) - "Try this! This young guy makes really good wines", said a very dear friend from Rhineland-Palatinate, who had brought back two bottles of wine from a local wine fair. The name of the winery (Ellermann-Spiegel) did not sound familiar and I never even heard of the village Kleinfischlingen. It is located in Southern Rhineland-Palatinate or what is called the "Südliche Weinstraße" (Southern Wine Road) and is not far away from Edenkoben. This village did not make itself known despite its wine-growing history of 772 years.
This is no surprise. The are is very flat and has no mountains or steep vineyard sites like in the well-known areas of Siebeldingen or Birkweiler. There is one flagship however, that this sadly restrained region (also called "Masuria of Palatinate - slightly mocked) can be proud of: sweet wine expert Juergen Frey in Essingen, who specializes in the production of berry and dry berry vintages as well as ice wine. Other than that there is nothing worth mentioning...
...however: not anymore. After he became familiar with two wines from young vintner Frank Spiegel (excellent Pinot Blanc, slender Scheurebe Auslese), he was very intrigued. When he sent us the requested samples, we were quickly convinced: Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Riesling from the winery and with a golden cap as well as Chardonnay from the 2010 vintage were very fun. Also, a red Cuvée showed his committment to making wine and proved his telant for red wines. His Pinot Noir and St. Laurent perfectly complete his range of products.
The prices for his wines show how unfamiliar people are with his name: this wine ranges between 4.50 to 8 euro. Some top restaurants quickly got a hold of these wines for that reason. However, the village of Kleinfischlingen is still not mentioned in wine guides like the Gault Millau or Eichelmann. The winery has 48 hectares of vineyards, however, it was not until the 2008 vintage until the business decided to produce better quality. Before Frank Spiegel took over the business, Harald Ellermann, Frank's stepfather, was a producer of bulk wine and only delivered to wholesale businesses.
The 33-year-old did not care much about wine when he was a teenager, although his parents worked in viticulture (I always thought that helping out in the vineyard was so boring and monotone). When his mother married for the second time, he learned much more about the versatility of wine from Harald Ellermann. That is when he decided to become a winemaker. And when he did he did it the right way: After his internship at the renowned Palatinate wineries Münzberg and Knipser as well as other practical training in Beaujolais and Wachau, he studied at the Geisenheim College and also went abroad to Bordeaux.
Then, in 2006, he started up in his stepfather's business, where he slowly developed his own series of wines. In 2008 the business worked a lot towards improving its marketing. In order to let everyone on the outside know about the business' changing philosophy, the Ellermann winery was renamed Ellermann-Spiegel winery. However, this change of name is not really obvious on the building itself.
Of course it was not easy to switch from producing bulk wine to bottle wine at first. There was simply not enough customers for that. However, Frank Spiegel is at 10 hectares today that he uses for the marketing of his own wines. He wants to slowly produce more. In his cellar you can find top Bordelaiser and Palatinate wines from his role models Knipser and Fritz Becker. "I regularly spend some money together with my friends in order to taste these kind of wines", the young man with the neatly trimmed beard says.
The realignment of the business (of which Harald Ellermann is mostly in charge) has made quite some progress so far, however, it is not completed. The business completely changed the soil work and maintenance. "I'm afraid we will not see the results right away", says Frank Spiegel. They always try to improvise in the cellar in order to turn the healthy and fully ripe grapes (which used to be a rear sight) into excellent wines. Nowadays, the young talented winemaker bets on longer storage times in order to make his white wines even stronger.
"It was really my education that awakened this passion of trying to make top wines". His professors seem to have done an amazing job. Of course, he was able to learn a lot in Geisenheim and Bordeaux and he has managed to use this knowledge well. We're sure that he will dedicate some more time to the world wide web in order to market his wines there as well. At the present moment, there is not much to find on the website www.ellermann-spiegel The Kleinfischlinger says: "I really prefer spending time in the cellar instead". (r.knoll)