“If it is, it’s right!”

Tobias Treis and Ivan Giovanett about their unique steep slope recultivation project, the unique soil on the Sorentberg, 1000 old vines and their international winegrowing friendship.

How does the wine taste from a winery that has been lying fallow for 25 years?

Treis: Excellent!! (laughs) …after the strains of 3 hard years of recultivation work, the first vintage of course tastes particularly good! The anticipation of the first spicy-mineral Riesling from the Sorentberg was huge!

How did you get the idea for the “Weingut-Sorentberg” project?

Giovanett: During my years of study in Geisenheim, my passion for Riesling, the king of white wines, gripped me and never let go. It was clear to me that at some point I wanted to work with this grape variety – but when I did, I did! But due to the warmer climatic conditions in South Tyrol it was not possible for me to grow Riesling at top level in our vineyards. I couldn’t miss the chance to do this in the classic Moselle region. You don’t get such an opportunity every day.

Treis: I already know the Sorentberg from my childhood. I often helped my father with his work there. When the wine prices broke down twenty years ago, we had to give up the slope. But the abandoned Sorentberg kept me busy and I knew that I wanted to grow Riesling there again sometime – but if I did, I did. After I sent Ivan an aerial photo, he came by and we walked the whole day through Sorent. After that everything was clear and went very fast.

Giovanett: Until mid-December 2011 we worked out a cost plan together, founded our new winery in January 2012, bought the land in February and replanted the first vines in April. Beyond the work, a great friendship has developed between Tobias and me. One can also see from this cross-border project how important student exchange is at the various universities and what can result from it.

What is so special about this Riesling project?

Treis: It is the interplay of many factors that result in a remarkable whole: 100% southern slope with an extreme gradient of up to 110%, cool temperatures due to the location in the side valley and a unique type of soil (red slate with shell inclusions) that there is no second time on the whole Moselle. The Sorentberg simply has an incomparable terroir. In the course of the recultivation work, we also discovered almost 1,000 wild vines with true roots. These lay fallow for more than 25 years and were laboriously freed by hand from proliferating thorn bushes and reared.

Giovanett: The discovery of the old vines further enhances our monopoly location, because since the great phylloxera pest at the end of the 19th century, only a few plots of land have been left without an American rootstock all over the world. Old vines are characterised by lower growth, deep roots and more intensive berries. They absorb more minerals from deep rock layers and thus give the wine a unique spicy mineral taste.

The uniqueness of the area and the project have made headlines right from the start. An advantage for the marketing?

Giovanett: Sorentberg was the first cross-border joint venture on the Moselle and the trade press has indeed strongly supported us in recent years. It is not everyday that two young winegrowers swim against the current and recultivate an old steep slope. Of course there is a lot to report about this. We appreciate this media attention very much and see it as confirmation of our courage to break new ground. Nevertheless, it takes a professional sales structure in the background to market the wines correctly worldwide; here we can draw on the many years of experience of our parents’ traditional wineries.
What are the next steps?

Treis: Now it is a matter of bringing the vines in the young plant into a natural balance. Organic cultivation would be the desired goal, but a fallow land of many years’ standing also holds many pitfalls for it. Furthermore, it is now necessary to create the necessary cellar economic infrastructure: Purchase of new wooden barrels, stainless steel tanks and restoration of a 100-year-old basket press – the grapes of the “old vines” are to be pressed with this in the future.

(Interview: Lenz Koppelsätter –