Helmut Mack is a wine importer with more than 10 years of experience in the wine trade. He grew up in Franconia, a German province that is home to some of the most beautiful wines in Europe – Frankenwein.
Franconian wines are virtually unknown in the UK and so he is bringing a range of white wines here for the first time.
Mack’s Franken Wein imports directly from small individual producers whom they have known personally for many years. These wine growers deliberately reduce yields, tend the vines several times before harvest and pick the grapes by hand in order to improve quality. The careful work in the vineyard is in close keeping with nature and followed by gentle treatment in the cellar. In this way the vintners are able to reduce the amount of sulphur, which has to be added to all wines, and make them more agreeable.
The Mack’s logo is a copy of the sign hanging above Helmut’s wine shop – weinscheune (wine barn) – in Volkach, in the heart of Franconia. The sign was painted by Helmut’s father, Heinz, who was among the last sign writers to paint by hand.
Franconia is home to master vintners who are household names in Germany. It lies in the small range of latitudes in continental Europe that produce some of the most sought-after white wines in the world. For more than 1000 years the late continental summers with hot days and cool nights have allowed grapes to ripen gradually to produce delicious white wines.
Many well-known, historic figures have sampled these precious wines and have immortalized Frankenwein in their own words. The famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had hundreds of litres delivered to his home in Weimar. Queen Elizabeth’s coronation was celebrated with Frankenwein.
White wines in Franconia are usually bottled by grape variety and are mostly dry, such as the most common grape, Mueller-Thurgau. This full-flavoured, fruity variety is an ideal aperitif when served well-chilled. Silvaner wines have a clearer, more elegant flavour with the distinct minerality of the shell-limestone terroir and often outclass the Rieslings currently imported into the UK. Wonderful dry or off-dry Scheurebe wines have a peachy aroma to accompany richer dishes.
Franconian wines often come in the traditional Bocksbeutel-shaped bottle, distinctive for the region. The bottle has the name of the vineyard, where the grapes originated from, written on the label and the wine is known as Lagenwein. There are different quality levels, from Qualitaetswein to Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Eiswein. Essentially these classifications denote the level of sugar measured in the grapes when harvested. For this there are precise values set out in German wine law. Most quality producers, however, do not take this as a sole criterion for classifying their wines. They judge the quality of the finished wine in its entirety, before deciding how to classify it.