A short while back, the husband and wife team, Sybille Kuntz and Markus Kuntz-Riedlin came to town to talk through and share their wines. From the Mosel region near Bernkastel, Sybille is a sixth generation winemaker who initially inherited a half a hectare of vineyards from her father. In 1984, she took over her father’s half acre and bought out her brother’s, and today, she and Markus own 10ha of prime vineyard parcels. As a female vintner in Germany who established her own estate, Sybille is dear friends with opposition and conflict. As a winemaking team that refuses to play by rules of this regional game, Sybille and Markus have redefined the box.
“It’s closed,” said Sybille of the German winemaking establishment, to a group of local sommeliers who’d gathered at Hearth. “You’re either invited to be in it or you’re not…we don’t fit into the system.”
Choosing to make their own style of wine, and not the wine that’s expected of the local Riesling varietal, Sybille originally learned to make wine from her family, wines that were typical of Mosel, “sweet and cheap”. “I wanted to do extremely the other side,” she said, conceding that “maybe in the beginning it was too dry.”
Opening a wine shop in 1981 to fund her studies, Sybille had the opportunity to taste the wines of Burgundy and France. “This was more important for me than the wines of Mosel,” she said. “I started to work in the cellar to find what is my style…and this was the beginning of the dryer style.”
Sybille & Markus beneath soft light at Hearth
Together, Sybille and Markus speak as artists who work with grapes as their medium, interpreting their Riesling to express both it and the grapes’ terroir. Initially establishing the winery on her own, Sybille was joined by Markus ten years later, and now they make all decisions together. Their bond established in the face of opposition was readily apparent that night. As they were asked to defend their winemaking decisions, their process and their labeling (which reflects their refusal to adhere to the VDP), the couple remained unflustered, harmonious and balanced, much like their wines.
Working with vines that are 40-85 years old, Sybille has been farming sustainable and acting biodynamic since 1990.
“Originally, [the wines of] Mosel was dry,” said Markus, “there was no other way to keep wines in the cellar.”
“In the summer,” added Sybille, “they would referment.”
Despite the original opposition, when other winemakers were puzzled by their efforts, Sybille Kuntz has since won the respect and support of her peers as they’ve witnessed her wines’ success. Recently, the Sybille Kuntz Gold Quadrat Riesling 2009 was placed on the 2011 “Gold List” by the Sommelier Awards, and this same wine was voted the best white wine of the year, in the 20-30 euros price point, in Holland. Sybille feels that the success of their wines has inspired others to make better wines. And, for the estates that have only daughters, well perhaps they’ll be less resistant to pass her the family vines.