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  • January 27, 2014
  • Striehween

  • by Lars Carlberg

dried_grapes_steinSeveral years ago, on my former Mosel Wine Merchant blog, I reported about Ulli Stein, who had finally received permission from the German wine authorities to make Strohwein, or straw wine, in the Mosel region. (See article on Jancis Robinson’s website.)

The German Wine Law of 1971 had banned the production of straw wine, and the authorities had a few reasons for this. The most important of these was that dried grapes weren’t considered “fresh” and that the methods for making straw wine were deemed as an inadmissible form of chaptalization.

As with the local custom in the Jura region of France to make vin de paille, the Mosel also has a long tradition for making straw wine from ripe grapes that are dried on straw mats and later become dehydrated, which concentrates the sugars to produce sweet dessert wines.

Ulli had gone to the EU, as the German courts had upheld the 1971 Wine Law, despite other European countries—such as Austria, Italy, and France—having allowed this practice. In addition, Ulli had challenged the ban (1933–1987) to make red wine in the region. (In 1933, the Nazis wanted Riesling planted and banned Pinot Noir, because Riesling received higher prices to help finance their war regime.)

As of August 1, 2009, the production of straw wine in Germany has once again been allowed according to the new EU wine regulations, but the use of the German term Strohwein is forbidden. After the Germans banned straw wine production, the Austrians trademarked the term. Ulli, who had been alone in contesting the ban since the autumn of 2001, discussed this point with his lawyer and the then-Rhineland-Palatinate Minister of Viticulture, Hendrik Hering. Ulli’s proposal to use the local expression Striehween, from Moselfränkisch (a Moselle-Franconian dialect), as a trademark was accepted. He has since patented the name with the German Patent and Trade Mark Office (DPMA).

According to the law, Ulli cannot label the region (Mosel), much less use the terms "Erzeugerabfüllung" (bottled by the producer) or "Weingut" (wine estate). At the very least, the vintage and grape variety are permitted. Their first (legal) Stein straw wine had the following details on the label: 2009er Riesling Striehween, Gebrüder Stein, Bullay/Mosel, Wein aus Deutschland. (See photo of a small barrel of Stein's straw wine.) ♦

Photograph by Tobias Hannemann.