Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Andreas Jung, Intrepid Grape Hunter and Archaeologist

Andreas Jung is a very extraordinary person, a grape archaeologist really. He hunts for ancient 'lost' varieties all over Germany and has unearthed hundreds lurking in corners of vineyards, on terasses and against ancient inaccessible walls. Here we reproduce a fascinating if no longer current plea he made for the rescue of such varieties and an update following an outcome which seems briefly to have been successful. We have heard on the grapevine as it were that the wine made from Orleans Gelb was not a great success (too acidic) and so the sponsorship scheme may have come to an end.

The Grape Variety authority Andreas Jung asks for donations for the rescue of the South Pfalz Vineyard.


When I mapped 34 grape varieties in my first old vineyard on the Badische Bergstrasse in 2002 it was considered a scientific sensation. Nobody had imagined that such a treasure of native grape varieties and clones could have been found in the age-old and, despite Phylloxera, ungrafted vineyards. Following the Phylloxera crisis and government restrictions in plant-breeding, there are today 26 classical varieties. Until 2005 I had been working in 8 vineyards more or less nearby. The state grape breeders showed interest above all for already classified and hence commercially interesting grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot. In the German gene bank after almost a century, the first ones I discovered – virus-free Heunisch and Pflanzscheere - were planted. I had recorded this in several scientific publications. In 2005 my third contract ran out. That was the end of it as far as the state breeders were concerned. They went back to their new cultivars and to the selection of commercial clones of Riesling and Pinot Noir. Continuing the collection of native grape varieties would have required significantly more expenditure on research, selection and maintenance. Only from 5 vineyards were a few of the old variety clones I had identified duplicated for the gene bank collection.

Because there are not even 10 experts in the whole of Europe who can identify historic grape varieties in old vineyards, I led the search for old vineyards and varieties on my own account. Since I was entrusted by the BMELV (Federal Minsitery of Food and Agriculture) with the task of taking in hand Germany’s genetic grape resources (2007 – 2009) I have been a recognised grape variety expert throughout Germany and was also active in Switzerland and Poland. In Germany alone I have rediscovered around 250 old varieties of which 88 were already extinct or which according to dogma were not supposed to exist at all. In recent years I have inspected more than 1000 sites in Germany and detected over 360 varieties. Unfortunately the national commission has been limited to investigations in the field. My 230 - page status report has vanished in the Ministery’s drawers. Top Secret. Under pressure to make quick progress in getting to the root of this matter I have taken on the responsibility at my own cost for the selection, collection, virus-screening and propagation of our cultural heritage of varieties and most important clones. Meanwhile I have planted around 1.5 ha. to old country varieties in my capacity as a scientist and private grape breeder together with committed producers which has brought me the reputation of Rescuer of the nation’s grape varieties. In contrast with the state grape variety gene bank I don’t content myself with 3 examples of each biotype whose pollen might be used for making crossings of new super-varieties one day maybe. My concern is the continuation of the wine-growing heritage of the last millenium in order to spread the lasting good practise for the preservation of ancient, in part antique grape varieties which up to the Phylloxera plague of 1928 were still widespread all over in mixed parcels, forbidden by the Phylloxera commission and national-socialist eugenicists and since then mistrusted and forgotten by breeders and bureaucrats. The clonal differences in old varieties is enormous. Up to the invention of grape-variety classification there were no principal class differences in the vineyard. 42 grape varieties out of 800 vines were not a rarity on the Bergstrasse. The monoculture of varieties is too risky. For the German-speaking area between the 18th and 19th centuries at the end of the little ice age and before the appearance of Phylloxera in total about 650 varieties of wine and dessert grapes were apparent. And so, bureaucrats apart, there are no grounds not to plant the old varieties in suitable locations again. They have after all survived several periods of warming and cooling. For this purpose however the varieties have to be in as practical and virus-free condition as possible and kept in as much clonal diversity as they can. Had I not done this practical breeding work of native varieties no one else would have collected these kinds. A section of the recently re-discovered varieties would have already died out again. Despite state finance the state breeders concentrate on commercially bred clones of a dozen classic grape varieties. Up to 2009 I have demonstrated 82 native varieties on the Bergstrasse alone in 42 locations, a third of which were grubbed up for reasons of age or abandoned.

The South Pfalz vineyard.

Back in 2005 there were 18 vineyards which I mapped in the summer of 2005 and from which I selected from rare varieties and clones. In a winter’s week in January 2006 I made cuttings from the vines I had identified and selected for propagation in a vine nursery. These varieties were grafted and, with government permission, planted in 2007, they now stand in the South Pfalz vineyard on 24 ar. A young producer had already declared himself ready to tend this collection of Bergstrasse varieties and clones under my care as a nurseryman and to make wine. As support a sponsorship model was developed and sponsors were gained for the clones we had to hand. For the maintenance work supported by annual subsidy, they received a few bottles of wine from the vineyard. With the help of the sponsors and a not inconsiderable effort in time and work the project has up to now developed well and paid for itself.

In the vineyard are 1185 vines of which there are 237 clones (5 for each kind of vine) of around 45 varieties planted on the Badische Bergstrasse. Among these we find already extinct varieties like Fuetterer and Kleinedel, which were grubbed up from their original location shortly after being re-re-discovered and would have died out again had I not promptly collected them shortly after rediscovering them. A few old country varieties like Ortlieber, Honigler, Heunisch, Weisser Tokayer, Laemmerschwanz, Gelbe Seidentraube, Fitzrebe, Roter and Rot-Weisser Veltliner, Bettlertraube, Blauer Blank, Blauer Elbling, Primitivo, Affenthaler, or Blauer Heunisch have been collected in the South Pfalz vineyard with several Bergstrasse clones. I have also collected some clones from particularly old vines of classic varieties among which are Roter and Weisser Elbling, Silvaner, Auxerrois, Riesling Chasselas or of Rot and Gelbholziger Trollinger. All the varieties are native to Germany and very old. Before classification, Auxerrois was called Kleiner Heunisch and must have been planted on the Bergstrasse since the middle ages. The difference between classified and unclassified varieties is only a bureacratic one but today the bureaucrats, decide on the basis of partially absurd law on the continued existence or extinction of native varieties.

Without professional care, no vineyards.

Now the producer has told me surprisingly that cannot continue the vineyard work with immediate effect for health reasons. In addition it happens that the vineyard has been damaged by a late frost and a regular crop this autumn cannot be expected. The future of the South Pfalz vineyard and the long-term preservation and maintenance of the clones and Bergstrasse sites concentrated in that place is now crucial.

The rescue plan

First of all the plant protection must be carried out through subcontracted labour. In addition there is an outstanding bill for grafted vines intended to fill the gaps and then the vineyard must be newly leased . A producer who will spray the vineyard up to autumn has already been found. Up to the winter the financial requirement is at least 1,500 Euros to pay the pending bills, the plant protection and the lease. There will not be much to harvest.

I have decided to take the lease on the vineyard myself and to continue as best I can. The lease has actually not been signed yet. The vineyard was however a family property. As a scientist I don’t possess the tools to work the vines and ground mechanically so this must be commissioned contractually. As the new lessee, I will carry out the manual labour such as pruning and tying back. Then we will have to see if the subsidy model can be continued as previously, but everything depends on whether the lease can be for a reasonable length of time and how many sponsors can be brought on board. In the case of emergency the vineyard will have to be duplicated next winter and replanted on another site. That would cost 5,000 Euros just for the production of new plant material and would not include labour. This requires a new site and a new winemaker as well.

Either way, to be able to duplicate the vineyard after the damage from the late frosts, it will have to be tended until autumn. Without plant protection and weed control there will be no ripe wood from which to take cuttings. Then everything will have been in vain. If it succeeds somehow I will lease the vineyard and keep it as it is. But the external costs will be higher than before since essential maintenance will have to be contracted.

An update:

Mr. Jung tells us all this was a few years ago and now they have weathered the storm and he has launched a new initiative   www.rebenpatenschaft.de through which mentors can lend financial support and receive complimentary bottles of wine from the relevant vines. It was hoped that this would pay the running costs. Andreas calculates that there are 103 varieties in the Sudpfalz wine area, 94 of which are native. These varieties were to be found 100 - 150 years ago in German vineyards. Today they cling on in corners of vineyards, gardens and terraces. The first archives have been established at Gundelsheim am Neckar,  Flörsheim-Dalsheim in Hessen and Heppenheim an der Bergstraße. In these site around 1400 clones of 300 old native plants are kept. There are other plots in several places including Taubertal, in Thüringen, in Rheinhessen and in Würzburg and a new plot in Gundheim has been in preparation since 2015. 10 of the collected, historical varieties are to be found with 250 to over 2000 vines in regular experimental vineyards:

Blauer Elbling
Roter Veltliner.

Varieties from the early middle ages such as Süßschwarz, Kleiner Burgunder, Blaue Vorzügliche, Frühe Möhrchen, Weiße Traminer and others are in preparation. A new clone of Roter Muskateller and of Riesling Selekta (a small berried clone of Riesling) have been admitted by the Bundessortenamt. Archives for Royal table grapes may be found in Würzburg and Potsdam.

Although the old grape varieties have been grown for centuries if not millenia, the great majority of these 760 historical wine and dessert grapes have been forbidden since 1929 when Phylloxera arrived.  Until today there are only 27 out of around 550 surviving traditional varieties permitted. Special dispensations were needed from various authorities for the inclusion of these native varieties in the Grape Variety Archives.

The 58 white varieties in the Sudpfalz Weinberg; 

  • Adelfränkisch / Weißer Grünling
  • Agostenga / Früher Leipziger / Frühweißer Malvasier
  • Alexandriner Muskat (*)
  • Alicante Weiße
  • Augster Gelber
  • Auxerrois / Kleiner Heunisch / Moselriesling
  • Bouquettraube
  • Bukett-Silvaner
  • Chardonnay / Echter weißer Burgunder
  • Corinthe Weiße
  • Edler Weißer Tokayer / Furmint
  • Elbling Weißer
  • Elbling Roter
  • Frühe Lahntraube
  • Frühmuskat
  • Fütterer Weißer
  • Geisdutte Weiße / (falsche) Geisdutte Weiße (*)
  • Gewürztraminer Roter
  • Grauburgunder / Tokayer Grauer
  • Gros Meslier / Großer Honigler
  • Grünfränkisch Weißer
  • Großer Veltliner Violetter
  • Gutedel Weißer / Chasselas blanc
  • Hartheunisch Gelber / Braunes
  • Hänisch Roter / Pamid
  • Heunisch Roter (*)
  • Heunisch Weißer / Grobweisse
  • Heunisch Dreifarbiger
  • Honigler Gelber
  • Kleinberger
  • Kleinedel
  • Lagler Weißer / Später Malvasier Weißer
  • Madeleine Angevine
  • Mädchentraube Weiße / Feteasca alba
  • Mittelgroßer Veltliner Roter
  • Muskateller Roter
  • Muskat-Gutedel Weißer
  • Ortlieber Früher Gelber
  • Rosenkranz Weißer / Fitzrebe
  • Petersiliengutedel
  • Plantscher / Gros Bourgogne (*)
  • Räuschling Weißer
  • Räuschling Roter
  • Riesling Weißer
  • Rugische Rebe (Rak Szölo)
  • Scheurebe
  • Seidentraube Gelbe / Luglienga bianca / Luganer-Rebe
  • Silvaner Grüner
  • Silvaner Blauer
  • Tokayer Weißer
  • Traminer Weißer
  • Traminer Roter
  • Versoalin Weißer (*)
  • Visitator (fränkischer Fütterer)
  • Vogelfränkische Weiße
  • Weißburgunder / Pinot Blanc
  • Welschriesling Weißer
The 37 red varieties;
  • Affenthaler Blauer
  • Arbst Blauer
  • Black Prince
  • Blank Blauer (*)
  • Champagner Blauer / Blauer Kölner
  • Champagne-Traube Schwarze / Schwarzer Prinz
  • Claret Ordinärer Blauer (*)
  • Clävner
  • Cot (Kaiserstuhl)
  • Cot Rouge (*)
  • Elbling Blauer
  • Frühe Violette
  • Geisdutte Blaue (*)
  • Gouais noir / Blauer Lampart
  • Hartblau / Auvernat tinto
  • Heunisch Blauer / Sehr Später Burgunder
  • Kleiner Fränkischer Burgunder / Pinot Franc
  • Hrvatica Blaue / Crevatizza / Kroatische Traube (*)
  • Kracher Blauer / Bettlertraube
  • Malbek
  • Möhrchen (*)
  • Mohrenkönig
  • Morillon tocony
  • Muskat-Gutedel Blauer
  • Oeil de morion
  • Portugieser blauer
  • Samtrot
  • Schaaftraube / Mohrenkönigin
  • Schlehentraube
  • Spätburgunder Blauer / Pinot noir
  • Schwarzriesling / Pinot Meunier
  • Süßroth / Tauberschwarz
  • Süßblau
  • Süßschwarz
  • Trollinger Blauer
  • Tschagelle Vernatsch (*)
  • Zinfandel / Primitivo /Kratosija

(*) fewer than 4 vines extant!


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