Wine and spirits magazine

Headed Straight Up:
Weingut Franzen in Bremmer Calmont


by Susannah Smith   •  January 19, 2022

At our recent blind tastings of Mosel wines, Weingut Franzen took the top-score: 96 points for the 2019 Mosel Bremmer Calmont Grosses Gewächs Riesling. Calmont, one of the steepest vineyards in the world, is the pride of the small town of Bremm, and of husband-and-wife team Angelina and Kilian Franzen. Since taking over in 2010, the Franzens have continued the work that Kilian’s father, Ulrich, began in 1999, snapping up tiny parcels as they become available and either rehabilitating or replanting them. Today, they have nearly doubled the size of the estate to a little over 27 acres, almost all of that in the Bremmer Calmont.

Angelina Franzen believes the extreme grade accounts for why Bremm isn’t a household name—like Piesport or Wehlen—and also why the Calmont wines are exceptional. She considers the mid-1970s “the dark times,” when “Mosel wine did not have a good reputation all over the world, [so] it was no longer worth growing in the steep parts of the Bremmer Calmont.” The hillside, once boasting 60 acres of vines, saw that area shrink to less than ten acres as winemakers crossed the river to plant next to the skeleton remains of the Stuben monastery, where the land is flatter. Those ten acres persisted simply because they are at the base of the slope, and therefore easier to access. “I think for more than 30 years there were no vineyards in [the upper] Bremmer Calmont; my father-in-law, Ulrich, was the first winemaker who went back to recultivate some vineyards.”

To work such a sharp incline, there is a piece of machinery that helps, but mostly, Franzen says, “It’s a lot of manpower, and that’s the most expensive thing in our business.” Ulrich Franzen built a Monorackbahn (monorail) for getting the grapes down to the river at harvest, but tractors and other machinery are not even a possibility at this extreme angle and on such scrabbly soils. Instead, the Franzens have a year-round team of six (including themselves), augmented by about nine others at harvest. Among the team are two local winemakers in their seventies (“And they are fit. It’s unbelievable—sometimes they are faster than me on the top of the mountain.”). The steep slope necessitates microterraces, some with just two or three vines each. “We have many small parcels,” Franzen says, explaining the importance of the using the same team every year. “When you work here for a longer time, you know which vine is from us and which is from the neighbor.”

While the Franzens are also challenged by soil erosion at Calmont, there are benefits to the steep slope. Angelina Franzen points first to the orientation toward the sun. “You get the most sun you ever had,” she says. “When you have a steep vineyard, you don’t have shadows—you don’t have shadow on the leaves. You have three more sun hours than you have [across the river] on the flat side.” Disease pressure is also an issue here, since morning fog rising off the river persists until 11 or 12 o’clock in the late summer and fall, when the grapes are at their most vulnerable, so those extra rays are crucial in the battle against oidium and peronospora. Franzen cites the slope’s better drainage here as well: “You don’t have so much [persistent] wetness when it rains, and the leaves and grapes dry faster in the morning.” She believes that makes their rieslings wines of the sun more than wines of the earth.

Read our note for Franzen’s 2019 Bremmer Calmont GG here.