We meet winemaker and enthusiast Alexander Pflüger directly on his farm and he takes us inside his cozy tasting room, right next to his family home. There is a fireplace in one corner, which invites you to stretch your legs on cold days, while you swirl a delicious Pinot Noir in your glass and easily stay half an hour longer. Situated in the heart of Bad Dürkheim and directly by the Wurstmarkt-Festplatz and the Saline, the Pflüger Winery brings a special love for the art of wine, we can’t help notice. We also notice the wine that happily gets into our heads at 10 in the morning, with two more wineries on the agenda later in the day. It all trickles down our throats pretty smoothly, we have to say.
Since 1985, the Pflüger family has seen the vineyard as a living place, using compost and letting the soil grow green between the vines, while avoiding all pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. The cellars are managed defensively, with a focus on individuality. Alex continues this tradition, putting ecological viticulture and contemporary wine craftsmanship at the heart of what he does. The winery has been solely converted to biodynamic cultivation since 2008.
When Alex talks, you can tell from his mischievous smile of his quest to peek behind the curtain and find the mysteries that balance the passion, the craft, and the science behind a good wine. He tells us about the tension between his work, the gentle and fluid use of technology, and nature, which he prefers to leave to its own devices so it develops undisturbed. The balance of this tension is perhaps the biggest challenge, he says. It’s not always about measuring everything precisely to make it work. A good amount of gut feeling helps bring his own expression to the work, creating a certain individuality in the end result. It is this individuality that makes his wines recognisable. For Alex, the approach and education about how these unique wines come to be is extremely relevant.
The term biodynamic cultivation has been on everyone’s lips lately. We ask Alex to explain what this means to him. “I don’t actually produce wine, I accompany it”, he says. He continues explaining that certain processes are non-negotiable in this accompaniment of wine. Organic farming is essentially a continuation of traditional farming methods, but without any use of synthetic chemicals. Biodynamic farming (from the Greek bios for life and dynamikos for powerful) adds another step to it. One of its leading proponents, Nicolas Joly, compares biodynamics to “tuning a radio. We tune the vine to the frequencies that bring it to life.” Specifically to Alex, this means that the focus is not on production, but on a respect for nature, on individuality and biodiversity. He cultivates the soil in such a way as to create a circular system. The vineyard is planted with vegetation that attracts a living fauna, which replaces the use of fertilisers. In the cellar, he uses no genetic engineering, no pure-breeding yeasts, and no post-aromatisation.
“I don’t actually produce wine, I accompany it.”
There is some pressure from the wine industry, which still mostly follows the additive enology approach. Smaller business often can’t compete with big ones, especially if they work with sustainable practices that make the work that much costlier. Organic viticulture sets the minimum limit to deal with these practices in a natural and sensitive way. But Alex isn’t deterred. He sees wine as a catalyst and unifying model for the future and, just like his fields, he uses this philosophy to question his processes from beginning to end in a circular fashion.
We’ve tried a few of his wines already, but every time we empty a glass, Alex is ready to pour us a new one. The conversation is good, so is the company, and even if its still before lunch, we happily oblige and continue on drinking.
We turn towards the more educational aspect of wine. Alex feels that people should get closer to their environment again, get out of the house and appreciate the agricultural experience. As a foodstuff, wine can be a perfect medium in bringing people closer to the cultivation and careful handling of food. Working with wine also comes with the questions: What do I have in front of me? Where does it come from? How was it made? What am I putting into my body? You are what you eat. The relationship with ourselves is also the relationship with the things we consume. And if this interest in what we consume continues to grow, we can re-establish a more direct link with the products, where they came from, how they are made. And in turn, this can explain why things cost what they cost, and why there is a difference between a 2€ supermarket bottom-shelf wine and a 8€ biodynamically cultivated one.
How much should a good bottle of wine cost? How much is the work and effort that goes into 750ml worth of fermented grape juice worth?
We finish our boozy morning at the Pflüger winery with a few bottles to take home and a wide smile on our lips. The social aspect of wine cannot be dismissed here. We spent two or three hours sitting together and swapping stories with a proud winemaker. Stories of things we know, don’t know, and would like to know more of. Good stories of laugher and mirth. Sometimes also not so good ones, if you look too deep into the glass. Wine can certainly provide the material for these, as well as fables, or new ideas, or new friendships too.
We see a great synergy in the future of our collaboration with Alex Pflüger. We are happy to support each other to deepen the “back to the roots” sentiment, and achieve a win-win situation for customers, nature and our community. We both want our customers to have a real interest in learning about more progressive winemakers and what they can achieve, rather than a simple booze outing. And this is a responsibility we are excited to take on. We are proud of our collaboration with Alex and Weingut Pflüger and invite you to taste the same biodynamic wines that have become a central part of our work and have put a big grin on the face of more than a few of our guests.