Jan 09: As the world sips Prosecco champagne, Cava and bubblies, Germany is the biggest consumer of sparkling wine with more than 400 million bottles flying off their shelves every year, is the fourth largest producer of the ubiquitous bubbly known as Sekt and The prestigious VDP association has recently developed a standard through VDP.SEKT.STATUT which will soon be available on the market for high-quality Sects, writes Subhash Arora who has visited several Sektkellerei and believes they can compete with the best and unique champagne with the Riesling variety.
Germany’s love affair with sparkling wine predates the current trend toward a bubble (read Prosecco). In fact, German producers such as Krug, Bollinger, Mumm are at the forefront of Europe, significantly involved in the development of sparkling wines, including champagne.
Germany is considered a beer-consuming country, but Sekt (pronounced as Zect) is a versatile German sparkling wine to bake on special occasions or just for fun times (think Kingfisher in the 2000s). In 2010 about 440 million bottles of different sparkling wines were sold in Germany, according to Kessler Fine (family owned sect producer), the oldest Sekt producer in Germany since 1826.
To get the right perspective, Champagne sold around 290 million bottles (after reaching a maximum of 330 million bottles) and Prosecco produced around 480 million bottles with an estimated 550 million bottles consumed a few years ago. Cava produced around 245 million bottles in 2018. An estimated 2 billion bottles of sparkling wine are consumed worldwide – and a quarter of that is consumed in Germany.
The history of the Sect begins in 1826. Its founder Georg Christian von Kessler, born in Heilbronn, near Stuttgart in Baden-Württemberg, has immigrated to France, and rose to become a world-renowned partner Veuve Clicquot-Ponsardin Champagne House in Reims. He returned to Germany and founded the first Sparkling wine cellar (sect factory) in 1826, at –Esslingen (suburbs of Stuttgart, where I lived for a year a few months ago but never visited Kessler because I was then editor-teetotaler)
Under the law, only large producers were allowed to produce the sect until 1976 when a formal decree was passed, removing their monopoly and paving the way for cooperatives and individual wine growers to produce and sell their own sparkling wines.
According to German Wine Institute The 18 largest Sect producers are still responsible for 90.6% of Sekt’s production. Probably the largest global producer of Sekt and sparkling wines Henkell Freixenet appeared as Henkell in 1856. One can buy Henkell dry sparkling wine and Freixenet Cava in India, imported by Aspri Spirits and Wine. Only about 3% of the sect’s total production is considered Artisanal. Verband Deutscher Qualitäts-und Prädikatsweingüter (VDP), a prestigious independent growers association, with 196 members took over the Artisanal producers and proposed a regulation that had started operating in late 2020.
With 3.9 mhl exported in 2018 (73% of its national production), Italy alone accounts for 43% of the world sparkling wine export market. Since 2002, the export volume of Italian sparkling wine has recorded an average growth rate of more than 10% per annum. Behind this boom is Prosecco, which in 2018 represented 65% of Italy’s sparkling wine exports.
France is the second exporter in terms of volume at 1.9 mhl in 2018, including 1.1 mhl Champagne alone. Spain in 2018 was the third largest exporter just behind France, with 1.8 mhl. Unlike France, most of the Spanish sparkling wines produced are sold abroad (88% in 2018). Since 2002, Spain has more than doubled its export volume, a growth driven by rising demand for Cava.
Germany takes 4th place in terms of volume (0.3 mhl in 2018) and 5th place in terms of value.
However, as an importer, the UK is the largest importer (1.4 mhl), followed by the US (1.4 mhl), and Germany (0.7 mhl), which are net importers of 0.4 mhl sparkling wine.
Recent quality improvements
The ubiquitous sect had 4 ways of producing it – at the very top of the echelon was the traditional method, which was still used to produce about 3% of the total sect produced. VDP has set strict standards for defining the two categories. Most Sekt is a simple basic wine sourced from all over Europe and further processed in Germany. It is produced in large tanks by industrial quantities, and is sold at very affordable prices – in fact, about 95% of the Sects are made this way.
Champagne expert Essi Avellan MW reportedly said, “The Sekt is a very inferior product which lacks individual character, and therefore does not appeal to discerning drinkers on the international market. How much of the Sekt the Germans can consume is a real mystery.” However, in the past decade, the landscape of the German Sect has fundamentally changed due to the increasing number of small plantations that are trying hard to make a good Sect.
Sekt can be produced from grapes, juice or grapes sourced from anywhere in Europe and fermented in tanks (Charmat) – mostly consumed domestically. German Sect, or the German Sect (stated on the label) must have a basic German wine or wine and therefore be more authentic and of better quality. German sparkling wine bA (specific growing area, similar to Qualitätswein bA for still wine) means the grape of one 13 German quality wine regions Has been used.
Producers can name a geographic unit such as a village, or a vineyard if at least 85% of the wine comes from the site. The same 85% rule applies to vintage or grape varieties – there are no restrictions on varieties either.
Monopoly and Sect Tax
Those of us hoping to see wine tax reductions in India will be surprised to learn that Emperor Wilhelm II introduced the Sect tax in 1902.The tax was abolished in 1933, for its reintroduction and a higher Sect tax of € 1.02 per bottle is still being levied on each bottle, nearly 120 years later, generating about € 450 million per year to Treasury Fund.
By law, only large producers were allowed to produce sects. However, in 1976 a legal decisions was passed that abolished their monopoly, paving the way for cooperatives and individual wine growers to produce and sell their own sparkling wine.
VDP.SEKT.STATUT for Artisanal Sects
Top quality is made by traditional methods and with VDP setting the standard. it can compete with the best bubblies in the world. Known as Traditional bottled fermentationThis wine, if produced from grapes grown on the farmers’ own plantations, can be referred to as Winzersekt, similar to Grower Champagne.
The VDP has honored this tradition for nearly 200 years, through the new VDP.SEKT. STATUT, which adds the formal fidelity of the official classification to the production of high-quality handcrafted sections. Ratified recently, it enforces the high quality standards of the wine association for sparkling wines.
Two VDP qualities
Traditional bottled fermentation is mandatory for VDP.SEKT & VDP.SEKT. PRESTIGE. The ex must spend at least 24 months at lees whereas 36 months later. Great sect may ripen well beyond these minimum guidelines. VDP production regulations will also apply to basic wine production.
Special VDP specification guidelines have also been developed to provide other mandatory parameters, for example, the provision that a sect must come from its own vineyard. From pruning to harvesting, all vineyard work and harvesting must be handled by hand. Each region will define its own permitted varieties for VDP.SEKT and VDP.SEKT. PRESTIGE, usually Rieslings and the Pinot family, is accompanied by regional classical music. This flexibility at the regional level encourages the exploitation of the special benefits of the good German sect spectrum. Thus, mixtures of varieties and cuvées from a single site are also allowed.
Producers can name a geographic unit such as a village, or a vineyard if at least 85% of the wine comes from the site. The same 85% rule also applies to vintage or grape varieties.
Those of us who hope to see a reduction in the tax on wine in India will be surprised to learn that Emperor Wilhelm II introduced the Sect tax in 1902.The tax was abolished in 1933, to be reinstated in 1937 and the Sect tax of € 1.02 per bottle still continues to be charged for each bottle of the sect, nearly 120 years later, generating around € 450 million for the current treasurer.
Visit Sektmanufactur Vaux Castle
Vaux Castle was founded in Berlin in 1868 to produce sparkling wine using the Traditional Method. In the 1880s the Chateau de Vaux, located on the Mosel coast, close to the city of Metz, was purchased. But when Metz became part of France again after World War I, the producers moved to its current location in Eltville am Rhein (also known as City of sparkling wine), a late nineteenth century villa that looks like a large residence from the outside.
Vaux Castle is famous for its high-class sparkling wines, which are produced from grapes grown in the famed vineyards of the Rheingau. As Christoph Graf, explained to delWine, ‘Sektmanufacturing’ means a producer of sparkling wine owned by a single family and not a mass producer of Sekt. The winery only produces high quality sects using primarily Riesling but also cuvee using other wines.
While most of the world’s traditional method of sparkling wines is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Germany specializes in Sekt quality made from Riesling. Its inherent freshness and lightness make Riesling a perfect base for sparkling wines.
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VDP uses German Sparkling Wine under its Wings
It might be a bit early to popularize the Sekt in India but with the new standard of the Artisanal Sekt by VDP, there might be a market for the Riesling Sekt for discerning connoisseurs. One had to wait and watch, perhaps sipping the Deutscher Sekt made by the Charmat Method, competing with the Prosecco DOC.