Alter fränkischer Satz
Until well into the 16th century, German viniculture made no effort to distinguish individual grape varieties; instead, the vines were planted as mixed sets (gemischter Satz). Alter fränkischer Satz is made up of several historic Franconian and classic varieties. This diversity of varieties represented an attempt to compensate for the effects of adverse weather. The mixed set made it possible to produce an overall drinkable wine with a long shelf life using a range of aroma and acidity providers as well as varieties with reliable yields, at varying degrees of ripeness, that were all harvested on a given date.
Weisser Elbling as well as Grüner, Gelber, Roter and Blauer Silvaner make up the largest share of the old varieties. Gewürztraminer, Gelber Traminer, Riesling, Weisser Gutedel, Roter Gutedel, Gelber Muskateller, Pinot blanc and Pinot noir are further varieties used. The historical varieties include Adelfränkisch, Vogelfränkisch, Kleinberger, Heunisch, Hartblau and Süssrot.
With regard to the composition of varieties, a distinction was made between vinum francium (frentsch) and vinum hunicum (huntsch). Frentsch is the term for a mixed set using higher-quality varieties. While frentsch was subject to tithe and was traded as far afield as the French court, huntsch was largely exempt from taxes and could be marketed by the wineries themselves. Unfortunately, no known historical documents exist about the composition of varieties used for frentsch or huntsch.
Tradition dictates not only the grape varieties, but also the cultivation methods of Alter Fränkischer Satz. The vines were interspersed in the vineyard to permit an exchange via the roots and mycorrhizae (soil fungi), cultivated using the Franconian head training technique, and covered in leaves and soil in the autumn to protect against severe frosts. Each vine was trained on three wooden stakes: one located below, one at and one above the head (see photo of Ickelheimer Schlossberg vineyard). The stakes were removed and stacked in the autumn, only to be put back into place in the spring – a labor-intensive undertaking. Head training is no longer permitted when starting new vineyards, as own-root varieties may no longer be planted due to the danger of phylloxera infestation. Furthermore, training systems using wires are now employed, simplifying vineyard tasks.
The area dedicated to Alter fränkischer Satz has dwindled to a mere 7.5 hectares, which corresponds to 0.12 percent of Franconia’s total vineyard area. The decrease is mainly due to the work-intensive nature of the cultivation and low yields.
While other wine-producing regions went over to planting and pressing pure sets of grape varieties from the 19th century onward, Alter fränkischer Satz has survived to this day in Franconia. The traditional varietal composition remained unchanged in individual vineyards that were either not affected by land consolidation or were too remote. With its Alter fränkischer Satz, Franconia is thus uniquely positioned within German viniculture.
The different varietal compositions in the individual vineyards and the different degrees of ripeness in the various climate zones throughout the Franconian wine region ensure that Alter fränkischer Satz does not have a uniform flavor. Alter Fränkischer Satz produces highly individual and authentic wines that strongly reflect their terroir, with depth and multifaceted aromas. They are characterized by their complex flavor, with a very long finish and pronounced mineral notes.