The future of Wine Tourism in the making

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By Gisela Kirschstein

"Let me take you downstairs," Victoria Bretz says, and my virtual journey through the winery begins. We climb down a steep staircase to the beautiful and cosy wine tasting room, where customers can buy their wines, yet also sit and enjoy a glass of wine. We sneak a peek outside, into the courtyard, when in summer people sit among palm trees, and where now Christmas trees are popping up. In Corona times, virtual meetings have become something of a fashion, yet with Weingut Bretz in Rheinhessen, they seem to be the means to choose.

"We are building a wine bar in the middle of the vineyards, facing the Petersberg," Victoria tells me during my guided tour. The wine bar will be quite the place to be in the future, situated in the middle of the vineyards, an open terrace, where guests will gather, and enjoy the wines as much as the scenery of Rheinhessen's hill country. A lot in Bechtolsheim is about the future, and the future is yet to come – just as the Corona pandemic lets people wait for a better future at the end of the Covid-19-Threat.

And yet, everything breathes history here. "My parents are the ninth generation of winemaking in our family," Victoria tells me, the young winemaker herself is the tenth generation. Since 1721, they have been making wines here at the Bretz family estate in Bechtolsheim, a well-known winery village in the middle of the rolling hills of Rheinhessen. "I never thought I would become a winemaker," Victoria remembers, yet the 26-year-old studied winemaking and oenology at the famous University of Geisenheim.

The future is in the making, the construction site of the new wine bar faces the Petersberg, a legendary and quite unique peak among the normally rolling hills of the area. On clear days, you can see the modern skyline of Mainhattan-town Frankfurt with its bank skyscrapers from the top. In prehistoric times, the waves of an ocean rolled through these valleys, leaving behind leftovers of dinosaurs, ages-old shells of mussels and those limestone-shell soils which give the wines here their highly mineral character and rich flavor in taste.

"We specialise in Burgundy wines," Victoria says, white and grey burgundy, Chardonnay, but also Pinot Noir and Frühburgunder are perfect for these terroirs. "My parents went into international grape varieties very early," Victoria says. Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc, they take on the distinctive flavors of the Rheinhessen hills. Winemaker of the year, wine estate of the year – the Bretz family collected quite a number of awards in 2020.

Yet, in the Bretz family they also have a heart for traditional grape varieties like Kerner or Scheurebe, even in their sweet varieties. "Many winemakers turned their backs on the traditional wines, we did not," Victoria explains: "We like to offer a wide variety for everybody, and there are still many who love the sweet wines."

During her studies, Victoria did an internship in the Portuguese Douro valley where they make the world famous port wines, last year, she represented her winery on the Pro Wein in Shanghai. "My grandpa started the export business," Victoria tells me, today, they send Bretz Wines to 15 countries around the world, among them Norway, the Netherlands and especially Asian countries like China and Japan.

The semi-sweet wines go perfectly along with the Asian cuisine, and it feels as if the spirit of holidays and those countries far from home lingers in these old stone walls. Mediterranean would be the word you would probably think of, no wonder they love being outside, here, and take? their guests along: picnicking in the vineyards, hiking up the Petersberg, having Barbecues in summer or wine tastings and seminars.

"We will be having Camper van places at the new wine bar," Victoria says, "our customers often want to stay after the wine tastings, yet we don't know where to lodge them. And we want to be a little bit of trendsetters in opening up the area for wine tourism." The Best of Wine Tourism Award 2020 was quite on time – the future is here to stay. Next time, I'll be there for real – and enjoy the wines while sitting and chatting underneath the palm trees, I swear.

Learn more about Weingut Bretz: www.weingutbretz.de