It was clear to them: We have to do that too, ”says Brand.

This is a comparatively expensive souvenir for 65 to 75 euros each. However, the effort for the winemakers on Sylt is quite high, according to Barnes. Equipment and harvest workers would have to be driven north from the Rheingau for each harvest. Unit labor costs doubled for these assignments. And then only about 600 bottles would be produced per year.

"Growing it alone isn’t worth it at all, but that’s not the point" says Barnes. The challenge of growing wine in such a location is what makes it so attractive. In addition, Germany’s northernmost vines brought the winery a lot of attention.

The Rheingau winemaker Stefan Ress cuts grapes on the North Sea island of Sylt. (Source: Wolfgang Runge / dpa)

Planting on Sylt was long considered an exception to the strict wine law, which was only possible because Schleswig-Holstein was once granted ten hectares of vine planting rights from Rhineland-Palatinate. The permit is required if wine is grown commercially.

Obtaining planting rights for areas outside the legally defined 13 wine-growing regions in Germany was almost impossible until recently. Far from Franconia, Saale-Unstrut and Co. there were almost only hobby winemakers. But even under this regulation, some special wines were created: Winegrowers’ associations in the north are allowed to offer Mecklenburg country wine, the second highest wine category.

Wine from northern Germany or the capital

"Wines from northern German regions are a specialty" knows Ernst Büscher from the German Wine Institute. They are often only served on special occasions and are rarely available through traditional sales channels. "Even in Germany, many people don’t even know that vines grow in Schleswig-Holstein or Berlin, for example" says Büscher.

Harvest workers at the vineyard on the Kreuzberg in Berlin. (Source: Stephanie Pilick / dpa)

In fact, there have been vines in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin for several years. The mini vineyard belongs to the municipality. Volunteers take care of him. "The area is far too small to even begin to produce profitable wine here" explains the former Kreuzberger "Chief winemaker" Daniel Mayer.

Wine from Cologne house walls

Thomas Eichert also relies on viticulture in urban areas. He pulls wine up the walls of houses at 30 locations in Cologne – each with a 50 percent share in the harvest. Eichert produced around 300 liters in this way last year. But even he has not yet been allowed to sell the wine at a profit. He earns a little money indirectly with it.

"I am selling the stories" explains the 55-year-old. On guided tours along the vine walls, he explains the wine tradition of the Rhine metropolis to tourists and other interested parties. However, Eichert hopes to be able to convert a small hill into an official vineyard.

At the moment there is basically a chance to do so, even without an exception such as on Sylt. Because with the amendment of an EU law and the adaptation of German law, commercial viticulture is now theoretically possible in every federal state. The Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BEL) approved over 308 hectares of new planting rights in 13 federal states in 2017.

Solaris grape variety thrives in Lower Saxony

The first were already last year "New registrations". In Lower Saxony, for example – until now a blank spot on the map of vines – ten new vintners have acquired rights to grow vines on a total of 7.6 hectares. One of them, Michael Winkler from Göttingen, has already planted the first 5000 square meters with the robust Solaris grape variety.

And climate change does the rest so that vines can also thrive in northern Germany. However, the economic risk and effort involved in sustainable viticulture in northern regions is still very high, according to the German Viticulture Association.

Market niches against saturation tendencies

Nevertheless, the traditional winemakers worried about their piece of the pie when the EU rules were relaxed. Because the German interpretation of the law is stricter than would be necessary according to Brussels specifications. In addition, wine sales are declining worldwide, according to BEL. The German market in particular is showing signs of saturation.

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Experts are not yet able to assess whether wines with a diverse range of origins will bring new impetus. These would not be competitive on a large scale, says Barnes too. The grape juices could score points with their exotic status. After all, customers are ready for the wine with "Sylt factor" to spend good money. There is also a taste difference to other wines, says Barnes: "I imagine that the Sylt wine is salty."

The new wine hype tingles and pearls. But it’s not champagne. "Pet Nat" has been conquering bars and restaurants in Germany for some time. The German "Pet Nat"-Pioneer Jürgen Brand explains what is important and why the wine tastes so different.

What is "Pet Nat"?

Looks like champagne, but there’s none in it: The "Pet Nat" von Brand is a naturally fermented wine whose fermentation carbonic acid makes it sparkle nicely (source: © Weingut Brand)

It is rather cloudy and tingly, sometimes has an unconventional color – and tastes different to sparkling wine and champagne. "Pet Nat" is the catchy abbreviation for the French "Pétillant Naturel". That means: "Naturally tingly" and is a statement at the same time.

How is created "Pet Nat"?

On "Pet Nat" is a very young wine from organic cultivation, which only ferments to the end in the bottle, absorbs the resulting carbon dioxide and thus builds up pressure. This creates the champagne effect: it bubbles and tingles in the glass. This ancient method comes from France and is called there "method ancestrale".

"In the case of champagne production, the ‘méthode champenoise’, in contrast, finished base wine is filled into the bottle and a certain amount of sugar and yeast are added so that fine carbonic acid is created." With the ‘méthode ancestrale’ the wine does not need any additions, the carbonic acid is produced completely naturally, explains Jürgen Brand from the Brand winery in Bockenheim (Palatinate).

Most "Pet Nat"-Producers are natural and organic wineries that are breaking new ground with the return to age-old viticulture techniques: "Our ‘Pet Nat’ comes yeast-cloudy, unfiltered, without sulfur or other finings in the bottle. We let it ferment spontaneously in used wooden barrels without pure yeast. It is only important to us that the grapes are of the highest quality" explains Brand.

"We didn’t know what would come of it"

The brothers Jonas and Daniel Brand from Bockenheim (Pfalz) produced the first Pet Nat in Germany in 2015 (Source: © Andreas Durst)

A few years ago, his sons Jonas and Daniel took over the management of the Palatinate organic winery with 18 hectares of vineyards in the fifth generation and produced the first with the 2015 vintage "Pet Nat" in Germany. They discovered the new wine category while tasting natural sparkling wines from Italy, France and Austria. "The two had visited the natural wine fair ‘Raw’ in Berlin, and there they tasted ‘Pet Nats’ from the renowned Austrian producer Alwin Jurtschitsch, who is causing a sensation with the label ‘Fuchs und Hase’. It was clear to them: We have to do that too, ”says Brand.

When he was in charge of the company, he had produced high-quality sparkling wine for many years. "Therefore, I was able to contribute a little technical knowledge from the production of sparkling wine. That helped us get started. But we all didn’t know what would come of it in the end" he remembers.

The three decided the first "Pet Nat" to produce as a cuvée from the grape varieties Silvaner and Pinot Blanc. "Both have moderate acidity. They express elegance and fine citrus notes, but not too ostensible aromas" the winemaker justifies the selection. Other companies also use the grape varieties Grüner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc or Muskateller as well as red varieties such as Lemberger (Blaufränkisch) or St. Laurent.

Healthy grapes are the most important requirement

The most important thing for the Palatinate pioneers was the quality of their grapes. "With this straightforward, neat method, a few rotten berries can mess up the flavors. That’s why we have to hand-select them extremely meticulously during harvest, ”emphasizes Jürgen Brand. They fill the pressed must into used wooden barrels, which no longer give off any aromas to the wine.

They let the fermentation run computer-controlled at 20 degrees without any draft. Before doing this, they worked out when the half-fermented wine should be filled into the bottle: "Fermentation produces alcohol and carbonic acid from the residual sugar. If we fill too early, it would build up too much pressure and cause the bottles to explode. If we fill up too late, it just bubbles a little. When it’s time, we have to start – even if it’s three in the morning."

They wanted to let the wine ferment in the bottle so that, unlike sparkling wine and champagne, they can do without any residual sugar. With 10.5 to 11 percent alcohol, it should also be light and digestible and be able to develop its delicate aromas. It worked. The first vintage received excellent reviews from colleagues and trade journalists, and the 1000 bottles produced were quickly sold out. In the meantime, this has resulted in an export business for the winery: "We now have customers in Canada, USA, England, Finland and Denmark" says Jürgen Brand.

Weinstein is removed with the shaker

The yeast in the champagne bottle is gradually shaken into the neck of the bottle by hand on the vibrating desk (source: © Deutsches Weininstitut)

With the second, now current 2016 vintage, they brought 8000 bottles of a white and a rosé"Pet Nats" at the start, which cost 14.90 euros per bottle ex works. Jonas and Daniel Brand improved the production with their experiences and the champagne knowledge of their father. In the meantime, they move each bottle for a week in traditional riddling boxes in order to be able to remove the yeast residue and the tartar.

"The tartar crystals form points of condensation with which a bottle gushes empty in ten minutes. That would be a shame" explains Jürgen Brand. In the meantime, the renowned Gault Millau wine guide has invited the brands to sample the best "Pet Nat"- Counted among the world’s producers, he proudly adds.

Although it "Pet Nats" They have been around since the mid-1990s, but only became known to a wider public a few years ago. The now deceased organic winemaker Christian Chaussard from the French wine region Loire coined the abbreviation in 1999, which now works around the world. The term quickly established itself in the scene of its growing area and soon after made its way to Languedoc in southern France, northern Italy, Australia, New Zealand and Austria. And now to Germany too. More than a dozen companies now have it in their product range.

Champagne closure instead of crown corks

But there is still no clear style: Many international ones "Pet Nats" contain a lot or no residual sugar; their colors can be light to strong orange. Aromatically, they are very different anyway – from powerful and elegant to quite a bit of getting used to. An old, forgotten relative has now returned to sparkling wine and champagne.

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But the wine inspection knows no pardon even for the newcomer: traditional becomes "Pet Nat" Closed worldwide with a simple crown cap.