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No. 31

Focused on what's Important

«Sometimes it's worth doing things that at first glance seem crazy. Manuel Álvarez-Arenas has dared to rethink labels. Some prophesized his certain ruin, yet he was successful – and enriched the wine world as a result. This reminds us of our own story: When we founded Flaschenpost in 2006, most wine merchants found the idea of selling wine online absurd. Well then... to crazy ideas!»

Dominic und Renzo


Bottle of Max Origen from Tinedo

«Labels are a visual pleasure that contributes to the enjoyment of the wine.» – Manuel Álvarez-Arenas

Courageous wine-making from the Mancha

The Mancha is the region that is home to the slightly crazy Don Quixote, who, in the name of his ideals, fought against windmills and wineskins. The story of the Tinedo vineyard shows how the adventures of the passionate knight from the classic Spanish novel are still of significance today. In order to understand it, we first have to explain a bit more: From 1865 to the early 20th century, the vine pest, which had been introduced from North America, destroyed a large part of the European wine-making regions. Due to its climatic conditions, the Mancha was spared an invasion of the ravenous pests. As a result, the demand for wine from the region of Castile suddenly exploded. The small bodegas rapidly disappeared and were replaced by large, industrialized farms. When the vine pest situation began to improve, the price of wine in the Mancha plummeted.

Anyone who still wanted to make a profit had to supply lots of wine at the cheapest price possible. «My grandparents and my father wanted to keep their small bodega at any price», explains Manuel Alvarez-Arenas, who manages the family vineyard Bodega y Viñedo Tinedo together with his sister. «That was actually the dumbest thing you could have done at the time», says Manuel laughing, and adds: «But it is thanks to this stubbornness that today we have what is probably the most exceptional farm in the Mancha.» This is why the three siblings launched the Max wines to commemorate the 170th anniversary of the farm's existence, An homage to their father and his passion for continuing to manage the vineyard despite all the resistance he faced, without every knowing whether his livelihood would have a future. He was completely committed to his ideals, a true hero of the Mancha – one could undoubtedly write a novel about him.

Bottle of Max from Tinedo

A vineyard with crazy-good ideas

Tinedo wines are one-of-a-kind. They come from a small, sustainable family vineyard in a region that is dominated by large industrial farms. More than anything else, however, they really stand out at first glance. Had the Zurich Dadaists designed wine labels, they would have probably turned out quite similar. However, the vintner Manuel Alvarez-Arenas, an admirer of contemporary art, is modest: «We don't consider our labels to be art. We simply think that the labels should be on par with the wine and represent them well.» In other words, an avant-garde wine? «We make groundbreaking wines that primarily try to give expression to the aroma of the grapes, and for this reason we make sure that not too much wood is used.» For the trained biologist, who for many years was a sustainability consultant, it is also important to assume a pioneering role with regard to environmental responsibility. He aims to make the farm climate-neutral. But back to the offbeat labels: The vintner himself contributed the pictures for the collage. He has been taking photos for many years now and has also had some published in photography magazines. In the beginning, many thought that designing these kinds of labels was not a good idea, that it would ruin his business. But Manuel is a descendant of Max, which means that he does what he thinks is right – regardless of how crazy it might seem to others. Regarding the parallels to Don Quixote, Manual says: «If we are too normal in our thinking, we limit our possibilities. Don Quixote was crazy, but it freed him of all social norms.» But does he think that the knight would have preferred the traditional Spanish labels with coats of arms? In any case, we're happy to be counted among the crazy ones!

Bottle of Cabernet-Pinot Noir Barrique from Weingut Nadine SaxerBottle of Pinot Noir Spätlese AOC Schaffhausen from Aagne Familie Gysel

«Diligence is key.»

Nadine Saxer and Stefan Gysel are the unbeatable dream couple

Nadine Saxer and Stefan Gysel are not only a familiar couple in their private lives – the oenologists also complement each other perfectly in their careers. Both run their own winery, Nadine in the canton of Zurich and Stefan in the canton of Schaffhausen. They live with their three daughters on Nadine's winery in Neftenbach. When asked if it is not sometimes difficult in their situation to separate the professional from the private, Nadine says with a laugh, «When you have such a nice job, you don't have to separate it at all.» Is it because of this positive attitude that her wines are so harmonious and powerful? Nadine attributes her success primarily to the constant and intensive work in the vines and in the wine cellar: «We always aim to produce the highest quality and to always improve even more.» This does not go unnoticed: at the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, Stefan Gysel and Aagne have already received 10 gold and 19 silver medals. Nadine Saxer even trumps her husband with her 11 gold and 23 silver medals, but in 2009 Stefan was the only German-Swiss to be named «Winemaker of the Year» to date... Is there perhaps sometimes competition between two such successful winemakers? How is it, for example, when it comes to choosing a wine for the wedding day? «On the wedding day, one bottle is not enough... So we can take a bottle from one winery for the aperitif and one from the other winery for the meal», Stefan says with a smile, «and of course it can sometimes be a wine from a fellow winemaker, then we can avoid this dispute.» This attitude simply whets our appetite for more Swiss wine – we have a lot of aces in our hand here.

Bottle of Beaujolais Villages Le Perréon from Domaine de la Madone

«Hallelujah, what a Beaujolais!»

Domaine de la Madone stuns the wine critics

Beaujolais is one of those things. The southernmost region of Burgundy is known for fun red wines that taste like raspberry gum. By the next morning at the latest, most people curse these quaffable light wines and never want to hear about Beaujolais again. But the region has a second, quieter face: that of the carefully produced, amazingly well-structured site wines. Under the name Domaine de la Madone, the Bererd family farms 90 small vineyards totaling 28 hectares. Most of the plots are located on a hill overlooked by a statue of the Madonna. Some of the vineyards are on considerable steep slopes, the soil is poor and consists mainly of pink granite – in short, perfect conditions for first-class wines. That is why the Bererds follow the quality model of the Burgundian crus both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Thanks to tireless manual work, they succeed in producing wines with a wonderful fruit, which appear very light-footed and fresh, but also show an impressive complexity. This pearl did not go unnoticed by international wine critics: «This is a fantastic Beaujolais Villages that would embarrass many crus», wrote William Kelley of The Wine Advocate. Translated into everyday language: This wine is truly a value-for-money wonder. Hallelujah!

Bottle of Zweigelt Unplugged from Hannes Reeh

«Come as you are...»

Hannes Reeh rocks the wine world unplugged

His wines have made an impact like Nirvana's hits once did. But you'll look in vain for airs and graces with Hannes Reeh. The Austrian may live a carefree lifestyle, but he is far too determined to want to lead the dissolute life of a rock star. In 2007, he took over the winery from his parents and set about revamping it with youthful impartiality. The young man did not like all the «bells and whistles» surrounding wine; he wanted to make authentic, honest wines and dispense with any cosmetics and artificial enhancement. His wines should express pure emotions, just like the music of Nirvana in the album «Unplugged in New York». So a name was quickly found that sums up Hannes Reeh's work: he vinifies the best grapes of the vintage «unplugged» – without pure culture yeasts, enzymes, fining agents and filtration. Today, these wines are Hannes Reeh's trademark, and he has even won the Austrian Zweigelt Grand Prix with them. Like no other, the young winemaker has managed to combine nonchalance and ambition. His Zweigelt is not an unapproachable gentleman, but «like a sociable friend whom you like to have in your circle», says Hannes Reeh. If this wine were a song, you would simply have to put it on repeat.

Bottle of Cair Ribera del Duero DO Selección Familia from Dominio de Cair

«Flaschenpost and Cair have their hearts in the same place.» – Juan Luis Cañas

A premium wine at a friendship price

«If Flaschenpost were a wine, what kind would it be?» This question was asked of Renzo Schweri and Dominic Blaesi in an interview a few years ago. The answer came from both of them as if on cue: «Cair!» Because the qualities Flaschenpost stood for as a company also applied to him, the two founders emphasized. «He is modern, but has not forgotten his roots. He is authentic and made with a lot of heart and soul. But most importantly, he's just a lot of fun!» This declaration of love was reciprocated a few years later by Dominio de Cair: The winemaker Juan Luis Cañas offered us to jointly press an exclusive wine for Flaschenpost. A Cair entirely to our taste? We didn't have to think twice about that! And so Dominio de Cair experimented with different barrels – sometimes with a little more toasting, sometimes with different types of wood – until the combination was found that freshly expresses the fruit aromas while providing a pleasant sweetness in the mouth. The careful selection of 22 barrels resulted in «our» wine: a true premium drop at a friendship price. We are mighty proud.