While the Rhine Valley is filled with wineries, when we went wine tasting in Germany, we went to Weingut Otto Laubstein in Hochstatten (in the Nahe region near Bad Kreuznach and Bad Münster am Stein-Ebernburg). We were spoiled becasue the wine was so good. Every wine we tasted after that, was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, they were fine wines, they just weren’t as good as what we had at Weingut Otto Laubstein.
It is a family business. They have been making wines on the property since 1860 and are in their fourth generation. Torsten Hashgagen and his wife Marita Laubenstein-Hashagen took over from her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Otto Laubstein. We were lucky enough to meet them all.
They are passionate about it, take it seriously and are focused on quality. When we met Torsten, he joked that quality control is his favorite part of winemaking. Images of him enthusiastically tasting wine out of barrels popped into my mind. Microscopes and test tubes did not. We’ve done several wine tours and tastings, but this tour was the first time we saw a chemistry lab. He uses the technology in his lab to gather as much information as possible about his grapes and wines as well as to compare them year after year to produce the best quality.
Torsten is committed to continuous improvement and has an exceptional focus on quality. Signs of it were everywhere, from the small batches to exercise more control over the grapes, to the textbooks within arms reach, to being organic. When I remarked on the books, Torsten enthusiastically opened them and told me how he still uses them and the pleasure he takes in reading about winemaking.
The winery has Ecovin designation which means that it meets strict, constantly updated (beyond regular EU or association) requirements for quality and ecological consequences. Ecovin wineries work toward healthy ecosystems in the vineyard by conserving soil and water, encouraging beneficial insects, and refraining from using pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Winegut Otto Laubstein sees their Ecovin (aka Bio, Organic) efforts as a part of producing superior quality wines.
We got to taste some wine at the fermentation stage. See the difference in the pictures? The finished wine is lighter, clearer and higher in alcohol. The fermenting wine is still cloudy and has sediment. It was interesting to taste the wine in progress. In case you were wondering, it tastes a lot like the finished product, but is rougher and not as clear. The flavors aren’t as distinct.
Mr. and Mrs. Otto Laubenstien biggest treasure isn’t their winery; it is their five lovely daughters. Three of them became Wine Queens (the only time in Germany that so many have come from the same family). Wine Queens use their knowledge of wine growing and production to promote their region’s wine at events like fairs, business conferences, wine festivals, and openings, both at home and abroad. Essentially, they serve as an ambassador of their region’s winemaking industry. I learned that queen is Königin in German; it became my nickname for Marita (who still looks like a wine queen). Torsten named their upper tier, highest quality wines “Princess” after her and her sisters. How sweet.
The winery has a wine cellar that is over 400 years old. It stays at a cool, constant temperature. The old brick arch of wine cellar was beautiful and if I’d had a sweater, I would have spent hours in there taking pictures. The wine tour ended in the wine tasting rooms (note the Wine Queens on the walls) where we drank wine and spent hours asking Torsten questions. Torsten clearly loves his work.
So does this guy.