Moon oak and the underground wine cellars of Marie Menger-Krug.
The perfect combination – Moon Oak, Methode Rurale and Marie Menger-Krug. The result – the
marvellous and magnificent creation that is Motzenbäcker Sekt.
Found in the beautiful cobbled stone town of Deidesheim, located in the Rhenish Palatinate, the
southernmost wine growing region of the Rheinland Pfalz in Germany. It’s surrounded by
vineyards, as far as the eye can see, growing one of the best white wine grape varieties of all –
Sekt, the most famous German sparkling wine, is produced here with great passion. It is enjoyed at
every opportunity throughout the year by locals and tourists alike and goes hand in hand with the
celebration of life. In fact, the clinking of wine glasses can be heard echoing daily along the maze of
alleyways and small streets of this enchanting town.
Everyone in Deidesheim seems to be involved, selling and promoting wine from their shops,
restaurants, bars, the local cooperage and wine museum. This town is all things wine. And at the
heart of it – the cellars of Motzenbäcker and the fantastic wines of Marie Menger-Krug and her
These are no ordinary cellars. In fact, Motzenbäcker is the oldest wine producer in Germany, with
bottles dating back to 1758. Documents also state that Motzenbäcker was the first winery to be
legally registered as a Deutsche Sektgut – an official German sparkling wine house. It was this
defining moment that laid the foundations for what is today, the largest sparkling wine producing
and consuming country in the world!
The year 1800 was a pivotal time for the Motzenbäcker family when a local cooper was
commissioned by the winery to produce a special barrique using local German oak, exclusively for
ageing Motzenbäcker wines. He began the process by first choosing a specific oak tree to make his
barrels. Then, he waited to fell the tree at just the right time of year and temperature to ensure that
the oak barrels retained the maximum amount of wood strength and grain density. The results were
simply outstanding wines, full of depth, character, finesse and intrigue, with incredible ageability.
This style of barrel continues to be made at the same cooperage and used at the winery to this day.
The current guardian of the Motzenbäcker estate is Anneliese Motzenbäcker (in partnership with
her late husband Friedrich). Anneliese, born in 1922, recently celebrated her 97th year as part of the
winery, and she swears by the fact that biodiversity and the drinking of fine organic sparkling wine
has been key to her continued good health and happiness. Her influence, humour and knowledge is
also rubbing off on the other members of the family – Regina, Klaus, Marie and Eve.
Regina, the master of marketing, has been at the forefront since 1979. Klaus, her husband, the
viticulturist and very laid back visionary, studied and mastered his craft of making fine wine in
Montpellier France. Their daughters, Marie, a graduate of the European wine academy of
Geisenheim has spent the last 16 years by her parents’ side, absorbing everything they teach, and
implementing these practices and knowledge to great effect throughout the winery. And Eve, who
holds a PhD in plant and climate science, has a knowledge and experience of biodiversity and the
cycles of plant life, crucial in the vineyard and to the overall philosophy of the company.
Four generations who each continue to play vital roles in the everyday success of this incredible
Motzenbäcker wines are all made from organically grown estate grapes, overseen by biodynamic
philosophy and practice, and, for the most part, made with spontaneous fermentation using wild,
indigenous yeasts. However, the real story behind the great wines is the use of Moon oak.
This is not just a fantasy concept devised by the Motzenbäcker family. In fact, the practice of using
Moon oak has been documented in the region of south-east Germany as far back as 1700, and even
dates back to 750BCE when Celtic communities were established in the area around Rhine-Hessen,
Deidesheim and Gau-Odernheim, the location of the Motzenbäcker vineyards. It is also documented
that Moon oak has not only exceptional qualities when harvested at the correct times during the
lunar calendar, but is also known to impart very distinctive flavours in wine.
To explain: Moon oak is the practice of felling and harvesting the best oak at a very particular time
of year in the lunar tree calendar i.e. approximately three days before Christmas, or at the beginning
of March when the Moon is waning. At these times of the year, when the plants are dormant, it is
known that the trees have up to 80% less sap and water in their trunks. The trees are felled at a
temperature similar to those in the cellars where the wines will be stored and aged and cut under
the supervision of forestry management to ensure correct procedures are followed at all times. Once
cut, the trees are left to lie in place with branches intact. The trunk continues to feed the branches,
thus removing the remaining 20% of sap and moisture from the tree – a procedure which takes
approximately eight weeks.
The branches are then removed and the trunk begins its next journey to the barrel maker. Here, at
the cooperage, the wood is left to season for a period of up to two years. Finally, it is prepared and
shaped into staves and then crafted into oak barrels of the highest quality.
By sourcing and harvesting the oak in proximity to the Motzenbäcker winery, the cooper can ensure
the wood does not fluctuate in temperature to any great extent when placed in the cellars, and the
grain of the wood will remain solid and tight, neither cracking nor splitting and ensuring increased
durability, hardness and resistance to rot. This process gives the barrel a cellar life span of 100s of
years, and releases a vast array of flavours into the wine during maturation.
The Motzenbäcker family has been working with the same barrel making company since 1800,
ensuring the continuation of a time-honoured tradition and a deep commitment to this great
practice. There are currently four tonneaux – very large wine vats – made from Moon oak in the
Motzenbäcker cellars, all made by the unique and eccentric craftsman Mr Michael Weißbrot. These
big barrels store the base wine that goes into top Motzenbäcker wines. It’s an amazing
accomplishment, one achieved by very few wineries in the world, that this family is so deeply
involved in the growing, sourcing and crafting of their own wood, and in the making of their own
Motzenbäcker wines are simply a revelation. Riesling is king of the castle here, making still and
sparkling wines of unequalled and outstanding quality. Some of the most important and highly
prized wines in this cellar are the Riesling Sandstone Brut and Limestone Brut. Full bodied and
rounded wines, terroir-driven, with minerality and definitive but refined fruit notes starting and
finishing the wines in the most harmonious way.
Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Weiss/ Blau Burgunder and Chardonnay are equally important in
the making of fantastic wines in this cellar.
Chardonnay Methode Rurale Brut is another fine example of how highly skilled Marie Menger-
Krug is at crafting fine sparkling wine from 100% varietals. This multi-award-winning wine has
6ml dosage, with 5 years on the lees and dégorgement in 2013. On the palate, the wine is stand out
classic Chardonnay, with rich and fully ripe fruit notes, and the perfect level of acidity to push this
pure sparkling wine through what seems like never ending sensations on the palate. A real gem for
that special event. This wine pairs perfectly with meat and game dishes.
Pinot Noir is used for making the highest selection 100% Rosé Brut nature. This wine is a raw
diamond. With 0ml dosage and a minimum of 16 months on the lees, this wine is full bodied, well
balanced, very elegant and structured, perfect with fish or seafood and light meat dishes.
Motzenbäcker Brut Nature is a cuvée from Weissburgunder, Auxerrois, Grauburgunder and
Sauvignon Blanc. Auxerrois, although grown extensively in Alsace, France and used in making
Crémant and Pinot Gris is also planted in Germany and with great success at the Motzenbäcker
winery. The grape, which needs a very high level of experience and attention, will produce high
quality wine, often with a rich aromatic flavour profile. As it ages, it can also develop rich honey
notes and deepen in colour. The Motzenbäcker family has found what it believes to be the perfect
cuvée for this grape, expertly creating this wine to express all the characteristics of each variety
while offering flavour profiles of rich elegant fruit with a long, balanced finish. The wine has 0ml
dosage and stays a minimum of 16 months on the lees.
Finally, the jewel in the Motzenbäcker sparkling wine crown is undoubtedly the Marie Brut, an
extravagant cuvée from Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Auxerrois and Sauvignon Blanc with 7ml dosage.
This wine, inspired by the many fusions of colour in both the surrounding landscape and the various
references to art throughout the estate is youthful, floral, tropical, fresh, and very aromatic.
A charming and very special all round wine which is made to be enjoyed at any time of day and for
The proof is indeed in the bottles.
When next on a visit to Deidesheim, and before visiting the Motzenbäcker winery, it is well worth
booking a table at one of the finest restaurants in the region – The Deidesheimer Hof. Famous for
hosting a long list of international VIP guests and dignitaries, including past and present political
leaders, the wine list is equally famous for its selection of outstanding wines. The highlight must
surely be, the pairing of fine fish dishes, created by the very talented chef, Stefan Neugebauer, with a
Motzenbäcker Marie Menger-Krug Riesling.
For more information on the Motzenbäcker winery and Marie Menger-Krug, visit villa-im-paradies.de
Written by Graham Herbert.
Apart from writing about the wines of Germany, Austria and Italy, Graham is a full time organic farmer and wine tour operator in Le Marche, Central Italy. The farm is focused on producing high grade extra virgin olive oil and promoting family holidays and sustainable living at his Eco-Agritourism guest house. For more information visit. www.foglie-ridenti.com