“When your first name is Jakob, you have no choice but to go into the family business,” says Jakob Schneider Jr. with a charming smile, the youngest in a long line of Weingut Jakob Schneiders in the Nahe region of Germany.
In his mid-twenties, Jakob is an enthusiastic, engaging, strong-shouldered individual who comes across as an icon for the new winemaking generation of Germany, most of whom have been educated in enology and are bringing modern winemaking practices to their family wine estates. Of course, Jakob was lucky enough to have been born into a family that owns two prized hectares of Niederhauser Hermannshohle, one of the most legendary vineyards in the region. In Germany, soil is the key to quality wine, so if all goes according to plan, the family has essentially been given a license to print money.
Jakob, however, is not one to rest on his laurels. He works hard, during harvest almost twenty hours a day, and finds it difficult to find workers who share his dedication. When he tried to recruit some of his former classmates at the wine university Geisenheim, they found the work too taxing and the hours too intense. “A lot of my former classmates went on to cushy marketing jobs,” he tells me with a laugh.
The Schneider family has been making wine since 1575, an eternity by American standards. Curious to know if any family relics remain, Jakob is quick to jump up and show me an ancient family bible from a cabinet, its leather cover bent with age, its pages yellowed and weathered. Almost as old as the family bible is the cellar, the ancient, rounded, stone entrance of which looks like the Hollywood set of a horror film. Yet this juxtaposition of old (the bible, the cellar) and the new (stainless steel tanks, glass wine closures) is what makes Weingut Schneider so interesting and fun to watch.
As we sit in the living room tasting a variety of Riesling wines, both dry and off-dry, Jakob’s mother and grandmother generously serve a little snack of liverwurst. Despite the family’s fame and prosperity, winemaking here is very much a family affair, with Jakob’s mother the accountant and grandmother Liesel Schneider handling customer service.
If you are in the wine world, you might find it interesting to know that Weingut Jakob Schneider is a Thierry Thiese selection. Thiese, an importer specializing in Germany, is well known to be a keen judge of quality. In his catalogue, Thiese speaks of Weingut Schneider with enthusiasm, already praising young Jakob with his innovative ideas and predicting even greater triumphs for the winery down the line. Indeed, the wines I tasted were extremely good, and though dry wines are more my personal preference, I felt that the off-dry wines were a better expression of the vineyards. The 2007 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese is particularly delicious and well balanced, with bright, racy acidity.
On your next visit to Germany, be sure to make an appointment to meet the Schneiders and taste the wine. Or, if you can’t make it to Germany, just pick up a bottle at your favorite wine store and as you taste, consider its four centuries of winemaking history.
Weingut Jakob Schneider
Contact: Herr Jakob Schneider jun.
Winzerstr. 14 – 15, 55585 Niederhausen
Phone: +49 (0)6758-93533