Wine from Brey, Crafted with Passion
The Weinbruderschaft Breyer Hämmchen (WBH) e.V. is dedicated to maintaining a 800 year old winemaking tradition!
To understand why the Weinbruderschaft Breyer Hämmchen (WBH) e.V. exists requires a little historical perspective about the wine culture in the Middle Rhine Valley around Brey. If you see pictures of this area from the 1950s and 1960s, you can see that any sunny slope along the Rhine and along the valleys of the creeks and small rivers flowing into the Rhine was used for the cultivation of wine grapes. The festivals in the villages and towns in this part of the Rhine valley were either about wine or wine played a major part in the celebration. But economic conditions changed. The modern economic reality found that the cost of the manual labor need to maintain the steeply sloped vineyards (“Steillage”) typical in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley was too high. Further, the sons and daughters of the vintners often saw better opportunities elsewhere. One by one, the towns and villages found themselves without a vintner and without a vineyard. This is a process that continues today.
In 2003, Brey, a village of a little over 2000 people located on the Rhine in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site, lost its last vineyard. The community wanted to find a way to maintain its 800 plus year wine-making tradition and its related culture. The WBH was founded in 2005 as a result of this community initiative. Its first task was to recultivate the vineyard Breyer Hämmchen and to begin to again produce excellent wines from this vineyard.
The WBH is a non-profit organization with over 100 members, active and inactive. The active members meet regularly (most Saturdays and Wednesdays from 9am to 12pm) to work the vineyard and help with the wine-making. The membership has diverse backgrounds. Some with a long time involvement in wine making, others just learning. All are united in their interest in Riesling wine from “Steillage”.
The other important part of the organization is the 170 patrons from all over the world who have, over the years, provided financial support to this effort. Each row in the vineyard carries the name of patrons to symbolize their “ownership” of the vines in that row.
Grape cultivation and wine-making are just part of what WBH does to help preserve the wine tradition in Brey. One very important activity is the WBH’s work with the elementary school in Brey. Classes are invited to the vineyard various times during the year to learn about grape cultivation. One row of the vineyard is set aside for the students to practice what they learn.
In addition, the WBH grows the red fleshed “vineyard peaches” typical of this area, raises sheep to battle the grasses and weeds under the peach trees and between the rows of grapevines, maintains a herb garden, and collects honey from the bees that pollinate the peach trees and grape vines.
WBH wines are all Riesling. Generally, WBH make 50% of its wines dry and the other 50% off-dry. Over the years, the WBH have been privileged to win a number of gold, silver and bronze medals for the wines. Of course a big part of WBH’s success lay in its vintner, Florian Weingart. Florian is a WBH member, but is also recognized as one of Germany’s finest vintners. Florian’s Weingut Weingart is annually recognized in such publications as Gault Millau as one of the finest in Germany.
Breyer Hämmchen is a 1 hectare vineyard in the Middle Rhine with approximately 4900 Riesling grape vines. The Rhine valley provides a relative constant temperature. Rainfall is 550-650 mm per year. The soil contains Kieselgallenschiefer (essentially weathered slate), similar to that of Fässerlay and Mandelstein in the near by and much larger Bopparder Hamm. The vineyard”s south-southwest slope of between 35% and 50% provides optimal sunshine to the vines. All ideal for a fruity wine with good minerality and fine acidity.
Because the priority is for the quality of the wine. The production is limited to 5000-6000 liter pro year. In the effort to avoid the use of chemicals, weeds are removed from around the vines by hand. The reward for this effort is an outstanding Riesling wine.
If you happen to be near Brey on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, feel free to stop by and see the vineyard. We work the vineyard most Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9am-12pm Spring, Summer and Fall. We always like to have vistitors stop by. A special event is the harvest that usually takes place in from late September to the middle of October. We have up to 60 volunteers helping us pick the grapes. There is always a good mood in the vineyard during the harvest. You might also consider becoming a patron. A 100 € contribution provides a certificate, a discount on wine for 5 years, you name on a plaque on a row of grape vines to symbolize your “ownership” of 6 vines in that row, and a yearly newsletter.