A German winemaker with an Indian wife and a passion for firearms- it made for a true Guns 2 Gewürztraminer encounter as I met Pawel Hener, 18th generation designated Managing Director of Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann, one of the oldest wineries in the region of Rhineland Pfalz. We met at a dinner organized by the winery along with Flipsydee, an importer of wine, beer & spirits brands in India and Caffé Tonino, a newly opened outlet of the Italian restaurant chain in Gurugram. Rojita Tiwari, an acclaimed beverages journalist and a friend, invited me to this exclusive interaction with the winemaker.
But it was the history of the winery that presented a fascinating tale, something which unfolded as I sampled the winemaker’s offerings in the company of his significant better half who also doubled up as a competent photographer while engaging the guests.
Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann is located approximately 3kms north of the town of Landau / Palatinate at the Südliche Weinstrasse, the southern part of the German Wineroute, in the village of Walsheim. The winery was established in 1616, and has had its ample share of highs and lows through the turbulent European history spanning four centuries of its existence. Persevering admirably, the winery turned adversity into advantage, creating sustainable assets like 18 metres deep wells for water supply and 80 centimetres thick walls to keep infiltrators at bay .
Pawel Hener originally an Aerospace Engineer, was a reluctant entrant to the family business. It was in 2011 thatdestiny necessitated him to assume command of his inheritance when his elder brother bowed out of the business due to his interests lying elsewhere. Pawel is now firmly in the driver’s seat , guided by his parents- Gustav and Anna Pfaffmann- who are still actively involved in the business. Together, they have transformed their estate to the biggest Certified Organic Winery with Bioland Certificate (the largest organic certification organization in Germany) in the whole of Europe.
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Pawel married Kanupriya Anand, a Delhi girl who was his batchmate during his MBA days in Boston. It was not love at first sight though as they amusedly recall their initial dislike for each other. However, love blossomed as they discovered that they shared common interests too, one of them being wine and food. Today, Kanupriya actively aids Pawel, capitalising on her management credentials and a hospitality background. With a glint in his eyes Pawel also tells me that he managed to get Kanupriya interested in his passion of sport shooting and thereby handling different range of weapons, from pistols to sniper rifles.
Heinz Pfaffmann wines in India
Flipsydee has started imported three of Heinz Pfaffmann wines that are fresh and easy to drink. Initially available in Maharashtra and Gurugram, these are quality German wines at reasonable prices (approx Rs. 2700 each):
Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann Gewurztraminer
An expressively aromatic wine with characteristic floral and lychee aromas. A full bodied palate with moderate acidity and a spicy finish. It worked harmoniously with the antipasti at the dinner.
Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann Riesling Trocken
A classic German Riesling with aromas of citrus fruits, green grass and petrol, followed by crisp acidity on the palate.
The wine was paired with the first course of Ravioli with pear and pecorino tossed in light almond sage butter cream sauce, where it worked well to gel with the aromatics of the dish as well as to clear the creamy coating on the palate.
Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann Pinot Noir
This wine needed decanting for around half an hour before Pawel was satisfied about the expected strawberry aromas wafting out. As we sipped it through dinner it became increasingly expressive with its dark berry notes and tart spice aromas. According to Pawel, this wine has good ageing potential given its lasting tannins and a sturdy acidity.
The choice of main course with this wine was Lamb Chop with Balsamic Reduction and Soft Polenta or Porcini Mushroom Risotto with Red Wine and Parmesan. Normally I would pick the meat option, but I went for the latter courtesy the intrigue that the red wine offered in the risotto. My decision was made easier with ready advice from Chef Suman Sharma with whom I had the privilege to be seated at the table.
Shailender Sandha, Director Flipsydee, is excited about getting these wines to India and said- “Being associated with Weingut Heinz Pfaffmann the first certified 100% organic German winery is a welcome pleasure. It’s an honour to import such wines to India, as our country is getting familiar with wine drinking with increasing number of Indians travelling around the world and experiencing new wines.” Pawel Hener, added “Tasting Indian food extensively, I have always wondered why quality white wines are not popular in India. German wines with their fresh notes pair beautifully with Indian Food. Additionally, the climate in India is perfect for a chilled, crisp glass of German Wine. ”
With the increasing acceptability of wine in India, their optimism is not likely to be out of place.