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  • Writer's pictureChomp Magazine

The Rise of German Winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel: A Story of the Lost Barrels Collection

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


German winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Meike and Dörte Näkel of Weigut Meyer-Näkel Winery

Sisters Dörte and Meike Näkel, the fifth generation of Weingut Meyer-Näkel, have flown to Bangkok in November for their Lost Barrels World Tour. The world tour is a shoutout to the world of the new beginning of this German winery in the Ahr region after the horrible flood in 2021, which caused damage to the whole region and the winery.


German Winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Weingut Meyer-Näkel and Sühring wine pairing dinner

On 5 December 2023, the Lost Barrels World Tour kicked off in Thailand. The Näkel sisters collaborated with German chefs in Thailand, the Sühring twins Thomas and Mathias, to host an exceptional wine pairing dinner at the 2 Michelin-starred restaurant, Sühring. The dinner featured nine vintage 2020 Pinot Noirs from Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection.


Due to the busy schedule, Chomp couldn't make it to the dinner. However, we were lucky enough to interview the sisters privately and taste their wine at Banyan Tree Bangkok's lounge on the 19th floor. The Näkel sisters greeted us with a warm smile and a relaxing demeanour. Chomp expressed our sympathy for the natural disaster that occurred at their winery.


German winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Weingut Meyer-Näkel's vineyard

The Ahr region in western Germany, full of valleys and narrow streams and normally far from natural catastrophes, is known for producing high-quality red wines. The region's vineyards are located along the Ahr River, providing the ideal wine grapes growing conditions. The Romans first introduced wine grapes into the region in the 8th century, and since then, the Ahr has become one of Germany's most important wine-producing regions. It's worth noting that Germany is the third-largest Pinot Noir-producing country worldwide.

The story behind Weingut Meyer-Näkel Winery is quite interesting. Initially, the winery was known as Meyer, and the sisters' grandmother was the surviving child after the war who inherited it. Despite having no knowledge about winemaking, she decided not to sell the winery to somebody else. Instead, she found a winemaker who didn't have his own vineyard and married him in 1950. Together, they turned the winery into what is now known as Weingut Meyer-Näkel.


"After World War II, German wine quality became low and gained a bad reputation," said Meike, "Our father was a pioneer of winemaking in Germany during his time. He was the first in our family to take the business seriously and initiated a movement to improve the quality of wine in Ahr. He even went to Burgundy, France, to learn their winemaking techniques."


German winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Bottles of Weingut Meyer-Näkel wine

The sisters carry their grandmothers' and fathers' determination to keep the family legacy alive. They are the first females to run the family business and also the first generation to learn about wine growing from the university, which helps the vineyard in terms of product and production qualities.


The two sisters' determination was put to the test by the flood in 2021. Their home and winery were destroyed, and three hundred and fifty Pinot Noir barrels were lost in the flood and scattered to multiple places. Only ten barrels were found.


German winery Weingut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Weingut Meyer-Näkel's wine barrel

"The nearest lost barrel was found stuck on the roof of their neighbour's house," Dörte recalled, "The farthest was found in the Netherlands and damaged. We couldn't rescue that one. We could bring nine barrels back. The wine in the barrels could fill about 2000 bottles, which is a very small amount. At first, we planned to put them in an auction, but we changed our minds because by putting them in the auction, only a few people could have and experience them. We want to share these unique wines with as many people as possible."


Bangkok is one of the promoted destinations due to the sisters' love for the tropical climate, friendly locals, and rich cuisine.


"I've been to Bangkok and beaches in Thailand," Meike stated, "I'm impressed by the country. We both adore Thai cuisine. Thai people are amiable, which can be quite different from what some of us are accustomed to. Also, Thai people are big foodies. Their open-mindedness in food amazes us. For instance, during a recent wine-pairing dinner at Sühring, our long-time client, we were concerned that local guests might not enjoy the traditional taste of the food. However, it turned out that they loved it."


German winery Weigut Meye-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Sisters, Meike and Dörte, and the ruins

Many would have given the business up and moved on with something else or, at least, relocated. The sisters' roots are as deep as the roots of their grapes. The vineyard and winery have been with their family for generations longer than it's officially stated.


"We weren't pressured to keep the business. We just want to do what we have been doing our whole lives and value our Pinot Noir. We made it our mission to showcase that Pinot Noir grown in the Ahr is exceptional and high-quality," said Dörte, "When the flood happened, we were there, seeing everything swept away before our eyes. Our machines were gone. Our home was demolished. A catastrophe like that may cause damage but also bring a positive impact, like a new start."


"The Ahr, even Germany, are generally peaceful and don't encounter natural disasters regularly," Meike added, "Scientists and experts attribute this flood in our region to climate change. It even pushes us to do our business sustainably. We want to work with nature, not against it. Our newly established vineyard boasts a rich bio-diversity. In terms of sustainability, we provide equal and fair salaries and education to our employees. We treat them like family and offer the best possible working conditions."


German winery Weigut Meye-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
Bottles of Weigut Meyer-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection

"One of the reasons that we bounce back fast was the help from our community." Dörte explained, "Before the flood, people in our neighbourhood weren't close. We might greet each other when passing by, but we didn't hang out with each other. When the disaster struck, we all sat on the street without electricity, water, or mobile signals. We started talking and listening to each other. After that, we helped each other clean up and bonded. Some tractor and machine companies came to us and helped us rebuild our estate and business."


Not only the people in their community and several companies were the ones who lent these sisters their hands, but also a designer, Roman Ruska, from the famous German design and communication agency, Ruska Martin Association.


German winery Weigut Meye-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
One of the Lost Barrels Collection's special labels

"Usually, our labels are minimal, but we want something recognisable for the Lost Barrels Collection," Meike told us, "Designer Roman Ruska contacted us, offering his help designing the labels. He developed the idea that every flood starts with a drop of water, which is why the labels of the Lost Barrels Collection are water rings with a gold barrel."


Each label represents each barrel and shows how far it was swept away from home.


German winery Weigut Meye-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
The luminescence label

"The labels have luminescence gel, which glows in the dark. The water rings and where the barrels were found were coated and written with this gel," revealed Meike. "This represents when the flood came and left us in the dark, literally and figuratively, feeling hopeless. However, finding and retrieving the lost barrels was like a gleaming light in the dark."


After the interview, the sisters let Chomp taste some of their wines—the Lost Barrels Collection No. 5 is fascinating. Besides its fruitiness, peppery nature, and low tannin content, we found it light and minty. Meike told us, "Indeed, it's the terroir that imparts a unique flavour profile to the wine, as that slope has a natural abundance of mint growing."


German winery Weigut Meye-Näkel's Lost Barrels Collection
The Näkel sister at their wine cellar

For more information about the Lost Barrels Collection, please go to https://www.lost-barrels.com/ , and for other products by Weingut Meyer-Näkel, the information is available at https://www.meyer-naekel.de/

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