A rising star of the Rheingau: Eva Fricke
Author: Fiona Hayes
Eva Fricke is still a relative newcomer in the winemaking world, but ever since she turned a side project into a full-time business in 2011, she has made a big impact. Her destiny, or so she originally thought, was in the brewing industry – coming from the beer-producing north of Germany. Having not been born into a winemaking family (her parents are both doctors), wine was probably not the most obvious choice, however Eva loves to travel and she saw winemaking as the means to fulfil this passion.
As soon as she completed her oenological studies in Geisenheim, she travelled the world, spending a few harvests in Australia, Bordeaux, Piedmont and Ribera del Duero. Her time in Spain – under Peter Sisseck at Dominio de Pingus – almost tempted her to make wine there, but the potential of the Rheingau soils and her love of Riesling ensured she returned to her native Germany.
She settled in the small town of Eltville, but it was the unique terroir of Lorch that drew her to the region. In this corner of the Rheingau, the soils have a high slate and quartzite content, the landscape has steep and rocky slopes, and there are many old vines to work with. All these components help to produce Eva’s favourite style of Riesling – dry, mineral and age-worthy wines.
Somewhat ahead of the curve of what was expected of German whites 10 years ago, Eva only wanted to concentrate on producing dry Rieslings. She saw the Burgundian model of one grape variety being able to produce various flavour and aroma profiles, depending primarily on its vineyard site, as the Holy Grail. Today, she does just this, making a range of single-vineyard Rieslings.
Eva insists that she wants to avoid the confusion that often surrounds German wines and make it easier for consumers to understand her wines. (The traditional Prädikat system of sweetness levels can vary from producer to producer, with one producer’s Kabinett Riesling often resembling another’s Spätlese or even Auslese).
The Rheingau Riesling is the introduction to Eva’s wines and as such comes from a variety of vineyards in the region. It is juicier in style compared to her single-vineyard Krone and Schlossberg cuvées, but the purity and mineral character that I have come to expect from the Fricke wines is still well and truly there. The higher percentage of loam and clay found in many Rheingau soils helps provide additional weight and generosity. Eva calls her Krone and Schlossberg her “Grand Cru” sites (although this is not a legal term in Germany); their slate and quartzite dominance helping to give the wines additional salinity and freshness.
As a Buyer, I am fortunate enough to encounter many wine producers from a variety of regions and I am always in awe of people like Eva who continually strive to make better wines every vintage, even when it means not following the easiest of paths to get there. Her implementation of biodynamic, organic and sustainable practices both in the vineyard and winery was always non-negotiable to her winemaking philosophy. The fact that vineyard work is done by hand due to the vineyards’ steep slopes is testimony that these practices are not a mere marketing exercise.
She has managed to inspire younger women to become involved in wine, and consider careers working in wine production – an industry that due to the physical demands and long hours can often be male-dominated. Being able to motivate winemakers to pursue their own start-ups and produce their own wines is also very inspiring. At these uncertain times, I do think a little more about smaller producers like Eva; supporting them is vital now more than ever, so that they can continue making wine for many more years to come.
One to try
This Riesling displays the elegance and purity that Eva’s wines consistently produce. The jasmine floral aromas are wonderfully supported by a peachy juiciness on the palate, while a citrus and nervy acidity provides the backbone to this delicious, fine, dry wine. This is a standout vintage for Eva, and although this wine is a treat to drink in its youth, it will certainly benefit from one or two years in bottle. Drink now to 2028.
To help support Eva, we’re offering you the chance to buy her 2019 Rheingau Riesling En Primeur (essentially pre-order it) – and save 36% on the normal retail price. Find out more