Belief plays an important part in the life of priest Bernhard Braun. Believing in God and believing in other people. In 2009, he believed in the idea ten young people from the Deidesheim parish came up with: they wanted to grow their own wine on the estates of the parish. This is the story of a fruity Riesling that tastes of courage, trust and friendship.
Priest Bernhard Braun places four bottles of wine on the wooden table in his apartment in the Deidesheim presbytery. “This was the last vintage,” Bernhard says pointing at the faded label. There had been a wine-growing tradition in his St Ulrich Catholic parish. The parish community had produced their own wine on about 5 hectares of land for many years. But this came to an end in 1959. Pressing, sulphuring, fermenting, maturing, storage and bottling were handed over to tenants. Memory of the tradition of the parish estate faded and withered on the vine. That is, until 2009. “Then, a really special time began,” priest Bernhard remembers. A new generation of wine-growers was to enter into the business. Among our altar servers and the parish youth were many young people who came from wine-growing families and had the know-how. They wanted to do more than just help in the fields, they wanted to have a go themselves.”
When the old leases expired, the parish resumed work on the vineyard—under the watchful eyes of the young wine-growers aged 15 to 19. They worked some three acres of land, including a vineyard on the Hahnenböhl that belongs to the renowned “Herrgottsacker” (God’s fields) vineyards around Deidesheim and two parcels in the Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad vineyards, resulting in the production of the first hundred litres of wine. At that time only producing Riesling wines and only for their own consumption.
“This is how it all began,” says the priest with a smile in his face and looks at the label of the second bottle. A white cross on a blue background: Deisemer Woi(h)wasser (holy water from Deidesheim). Next to the bottle, there is a calendar with photographs. It shows the parish team during the harvest, in the midst of grapes on the presbytery. On one photo, there is a sign: “Wenn’s der Seele guttut, kann’s der Leber nicht schaden.” (It can’t be bad for your liver if it’s good for your soul.) These pictures show lively, laughing people.
In 2009 ten young people from the Deidesheim parish came up with an idea:
to grow their own wine on the estates of the parish.
Christian Krack continues to look after wines of the St Ulrich parish.
Bernhard has moved a lot since his arrival in Deidesheim. In St Ulrich church...
...and in the vineyards.
Bernhard moves the two remaining bottles on his dining room table to one side. The first bottles of the revived wine-growing estate were sold in 2010. From then on, the estate’s label took shape. Saint Ulrich and his attribute, a fish, were on it. You can still recognize the shape on current bottles—though only the outlines. The Riesling wines that the parish estate has in its range bear names such as Proprium, Gaudium and Officium—references to liturgy. The parts of the “Proprium” (proper) give each Sunday and holiday throughout the ecclesiastical year a particular subject. “Officium” (office) is the church term for the canonical hours of the religious order.
The idea and the wine–it was all new and exciting
High-class restaurants in Deidesheim came across the new Riesling in 2011: sommeliers at the “Ketschauer Hof” and the “Kanne” restaurants. “The idea and the wine—it was all new and exciting,” Bernhard says. Sure, they were proud. But they never intended to sell their product on a large scale. “We are neither willing to do it, nor allowed to,” he explains. “We reinvest or donate everything we earn.” In the past few months, some 3,000 euro of proceeds went to India to support people affected by the COVID crisis. “It has all been organised by our Indian chaplain. His contact with his religious order assures us that the money arrives where it should and we know what it is used for.”
The calendar lies open in Bernhard’s hands. His gaze rests on a photo of the presbytery, where the community gathers. Bernhard smiles. Once a year, the priest and “his” wine-growers celebrate themselves—for what they have made of the parish estate. And for what it has made of them. They do this on Saturday after Ascension on the estate in a party that has become legendary. On this occasion, they all come together again: the ‘inner circle’ of young wine-growers, who in their day revived the estate. The young adults have scattered in all directions: “Some of them have a business of their own today, others went away to study. But in some ways, they all are still part of the project,” Bernhard say. He places the calendar back on the table with care and prepares to go outside.
Next to the garage, a heavy and creaky wooden gate opens to a path leading to the centuries-old vaulted cellar of the parish estate. Bernhard’s team used to work down there from 2010 on tending their wines. Popping sounds used to reverberate in stainless-steel tanks between the old walls during the fermentation process. Nowadays, these tanks are stored in the cellar of a wine-growing estate of a friend. “And two out of our team even have their own business. They do a part of the wine production for the parish estate,” Bernhard says. And a part of the sparkling wine production, as well: The young wine-growers gave the priest a sparkling wine as a present for his 60th birthday. The “Eminentium” has been part of the parish estate’s range since then.
It is produced by Christian Krack, or “Kräcker,” as Bernhard calls him with a twinkle in his eyes. Christian was part of the team when the parish estate was reborn twelve years ago. Today, he runs a family-owned sparkling wine estate and continues to look after wines of the St Ulrich parish. The parish’s wooden barrel is also stored on his estate. He runs his fingers over the solid wood. “Wine is a natural product and so is wood. It is so exciting to watch both of them mature and interact with one another,” says Christian. And it means a lot to him.
“The parish estate—it’s a good thing that we’ve pulled together there.” The wines and the sense of community. “The combination is unique: Deidesheim, our priest, all of us—this is something you don’t find anywhere else.” Bernhard nods. He has moved a lot since his arrival in Deidesheim in 2006. Sunday services in St Ulrich church are attended by twice as many people as is the case in all other places in the diocese. Many passers-by find their way into “his” church, in which postcards to be taken home hang on a cord from the wall and two mint green armchairs in the back invite you to take a book from the nearby reading box.
A blue sign leans against a pew. It says: “Hock dich dezu.” (Take a pew.) Whenever Bernhard has time, he sits down with the sign on a bench on the market square. Everyone who wants to have a chat is welcome to take a seat next to him. To talk about church, life or things that move them. Or to simply sit there silently next to him.
The grapevines of the estate rise up just a kilometre from the church. Wild herbs climb between them. “A bit overgrown. The lads have some work to do there,” Bernhard says, laughing. His gaze wanders over the vineyard, over the roofs of Deidesheim and over the church tower. Ringing bells break the silence and reverberate across the slope. The sounds surround Bernhard, who has never thought of moving to another parish. Here is where he belongs. This is what he trusts and what he believes in.
The wines of the parish estate are available in the office of the parish: Pfarrei Hl. Michael, Pfarrgasse 3, 67146 Deidesheim / E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org / Telephone: +49 6326 / 345
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