On happiness and Lieben Aich
In search of a successful day.
With the help of Manincor's Lieben Aich.
By Kurt Höretzeder
Throughout history people have given thought to the meaning of “happiness”. Countless definitions have been proposed in an attempt to communicate at least an idea of the concept. One striking example – one that dissipates all hope of lasting pleasure – is “Happiness is there where you are not.” That is the last line in the poem “Der Wanderer” by Georg Philipp Schmidt von Lübeck (1766–1849, although some authors suggest the origin is actually a Polish proverb). It became famous in Franz Schubert’s setting of the poem. Happiness is there where you are not.
We must be careful not to misinterpret the sentence. It is not meant to deliver up mankind to eternal gloom; it is simply a warning. We are all on a personal quest for happiness, and that is as it should be. All those who have sought an answer to the problem have known only too well that this quest, this yearning is a part of the condition humaine. Some people associate happiness with love, some with beauty and perfection, others with a felicitous style of life. The promise of happiness (or bliss and serenity) is very much an element of most religions, too.
Equally, it is clear that happiness is not something one can command, and that, to develop a sense of happiness, one must also be familiar with the duality of happiness and suffering. Even the beautiful things in life, including wealth, are not to be relied on in the quest for happiness, as we are clearly shown in the allegorical painting The Instability of Happiness by the Dutch Baroque artist Theodor van Thulden (1606–1669). Happiness is there where you are not. – This is really a consoling thought; we must accept the quest for happiness as something that ultimately defies fulfilment if only to avoid the premature completion of what cannot be completed at all. In more concrete terms: “A single success, what is it worth?”, asks Peter Handke in his wonderful Essay about the Successful Day. And he provides the answer: “Not nothing.”
Happiness and wine. We cannot say for certain what was in the two bottles in the basket at bottom right in van Thulden’s painting, but it is not unreasonable to assume that it was wine. From time immemorial wine has been a companion to happiness (but also – let us be truthful – an obstacle). There are few paintings of Paradise from which the grape is absent – and few scenes that deliver a stronger promise of happiness than the Last Supper: “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” The Son of God knew that some time would pass before they were to meet again, but every glass of wine – or let us be more precise and say: every glass of a great wine – reminds us of His promise.
Here is another quotation, this time by Theodore Fontane (1819–1898), contained in a letter written in 1879: “Happiness, it seems to me, consists ... in being where you belong.” In addition to the reference to human beings, this can also be interpreted as a reference to wine.
In the case of Lieben Aich in Terlan, the terroir is really a great good fortune for a Sauvignon Blanc. It is located at an elevation of 350 metres above sea-level on a south-west facing slope that is blessed by the rays of the evening sun so that the grapes tend to ripen earlier than elsewhere. This perfect exposure banishes the last hint of immaturity from the grapes and confers on them their highly aromatic quality. The soil is a pervious sandy loam on a substratum of quartz porphyry, which gives the Sauvignon a minerality that is rarely found even on other excellent sites.
And then there are the vines, which now enjoy perfectly harmonious growth, and our consistent policy of biodynamic cultivation, which helps them transport the minerality of the soil and the powers of the microclimate into the mature grapes.
Only the best from the vineyard. Lieben Aich is the only white wine in Manincor’s Crown line. It corresponds to a Grand Cru on the Burgundy model – a true terroir wine. A lively mineral soil, optimum microclimate, old vines and a painstaking and strictly natural style of working in the vineyard are combined in the interest of excellence. Only those grapes are harvested that are yellow through and through. Where the share of green grapes is more than ten percent, they are used to make the Sauvignon Tannenberg. In a good year, the vineyard of just under one hectare produces a maximum of between 2,500 and 3,500 bottles of our benchmark wine. In those years in which our demanding standards are not met, we have to go without our Lieben Aich, and all the grapes go into the Sauvignon Tannenberg, which normally comes from the adjoining plots. It is worth mentioning that the two wines, each in its own way, are expressions of the fine Manincor white wine site surrounding Lieben Aich Manor in Terlan: Whereas the terroir dominates almost completely in the case of Lieben Aich, the grape variety is the focus of the Sauvignon Tannenberg (see Manincor Report no. 10).
A hint of happiness. What is begun in biodynamic style in the vineyards of Manincor is continued in the cellar – with a minimum of human interference as the Lieben Aich makes it way into the bottle. The destemmed grapes are left in the wine press to macerate for twelve hours – plenty of time for aroma extraction and the structure of the wine. Fermentation in big wooden barrels using the grapes’ natural yeast is a spontaneous process, which is followed by ten months’ vinification on the fine yeast lees for the wine to develop its unique style.
Once you are in the happy situation of holding a glass of Lieben Aich in your hand, the result of our pursuit of a perfect wine becomes apparent in every detail, including a glow of golden yellow, and the restrained mature fruit aromas and above all the mineral notes of iodine and flint that are characteristic of the wine’s crystal-clear aromatic character. The rest almost goes without saying: a full round body, the wonderful interplay of juicy acidity, ripe fruit and mineral aftertaste. And, as one would expect of a great wine, Lieben Aich is never loud or flashy. On the contrary: the moments it grants are a product of restraint, as is typical of all great moments in life.
It is no exaggeration to say that every glass of Lieben Aich contains a hint of happiness – or is a harbinger of happiness, perhaps. Of course, it takes more than a glass of wine to make a day a success or a person happy. The fact that happiness does not reside in things but in ourselves, this aphorism by François de La Rochefoucauld (1613–1680) is also something we do well to remember. And yet we need the quest for those moments of happiness. They will not be perfect but they will remind us; they will not be permanent but they will speak to us of eternity; they will not be the greatest, the highest, the finest or the best, and yet they will be – not nothing.