Every month, ‘Whose Wine is it Anyway?’ profiles a German winemaker to give you a behind-the-vines look at the world of German wine. This month, we’re highlighting Michael Völker and Melanie Drese of 2Naturkinder. Based in Franken, 2Naturkinder is a small family winery paving the way towards a more sustainable and ecological winemaking future.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Michael Völker and Melanie Drese
Michael Völker was born and raised in a wine-loving family at his parents’ winery in Kitzingen, which has been in the family since 1843. But it wasn’t until Michael and his wife, Melanie Drese, tasted wine thousands of miles from their home that their own journey into winemaking began.
From Heidelberg to Regensburg, and London to New York, Michael and Melanie traveled the world for six years while working in science publishing. Then, by pure accident, the couple tasted a natural wine for the first time and were quickly hooked.
The couple was presented with the opportunity to take over Michael’s family winery, but after tasting natural wines, they knew they didn’t want to make anything else. So, while pouring a few bottles of wine, Michael and Melanie pored over a new name for the organic side venture at their father’s winery, finally settling on 2Naturkinder (two kids of nature).
In 2013, the couple returned to Germany to begin producing natural wines, starting with just a few hundred bottles from two parcels, which were converted to organic farming by Michael’s dad in the 1990s. Just in time for Michael’s parents to retire, Michael and Melanie decided to fully expand 2Naturkinder, while taking over the family winery’s production in 2019. Today, they farm around seven hectares of organic vineyards, selling wine in more than 20 countries. What started as a glass of wine abroad became Michael and Melanie’s passion.
Located in Franken, 2Naturkinder’s vineyard practices are the perfect example of sustainable, natural, and ecologically responsible winemaking. The winery is composed of seven hectares of vineyards, growing Silvaner, Bacchus, Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Meunier, and other varieties. Depending on the year, Michael and Melanie also purchase other organic or biodynamic grapes from nearby growers.
Since the brand’s creation in 2013, Michael and Melanie have operated under the classic definition of organic farming: nothing added, and nothing taken away. Besides operating under traditional organic farming requirements, the couple focuses on soil-improvement, biodiversity, and varietal planting. Their philosophy is that the vineyard’s soil is an animate being, meaning hurting nature also hurts themselves. Michael and Melanie are dedicated to increasing biodiversity and reward nature for producing grapes by planting trees, scattering seeds, and even piling up stones for lizards in the vineyard.
During harvest, the grapes are typically picked by hand, with no chilling, no use of gas, and no dry ice involved. While less control also means a higher risk of failure, Michael and Melanie are willing to take the risk to produce wines that they feel are more interesting and more remarkable than if the grapes had been grown using a more hands on approach.
Soil to us is a living being. Together with the whole ecosystem it is part of us as we are part of it breathing the oxygen that the plants produce, attaching yeast from our fingers to the leaves of the vines, enabling the roots to connect to the mycorrhiza network to access nutrition that ends up in our body with the wine we drink.
— Melanie Drese
Once the grapes are hand picked, Michael and Melanie assume a passive role. The 2Naturkinder team steps away from the safety net of modern winemaking methods, pressing the grapes directly, giving the grapes skin contact time and allowing the natural fermentation process between yeast and sugar to begin.
All of 2Naturkinder’s wines are bottled without filtration or the addition of SO2. Instead, 2Naturkinder produces wine with a mission of bringing the vineyards of Franken directly to the glasses of people who appreciate pure, natural wine. While the end result may look and taste unusual, these natural wines are authentic, individualistic, and reflective of its terroir.
Our role is the role of a participant. Of nature composing a juice. Of the interpretation bringing specific flavors to shine. A very important participant without whom the wine wouldn’t exist. But not more.
— Michael Völker
Cooperating with Critters
Among 2Naturkinder’s wide array of wines, you may find a few bottles that catch your eye. Along with more common biodynamic vineyard practices, Michael and Melanie get some help tending to the land from sheep, and fertilizing the soil from bats – or their guano, more specifically. As a dedication to their hard work, both of these animals can be found on a few of 2Naturkinder’s wine bottles. But how did this come to be?
In 2014, Michael and Melanie took over a Müller-Thurgau vineyard from a colleague with a small cottage in the middle of the land, which seemed like the perfect home for bats. The couple developed the idea of a mutually beneficial cycle: they would get guano to use as fertilizer, and the local bat colonies would have a place to rest. Today, the vineyard has several bat boxes to encourage the bats to stick around. In return, they donate revenue back to bats, and other animals, via the Landesbund für Vogelschutz (State Federation for Bird Protection.)
Along with the help from its resident bats, 2Naturkinder uses sheep to tame the greening in the vineyard. Now employing 15 sheep, Michael and Melanie also utilize the excess wool to deter rabbits and hares from disrupting the vines. Plus, the wool makes for great mulch and compost. As a tribute to the sheep, 2Naturkinder offers bottles of Black Betty, a wine named after their very first lamb.