Riesling Master Eva Fricke Says, ‘Question Everything’

Illustration by Barbara Spurll
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Fricke comes from Bremen, an industrial city in northwest Germany best known for cars and beer. Born to two doctors, the self-made winemaker is known as a master of Riesling and a vanguard for organic and sustainable agriculture.

In 2006, five years after she earned a degree in viticulture and oenology from Geisenheim University, Fricke established her own domaine while juggling a full-time position as technical director at Weingut Josef Leitz.

Today, she oversees more than 32 acres of certified-organic vineyards on Rheingau’s ancient steep slopes, many planted with vines that date to 1938, and exports her wine to upwards of 20 countries.

Why did you want to become a winemaker?

I did not want to be a winemaker originally. It happened almost by coincidence when I got a chance to work on a winery in South Africa at age 17. This experience absolutely captured my interest in farming and wine creation.

Did you have any role models?

I never thought about a specific role model or model of a winery to build, but many different people and stories formed who I am and what I create today. I never envisioned a clear picture of what my business would be like. Rather, it’s been a very long growing process of meeting life’s challenges and opportunities.

What is your proudest achievement?

I am proud of the collective achievements of the teams that have been working with me since the beginning. The more established we become, the more I realize how unlikely it was for us to succeed and to get to where we are today.

I am extremely grateful for all the people, from trainees and employees, to customers and other winemakers, who supported and carried this dream with me.

The first employees I hired were my Romanian harvest team, many who still work with me. They supported me when no one believed in the domaine, and when many people laughed about my ideas.

“I am extremely grateful for all the people, from trainees and employees, to customers and other winemakers, who supported and carried this dream with me.” –Eva Fricke

What was the most surprising experience or encounter you’ve had as a female winemaker?

I never felt my task or my achievement was different because I am a woman winemaker. I wanted to be famous not because I’m a woman, but because my wines are great. There were always men who supported me, and my greatest mentors were always men. They never told me to do things differently as a woman.

As a woman, it’s more a question of how you want to focus your life, whether it’s family and kids, or a career. A woman can manage everything at the same time, but you definitely need family support and a partner who is willing to support you.

What is your advice to someone interested in entering the wine business?

Question everything. Whether modern or traditional winemaking, don’t let a movement capture you fully. Be you, develop your own taste, listen to what is good for your body and question it all again.

All actions and buying decisions have long-term consequences. Drink organic, eat organic and work organic. Check wines for additives of all kind.

Maintain traditions and traditional landscapes that are at the foundation of our wine culture, and support other producers who make the effort to do so. These traditions took centuries to be built but can disappear in a day in the name of industrialized and more profitable agriculture.

Published on February 16, 2020
Topics: Advocacy