In Her Majesty’s wineglass
Summer is soon going to fade. The temperatures are dropping, the sun hangs deep in the sky, and everything smells of autumnal mists and mellow fruitfulness. For Kristin Langmann, it’s beginning again – the most exciting time of the year: the grape harvest. Kristin is the Franconian Wine Queen, and since her childhood her life has been interwoven with oenological delights – she didn’t start savouring them until she was old enough, but as the daughter of a vintner you grow up with the vines and the lifestyle that comes with them. We talked to the beautiful representative of Franconian wine – to heighten anticipation of the harvest for the 2015 vintage. And we also find out what Her Majesty prefers to savour in her own wineglass.
Tell us a bit about yourself: how and why did you come to be a Wine Queen?
I come from a wine-growing family. For more than 50 years now, we’ve been members of Franconia’s biggest winegrowers’ cooperative, the GWF (Franconian Winegrowers’ Cooperative). Our grapes are vinified by our Winegrowers’ Cooperative in Repperndorf. So I grew up surrounded by viticulture and vineyards. What’s more, for two years (2012 – 2014) I was the Wine Princess of Bullenheim, which is where our vines are located, so that gave me some initial experience of representing a wine-growing community. It was a real pleasure to travel around promoting Franconian wine and enthusing people for our regional product. That’s why I applied for the position of Franconian Wine Queen.
Does a Wine Queen have more work to do when the grape harvest approaches?
As the Franconian Wine Queen, l have around 400 appointments in the year. This involves a lot of travelling, and I no longer have much time to help out in the vineyards. There’s a whole lot of work to do in the vineyards all the year round. But you’re right, the grape harvest is the annual highlight for the wine-growers, the reward for a whole year of hard work. It’s a wonderful feeling when you harvest the healthy ripe grapes for which you’ve toiled in the vineyard all through the year.
Do you have any personal favourites when it comes to wine?
The variety I like best is Scheurebe. To go with food, though, I prefer a Silvaner.
What are the challenges that Franconia’s wine-growers are facing nowadays?
We’re meanwhile being affected by the consequences of climate change. Currently, the weather is too dry. The wine-growers are having to develop long-term strategies here to ensure that the vines don’t suffer any drought damage, and stay healthy into the next year. This includes installing a watering system, for instance. What’s more, the wine-growers contribute towards development in the rural areas. Tourists are attracted to Franconia by our viticulture and the scenic beauties of the serried vineyards. And these tourists support the local catering trade, the region’s butchers and bakers. I should perhaps add that the wine-growers have to intensify their efforts at customer bonding. Present-day customers have higher expectations, which is many wine-growers are offering additional services, like rustic taverns, guest-rooms or hotels. In addition, wine-growers have to showcase their wares on the internet. A website needs continuous updating, so today’s wine-growers are well advised to come up with some good marketing strategies. Customers are inquisitive, you know, and like to taste several different wines; they no longer have just one vintner they patronise the way they used to. What’s more, today’s customers are better informed and hungrier for knowledge.
How do you think you can give the Franconian vintners a helping hand?
I’m on the road every day for the Franconian vintners, to publicise their wines and our wine-growing region of Franconia. I’m in Munich every week. Unfortunately, lots of people there simply don’t know that there’s a wine-growing region in Bavaria, Many of them prefer to drink wines from Austria. It’s important here to make people curious about Franconia’s wines and motivate them to take their holidays in Franconia. Because once you’ve been there and seen our spellbinding vine-clad scenery, you’ll always want to return again and again.
You have a lot of appointments over the year – are there any particular highlights?
For me, highlights are when my emotions are stirred. This can be a nice conversation, unexpected encounters with people who have a captivating story to tell or have achieved something “great”, and who are doing voluntary work to help refugees, for example.
What’s the most stressful part of the Wine Queen’s job?
Stress is what happens if you have poor time management, and you’re always operating at the limit of your resources. I feel stressed if my time schedule is unexpectedly disrupted, and I can no longer get everything done to plan. Otherwise I never use the word “stress” in connection with my position as Wine Queen. I would be much happier with the phrase “working to full capacity”. The term “stress” has negative connotations, but I find my position highly enjoyable, and of course you know in advance that with 400 appointments your free time is going to be scarcer.
How important is machinery for modern-day viticulture?
They lighten the vintner’s workload. It’s a profession that involves a lot of physical effort. So any help you can get from machinery is to be welcomed. What’s more, the vineyards can be cultivated faster and more cost-efficiently. Nonetheless, it has to be said that there’s still enough manual work needing to be done, and on steep and terraced slopes it’s almost impossible to use machines. These are far more time-consuming and laborious to cultivate. But they do, of course, help to create our unique scenery, which is why the tourists come to Franconia in the first place. So wine-growers who have extra work for cultivating steep and terraced slopes deserve support.
What does wine mean to you personally?
It’s a cultural heritage you can drink. Viticulture has a lot of history and tradition behind it. It’s always flourished in advanced civilisations (Greece, Egypt, the Romans …). By enjoying wine, you’re fostering a distinctive lifestyle, one of discerning experiential hedonism. What’s more, wine helps to raise conviviality levels. à Wine is bottled sunlight, liquid laughter. What’s exciting about wine is its sheer diversity. The soil in which the vine grows is determinant for the wine and its character. Wine is the best medium for giving people a literal “taste” for your own homeland. What’s more, the vine-clad hills are part and parcel of our region’s scenic beauty. Your own homeland always makes you feel secure and rooted, and there’s no task more enjoyable than promoting your homeland and the wine that grows there. This is ultimately my remit as the Wine Queen.
How do you relax from your job as the Wine Queen at the moment?
I try to generate energy from my appointments. This can be from illuminating conversations, from new inputs and from encounters with other people. In addition, I listen to the signals from my body, and make sure I switch off occasionally, by taking a long leisurely walk in the vineyards, for example.
Source title pic: Fränk. Weinbauverband/Daniel Peter