16 German winemakers to watch
11th July, 2016 by Darren Smith
8. Axel May – Weingut Steinmühle, Rheinhessen
Axel May is the 11th generation of winemakers at Steinmühle in Osthofen in the Wonnegau region of southern Rheinhessen. The family wine business is based at an impressive flint mill which Axel’s ancestors purchased in 1737 and converted it into a quality-focused wine estate.
Following a viticulture degree from Geisenheim and experience gained at Flowers winery in Sonoma and the biodynamic Seresin estate in Marlborough, May took over winemaking at the 15.5ha Steinmühle estate in 2009, assuming control of the whole business in 2013 – all while still only in his 20s.
In the vineyard May has sought to move in the direction of biodynamics (the Seresin influence), establishing durable green cover with a wide variety of plants to encourage biodiversity and encourage ecological balance, and experimenting with biodynamic preparations.
Low yields, rigorous selection (including several passes in the vineyard during harvest) and hand-harvesting determine that the minimal-intervention approach adopted in the gravity-fed cellar yields wines of intensity and elegance. Wild yeast fermentations and extended time on the lees also add complexity and texture to Axel’s wines.
The wines of the Steinmühle estate are part of the VDP system and concentrate on Riesling and Burgundy varieties (May admits to preferring the Pinots of Martinborough to those of Marlborough, if that’s any indication of style). There’s also some very decent Sauvignon Blanc and Weissurgunder, but the single-vineyard Liebenberg Riesling and Klosterberg Spätburgunder, particularly, are worth a look.