Poland’s come back as a winegrowing nation and a talk about wine as family ties
Poland & wine – of course, this word pair is not very common when associating with our neighboring country, well known for its adorable cities and most beautiful landscapes. Taking a closer look at the wine culture of this country, we can discover very rich winegrowing history, especially in the region of Zielona Gòra, former Grünberg in Silesia.
Likewise, the southeastern Voivodeship (Polish administrative district) Podkarpackie (Subcarpathian) is known for its wine cultivation as early as 14th century and closely related to the German viticultural history. The country’s oldest champagne factory Grempler& Co, at that time it belonged to the northernmost German winegrowing region, produced sparkling wine from 1826 till 1944. Curiously, the vineyard is located in the heart of the city and is in good order, nevertheless without any use in the wine production.
After, in bygone days of socialism, the Polish winegrowing nearly completely ground to a halt, first signs of the Renaissance became evident in 1990. Though initially most of the producers were small, running winegrowing mostly because of their passion, thanks to local vintner associations, support of Polish Institute for the grapevine and wine and the EU, nowadays Polish wine receives attention again. Increasingly growing number of wine producers takes up a challenge of overcoming the administrative barriers and severe restrictions which regulate wine trade in this country.
Besides the regions Zielona Gòra in Lower Silesia and the Subcarpathians, one can find dedicated winegrowers in the southern mountainous areas of Lesser Poland and Silesia, as well as in Lublin County and Greater Poland. A few of them produce wine even in the north of Masuria and Pomerania. All in all, way above 500 vineyards are operating today in this country.
Winnica Turnau close to Banie in West Pomeranian, about 30 km to the south of Szczecin, belongs to the few vineyards with the remarkable scale of production and at the same time with more northern location than the regions close to Zielona Gora and the Subcarpathians.
We asked Mr.Jacek Turnau, one of the co-founders of the family business, about how did it happen that a musician, a university of economics graduate, a mechanical engineer and a graduate of the Academy for agricultural sciences share the management of the wine-growing estate. What was their strategy to build up the vine planted area and how does the future of the Polish wine look like?
Mr. Turnau, your winery is a real family business however not quite in the classical sense, as it is often the case in the wine estates with long-standing tradition. Can you please explain how did it happen that cousins with different background are producing wine on your father’s farm land together today?
JT: My father is involved in the agriculture for 22 years and 25 years of friendship connect him with his cousin Grzegorz Turnau, a very popular Polish singer. However, Grzegorz always looked for doing something different, especially in the agriculture field. The idea to build up a wine-growing estate went perfectly with his wish.
You had to start almost from scratch. How did you choose the area and grape varieties? How would you describe the climatic conditions and how long did it take you to bottle your first wine?
JT: Good vineyard site was easy to choose. There was only one piece of land available. It is located close to the six-hectare large lake and has a southern slope. This area of 20 hectares matched our project very well. While choosing the right types of grape we relied very much on the recommendations of Wine Institutes in Freiburg and Geisenheim. Our climate is very similar to other well-known wine regions (f.i. Zielona Gòra), having the same amount of sunny days and same average annual temperature. We started with 500 plants in 2009. Bit by bit we enlarged the area; first with 2, then 3 and 15 hectares. Our fist wine was barrel matured in 2014 and bottled in March 2015.
One reads everywhere that the Polish bureaucracy does not make it easy for winegrowers to sell their wines. What are your experiences? Did you plan to produce wine as a for-profit business from the very beginning? Or did you start it as a hobby?
JT: We planned the commercial production and marketing of our wines from the very beginning. The procedure was not easy and all in all, it took us two years till we could fulfill all requirements. However, the officials were always well-disposed towards our project.
Two of your 2014 wines were among top winners of the PIWI International Award 2015. You are celebrating success this year as well. Do you use this competition mainly as a marketing support or is it more about wine analysis and your performance internationally compared?
JT: Both components are essential for us. A possibility to see our wines in international comparison is the main reason, though.
One more question about distribution: does the export of your wines outweigh the domestic market sales? Or does the majority of customers come from Poland?
JT:95 % of our products remain on the domestic market. Nevertheless, you can find our wines in Germany, France, Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Even though most of the people do not associate Poland with wine, this country possesses quite a long winegrowing tradition becoming more popular in many places. What is your vision of the future? Would Poland become a famous wine making society again?
JT: Due to permanent climate change every year wine production will develop for sure. We are very curious what is going to happen in the future.
Mr.Turnau, thank you very much for your time and this interview! We wish you and your family all the best for the future and look forward to your next wine vintages!