9 April, 2022

It’s Saturday. My friend Norman, a graphic designer with whom I’ve been working on all sorts of projects for several years now, sends me a text message, totally unrelated to wine. One text leads to another and soon we’re busy discussing the design of the glas bottle containing the first wine from Hossbach-sur-Loire which I shall be bottling in autumn of this year. Eventually, he asks for a label copy, i.e. for the text that is to be printed onto the front and onto the back label, the etiquette and the contre-etiquette. As the name for my wine, the name for my cuvée, is unclear to me yet – »1«, »Eins«, »Un«, »Une«, »Martin« or something completely different – I write down what I would like to see on the back, ideally. Here goes:

My name is Martin, and this is my first wine, a Chenin Blanc from Vouvray – well, picked in Vouvray but vinified just outside the appellation, eastwards, in Nazelles-Négron, at Thomas Puéchavy’s cave on rue Amélie Vincendeau. The grapes were grown organically by Thomas and then picked by him, Feli, Julie, Roland, Sylvain and me in the morning of 19 September, 2021. A few days before we had selected this particular parcel by tasting the grapes and analyzing their acidity. It was cold, windy and rainy, the clayey earth sticking to our rubber boots, »la terre amoureux«, as the French say, the loving earth. I was nervous, somehow feeling responsible for these adverse conditions. I had imagined sunshine for the harvest of ›my‹ grapes, everything being easy and fun. Because that was the feeling I had taken with me from the previous vintage in 2020, my first at Thomas’s. I suddenly realized how tough making wine could be. Of course, we did have some fun, too. Roland hid behind a row of vines and then suddenly barked, like a dog, at Feli, making her shout and then fall over. In the afternoon we set up Thomas’s manual wooden basket press. I got angry at this glorious tool (which guarantees the best and most gentle way of pressing) as we had serious trouble assembling it. I got even more angry when I realized how hard it was using the press, moving a 1,5m long iron bar back and forth with four arms for the press to slowly go down on the grapes. When I first tasted the wine that had been put into an old barrique by Thomas (I had had to return to Berlin right after the harvest) I was relieved: This tasted great! Out of all the barrels from Thomas’s 2021 vintage which I sampled in January 2022 this was one of my three favourites! I was happy! And when I tasted it again, two months later, it tasted even better! Mind you, Thomas had had to mix ›our‹ 110 litres with another 115 litres of juice as you need a full barrel to minimize oxidation. Those ›other‹ grapes had been picked from the same parcel but a week later, by friends of Thomas and himself. We took a sample and brought it to the local wine laboratory on 23 March. Thomas sent me the results right after midnight, he was already up in his bedroom, I was still downstairs in the kitchen. I looked at the PDF. Less than 0,5g of sugar per litre – dry as dry can be! A pH of 3,28! Volatile acidity? 0,34g/l only! Fermentation malolactique: 100%. »Thomas!«, I wrote to him. »From what I’m understanding: It’s gone through the malo and… it all looks quite good, no?« »Exactly ! :-)«

Mis en bouteille par Thomas Puéchavy, vinifé par Martin Hossbach pour Hossbach-sur-Loire. Conception graphique: Norman Palm. Alc 12,9%. 75cl. L21. Vin de France – produit de France. 37530 Nazelles-Négron. La consommation de boissons alcoolisées pendant la grossesse, même en faible quantité, peut avoir des conséquences graves sur la santé de l’enfant. Contient des sulfites.

Reading through the label copy again and again I realize that, although it’s quite long, it’s still missing a lot. It’s missing the info that the wine is ›natural‹ (whatever that means!). That it has  not been filtered or messed with in any other ways. Actually, it might not even receive any dose of sulphur but that is to be decided two months prior to the actual bottling. From what I have heard a gram or two doesn’t do any harm at all but, you know, it’s such a heated debate… We’ll see. I wonder what Norman thinks of the label copy. He likes to write as well but it might be hard fitting all of the above on the back of a bottle of wine, right?

A standardized, brown (or is it green?) 0,75l Burgundy wine bottle without any labels, sitting on my desk, waiting

A standardized, brown (or is it green?) 0,75l Burgundy wine bottle without any labels, sitting on my desk, waiting

Norman is pleased with how I translated graphic design into French. But he doubts that all of the label copy might fit on the back, as I had expected

Norman is pleased with how I translated graphic design into French. But he doubts that all of the label copy might fit on the back, as I had expected

Oh! Norman thinks it DOES work! He made a test using the format of a postcard and an 8pt font. I like his edit of the beginning, don't you? The question re. the year I need to ask Thomas although the »L21« (in the test it reads »L20«, my mistake) already gives an indication of the year (and the batch). In another round of iMessages Norman reminds me to think of it as a series (I mean, hopefully, this will not be my last wine) and to include the address of my website. I reply: »Fertig!« »Fertig!« means »Done!« or »Sorted!«. Only then it occurs to me that the name of Norman's graphic design company is »fertig design«, actually! He then points out that the labels are not »done« at all. The front label is still missing. He insists on the labels now only being »halbfertig«, i.e. »half-ready«. Well, I guess he's right. He ends our quite productive afternoon with a jolly »Wir haben trotzdem einiges geschafft heute!« (»Still, we got a lot done today!«)

Oh! Norman thinks it DOES work! He made a test using the format of a postcard and an 8pt font. I like his edit of the beginning, don't you? The question re. the year I need to ask Thomas although the »L21« (in the test it reads »L20«, my mistake) already gives an indication of the year (and the batch). In another round of iMessages Norman reminds me to think of it as a series (I mean, hopefully, this will not be my last wine) and to include the address of my website. I reply: »Fertig!« »Fertig!« means »Done!« or »Sorted!«. Only then it occurs to me that the name of Norman's graphic design company is »fertig design«, actually! He then points out that the labels are not »done« at all. The front label is still missing. He insists on the labels now only being »halbfertig«, i.e. »half-ready«. Well, I guess he's right. He ends our quite productive afternoon with a jolly »Wir haben trotzdem einiges geschafft heute!« (»Still, we got a lot done today!«)