Jörg Geiger and the revolution in the champagne glass

What else but alcohol should be in the pretty glass bottles with cork and red-gold agraffe? Well, the PriSeccos from Manufaktur Jörg Geiger do sparkle like champagne and play with the vocabulary of vinology. But the cuvées do not contain alcohol, but the whole diversity of a Swabian meadow orchard.

Die alkoholfreien Cuvée-Flaschen erinnern an ChampagnerMalaysia / © Foto: Georg Berg
The non-alcoholic cuvée bottles are reminiscent of Champagne Malaysia / © Photo: Georg Berg

Orchard meadows are biotopes. They are full of herbs and shrubs that bear flowers and form seeds. And in the middle of it all, I’m standing with Jörg Geiger, entrepreneur and explorer. He lives both with great passion and unrelenting commitment. Over the years, he has acquired ancient knowledge about herbs and fruit varieties. With his prior training as a chef, he is able to boldly combine flavors and use the tart flavors of tannin-rich fruits in his creations. He then bottles the cuvées using state-of-the-art technology. But everything starts with the meadow orchard with its towering, sometimes very old giant trees. They must be preserved and, where possible, new ones planted for future generations.

Sehnsucht nach dem Paradies. Jörg Geiger unterhält sich mit Angela Berg über Naturschutz und Artenvielfalt / © Foto: Georg Berg
Longing for paradise. Jörg Geiger talks with Angela Berg about nature conservation and biodiversity / © Photo: Georg Berg

Making the most of nature’s possibilities

The trained chef leads the family business, whose nucleus is the Gasthaus Lamm in Schlat, into new dimensions of taste and also business. What began as a chance product at a wedding celebration at the inn in 2003 has since gone into impressive serial production. The wedding party back then wanted a non-alcoholic celebratory drink. Host Geiger experimented with meadow fruit, sour cherry and black currant. The result was the Rotfruchtige, a product that is now the classic in the Geiger manufactory’s range.

Der Gasthof Lamm in Schlat. Bereits seit dem 17. Jahrhundert in Familienbesitz. Hier werden schon seit je her Destillate gebrannt / © Foto: Georg Berg
The Gasthof Lamm in Schlat. Family-owned since the 17th century. Distillates have been distilled here since time immemorial / © Photo: Georg Berg

Complex recipes with up to 50 components

The success proves Geiger right. There is a need for non-alcoholic alternatives to wine and sparkling wine. There are really many reasons why people don’t like or shouldn’t drink alcohol, but there is no sensible reason for giving these guests only an apple spritzer to choose from. In any case, Jörg Geiger creates new non-alcoholic varieties every year. At the moment, he has arrived at 36 worthwhile alternatives to apple spritzer.

Mitarbeiterin Lorena Weinmann führt uns durch das umfangreiche PriSecco Sortiment / © Foto: Georg Berg
Employee Lorena Weinmann guides us through the extensive PriSecco range / © Photo: Georg Berg

For example, there’s Green Hunting Pear – Hawthorn – Wood or Pear – Blackthorn – Douglas Fir, or how about Apple – Nettle – Gooseberry Leaf? Behind the exciting triad of bottle labels, there is always a diverse spectrum of aromas from 20 to 50 natural ingredients. Geiger calls the still version of the sparkling PriSeccos Inspiration. Nuanced and complex, they complement many a main course perfectly. Geiger took inspiration here from the characteristics of the most important types of wine. The result is a non-alcoholic food companion like Inspiration 4.0 Cherry – Bell Pepper – Beetroot. Goes well with roast fillet of beef, dark poultry with strong sauces or lamb.

Jörg Geiger unter einem 200 Jahre alten Birnbaum. Seine Lieblingssorte ist das Stuttgarter Geißhirtle. Die kleinen Tafelbirnen sind für ihn eine wichtige Geschmackserinnerung aus der Kindheit / © Foto: Georg Berg
Jörg Geiger under a 200-year-old pear tree. His favorite variety is the Stuttgart Geißhirtle. For him, the small table pears are an important taste memory from childhood / © Photo: Georg Berg

Ringing names: from Goldparmäne to Champagne Bratbirne

Jörg Geiger asked himself why many of the old fruit varieties were bred in the past. What use do they have? What use did people have for them back then? After all, it was only 50 years ago that non-alcoholic fruit juice was produced for the first time. Before that, the fruit went into fermentation and distillation. A walk through a meadow orchard teaches how to read the rhythm of the year.

Spannende Randerscheinung. Die Kräuter und Früchte der Sträucher am Wiesenrand wie Mädesüß, Roßminze oder Schlehe schaffen es ebenfalls in die Cuvees aus Schlat / © Foto: Georg Berg
Exciting side note. The herbs and fruits of the bushes at the edge of the meadow, such as meadowsweet, horsemint or blackthorn, also make it into the cuvees from Schlat / © Photo: Georg Berg

Why is it so important to process fruit from meadow orchards? What is the difference between plantation fruit and fruit from old trees? “Fruit flavor, Geiger explains, is a question of rootstock. Old fruit trees, which have deep roots, bring much more minerality due to the widely branched root system. Plantation fruit is mainly supplied from the leaf and thus cannot add as much to the aroma because it lacks the root mass in the subsoil in comparison. Acidity formation also requires supply from below through the roots. Sweetness is formed by nitrogenous substances from the leaf.”

Die Dörrbirne. Sie reift von innen nach außen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The dried pear. It ripens from the inside out / © Photo: Georg Berg.

Dependence on the weather and its caprices

When Jörg Geiger recapitulates his discoveries, one gets the impression that adversity threatens from all sides. On the one hand, he feels the struggle against time. Old knowledge is being lost. Even people rooted in the countryside no longer know what to do with the old pear tree and its seemingly inedible bitter fruit. Orchard meadows are threatened because their yields are lower. One is always dependent on the weather and its caprices. The best example is 2017, when the harvest of pome fruit – peaches, cherries, nectarines, apples and pears – was dramatically low. The cause was first mild weather, followed by another heavy frost in April, which damaged the blossoms.

42 Edelstahltanks – die neue große Vorratskammer im Werk II der Manufaktur Jörg Geiger / © Foto: Georg Berg
42 stainless steel tanks – the new large storage chamber at Plant II of Manufaktur Jörg Geiger / © Photo: Georg Berg

Jörg Geiger is still lucky in the harvest misfortune. 2016 was an extremely productive year. His suppliers showered him with fruit, so that he sometimes didn’t know where to put it. Thanks to the new capacity gained just this year, many of the 10-meter-high stainless steel tanks were filled with up to 12,500 liters of fruit juice. Putting nitrogen on top creates a shelf-stable supply that keeps production going in lean years like 2017.

Hier wird der Klassiker Rotfruchtig auf die Flasche gezogen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Here, the classic Rotfruchtig is drawn onto the bottle / © Photo: Georg Berg

Despite all the professionalization in the ultra-modern plant, the products of Manufaktur Geiger are natural products and vary in taste year after year. The customer must also learn this. In addition, some ingredients, such as woodruff, are subject to a limited collection permit. This makes unlimited production increases impossible for some varieties.

"Schweizer Glockenapfel": Alte Sorten wie der Schweizer Glockenapfel sind gut verträglich. Der Ursprung aller Apfelallergien liegt in der Kreuzung mit dem Delicius. Dieser ist besonders bekannt für seine gute Lagerfähigkeit. Fatal, dass diese Eigenschaft auch allen anderen Sorten anerzogen werden sollte. Das hat zur Folge, dass es im Supermarkt für Allergiker kaum noch verträgliche Äpfel gibt / © Foto: Georg Berg
“Swiss bell apple”: Old varieties like the Swiss bell apple are well tolerated. The origin of all apple allergies lies in the cross with the Delicius. The latter is particularly known for its good storability. It is fatal that this characteristic should also be inherited by all other varieties. As a result, there are hardly any apples in the supermarket that are tolerable for allergy sufferers / © Photo: Georg Berg

The effort Jörg Geiger makes to be able to use genuine meadow fruit for his constantly growing production is immense. He now has 750 suppliers. From the owner of a farm with a pear tree in front of his house to large-scale farmers, there is everything. Old varieties have a wide flowering window. As a result, one and the same type of fruit can sometimes be harvested over three to five weeks in the fall. The manufactory then accepts single-variety deliveries on a daily basis. Maximum tree ripeness is desired. Ideally, the fruit should not be picked at all, but should fall from the tree into deep grass and then be picked up. In addition, Manufaktur Jörg Geiger is one of the co-founders of WiesenObst e.V. together with Slow Food Germany. The association has set itself the goal of preserving meadow orchards. Among other things, it has developed a bonus system that makes harvesting meadow fruit worthwhile again for farmers.

In dieser einmaligen Natur wachsen die Früchte heran / © Foto: Georg Berg
The fruits grow in this unique natural environment / © Photo: Georg Berg

As chance would have it – From imponderability to ignorance

Many of Jörg Geiger’s products are the result of chance. Whether weather caprices or farmer’s shrewdness – many things that are told like an anecdote can now be found bottled on the shelves.

One example is Cuvée No. 11 – Unripe Apple and Oak Leaves. A few years ago, a hailstorm had taken parts of the apple crop off the tree too early. The experiment was to draw the tannins out of the fruit by adding oak leaves. The leaves created a drainage effect that made the unripe apple pressable. Today, Boskoop apples are specifically harvested unripe and Cuvée No. 11, with its elegant acidity, is best enjoyed solo. But also in the mix with the (dont’t call me) gin of the Geiger manufactory, which is not allowed to call itself gin because it is based on apple brandy, number 11 makes a bella tonic figura!

Der alkoholfreie Prisecco ist längst salonfähig und eine lohnenswerte Alternative zu Wein und Sekt / © Foto: Georg Berg
The non-alcoholic Prisecco has long been socially acceptable and a worthwhile alternative to wine and sparkling wine / © Photo: Georg Berg

Cuvée No. 17 was created by a clever farmer. Jörg Geiger describes how one summer he stood at the construction pit for the new factory building and asked if he could use heads of lettuce. He asked what else he had. Celery, he replied, and “a few days later he was standing at the reception point with a huge load of celeriac. A challenge for the creative lab. Geiger pressed the fresh celery directly with apples and added the extract of roasted sesame seeds to support the fullness and aroma. The triad of bean apple – celery – sesame was created.

Like a strong handshake – production

Late summer is high season at the plant. Starting at 1,000 kilos, a fruit variety enters the production process. A weekly filling schedule is drawn up. The fruit is washed and sorted. It is then crushed, given a coarse structure and sent for further processing by means of a gentle pressing, which is no more than a vigorous handshake.

Die Abstimmung von Cuvée Nr. 22, gemeinsam mit Fruchtsafttechniker Martin Wolf und dem gelernten Koch Martin Recher – beide Geheimnisträger der Rezepturen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The tuning of Cuvée No. 22, together with fruit juice technician Martin Wolf and trained chef Martin Recher – both secret-keepers of the recipes / © Photo: Georg Berg.

The manufactory’s PriSeccos contain up to 50 herbs, 15 different varieties of flowers, as well as spices and leaves. Each of the currently 36 different varieties of their non-alcoholic PriSeccos is based on complex recipes. Only Geiger and two of his employees have insight into the golden book containing the spice components. Fruit juice technician Martin Wolf and trained chef Martin Recher. With them, Geiger fine-tunes the taste for each new creation. I wasn’t allowed to look in the golden book, but perhaps this sentence of Jörg Geiger’s is written as a preamble: “Observe nature closely and don’t be satisfied with the first result.”

Eine Handvoll Mädesüß – hat nichts mit süßen Mädchen zu tun, sondern damit, dass das Kraut, nach dem Mähen süßlich duftet – Mädesüß, botanisch Spiraea ist übrigens Namensgeber für das Medikament Aspirin.  Es hat einen hohen Gehalt an natürlicher Acetylsalicylsäure / © Foto: Georg Berg
A handful of meadowsweet – has nothing to do with sweet girls, but with the fact that the herb, after mowing smells sweet – meadowsweet, botanically Spiraea is incidentally namesake for the drug aspirin. It has a high content of natural acetylsalicylic acid / © Photo: Georg Berg

For those who want to learn more about the world of meadow orchards, the Jörg Geiger manufactory has various offers. From a picnic in the meadow orchard, to a guided tasting, to a Sunday tour with the boss. Those who do not want to wait until next summer can always taste through the variety of non-alcoholic PriSeccos and inspiration.

Die PriSeccos sind im Fachhandel erhältlich / © Foto: Georg Berg
The PriSeccos are available in specialized trade / © Photo: Georg Berg.

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The cost of half board was covered by Jörg Geiger

Food topics on Tellerrand-Stories

Our mode of operation is characterized by self-experienced, well-researched text work and professional, vivid photography. For all stories, travel impressions and photos are created in the same place. Thus, the photos complement and support what is read and carry it further.

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