A visit to the Polish Jaworek winery just outside Wroclaw. “Success depends on courage,” Theodor Fontane told posterity. One could almost think that, when he said this, he had already taken a look at a time that he himself no longer lived to see, and had briefly gone astray on his wanderings to drop in on Eva and Lech Jaworek on the other side of the Brandenburg borders in what is now Poland.
POLAND (Miekinia) – Eva and Lech Jaworek had courage when they decided in 2001 to found Poland’s first professional winery in the municipality of Miękinia (formerly Nimkau), which has just under 16,000 inhabitants and is about 27 kilometers from Wroclaw. An experiment with an uncertain outcome. But their courage was rewarded: just eight years later, they were among the first to be allowed to officially sell their wine in Poland. In 2012, they received the certificate of the European Union’s European Regional Culinary Heritage Network, and since 2015, the Jaworek Winery has also been listed in Gault & Millau Polska.
Eva and Lech Jaworek, who fulfilled a lifelong dream with the winery, did not even dare to dream of such (quick) success when they planted the first vines in the soil 500 m above sea level in 2001. The soil is anything but simple – clay, gravel and sand, in many places all mixed together. The climate in Poland is also not without its problems – there are strong temperature fluctuations during the day and year, frost and hail pose a risk during the winter, but also in the spring. Because of the cool climate, the grapes – compared to those from Southern Europe – have low sugar and higher acidity.
In order to find out the suitable grape varieties for these conditions, the winegrowers experimented with numerous varieties on the approximately 12.5 hectares (today 15 hectares) around Miękinia and another 3.5 hectares near the Lower Silesian village of Winsk (Winzig) according to the principle of “trial and error”. 30 different grape varieties were planted in the ground and closely observed. In the end, 15 remained, including Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Auxerois, Pinot noir, Regent, Chardonnay, Zweigelt, Pinot Gris and Solaris. Today, the Jaworek winery produces about 40,000 liters of wine annually, which makes it a dwarf internationally, but one of the three largest in Poland in terms of volume.
Typicality of Polish wines
Gniewko Drewnicki has been the cellar master at Jaworek for just over a year. This was also a dream come true for the 35-year-old. He originally taught English to students, then retrained as a master brewer before devoting himself entirely to wine. He proudly leads his guests through the wine cellar. The reds, he says, are aged in oak barrels from France and Germany. What makes Jaworek’s wines special, he says, is the second fermentation in the barrel. “Polish wines are very tart due to climatic conditions. The second fermentation, which takes place over two to three weeks at 25 degrees Celsius, makes the wines milder in taste,” he explains. In addition to various red, white and rosé wines, the Jaworek winery also offers a very special Polish specialty: drinking honey, a palatable, sweet, aromatic honey wine that matures in barrels for up to eight years before it is bottled. It is a revelation on the tongue and the ideal accompaniment to strong cheese or a sweet dessert.
In the future, the product range is to be completed by a “bone dry” sparkling wine cuvee, as well as own brandies and whiskey. The distillation plant required for this from the company Ulrich Kothe Destillationstechnik from Eislingen in Baden-Württemberg has already been purchased and is to be put into operation for the first time this year.
Although Eva and Lech Jaworek’s rock-solid wines cannot yet rock the international stage in terms of quality, they certainly play in the Champions League in terms of appearance. Each label is an absolute eye-catcher and a small masterpiece. They were designed by the Wroclaw painter and art professor Eugeniusz Józefowski, a longtime friend of the winery owners. He comes up with a new motif for each wine. Looking at the bottles, one is tempted to buy, even though the wines are not quite cheap compared to those from other countries: You have to pay between 40 and 120 zloty (9 to 26 euros) for the rarities. But they are definitely worth a try. The grape juices are sold in selected stores and restaurants in Poland, but most of the wine is sold over the counter of the winery.
Jaworek Winery – a destination for connoisseurs of all kinds.
Those who wish can sample the wines at on-site tastings in the handsome estate restaurant. In addition to the wines from the vineyards, the restaurant offers fresh cuisine that focuses on both regional and international dishes. Good: The menu recommends the right wine for each dish. What’s more, epicures of all stripes can enjoy the idyll of the 18th-century estate, which has been lovingly restored by the owners, for longer. 13 rooms and apartments, each named after a grape variety and comfortably furnished, offer guests everything they need for a pleasurable time out. The winery is also often booked for weddings. The proximity to Wroclaw and good rail connections make the winery a popular destination for city dwellers. It can be easily reached in 20 minutes by regional train. The winery is also a stop on the Lower Silesian Wine and Beer Route, which covers about three dozen wineries and small breweries around Wroclaw.
Poland’s winemaking tradition
Although hardly anyone associates viticulture with Poland, there is a long tradition dating back to the 13th century, when Cistercian monks planted the first vines near Zielona Gora (Gruenberg). Vines grew on 1700 hectares in this region until 200 years ago. Grünberg, just under 200 kilometers from Berlin, was also once the site of the first German sparkling wine factory, Grempler & Co. From 1826, 800,000 bottles of “sparkling water” made from local grapes set out from here on their journey around the world. Until 1945 – that was the end not only of Grünberg “champagne”, but of wine growing in Poland in general. Ignorance of the new rulers and the fact that imports were cheaper than the production in the own country, brought the wine cultivation to a standstill. The vineyards became vegetable gardens, building plots and orchards. It was not until the 1990s that the first two hectares were replanted, and today there are again about 620 hectares nationwide. In 2005, the EU recognized Poland as a wine country again. The most popular grape varieties are Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Seyval Blanc, Bianca, Musca, Regent and Rondo.
For many years, winemakers were officially prohibited from selling their wines. In 2002, the government drafted a national wine law, which was finally passed in 2008. It stipulates the obligation to label each bottle with a tax band to guarantee proper handling and origin. Without this banderole – which is only issued to the winegrower if certain quality regulations are met – the sale of the wine is not permitted.
In the meantime – also due to climate change – wine is grown in almost all regions of Poland. A total of about 620 hectares are shared by about 500 wineries, of which about 330 are engaged in viticulture on a full-time or part-time basis. Most of the wineries are located in the southeastern regions of Małopolska (Lesser Poland) and Podkarpackie (Pre-Carpathian), the fewest in the northeast (Pomerania, Masuria, Podlasie). Of the areas, Lubuskie (Lubuskie Land) around Zielona Góra (Gruenberg) is in the lead with about 140 hectares, followed by Dolnośląskie (Lower Silesia) with just over 80 hectares. The largest wineries in terms of area are the winegrowers’ cooperative near Zabor in the Lubuskie region with about 33 hectares, followed by the Turnau winery south of Szczecin (Stettin) with 28 and Srebrna Góra near Kraków (Krakow) with 26 hectares. The Jaworek winery is in fourth place with 18.5 hectares. Of the quantities, a good 60 percent are white grapes and the rest red grapes throughout Poland. Solaris and Regent are the leading varieties.