"Stefan Vetter is f***ing punk rock."

Thus begins every Vetter-letter we get (furreals) from Stephen Bitterolf, the ex-art historian turned German wine importing legend. (When the New York Times wrote its "There's More To German Wine Than Riesling" article, it went straight to Bitterolf for almost all of it. And then they talked about Vetter.)

What does Bitterolf mean? Only that nothing Stefan Vetter's ever done has had the slightest of commercial logic to it. Based in Franken (Franconia), he's taken Silvaner, e.g., a grape people ignored a few decades back - and farmed it so meticulously, made it so gorgeously, that it is now a wine the world's top somms clamor for. ("I crave these in my body," said Colin Moody, wine director at Chicago's Income Tax Bar, who also likened them to the wines of Belluard.


Why are you making me pose like this? Don't you know I'm punk?

Are his methods punk? Or just punctilious? However you frame him, there's no question that Stefan's now at the forefront of Germany's natural wine movement. He farms biodynamically, uses brushcutters and hoes in lieu of herbicides, and does everything - everything - by hand. He's also responsible for almost (almost) singlehandedly putting the region of Franken back on the World Map of Vinous Excitement. 

(Pause: Frankenlesson 101! The wines of Franken were once among the most celebrated in Germany. Würzburg, the region’s largest city, became wealthy from the wine trade and many old domaines still exist... but in the post-war 20th century, they've tended to churn out nondescript, wine-like, um, beverages that don't do justice to the vineyards and region as a whole. 
Stefan is changing this, a few hard-worked, old vines at a time. Frankenlesson concludes here.)But as culty as his wines are? [Interested in some? Write us here!] That's not half of what Vetter's up to in that punk garage of his. Because he's also responsible for some of the rarest and most delicious ciders in the world: all-natural, sulfur-free ciders from a) native Franconian apple varieties (with amazing names like Winterrambur & Goldrenette!), b) pears, c) quinces, and d) - wait for it - sorbs, the fruit of the service tree. (I swear I didn't make that up.)
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Stefan Vetter Cidre
Discover what Stefan calls his “Apfelperlwein” (the best way to say cider ever, btw), his apple cider made from Franconian native varieties such as Goldrenette, Blenheim, Winterrambur, Goldparmäne, and Bohnapfel! Dark copper in the glass; hay, chestnuts, hazelnuts and white flowers? In a cider? Hot damn. Perfect for adventurous lovers of hyper-elegant dry ciders. (Bitterolf says, "This is made of 68% magic so it can solve all your problems. Also, it’s the only apple cidre Stefan Vetter makes and it’s perfect.")


Only $24. Buy here!
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Stefan Vetter 'Quitte' Quince Cidre

This is the one we call the "I Can't Quitte You Baby." Dry quince cider produced from a handful of trees that grow in Vetter's Grand Cru Sylvaner vinyeard (Kalbenstein). Lightly sparkling, weighing in at 6% abv, it's a bright and wild-toned elixir that smells of lime zest, a super tart cheesecake and other stuff. (Bitterolf says, "We have like five cases so I can’t describe it as enveloping as it really is or you’ll all freak out and we’ll have to allocate it like Wasenhaus.")

Very rare! Only $36. Buy here!
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Stefan Vetter 'Speierling' Service Tree Cider


The cuvée we call the "Orb of Sorb," and is every bit as rare as that Merlinesque elixir name might suggest. I've chosen here to recount Bitterolf's astonished discovery of this here in full:

"One of the more entertaining moments of our recent trip to Germany in August was sitting with Stefan Vetter, tasting through his just beautiful range of ciders, when we came across something he described as “Service Tree.”

"John and I are far from cider experts, but still, this was hardly our first cider-rodeo. But there we were, all of us looking at the other person expecting someone to explain this to someone. John and I traded blank stares for a while; Stefan looked pained, as if he had just insulted us by mentioning “Service Tree.”

"So we went to Google, our trusty external brain: The apparent translation for “Service Tree?” It’s “Service Tree.”

So what in the hölle is a “Service Tree?

"Turns out it’s, well, a tree – “sorbus domestica” if you prefer the Latin. Native to central and southern Europe, in many ways it’s similar to an apple tree – sorta looks like an apple tree. The fruit is a bit smaller, but in many ways it looks similar. The cider it makes is a bit more tannic and grippy perhaps than your average apple cider. In terms of our taxonomy however, we’re still in the “pome” family, right there with apples and pears.

Just another one of those very important reminders: Humans ferment a hell of a lot more than just grapes."

As Bitterolf puts it? "Pair with turkey, anxiety, extreme joy or sadness, and American football games. This is easily among the top 10 Service Tree cidres you’ve ever had." :) 

Ultra-mega rare! Only $36. Buy here!