EVA FRICKEEva Fricke was born in 1977, in Bremen, Northern Germany, a region totally devoid of vines. Her parents, Gerd and Treeske, were not winemakers, but doctors. They enjoyed food and wine but were by no means enlightened amateurs. Nothing in Eva’s stars could have foretold she would end up a winemaker, let alone with her own organic winery.
It happened by chance. When Eva was six, the family moved from Bremen to the countryside. Her parents kept their practices in the city, however, so Eva and her two siblings were often left in the care of their maternal grandmother. She was a fascinating woman. She was a doctor in East Berlin, but eventually left everything behind and fled Berlin for Freiburg. Later, she lived for several years in Ethiopia, where she practiced radiology in Haile Selassie’s hospital. Her stories were enthralling. She was great fun but strict with school work. Eva worshipped her.
In her year before last of high school, Eva came across an offer for a summer job in Cape Town, South Africa. It wasn’t Ethiopia but it was still Africa, a chance perhaps for a connection to her now departed grandmother. Eva signed up for it. For all she cared, her summer could have been spent at a shoe factory, but it happened to be at a winery. She enjoyed it there.
Back in Bremen, Eva faced a dilemma. If she had always done what it took to get by, she had never been a dedicated student —she hadn’t the faintest idea what to study in college. She had to come up with something though. Quickly. She thought of her good times at the winery in Cape Town and blindly pinned the tail on the donkey: Eva would study wine.
Chance again. A famous wine merchant in Bremen happened to be a patient of her mother’s. He offered Eva guidance and got in touch with none other than Michael Broadbent who secured her an internship in 1995 at Château Cissac in Bordeaux. After Cissac, she apprenticed for a year at Schloss Johannisberg (the importer had also put in a good word for her there.) With the prerequisite training now under her belt, Eva was accepted at the prestigious viticulture and oenology school in Geisenheim in the fall of 1996.
The first year at Geisenheim consisted of a lot of math and physics and very little hands on experience. Eva hated it so much that she even wondered if she would continue. But —and by now you know where we’re going with this— fortune intervened again.
Thomas Teibert of Domaine de l’Horizon in the Roussillon was then a fellow student at Geisenheim who also moonlighted as an agent for Stockinger barrels. One of his customers, Castello di Verduno in Piedmont, needed an intern for the 1997 harvest.
It was at Castello di Verduno that Eva was first exposed to the reverence of terroir, of single vineyard sites, of the vine. And it was also there that for the first time she was immersed in the obsessive food and wine culture of the Mediterranean people. It daily permeated the fabric of an entire, remarkable family. Their passion was contagious. Verduno was the match that lit the fire. Chance made sure it would continue burning.
In the winter break of her second year at Geisenheim, Eva was vacationing in Spain with her boyfriend, also a wine student. They had been driving on an isolated road in Ribera del Duero, when they spotted a sign to a winery, a little house high up on a hill. It was late in the day, but the lights were still on. Eva’s boyfriend had read something about the winery; they decided to drive up to it. Three men were there. Two were engaged in deep conversation, so the young couple introduced themselves to the third, Carlos, who kindly invited them in to taste. After a while, the two other men joined in. The winery happened to be Hacienda Monasterio, and the three men were Peter Cissek, Carlos de la Fuente, and a barrel maker. A few weeks later, Eva contacted Peter, and arranged to intern at Hacienda Monasterio and Dominio de Pingus for the 1999 harvest.
Peter was the type of winemaker totally consumed by his craft which he practiced at the highest level. He was inspiring and he became an important mentor to Eva. She worked with him again in 2001.
Internships also took Eva to Australia, at Tatachilla in MacLaren Vale, and at Pepper Tree in the Hunter Valley. She graduated from Geisenheim an oenologist in 2001, passionate about wine, and fully committed to winemaking.
After Geisenheim, Eva worked the 2002 harvest at Tatachilla again. She liked it there and thought about staying. But the Australian government refused to grant her an extension of her work visa so Eva found an assistant manager’s position back in the Rheingau, with J.B. Becker in Walluf, where she worked the 2002 and 2003 vintages.
By 2004, she had finally decided to make her own wine and started looking for grapes. It was Andreas Spreitzer who suggested she call Johannes Leitz. She met Johannes and spent some time with him touring the vineyards and tasting in his cellar. He called a few days later. Instead of grapes, he offered her a position as his assistant manager. Eva signed on for three years on the condition she could make her own wine in her spare time. Quickly, she became Johannes’s right hand. She managed the day to day operations in the vines and the winery, the vineyard and cellar team, as well as some of the sales, particularly to the USA.
In 2004, Eva also made her first two wines, a whopping 22 cases of Rudesheimer Berg Rotland and Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck. She pressed her grapes in a small basket press generously lent to her by the Breuer family, and aged her wine in fifty-liter glass demijohns in a small cellar she found to rent in Rauenthal. In 2005 she produced 27 cases. In 2006 she found her first vineyard to rent in Lorch, produced 76 cases, and found her first customer.
In 2007, she thought that if she was one day to run her own winery, she ought to know something about financial management. So, in addition to Leitz and her budding winery, she attended business school at night in Oestrich-Winkel, graduating in 2007, with a masters in business management. She was now producing 750 cases, farming two vineyards, and she had 44 customers.
Rather than rest for a bit, Eva decided in 2010 to manage her vineyards fully organically. With vineyards for the most part in Lorch, and grades up to 44%, this was no easy task.
Finally, in 2011, Eva decided to focus fully on her own winery. Her original three years she had signed on for with Johannes had turned into seven. It had been extraordinarily formative. His winery had grown from 14 hectares when she first joined, to 40 hectares, and there were also substantial grape purchases. After Eva left, Johannes hired two fully grown men to replace her.
Weingut Eva Fricke is now 10 hectares, only 7 of which are in production. It is a small, artisanal winery, where no efforts are spared for quality. Accordingly, Eva applied for organic certification in 2016.
After tasting some of her 2007s, Terry Theise wrote “Eva is ambitious and hell-bent for top quality. I tasted three of her wines and admired all of them. You'd be very smart to be interested.” In 2013, Eva was named Newcomer Of The Year by Falstaff Magazine. In 2014, Stuart Pigott included her in Fine Magazine’s list of best young German winemakers. In 2015, Stuart named her Rising Star Of The Year in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Her wines are regularly reviewed and praised by Jancis Robinson and The Wine Advocate.
Eva exports (70) % of her production to the US, Canada, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Australia, Russia, UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Norway.