Book tip | Landy Love – The Wine Princess
You don’t see Land Rovers every day in France. Yet in a small village on the outskirts of Alsace you will find exactly three of these cars. The trend started with the Kuntzmann family’s Landy – and the beautiful vintner and wine princess Anne’s thirst for adventure. .
Sunny slopes with vines as far as the eye can see. In the distance stand the Rhine plains and the Black Forest, alongside the pale blue silhouette of the Alps. From France’s eastern border, it’s only a stone’s throw to Basel, Switzerland or Breisgau in Germany. Europe comes to life here where almost everyone speaks Alsatian, Alemannic German, Swiss German, French and standard German. It is so diverse here that everything works wonderfully.
Wine is what connects people the most in this region where France, Germany and Switzerland converge. Nestled between Turckheim and Colmar, at the heart of Alsace’s wine route, lies the little village of Niedermorschwihr. With its colourful Tudor-style houses, narrow laneways and a crooked spire, it’s a typical Alsace village. Peaceful silence prevails here. It is interrupted intermittently by the noise of power scythes on the steep vineyards. At the very end of its only street, shortly before you come to the town sign with its unpronounceable name, lives Anne Kuntzmann.
She greets us with a broad smile, accompanied by her two dogs, Linka and Muscate. Anne Kuntzmann is a vintner and former wine princess. The vineyards surrounding Niedermorschwihr are her home. Even as a child she helped in her grandfather’s vineyards which were already supplying Cave de Turckheim. To this day, the Kuntzmann family continues to make exquisite wine in their cellar from the grapes of all seven Alsace vine groups: silvaner, pinot blanc, riesling, muscat, pinot gris, gewürztraminer and pinot noir. The Kuntzmann’s cultivate eight hectares of different slopes around Niedermorschwihr, a village with 350-odd dwellers. They are particularly proud of their pinot gris which has been awarded Grand Cru Sommerberg status.
Anne leads us into the basement of the house and sits at a large table covered with a red oilcloth. We are surrounded by tools, lawnmowers, wine bottles and Alsace crockery. She lights a cigarette. Anne has an open face with cheerful blue eyes and a contagious smile. She is naturally radiant. It helped her win the title of Alsace Wine Princess in 2008. A small twist of fate. She went on to study winemaking at an agricultural school, qualified as an oenologist, and trained to be a manager for two years. She always had one goal in mind: to take over the family business. Before this could happen, however, she wanted to go abroad one more time.
From Niedermorschwihr to the pacific ocean
She knew it would be tricky to make this wish a reality once she was responsible for the business. While searching her globe for a suitable location, her finger landed on six letters full of promise: Tahiti. It was a surprise for everyone who knew the principal reason for Anne’s search: Anne wanted to continue making wine on her trip. Now, Tahiti doesn’t actually have any vineyards. With one exception: the domaine owned by Dominique Auroy, a French entrepreneur who, on the Rangiroa atoll, allowed his vision of Tahitian wine to mature into a business concept. One of the oenologists at Dominique Auroy had trained at Cave de Turckheim in Niedermorschwihr. And so it came to be that Anne spent seven months in French Polynesia where she worked in Tahiti’s only winery. It was there that she learned not to take life too seriously and not to let herself get over-stressed.
“We’re always in far too much of a rush here in Europe, we worry way too much. Life in the South Seas is less materialistic”, says Anne as she sips on her apéritif. A homemade pinot gris, only for “home consumption”, she says and her face soon breaks into another smile.
Her return to bustling France was very testing, even if life in Niedermorschwihr doesn’t initially appear to be particularly lively or incredibly hectic at first glance. But don’t be deceived. It’s hard work being a vintner. On summer mornings, Anne can be found standing in the vineyards with her father even as early as 6 a.m. In winter, it’s a little later. Winemaking is arduous and the grapes require a great deal of care. You have to keep an eye on them nearly every day. Cutting, binding, fertilising, spraying, pinching new shoots, sorting and, of course, harvesting the grapes in late summer and autumn.
The Wine Princess and the hard work
Anne does everything, even hard labour. Operating the tractor is the only exception. Her father is the only vintner who operates that machine in the near vertical slopes, allowing him to fertilise and spray through the narrow laneways between the vines. Anne takes out her Landy whilst her father sits in the tractor. It’s the only vehicle on the vineyards around Niedermorschwihr that can reach the Kuntzmann’s parcels, even in the depths of winter.
Aimé Kuntzmann, Anne’s father, has always owned a Land Rover. He bought his first one thirty years ago, a second-hand 90. Five years later, he purchased a new 90 and since 2007 he’s used a 110 as a car-derived van. He remains loyal to the brand as he can’t fathom a better car for work or for his hobby, hunting. The British workhorse transports stakes, material, plants and animal feed under its tarpaulin. Aimé received some strange looks from the villagers at the start. The car was atypical for the small Alsace village. Two other farmers in Niedermorschwihr have since followed suit and they too, like Aimé, drive Defenders. Three Landys in a village with only 350 inhabitants. That figure’s not half bad. Meanwhile,
Anne has been working as Chef de l’Exploitation, i.e. managing director, since 2014. The thirty-year-old has rarely travelled since her trip to Tahiti. It is only on rare occasions that she treats herself to a weekend away, usually close to, but not in the village. Distance to clear her head. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The former Wine Princess Anne takes a drag of her cigarette. “Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow”, she says, with surprising honesty. Her take on life. She brought it back with her from Tahiti. And then she laughs out loud, happily, as though Niedermorschwihr were a part of Tahiti.
The Wine Princess was published in the book „Landy Love since 1948“ by Nadja Kleissler at Delius Klasing. Numerous other exciting, varied and not least emotional stories from all over the world can be found in this picture and story book for every Landy fan to read, laugh and dream about.
Nadja Kleissler: Landy Love since 1948, Delius Klasing, Bielefeld 2017
1. Edition 2017
Price 59,90 €
Landy Love is available at your local bookshop or directly from Delius Klasing.
Text Lena Siep Photos Christian Grund
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