Martin Wörner &
Marto / Vin de LaGamba
In early October of 2021, while most southerly regions were long finished with harvest, I took a train from Paris to Flonheim, Germany to spend a week with Martin Wörner and Alanna LaGamba, who were still in the midst of picking grapes with no near end in sight. Immediately, upon entering the home of the pair, I was thrust into the world that is the combined forces of these two wunderkind winemakers. Martin comes from a lineage of winegrowers that, starting with his grandfather, made sparkling sweet wines that post World War II became fashionable in Germany. At a point of dying national interest in sugar wine, and after just having spent a harvest working closely with Tom Lubbe of Matassa in the south of France, Martin returned to the Rheinhessen, an area nestled between Alsace and Frankfurt, and took over his father’s estate in 2016.
The early Marto wines show the Matassa influence clearly, and Martin himself will be the first to admit, more or less copping to his flagship cuvée Weiss as a rip off of Tom Lubbe’s macerations of aromatic southern varietals in the Roussillon. But at the same time, and even then, the wines felt of another planet, of a new line of German experimentation that even adventurous tongues hadn’t quite yet broached. And while it was maybe easy to write off Marto’s wines as fun party juice in 2019, this is no longer the case. Increasingly influenced by Alsace, and in particular the immense range of wines by Bruno Schueller and his cousin Jean-Francois Ginglinger, Marto’s operation has expanded to encompass his ever evolving vision of what it means to make artistic and personal wines in a region with hardly any tradition, planting varietals such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, and pushing what began as a humble line of two or three cuvées to seven being released this year.
A Canadian originally from Toronto, Alanna LaGamba spent time working in wine bars in Berlin before becoming Martin’s partner in both creative and life pursuits. While the two take the lead on their own respective projects, they also generally work in concert together, in a sometimes intense manner. This push and pull dynamic was inspiring for me to witness, and in the end the results speak for themselves. Alanna’s Frauen Power cuvée, a sort of wine as energy drink and play on lambrusco, put her on the map almost immediately with its cheeky label and unpretentious palate feel, but in 2020 she also shows her strengths as a serious winemaker, working collaboratively with Martin on Cuvée Alanna, the first serious 100% Pinot Noir coming from either of the two.
That week in 2021 remains incredibly special to me, and while both Martin and Alanna made fun of me for missing out on most of the picking—my arrival having happened to coincide with a bit of a lull in harvesting every day—the experience of having spent time with the two harvesting, cleaning the cellar, tasting through wines, and discussing process to no end at the dinner table will stay deeply ingrained in my emotional framework for a long time to come.
Frauen Power 2021
Alanna’s version of Lambrusco as energy drink
White Field Blend
Astoudingly good bottle of wine for $23., beware of imitators
Red Field Blend
The new Weiss ... but red (rot)
Crazy Crazy 2021
Sparkling White Field Blend
Weiss in sparkling form
Pinot Blanc 2020
Woah, didn’t see this one coming. Like an austere slammer that conjures Schueller in a racy mood.
Perhaps the most cellarable of Martin’s wines; an example of both energy and depth in complete balance, with a little bit of “flor” for good measure.
Al Dente 2020
Pinot Noir / Gris
The classic Alsatian blend of Noir and Gris
Cuvée Alanna 2020
A standout 100% Pinot Noir collaboration between Martin and Alanna