A few weeks ago we sat down at (a virtual) table with Jas Swann to talk about Katla wines, Nordic goddesses, climate change, and a shared nostalgia for the days of crowded wine festivals. Katla wines is currently in its second year of production with 2019 on the shelves and the 2020’s bubbling away in the cellar. Over the past two years Jas has taken the time to feature, highlight, and experiment (sometimes to the horror of the old wine regime) with some of the best grapes from the Mosel region and beyond. From Regent to Riesling, Jas’ wines have a vibrance and liveliness to them that’s as sharp and steep as some of the vineyards they originate from. She makes “wines that I like to drink…selfish winemaking in a sense, but if I wouldn’t want to drink it why would I want to sell it.“
Like so many in the natural wine world, Jas’ background and path to winemaking has been varied. After living in Europe and working in Iceland as a Somm, she was looking for what was next. “The initial plan was not to start my own winery, it was to figure out what to do next within the wine industry.” After spending time learning and working with winemakers in France and Austria, and receiving a little nudge from some “crazy Italian guys” (referring to the team at Lamida wines) Jas made up her mind to make some wine. Starting in Brauneberg in 2019, she began purchasing organically grown grapes to create a small but mighty batch of two and a half thousand liters of natural wine in 2019. 2020 brought a move to renting some space from Staffelter Hof, and more than doubling her production to seven thousand liters. Hopefully, we will get to see even more of the signature sleek and minimal Katla bottles on shelves.
Speaking of those tall slender bottles that are so distinctive of the region, the titles too, hold their own on a wine list. Drawing from Norse mythology - Sif, a beautiful Pinot Blanc, compares the light golden white wine to the famed blonde locks of the the goddess Sif. Or take Frigg, named after the Queen and wife of Odin, a stunning expression of Riesling the Queen variety of Germany.
While some of her grapes come from Mosel, many of the grapes have been purchased from across five different regions - often coming directly from friends who grow. To keep intervention in the cellar minimal to none, the terroir and the climate of the region is key to the production of the high quality fruit that goes into the wines. With 2019 and 2020 pushing climate change conversations to the front, the topic has become more and more ingrained into winemaking conversations. In December, Jas managed to pull together a roster of heavy hitters in the wine industry to come together, virtually, and discuss the challenges presented by climate change, as well as the key conversations on how we can all, as an industry, come together to begin to combat this change. The impressive lineup included winemakers and professionals from France, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Sweden, California, New York, and more all coming together to discuss everything from tilling, spraying, PIWIs, bottle recycling (or rather, the lack there of) to corks, toppers and packing materials. The Wine vs. Climate Change summit was a huge undertaking that was equally as needed as it was desired by its participants. You can check out the recorded summit here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1Up4YAC95c
As far as future projects, there may be more of these virtual sessions on the horizon, and soon, hopefully, some real life events as well. Jas is planning a hopeful return to live wine events, so keep an eye out for a possible event featuring winemakers of Mosel sometime this year if all goes well. As far as longer-term projects, she was recently evaluating locations for an Icelandinc vineyard. After spending time as a Somm in Iceland, the country quickly became her “second home”. The plan is to plant some hybrids, and see how it goes. “I don’t know how realistic that really is, but that is something I’m working on”.
Join us to learn more about Jas and Katla wines during our Winemaker Chat & Tasting event on Saturday January 30th at 6pm. Space is extremely limited due to Covid-19 restrictions, so we will also be offering the opportunity to join virtually as well. Check out the online bottle shop for tickets.
Katla Wines is represented in Singapore by Racine Wine Co.
Caitlin Schriner - January 2021