For smaller wine labels, like Georg Breuer, this resurrection is as much a matter of professional pride as anything. Most of their product is purchased locally, by private collectors, hotels, and restaurants, and they export only a few hundred bottles each year. But for some vintners the export business offers considerable attraction, and the market demands sophisticated wines.
All of Breuer”s grapes are picked by hand–“no machines,” insisted Schmorantz–and carefully selected. Picking requires judgment and experience. Mechanical pickers are indiscriminate, and his concern is not bulk harvest but quality. The government permits as many as 10,000 liters of wine to be produced from the grapes grown on each hectare (2.5 acres) of land, but Breuer restricts itself to 2,000. “High quantity equals low quality,” Schmorantz explained. “The quality of the wine comes from the grape on the hillside, not what is done in the cellar. I am not a magician,” he added.
Grapes should be picked at the right moment. Pickers must be capable of distinguishing suitability for harvest. For a sweet wine, for example, Schmorantz explained that one should look for a berry that is “small–like a raisin–and concentrated, so the wine can be sweet and have good alcohol.” Hands and eyes decide, comparing ripeness, texture, and firmness in ways that no machine can duplicate. Breuer regularly employs about thirty pickers who come to the vineyards each year from the former Eastern block, mostly Poland. They know what to look for and what to do. Their expertise is valued: “The perfect grape means the perfect wine, and choosing, picking the grape, is a special skill.”