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Rhine-Hessian winemaker Dirk Würtz (St. Antony) works with pop icon Thomas Anders and sells the wines of world-famous progressive rock singer Maynard James Keenan. He talks about working with stars, surreal experiences and the pure emotion of wine.

Dirk Würtz

Guido Bittner

You make wine with pop star Thomas Anders. How did you get together?

Dirk Würtz: Thomas Anders was a guest on our podcast "Dieters Weinbar", which I do with RPR1 presenter Andreas Kunze and Matthias Brückner. He comes from the music business and brought Thomas into the studio with him. I found that very exciting. It quickly became clear that he has a great affinity for wine. Thomas Anders has a cookery programme on SWR and was currently writing his second cookbook. He told me that he had been thinking about investing in a winery. I replied: How do you turn a big fortune into a small one? Buy yourself a vineyard. But if you want, I'll make you a wine.

What were his expectations?

Dirk Würtz: We thought about it for a very long time at first. Not: Come on, we'll put a label with your name on some wine. Thomas has very clear ideas about what suits him and what doesn't. We worked for a year until we presented the Pinot Gris. Later we added a rosé. And now we're making sparkling wine.

So your concept is simple: mainstream.

Dirk Würtz: That suits his music and his audience. It wouldn't make sense for Thomas Anders to present a wine that costs 390 euros a bottle and is totally cerebral. None of his fans would buy it. Incidentally, they are not the only target group for the wines. We reach many other people besides them.

Winemakers expect to announce a celebrity wine and it will be sold out in a few hours because all the fans will rush to buy it. Do you too?

Dirk Würtz: Nope. Of course, many people rely on the one-off effect. But that doesn't do a winemaker any good. Wine is a slow business. And yes, you make a wine with a star so that the fans will buy it. But the following year that's over. The idea behind working with Thomas is that we do this for 20 years.

Have you set up the collaboration for the long term?

Dirk Würtz: Yes, of course. We've also become close friends and have a lot of fun together. It's just a good feeling: let's see what we do next. Maybe we'll come up with a wine that's in the discounter. Because a Thomas Anders wine would have its place in the area. But we haven't decided anything yet.

Most wines with the names of stars like Kylie Minogue, Pink, AC/DC and others don't mention the winemakers who produced them. Your names, on the other hand, have equal status on the label. Why is that?

Dirk Würtz: This is the first time I've heard this question. Of course, Thomas Anders is the prominent name on the front. But it was also clear to him that we were doing this together.

Would you also produce wine for an artist if he wanted to call it "his own"?

Dirk Würtz: I haven't even thought about it yet. Of course it's Thomas Anders' wine.

Dirk Würtz

Guido Bittner

Why is it his wine? You produced it, the label says "St. Antony".

DirkWürtz: Thomas doesn't walk through the vineyard and pick grapes. But he is involved in the entire production process. He comes round every five or six weeks. We go into the vineyard, I explain to him what we are doing. We taste a lot. And when it comes to cuvetting, he decides. I now know exactly what he likes and what he doesn't like. Then he makes his decisions. So it's his wine.

You leave the sensory decisions to him?

Dirk Würtz: Yes. There's no point in talking him into it. Thomas has a distinct taste, he can remember flavours very well. He was recently presented with four rosés blind in front of his nose in a TV entertainment programme. He had to recognise his own. I was holding my breath - but it was a direct hit! Right away!

You also have a project with a musician who is musically the complete opposite of pop: you exclusively distribute the wines of Tool singer Maynard James Keenan, who owns three wineries in Arizona. How did that come about?

Dirk Würtz: Our sales manager Kenny Barnes and I have long been fans of his bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer.

How does a co-operation with a taciturn progressive rock star from Arizona, who is listened to by millions of fans worldwide, come about?

Dirk Würtz: Tool were on tour in Germany last year. We had tickets for every concert. I knew that he made his own wines and tried for a long time to get hold of them. But it never worked.

Because you wanted to sell them here?

Dirk Würtz: Nope. I just wanted to drink a bottle. By chance, I went to a screening of the film "From Blood into Wine" that a friend had organised. And there was a Maynard wine on the bar. I tried it and immediately wanted to buy all the bottles. But there were only a few. Later, I discovered a photo of Stuart Pigott sitting next to him on the tour bus on Instagram. Wow. I asked Stuart: 'Where can you get his wine?' He replied: 'Nowhere here. He's been trying to find an importer for years. Kenny immediately emailed the winery. The question came back: "Seriously?" So we flew to Phoenix, drove through the desert in a Ford Mustang convertible and listened to "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult. It felt like it was 100 degrees outside until the landscape suddenly turned green. It was surreal. We spent three days with Maynard Keenan at the winery and ended up buying a whole container.

How did you reach his fans and the metal scene?

Dirk Würtz: When the wines were here, we organised a press conference. Afterwards, we posted on our Insta channel and Maynard posted on his: "The wine is now available in Europe." After that, all the bottles were gone. We sent them all over the world. Now the second container is on its way.

St Antony

Guido Bittner

Tool makes songs that I would never associate with wine...

Dirk Würtz: I love music that screams wine. Tool's songs are one of them. They make incredibly cerebral, sometimes intellectual music.

Audio cinema...

DirkWürtz: I don't think about what music I want to listen to when I'm drinking wine. I prefer to listen to music and ask myself which wine I should drink with it. Music is mood. Wine is mood. It's about pure emotion. And when I listen to Tool, I usually have a bottle of Bollinger on the table.

The wine is now available in Europe

Was it important for Maynard Keenan that you are a winemaker like him?

Dirk Würtz: We immediately clicked when we met. I stood in the production hall and looked at his wine press. I used to have one too. So we talked about the wine press for a long time, then about politics and life. One thing led to another. However, Maynard thinks in completely different dimensions. When he built a new winery, he first had a mountain pushed together for it.

When does it work for a winemaker to make a wine with a rock star?

Dirk Würtz: When I look at what's really successful, I quickly end up with Kylie Minogue. She sold seven million bottles in 31 countries in just a few months. So it's clear what you need: really good distribution.

What is crucial for you?

Dirk Würtz: First of all, I have to like the star. He or she has to make music that doesn't put me in a bad mood. And I need some form of authenticity. In the meantime, I've already turned down offers because they didn't fit.

What advice would you give to winemakers who want to work with pop stars?

Dirk Würtz: If it comes up and the music suits you, go for it. But with the wine nerds, you make an idiot of yourself with a wine like that, you have to be able to put up with that. But you can't be ripped off by the stars' management because you have a head start when it comes to wine. As a rule, musicians have no idea about the wine business. They only know what they like. But you make the calculations. If a star comes to you and says: 'Give me 150,000 euros and we'll make wine together', I would say: Stop! That won't work.

Does your own work inevitably disappear behind the fame of the stars?

Dirk Würtz: You need a healthy self-confidence. It's important that you have both feet on the ground. You're dealing with people who come from a surreal world between studio, tour, photos and autographs. Wine is a highly emotional subject. And suddenly you encounter an even more emotional world, you're suddenly dealing with stars. You have to meet them at eye level. That doesn't always work.

Who would be your favourite star to work with?

Dirk Würtz: Udo Jürgens would have been my favourite candidate.


DirkWürtz: He was the greatest German-speaking artist of all time, an incredibly intelligent person with great music. And the way he lived, you would have instantly recognised his connection to wine.

White bathrobe. And a glass of wine in his hand...

Dirk Würtz: Great cinema!

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