Visitors to Walt Disney World's Epcot theme park in Orlando, Fla., can now enjoy fine German estate wines. P.J. Valckenberg of Germany, one of the largest exporters of estate Riesling to the United States, has signed a long-term agreement with Disney to become the exclusive supplier and sponsor of the German Pavilion.
Valckenberg's range of wines and company philosophy appealed to Disney, landing them the contract from among several companies considered, including the pavilion's original sponsor, which offered a more limited selection of German wines.
Valckenberg, known for its Liebfraumilch and varietal wines, also represents a number of fine estates, including Bassermann-Jordan in the Pfalz; Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach and Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau; and Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, C. von Schubert (Maximin Grünhäus), Grans-Fassian and S.A. Prüm in Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. All will have wines available in the pavilion's Weinkeller retail shop and Biergarten restaurant.
In addition to the full range of Valckenberg products, visitors can purchase a sample tasting pack. Four 187ml bottles represent different quality levels of German Riesling: A qualitätswein (the basic level of quality wine, to which sugar can be added at fermentation), a kabinett, a spätlese and an auslese (in ascending order of quality based on the natural ripeness levels of the grapes used). The four-pack costs $19.
Valckenberg participated in the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in 1998, and began exploring the possibility of relationship with Disney in 2000. "We're always looking for ways to enhance the guest's experience," said Ben May, Disney's manager of business development at Epcot, who spent 25 years in the wine industry.
The German Pavilion offers a cultural experience, with "cast members" from the host country. "Since wine is an integral part of the cultural experience in Europe, we asked ourselves who could bring high quality to our guests and inspire our cast members to tell a story, because Disney is about telling a story," May said.
Part of Valckenberg's role as the sponsor is to train the cast members, according to the company's manager of marketing and sales, Christian Witte. The training, held at Valckenberg's offices in Worms, Germany, involves learning about the winegrowing regions of Germany and tasting the products.
Witte expects the Disney contract to significantly increase U.S. sales and to help make more Americans aware of the quality of German wines. Disney is the company's largest food-and-wine account in the United States. The Biergarten alone seats 400, and roughly two-thirds of the 300 restaurants at Disney World sell wine.
For more information, read The Wines of Germany