Katharina Zott is a Ph.D. oenologist and distiller. After completing her technical college degree in agriculture, she pursued a degree in beverage technology. In order to gain admission to the program at Geisenheim, Katharina completed a pre-internship at wineries in Germany and South Africa. Reflecting on her experiences during that time, she jokingly says, “My heart was lost in wine.” A scholarship allowed her to transfer from the Geisenheim campus to the Department of Viniculture and Enology at the University of California, Davis. There, she noticed that much revolved around the “style” of wine, particularly the “French wine style.” Katharina thought to herself, “Well, I want to see what they want to imitate,” and went to the original setting of this wine stylistic to continue her studies there. She completed her Ph.D. with a biochemical research project at the Institut des Sciences de la Vigne Vine et du Vin at the University of Bordeaux.
Throughout her academic education and research activities, Katharina never lost touch with her family’s agricultural business. In her spare time, she regularly traveled to Ustersbach in Bavarian Swabia to help out on the fruit farm and distillery. Her family has been cultivating fields in this region since 1530. Her parents specialized in fruit growing as part of a massive agricultural structural change in the region. “Inspired by my mother’s homeland, which is located near Lake Constance, my parents decided to focus on fruit cultivation, which is atypical for our region. It all started with raspberries, then sour cherries were planted, and blueberries were grown.” However, Katharina emphasizes that “due to climate change, we have to constantly question the range of varieties today, as the weather has become more extreme.”
Katharina’s passion for flavors and craftsmanship accompanied her from an early age. At the age of 17, she already made her first liqueur, a raspberry liqueur. During her study breaks, she spent most of her time in her father’s distillery. In 2010, she decided to withdraw from research and dedicate herself entirely to the art of distilling. Her brother took over the family’s fruit farm, while Katharina continued to run the distillery. Almost exclusively, she processes the fruit that her family grows. The basis for Katharina’s research in Bordeaux was the wines and yeast cultures of renowned wineries in Saint-Émilion. She was fascinated by how much complexity and terroir character could be extracted from the grapes that, as she says, “grow in a field.” This experience shapes her work as a distiller: “We too can refine what we grow and transport the flavors of the terroir. I’ve made it my mission to bring our terroir to life.”