Friday, September 3, 2010

The Top Wine Makers of the Kraichgau - The Northern Part of the Baden Wine Region in Germany

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Bernd Hummel and Otto Baison (Weingut Baison, Hochheim)

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Werner Klumpp

I toured – with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim – the Kraichgau. The Kraichgau is one of the 9 wine districts of the Baden wine region. We visited 3 winemakers and saw a large part of the top echelon of winemakers of the Kraichgau.

The Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim was honored to have Otto Baison, the Senior of Weingut Baison in Hochheim, on the trip. Weingut Baison received international recognition earlier this year by winning a "best of Riesling 2010" award. See here.


Baden is Germany’s most southerly and - with 16,000 hectares (39,300 acres) under vine – third largest wine region. Despite its size and the quality of its wines, it is not well known outside of Germany, because it exports very little.

From north to south, Baden spans approximately 200 kilometers, and is primarily situated on the right bank of the Rhein river. On the left bank is Alsace in France. Lying primarily in the Rhine rift with the protection of Vosges Mountains to the west and the Black Forrest to the east, Baden’s climate is the warmest in Germany Baden is divided into nine districts.

Picture: Germany's Wine Regions

1. Tauberfranken, in the northeastern outskirts of the region and neighbouring Franconia. The wines are similar to the wines of Franconia, and are sold in the round Bocksbeutel bottle.

2. Badische Bergstrasse, the vineyards is a continuation of the small region Hessische Bergstrasse. This district is situated around the city of Heidelberg.

3. Kraichgau, just to the south of Badische Bergstrasse, and north-east of the city of Karlsruhe.

4. Ortenau, from Baden-Baden to just south of Offenburg is one of the more well-known districts.

5. Breisgau, from just south of Offenburg and to Freiburg. It has the highest average temperature and the number of sunshine hours of the region.

6. Kaiserstuhl, a cluster of hills of volcanic origin northwest of Freiburg with characteristic terraced vineyards.

7. Tuniberg is situated on flatter land just south of Kaiserstuhl and west of Freiburg.

8. Markgräflerland stretches from Freiburg to the Swiss border at Basel, and is known for its easy-drinking Gutedel wines.

9. Bodensee is situated in the southeastern outskirts of the region, on the northwestern shores of Lake Constance.

Baden is known for its Pinot wines, both white and red,which account for more than half of Baden’s wine output. Riesling plays only a minor role. By far the most commonly cultivated single variety is Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) with nearly forty percent of the total vineyard area. Muller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chasselas are the main white varieties cultivated, but none more widely than Muller-Thurgau.

In Baden - like in Wuerttemberg - the wine industry is dominated by wine co-operatives; they account for 85% of the region's production. This explains the low export share. Private winemakers are the exception.


Like a sea of gently undulating waves, the rolling hills of the Kraichgau rise and fall between the banks of the Rhein and the Neckar rivers, stretching from Karlsruhe in the south to Heidelberg in the north. Its climate and fertile soils make it a prime agricultural country. The vineyards and fruit orchards of its Neckar river region and the asparagus and cereal crops of its Rhein river region are among Germany’s most abundant. The region’s second-largest city, Bruchsal, with its 18th century Baroque palace is, in fact, Europe’s largest asparagus producer. Wine has been made in Kraichgau since Roman times. In the region’s historic town of Bretten one of Martin Luther’s closest confidants, Phillip Melanchthon, was born.

Wein- and Sektgut Bernd Hummel

We started out at the Wein- and Sektgut Bernd Hummel, which is located in Malsch, in the northern part of the Kraichgau. The vineyard area totals just 10 hectares, with holdings in the Ölbaum and Rotsteig sites. But Weingut Bernd Hummel also buys fruit, equivalent to 50.000 bottles.

Pictures: Bernd Hummel at the Wein- und Sektgut Hummel

Bernd Hummel led the cellar tour and the tasting. He is - like me - an economist by training, with a passion for wine. Maybe this is the reason, why I like this Wine Estate so much. Bernd got into winemaking through his wife, whose family was growing grapes -like so many in the Baden wine region – for the wine co-operative. He took over the vineyards of his father- in-law and a established a winery 30 years ago. He has been very successful and now ranks – with 2 Gault and Millau Grapes – among the top wineries in the Kraichgau.

His portfolio comprises red and white still wines, sparklers and brandies. Red wine accounts for a little less than half of his wines, with Pinot Noir in the lead. Bernd Hummel is open to new trends and was the first one to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in northern Baden 20 years ago; Merlot followed 10 years later.

The top red wines are matured exclusively in new barriques, all of French oak, and at varying toasting levels. Bernd Hummel uses in good years up to 300 barrels. Bottle-fermented sparkling wines as well as brandies are also produced.

In terms of prices, the wines start at Euro 6.90 for a Riesling and at 7.90 for a Dornfelder in the 0.75 liter bottle. They go up to Euro 54.00 for a 2005 Spaetburgunder Auslese trocken, barrique. All his wines are fully fermented and dry, or noble-sweet. He does not produce sweet wines by stopping the fermentation or adding sterilized juice. Currently, Bernd Hummel does not have any noble-sweet wines in his portfolio.

Bernd Hummel sells 85 % of his wines directly to the consumer. One of them, he told us, is Dietmar Hopp, the co-founder and former chairman of the software giant SAP, whose headquarter is in Walldorf, just a few miles away from Weingut Hummel. The remainder goes to a few restaurants and retailers. Nothing is exported.

We started the cellar tour with a 2007 Chardonnay Sekt brut, methode traditionelle, which impressed me very much and reminded me of a Champagne. Bernd Hummel produces his Sekts all by himself and lets them age for at least 30 months.

Picture: The Cellar for the Sparklers

Weingut Burg Ravensburg and Weingut Heitlinger

Next, we enjoyed a wine tasting right in the middle of a vineyard, at the foot of the Ravensburg castle. The tasting was led by Jan Dautert, the Marketing Chef of both Weingut Burg Ravensburg and Weingut Heitlinger, which are in the process of regrouping and are now managed by the same team.

Weingut Heitlinger, in Östringen-Tiefenbach, was founded by Albert Heitlinger in 1960, who developed viticulture as a side-line in addition to his Restaurant Ochsen. His son Erhard took over in 1972. In the 1980’s, Erhard Heitlinger was one of the first German wine makers to age both red and white wines in barriques, and to make cuvees. But Weingut Heitlingert run into financial difficulties and was recently taken over by an investor group.

The vineyard area totals 27 hectares. Varieties planted are Riesling (6,5 ha), Pinot Noir (6,4 ha), Pinot Gris (3,4 ha), Müller-Thurgau (2,3 ha), Lemberger (2,2 ha) and others.

The estate is a member of the Slow Food association.

The Heitlinger Wine Portfolio starts at Euro 6.80 for Heitlinger White, Rose and Red in the 0.75 bottles. On the other end, you also find two cuvees, called White Tie and Black Tie for Euro 30.00. The wine portfolio looks very hipp, both in terms of the names of wines and the design of the labels. The white quality wines, for instance, are named Shiny River, Smooth Leaf, Gentle Hills and Spicy Stone, names apparently designed for the international market. Indeed, one of the members of the investor group comes from North-America. Since its creation, Weingut Heitlinger had always had an international touch. The current regrouping appears to be aimed at reinforcing this orientation.

Weingut Burg Ravensburg is located in Sulzfeld. Ravensburg castle, from which it takes its name, is the erstwhile family seat of the Barons Göler von Ravensburg, and is one of the most important medieval castles still extant in the Kraichgau.

The Barons Göler von Ravensburg have owned the castle and the wine estate for many centuries, but have leased it recently to the same investor group that has taken over Weingut Heitlinger. Claus Burmeister, General Manager of Weingut Burg Ravenburg since 1995, has also become General Manger of Weingut Heitlinger. Weingut Burg Ravensburg has been a founding member of the VDP, but the membership has been cancelled due to the new management situation.

Picture: Jan Dautert in front of Burg Ravensburg

The vineyard area totals 33 hectares with holdings in the following vineyards: Burg Ravensburger Dicker Franz, Burg Ravensburger Husarenkappe and Burg Ravensburger Löchle,as well as additional vineyards in the communes of Sulzfeld and Kürnbach. The former three are exclusive monopole holdings.

The vineyards are planted with Lemberger (20%), Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Trollinger, as well as with Riesling (30%), Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Burg Ravensburg sells its wines under 3 product lines: Freiherr von Goeler wines in the Euro 5.80 to 7.50 price range; Burg Ravensburg wines in the Euro 7.80 to 25.00 price range and its Erste Lage wines in the Euro 17.80 to 30.00 price range. However, Burg Ravensburg can no longer market wines from there Erste Lage vineyards as Erstes Gewaechs, since its VDP membership has been cancelled.

Weingut Klumpp

Weingut Klumpp, located in Bruchsal, was founded in 1983 by Ulrich and Marietta Klumpp, who previously had very different jobs - with the Government and with a bank. They are now supported by their sons Andreas and Markus , as the second generation, who both studied wine making at the Geisenheim wine college. Since 2004, Markus has been responsible for the vinification; Andreas graduated this year.

Picture: Marietta and Ulrich Klumpp

The vineyard area has grown to 25 hectares, with more than 50 individual parcels of land, planted with Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Lemberger and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as with Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Auxerrois.

Since 1996, Weingut Klumpp is practicing organic principles in the vineyard, in accordance with the ECOVIN guidelines. Only organic fertilizers are used, consisting of compost, straw and ground stone. Other principles include intensive canopy management, significantly restricted yields, gentle handling in the cellar and long maturation periods.

Wines are produced in two quality ranges. The „Edition” range covers white wines aged in stainless steel tanks, and red wines that spend 6 to 12 months in barriques. The yield limit is 50/60 hectoliter per hectare. The „Premium” range is sourced from old vines and selected sites, with the white wines being aged for 6 to 12 months, and the red wines for 10 to 18 months. The yield limit is 30/45 hectoliter per hectare.

In terms of marketing, Ulrich Klumpp said that Weingut Klumpp focuses very much on high-end restaurants, where they are well represented and where most of their wines are sold to. With 3 Grapes Gault and Millau, Weingut Klumpp is the highest rated winery we visited in the Kraichgau.

Picture: The Klumpp Wine Glass

In addition to a very stimulating and entertaining wine tasting, the group enjoyed a wine maker dinner, prepared by Marietta Klumpp. The Klumpp couple used to also run a Wine Bistro on the premise, which has been closed some time ago. What a pity! The meal was outstanding.

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1 comment:

  1. Lieber Herr Schiller,

    vielen Dank für Ihren netten Artikel, den Sie über unser Weingut geschrieben haben. Aufgrund der langanhaltenden Arbeitsspitze hat meine Antwort leider ein wenig länger gedauert.

    Ich wünsche Ihnen auch im Namen meiner Eltern eine erholsame Weihnachtszeit und würde mich freuen wenn Sie uns einmal wieder besuchen.

    Herzliche Grüße aus Bruchsal

    Markus Klumpp