Thursday, February 7, 2013

Joachim Heger, Weingut Dr. Heger: Winemaker of the Year, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2013, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Joachim and Silvia Heger, Weingut Dr. Heger

Joachim Heger of Weingut Dr. Heger is the winemaker of the year - Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2013.

Joachim Heger and Weingut Dr. Heger

Joachim Heger has been in charge of winemaking at Weingut Dr. Heger since 1981, and, together with his wife Silvia, in charge of the whole estate since 1992. He has been a giant in German winemaking for some time and the award came in my view a bit late, but nevertheless fully deserved.

The estate lies in the Kaiserstuhl (literally: emperor’s chair), a small volcanic group of hills in the Upper Rhine Valley in southwest Germany, northwest of Freiburg. Joachim Heger’s hometown of Ihringen enjoys the highest average temperature in Germany. So, while some fine Riesling and Silvaner gets made here, it is really Pinot country.


Weingut Dr. Heger was established in 1935 by the grandfather of Joachim Heger, the rural doctor, Dr. Max Heger. His passion for wine and everything to do with wine was kindled by his patients, who were primarily wine growers, as well as his knowledge that the best conditions for wine growing were on the Kaiserstuhl in the south-western tip of Germany. Because of this, he bought prime areas of the well known sites Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg.

From 1949 to the end of the 1980s, Dr. Heger‘s son Wolfgang Heger ran the estate. Joachim Heger took over responsibility for winemaking in 1981, and, together with his wife Silvia, for the winery in 1992.

The Dr. Heger estate is a member of the Association of German Predicate Wine Estates (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter or VDP).

Weinhaus Heger and Weingut Fischer

In 1986, Joachim Heger started Weinhaus Heger. The vines are in the Thuniberg area and are under long-term lease contracts to Joachim Heger and are maintained by Weinhaus Heger. The wines are vinified in the cellar of Dr. Heger. The wines always offer great value.

Picture: Joachim Heger at Schloss Johannisberg 

In addition to the original Dr. Heger wine estate and Weinhaus Heger, Joachim and Silvia Heger’s sphere of influence also includes Weingut Fischer in Nimburg-Bottingen since 1997.  Here, Joachim Heger produces fine wines with typical Baden opulence.

Vineyards and Grape Varieties

The 3 main vineyards are: Freiburger Schlossberg (lively, nervy penetrating wines), Achkarrer Schlossberg (more forward, showy with lots of body and soil character), and Ihringer Winklerberg (finer, more elegant requiring more time).

The 21 hectares of vineyards are predominantly planted with Pinots Gris, Blanc and Noir, along with some Riesling and Silvaner, as well as the aromatic varieties Muscat, Scheurebe and Gewürztraminer, which all thrive wonderfully here.

In a move toward organic winemaking, Dr. Heger has retained Claude Bourguignon, the famed French agronomist, as a consultant.

In the cellar, Joachim Heger maintains the old tradition of using big wooden barrels to vinify the wines of the Pinot family, whilst using stainless steel for Riesling.

95% of wines are fermented dry. Joachim Heger: “We produce natural wines, which are suited to long ageing. For this it is necessary to have grapes which are sufficiently ripe. This means that for us the time of the harvest is determined not only by the must weight, but also, and more importantly, by the so-called physiological maturity.”

Grapes: 20%:  Riesling and Spätburgunder, 15%:  Silvaner, 10%: Pinot Gris (Ruländer / Grauburgunder), Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) and Gewürztraminer.

Riesling (20%)

Joachim Heger: “Our single vineyard sites Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg provide optimum conditions for the king of white wines. The weathered volcanic bedrock gives Riesling the mineral compounds it needs to be able to produce its fruity and richly aromatic bouquet and on the palate this Riesling shows typical varietal flavors.

In this southerly wineproducing region of Baden acidity is generally less pronounced than in the more northerly Riesling regions and this makes the wines fuller in body and more opulent.

Grauburgunder (10%)

Pictures: Joachim Heger and Caprice Horn at Gallery Caprice Horn, Berlin

The Pinot Gris wines from Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg are characterised by a certain minerality, which gives elegance and finesse, despite the wines’ full body. Thanks to the richness of extract, typical of this grape variety, it is also possible to ferment and mature the wines in barriques as well as large oak casks.

Weissburgunder (10%)

The Pinot Blanc’s rich array of fine, fruity aromas come wonderfully to the fore when grown on the soils of the Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg. The bouquet suggests mirabelle plums and green apples and on the palate these continue, together with nuances of yellow pear. If the grapes are harvested at Spätlese oechsle levels, then they are also suitable for fermenting and maturing in barriques or large oak casks.

Silvaner (15%)

Ihringen is famous for its long tradition of producing Silvaner and, as a single location, it still has the largest vineyard area planted to Silvaner in Germany. In 1900 the proportion of this ancient variety here was around 70%. The elegantly fruity notes, delicate aromas of pear and gentle acidity are a perfect representation of the terroir of the Ihringen volcanic soils.

Spaetburgunder (20%)

The pale-fleshed variety Pinot Noir ripens to optimum maturity in the very warm sites of Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg, thereby giving this typical ruby red color. The color must be obtained from the grape skins and this occurs during the classic fermentation on the skins, a method which not only takes a lot of time, but which is also a lot of work. The red wines are rich with concentrated extract, intensified by maturation in barriques. These wines are also characterized by their long ageing potential.”

Dr. Heger Estate / Weinhaus Heger
Bachenstrasse 19, 79241 Ihringen / Germany

US importer:    
Rudi Wiest Selections by Cellars International
1780 La Costa Meadows Drive, Suite # 100
San Marcos, CA 92078
ph 760.566.0499 - fax 760.566.0533

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