Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Tour and Tasting at Weingut Josef Biffar, in Deidesheim, with Owner/ Winemaker Fumiko Tokuoka – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)
Weingut Josef Biffar in Deidesheim, Pfalz, run by the single mother Fumiko Tokuoka from Japan, has a number of roots. First and foremost the owners, the Tokuoka family, entrepreneurs from Japan. Second, Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, also in Deidesheim, which the Tokuoka family used to run for 25 years, on a lease basis. Third, the former, well-known Weingut Josef Biffar, which ceased operations a few years ago. Fourth, the “Im Katharinenbild” property near to the railway station in Deidesheim, which has become the headquarters of the new Weingut Josef Biffar.
Driving force behind all this is Fumiko Tokuoka, who studied oenology and winemaking at the famous Geisenheim school in the Rheingau. She was our host.
We started the evening with a winery tour, followed by a tasting led by Fumiko. We then proceeded to Fumi, a Japanese Restaurant that belongs to Weingut Josef Biffar, where we had a wine dinner; Fumiko joined us for the dinner. I will report in a separate posting about the dinner.
The Tokuoka Family from Japan
The story begins in 1989, when Toyohiro Tokuoka, Fumiko’s father, signed a 24 years lease with the then owner of Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, the famous conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg. Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl was run by the Tokuoka family from Japan from 1989 to 2013. In 1996, Fumiko Tokuoka came to Germany to support her father at Weingut Reichrat von Buhl. Initially, she interned at Reichsrat von Buhl, but soon started to study winemaking at the famous Geisenheim university. As it turned out, she spent more than 10 years at the Geisenheim University, initially as a student and und later as a researcher. In addition, she also married into Weingut Ottes in Lorch, Rheingau, and has 2 children with Helmut Ottes. Obviously, she got involved at Weingut Ottes as well. But some years ago, the marriage failed.
In 2005, eight years before the end of the lease, the von Gutenberg family sold Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl to the businessman Achim Niederberger, who in 2002 had already taken over Weingut Bassermann-Jordan and who in 2007 also bought Weingut Dr. Deinhard (von Winning), both also in Deidesheim. During the first half of the 19th century, these three estates were one, which then was split up by the “Jordan’sche Teilung” (Jordan Splitting) in 1849 because there were three heirs.
With the lease of Weingut Freiherr von Buhl coming to an end and the new owner not prepared to extend the lease, the Tokuoka family initially pursued the project of the Sektmanufaktur Graf with the management team of Weingut Freiherr von Buhl as partners. This, however, did not work out as planned.
The search for a viable alternative, with the German partners, led the Tokuoka family puchase the famous Weingut Josef Biffar, which had ceased operations after the 2010 vintage. The “Im Kathrinenbild” property close to the railway station became the base for the re-emerging Weingut Josef Biffar.
The “Im Kathrinenbild” Property
The “Im Kathrinenbild“ was constructed by a Jewish family in 1892 as a winery and wine trading house. Following bankruptcy in the 1920s, the Deutsche Bank took over the property. In the early 1930, a wine co-op was founded in Deidesheim and the co-op acquired the property. The Kathrinenbild property was used by the co-op until the 1980s and remained more or less unused until the Tokuoka family bought the property in 2010.
The Biffar Family
Weingut Josef Biffar was founded in 1879 by the Biffar family from the Lyon area in France. The Biffar family had moved to Deidesheim in 1723. The Biffar family was not only a prominent wine producer, but also was and is a very successful producer of candy fruits. The Tokuoka family bought Weingut Josef Biffar in 2013.
Weingut Josef Biffar Today
Today, Weingut Josef Biffar, owned and run by Fumiko Tokuoka, is again cultivating 7.5 hectares, partially in very good sites like Ungeheuer, Pechstein, and Reiterpfad. Michael Leibrecht, who used to work at Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl with her, is her head winemaker.
The 2015 Gault Millau WineGuide notes: “Weingut Biffar is back again, but with a new owner.” The cellar is noticeably over-dimensioned for the current area under vines. Japan continues to be a buyer and Fumiko Tokuoka is making efforts to find new customers.
To have another string to their bow, Fumiko Tokuoka integrated a Japanese restaurant with the name FUMI into the “Im Katharinenbild” building. There, Fumiko combines typically Japanese cuisine with her still and sparkling wines. It is an outstanding restaurant and worth a detour. We had a lovely wine dinner there with Fumiko.
The Wines we Tasted
2011 Weingut Josef Biffar Spätburgunder Sekt brut
2009 Weingut Josef Biffar Pinot Sekt brut
2014 Weingut Josef Biffar Chardonnay trocken
2013 Weingut Josef Biffar PAX VERITAS Forster Pechstein Riesling trocken
2013 Weingut Josef Biffar Sauvignon Blanc trocken
2011 Weingut Josef Biffar PAX VERITAS Spätburgunder trocken
Following tour and tasting we moved to fumi for a wonderful winemaker dinner with Fumiko Tokuoka. I am reporting about the wine dinner in a separate posting.
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