Friday, September 16, 2011

Weingut Klaus Boehme in Saale Unstrut in Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Ina Paris

A few weeks ago I visited with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim the Saale Unstrut wine region in the eastern part of Germany. We visited 7 wineries during a period of 4 days. Weingut Klaus Boehme was one of the wineries.

At Weingut Klaus Boehme, we were received by Ina Paris, the wife of Klaus Boehme, who led us through a tasting at the winery.

I have already reported about Weingut Pawis, Weingut Luetzkendorf and Weingut Gussek.

The Saale Unstrut Wine Region

The Saale Unstrut wine region is Germany’s most northern wine region, in the valleys of the Saale and Unstrut rivers, around Freyburg and Naumburg. With 730 hectares of vineyard area, it is one of the smaller wine regions in Germany. The oldest record of viticulture dates back to the year 998 during the reign of Emperor Otto III.

Located in the area of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), Saale-Unstrut has become a thriving emerging wine region after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 (as Sachsen, the other wine region in the area of the former GDR; Sachsen is half of the size of Saale Unstrut).

Pictures: In the Saale Unstrut region

Basically, all of the wineries we visited have experienced rapid growth and large investments over the past years, following 50 years of communism that did not allow for private initiative. In a way, Saale Unstrut is an emerging wine region in an old world wine country. It is pretty much an emerging market situation there, but without any foreign investors.

Most of the region's vineyards are situated in the State of Saxony-Anhalt, with the remainder in the State of Thuringia and in the State of Brandenburg (the "Werderaner Wachtelberg" near Potsdam). The vineyards are located on the hillsides lining the Saale and Unstrut rivers. It all looks very attractive, with steep terraces, dry stone walls and century-old vineyard cottages, interspersed with meadows, floodplains. High above, are defiant castles and palaces. Saale Unstrut is located in a region that was the intellectual and cultural center of Germany (Heiliges Roemisches Reich Deutscher Nationen) for many centuries. The second German university (after Prague) was the University of Leipzig, which is just 50 km away from Saale Unstrut. Schiller and Goethe, to name just 2, lived here. Culture, history, nature and wine are combined here perfectly.

Picture: Germany's Wine Regions

Saale-Unstrut exports almost no wine and sells very little in the western part of Germany. Most of it is consumed in East Germany. The quality price ratio is not very favorable, so Saale Unstrut wines have a hard time to compete with the wines in West Germany. But the Saale Unstrut wine makers have no problems at all to sell their wine, as the Saale Unstrut wine is very popular with the locals and the tourists visiting East Germany, including the Baltic Sea. Of course, when you visit Weimar, Erfurth or Leipzig, to name a few of the many very historic towns of the eastern part of Germany, you want to drink local – either Saale Unstrut or Sachsen wines.

Saale-Unstrut is the northernmost of Germany's wine regions, and is therefore one of Europe's northernmost traditional wine regions. It lies to the north of the 51st degree of latitude, which was considered to be the limit for viticulture before global warming. Also, the weather is more variable than in the regions to the west. All the winemakers we met were concerned about the danger of late and winter frosts.

Pictures: Ina Paris

White grape varieties make up 75% of Saale-Unstrut's plantations. The most common grape varieties are the white varieties Müller-Thurgau and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc). The wines tend to be vinified dry and have a refreshing acidity. In addition to the white classics of the region, we also had one fantastic tasting with red wines only (at Winzerhof Gussek) and got the chance to taste varieties like Holder and Andre that were new to me.

Weingut Klaus Boehme

Weingut Klaus Boehme is in the village of Kirchscheidungen in the Unstrut valley. The Boehme family can look back to 300 years of wine making. However, wine making was always part of a traditional mixed agriculture and viticulture farm, with cows, pigs, chicken and other animals, with the wine making on the backburner, except for the last 20 years, since Klaus Boehme has taken over.

Pictures: Weingut Klaus Boehme

Before this part of Germany became the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Boehmes cultivated an area of 60 hectares, of which 40 hectares was owned and 20 hectares was leased. Then came the forced collectivization of 1960, and the land of the Boehme’s became part of the government run agricultural co-operative. Ina Paris explained that the Boehme family remained the legal owner of the land, but lost the right to use it. The land was used by the government-run “LPG” (Agricultural Production Co-operative).

In 1989, after the breakdown of the GDR, the Boehmes reclaimed their land and restarted their farm and winery. Weingut Klaus Boehme was one of the first privately-owned wineries in the Saale Unstrut region reemerging after 40 years of socialism. In 1994, the cellar was equipped with stainless steel tanks. From there on, all Klaus Boehme wines were fermented, aged and bottled at the Klaus Boehme winery.

The vineyard area was expanded by acquiring part of the former Schulenburg vineyard. The vineyard area now totals 9 hectares. The area is planted with the white varieties Pinot Blanc, Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Riesling, Kerner, Gutedel and Traminer, as well as with the red varieties Dornfelder, Pinot Noir, Portugieser and Pinot Madeleine.

The wines tend to be made in a dry style, fresh and fruity. The red wines are fermented on the skins in the traditional style. Annual production is 70.000 bottles. Very little of it is sold in the western part of Germany. Nothing is exported. A large part of the production is sold via restaurants.

The Wines Ina Paris Poured

We had a nice tasting with Ina Paris pouring a range of Klaus Boehme wines and Ina commenting the wines and providing very interesting background on Weingut Klaus Boehme.

Pictures: The Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim Tasting Klaus Boehme Wines

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