Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Owner/ Winemaker Johannes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch/ Rheinhessen in Washington DC with the David Bowler Road Show, USA/ Germany

Pictures: Owner/ Winemaker Johannes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch/ Rheinhessen in Washington DC with the David Bowler Road Show, USA/ Germany

Johannes Hasselbach, the young owner and winemaker of renowned Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, was in town (Washington DC) and Johannes invited me to the trade tasting in Washington DC's new hip Shaw district.

Johannes is devoting - and will continue to do so for some time - a rather large share of his time to the American market and the reason for that is that Johannes switched from Rudi Wiest Selections, which had been for decades the US importer of Weingut Gunderloch, to David Bowler Wine. It was a very difficult decision for him because of the long and very personal ties beween Weingut Gunderloch and Rudi Wiest Selections, but in the end he felt there was no other way, he had to do it. As a result, the old, well established sales channels are all gone and he is in the process of establishing new channels.

Pictures: Owner/ Winemaker Johannes Hasselbach of Weingut Gunderloch/ Rheinhessen in Washington DC with the David Bowler Trade Show, USA/ Germany

This is all happening against the background of the untimely passing of Johannes' father Fritz Hasselbach, a giant, in 2016 and the fact hat Johannes' sister Stephanie Hasselbach, who was slated to take over the estate, fell in love with Alwin Jurtschitsch from renowned Weingut Jurtschitsch in Austria, while studying togather at the Geisenheim University in the Rheingau and decided to move to Austria and become Ms. Jurtschitsch.

Johannes had studied business economics and he is indeed an entrepreneur. Initiated by his father and completed under his leadership, Wheingut Gunderloch has undergone a major renovation of the winemaking facilities recently, while staying in the center of the cute little Rheinhessen village Nackenheim. And now he has taken the decision to switch importers in the American market, which traditionally has played a large role for Weingut Gunderloch.

Pictures: Johannes Hasselbach, Weingut Gunderloch, with Steven Plant, Plant Wines, and Stacey Khoury-Diaz, Dio Wine Bar in Washington DC. See also: Schiller's Favorites: New Wine Bars in Washington DC, USA

David Bowler Wine

David Bowler Wine: It's our challenge and our mission to build a company with a diverse portfolio that is focused almost exclusively on small growers, especially ones who employ a non-interventionist approach in the vineyard and in the cellar.  We want to work with winemakers and distillers who have a respect for their land (and their products) and who do not employ a lot of chemicals in their vineyards or use tricks in their winemaking. And then to run the company in a way that values its customers and shows it by providing excellent service with a knowledgeable and professional staff.

The company was founded in the fall of 2003 with a small but solid book of German and French wines and two employees. With a few wines, a vision, and a lot of ambition, Bowler began to sell wine to key accounts in New York and New Jersey. We have grown to 38 employees and expanded our portfolio considerably. We represent wines from most of the major wine regions in the world and work with many of the regions' leaders in quality.  In 2016 we acquired our spirits license and have been adding small batch, craft spirits to our book, too. We have developed a strong national presence as an importer and our wines and spirits can now be found in most major markets throughout the country.

Evan Springarn is in charge of the German portfolio at David Bowler Wine.

Picture: Annette Schiller with Evan Springarn. See: 2017 VDP Trade Fair Weinbörse - Vintage 2016 - in Mainz: Schiller’s Report

Picture: Evan Springarn, David Bowler, with Hannsjörg Rebholz and Annette Schiller in New York. See: Rieslingfeier 2016 in New York – Gala Dinner, USA

Weingut Gunderloch/ David Bowler Wine

David BowlerWine: With the sad passing in 2016 of renowned winemaker Fritz Hasselbach, Johannes Hasselbach (6th generation at Gunderloch) has now officially taken the winemaking reins at the Gunderloch estate. The 126 year old estate is clearly in good hands.

Fritz has bequeathed to his son Johannes a thriving estate of approximately 25ha of vines in some of the top vineyards of the "Roter Hang" ("red slope") area in the Rheinhessen appellation. In Nackenheim they own a nearly monopole position in the grand cru Rothenberg (65% of the estate’s holdings) which is planted completely to Riesling. The average yield is held to 45 hl/ha, amongst the lowest in Germany, resulting in wines of high extraction and great quality. Minimum ripeness for the various quality levels is significantly above the requirements of the German wine law. The wines are never de-acidified and in high acid vintages bottling is often delayed to allow the wines to harmonize and soften. The cellar work is accomplished with a minimum amount of handling and has traditionally been very reductive in style--although that may gradually start changing as Johannes pursues his own explorations in the cellar. Production for the whole estate is 40% dry, 30% off-dry and 30% fruity-to-sweet. Again however, those numbers are starting to skew drier, which of course reflects the general trend in German winemaking.

The Rieslings from here, particularly those from the Rothenberg, are some of the finest in Rheinhessen and in Germany. These are full, elegant wines full of yellow fruits, great structure and fine acidity for long aging.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim with the Parents of Johannes Hasslebach, Agnes Hasselbach-Usinger and the late Fritz Hasselbach. See: Wine Tasting at Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, with Owners and Winemaker Fritz Hasselbach and Agnes Hasselbach-Usinger – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Weingut Gunderloch Close to our Heart

Weingut Gunderloch is close to our (my wife Annette's and my) heart for several reasons. To begin with, when my wife Annette and I studied in Mainz, Germany, and had our first children, we regularly used to go to the cosy wine tavern of Weingut Gunderloch by bike on Sunday afternoon, had a couple of delicious Gunderloch wines and a Spundekäs (local cream cheese) with Bretzels. Second, for the time we have been based in Washington DC (from 1983 onwards) Weingut Gunderloch was one of the leading German wine producers in the US. Fritz Hasselbach told me that during the peak, he was once a month in the US, where his wines are imported by Rudi Wiest selections. Third, Johannes Hasselbach is one of the 4 creators of the Wurzelwerk project. Annette Schiller organized their first presentation in the USA la few years ago.

Carl Gunderloch

It all started in 1890, when the banker Carl Gunderloch purchased the Gunderloch manor house in Nackenheim. As the story goes, he used to trek from Gundersblum, his place of birth, to his bank in Mainz. On these journeys he carefully observed how the sun played off the hills along the Rhein Terrace. Based on these observations he purchased vineyard property that appeared to collect sunlight most efficiently and founded the Gunderloch Estate. Today, the estate is still in the hands of the Gunderloch family, with Johannes Hasselbach in charge.

The Gunderloch Family

The property and vineyards have remained in family ownership since the days of Carl Gunderloch, who died in 1935, the estate passing first to Gunderloch's granddaughter Elizabeth Usinger and her husband. They remained at the helm until 1965, when their son Carl Otto took on the management of the estate. Until recently, his eldest daughter, Agnes Hasselbach-Usinger and her husband, Fritz Hasselbach were in charge.

Agnes and Fritz have 3 children. Daughter Kathrin Hasselbach-Bordiehn is pursuing other interests outside of the estate. Daughter Stefanie Jurtschitsch studied oenologie at Geisenheim University, where she met Alwin Jurtschitsch from the famous Weingut Jurtschitsch in Austria and married into this winery. She lives with Alwin in Austria now and makes Jurtschitsch wines. Son Johannes Hasselbach, with his wife, has taken over the winery. He initially studied business economics before turning to winemaking.

Anniversary Celebration: 125 Years Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

Weingut Gunderloch celebrated its 125th Anniversary a few years ago (in 2015). My wife Annette Schiller and I had the pleasure and honor to participate in the 125 Years Anniversary Celebration of Weingut Gunderloch.

Pictures: Celebrating at Weingut Gunderloch, with Paul Fürst, Weingut Fürst, Jochen Becker-Köhn, Weingut Robert Weil and Roy Metzdorf, Owner of the Legendary Winebar Weinstein in Berlin. See: Anniversary Celebration: 125 Years Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

German Dramatist Carl Zuckmaier

Weingut Gunderloch also has an interesting tie to the German dramatist Carl Zuckmaier. Zuckmaier, who became a Hollywood screenwriter, was born in Nackenheim and a friend of Carl Gunderloch. Zuckmaier not only wrote the screenplay for the film "The Blue Angel", but also the plays "The Captain from Koepenick" and "The Devils General". He also used the Gunderloch estate for the setting, and Carl Gunderloch as the main character for his very first play "Der fröhliche Weinberg" (the Jolly Vineyard). In this play Zuckmaier renamed Carl Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" which is where the brand name used on the Gunderloch "Jean Baptiste" Kabinett is borrowed from.


Weingut Gunderloch has 25 hectares of vineyards. In Nackenheim, there are holdings in the Rothenberg (Riesling), the Engelsberg (Riesling, Silvaner, Ruländer and Gewürztraminer) and the Schmitts Kapellchen (Scheurebe and Müller-Thurgau). In Nierstein, there are holdings in the Pettenthal and Hipping both planted with Riesling and the Paterberg with Ruländer and Müller-Thurgau.

Overall the vines on the estate have an average age of 25 years, and Riesling predominates as all but 20% of Gunderloch's vines are of this variety. The remainder is mainly Pinot Blanc (5%) and Pinot Gris (5%).

Vineyard practices include hand cultivation, hand harvesting and low yields with an average of 50 hl/ha for the estate as a whole. Once the fruit reaches the winery it is crushed gently without destemming, and then fed by gravity to the vats where it sees a slow, temperature-controlled fermentation to preserve the fruit character of the wines.

Weingut Gunderloch is export-oriented and well known in the US, with more than 50% of the production sold abroad. Johannes Hasselbach’s objective is to increase the domestic share in its sales, although the US will always remain a major market for Weingut Gunderloch.


Johannes Hasselbach is a protagonist of the “Wurzelwerk und Winzers Beitrag” (Root Work and Winemaker’s Contribution).

This is a fascinating and much talked about project of 4 winemaker friends/relatives from 3 world class wineries in Germany and in Austria.

Starting with the vintage 2012, Max von Kunow (Weingut von Hövel, Saar, Germany), Johannes Hasselbach (Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen, Germany) and Alwin + Stefanie Jurtschitsch (Weingut, Jurtschitsch, Kamptal, Austria) shared a portion of their Riesling grapes with the other 2 wineries and vinified the own portion as well as the 2 portions from the other 2 wineries into 3 separate wines. Thus, they make a total of 9 different wines.

Recently, Max von Kunow left the group and Theresa Breuer, Weingut Georg Breuer in the Rheingau, has taken over from him.

The first presentation of the Wurzelwerk project outside of Germany took place in Washington DC and was organized by Annette Schiller. See: "Wurzelwerk" Goes America: 3 Vineyards, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines

Picture: Presenting the Wurzelwerk Project in Washington DC, USA - Johannes Hasselbach, Molly Sweeny, Alwin Jurtschitsch, Max von Kunow and Annette Schiller (Ombiasy PR and WineTours)

Picture: Annette Schiller, Max von Kunow, Johannes Hasselbach, Alwin Jurtschitsch and Christian G.E. Schiller at BToo in Washington DC. See: Weingut Gunderloch – The New Generation: Owner Johannes Hasselbach in Washington DC, US

The Wines Johannes Hasselbach Poured at the David Bowler Road Show

Johannes poured 5 wines. Two wines were the Rosé Riesling versions of the popular, entry-level wine Fritz's, which is a negociant wine. The off-dry Jean Baptiste Riesling is most-sold Weingut Gunderloch wine in the USA: Riesling Trocken Niersteineris abone dry Riesling at the village level and the Niersteiner Pettenthal is Grosses Gewächs, a grand cru from one of the best if not the best vinyard in Rheinhessen.

Pictures: Bowler Road Show 2019

2018 Fritz's Rosé Familie Hasselbach

85% Portugieser and 15% Pinot Meunier.  Closed with a screwcap, with 12% aclohol and a lovely pale salmon color, it’s the perfect picnic wine. 

2017 Fritz's Riesling Familie Hasselbach

22g/l RS, 8g acid, 11.5% alc. Vivacious, fruity, off-dry Riesling named in honor of Johannes' father, world-renowned winemaker Fritz Hasselbach at the Gunderloch winery. This grows in a very small and special part of Rheinhessen called the Roter Hang meaning the “red hill”. Located between the village of Nackenheim and the village of Nierstein 20 kilometers south of the city of Mainz, the characteristic name of this area is ascribable to its vivid red slate soil. The vineyards are very close to the river Rhein on steep slopes facing south-east. The combination of those four factors—the red slate soil, the closeness to the river, great sun exposure and the steepness of the vinyards—are the perfect combination to produce Fritz’s Riesling, one of best value wines in our book.

2017 Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett Weingut Gunderloch

23g/l RS, 8g acid, 10,5% alc. Always a pleasure and always great value for Riesling-lovers, the Jean-Baptiste 2017 is  a blend created from the lower terraces of the estate's three top vineyard sites: Nierstein Hipping, Nierstein Pettenthal and Nackenheim Rothenberg (all grand cru sites).Technically a feinherb style, or "balanced off-dry," with passionfruit, peaches and pink lemonade flavors bursting through its juicy, electric palate, girded by thumping red slate. This is a wine we've used again and again to introduce consumers to the joys of German Riesling.

2017 Riesling Trocken Niersteiner Weingut Gunderloch

Bone dry at just 1g/l RS. 100% Niersteiner Pettenthal harvested in the steep parcels of this grand cru vineyard site. Vinified 50% in steel, 50% in barrel with tons of lees and skin contact. A seamless, elegant, dry wine with a glowing heart, grown among massive slabs of red slate in the towering Pettenthal. Johannes frequently cites this cuvee as exemplary of what he is trying to do differently from the previous era. Terroir > fruit, elegance > power, and viticulture > viniculture. This is a sleek, thoughtful interpretation of Riesling as the Germans drink it at home.

2015 Riesling GG Niersteiner Pettenthal Weingut Gunderloch

4g/l RS, 8g acid, 12% alc. One of the three grand cru Rieslings made at Gunderloch (Hipping, Pettenthal, Rothenberg). The Pettenthal site has sandier soils and smaller rocks than Rothenberg with a deep topsoil. The wine is 100% aged in 600L neutral barrels, a welcome trend at this estate in the last few years. Indeed, this wine is a prime example of the new and exciting direction in which Johannes is taking this estate--more work in the vineyard and less in the cellar, natural fermentations, more relaxed character in the wines, lighter structures and more transparency overall. The miracle of the Pettenthal GG is the wine's incredible ripeness--noticeably higher than the Niersteiner village wine derived from the same site--yet its blushingly modest level of alcohol and keen balance. At 12%, I'm surprised this was even allowed to pass for GG by the VDP! It's a wonder to make an ethereal wine like this in the ripe, warm, powerhouse 2015 vintage. Sporting a very alluring orangey perfume and orchard fruits of all descriptions on the long, vibrant palate, it's just damned pretty start to finish. 

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Announcement: ombiasy WineTours in 2019 - Germany-North and Bordeaux

Ombiasy Wine Tours 2018: 3 x France and 3 x Germany - Ombiasy Newsletter December 2017

UPCOMING Tours/ Wine Dinners/ Tastings - Annette and Christian Schiller/ ombiasyPR & WineTours/ schiller-wine, Germany, France, USA (Issued: April 1, 2019)

Weingut Gunderloch – The New Generation: Owner Johannes Hasselbach in Washington DC, US

"Wurzelwerk" Goes America: 3 Vineyards, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines

Special Wine Event on March 18, 2014, in Washington DC with "Wurzelwerk": 3 Terroirs, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines

Wine Tasting at Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, with Owners and Winemaker Fritz Hasselbach and Agnes Hasselbach-Usinger – Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Riesling Lounge Goes Lomo, Germany

No comments:

Post a Comment