Germany Baden

“We want to make the magic of our site palatable,” says Claus Burmeister. Magic because of their fertile Keuper soils, a 160 million year old strata containing clay, dolomite and shales found on the slopes near the village of Tiefenbach in this bucolic part of Baden, where he composes remarkable wines from Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grapes.

Each vineyard has its own microclimate and thus its own individual potential. The grapes are harvested manually, selected carefully and then vinified separately. In the cellar, less is more. Only a minimum of technicality is used in order to preserve as much of the natural, fresh fruit as possible. Gravitation is thus used instead of pumping, long, soft pressings to avoid undesirable aromas and, of course, only natural yeasts for the fermentations. “We provide some support”, explains Claus Burmeister, “ but the wines should express themselves.” The white Grand Cru‚ or Grosses Gewächs, and all of the reds mature in large wooden casks or in small French oak barrels, some new and others used, depending on vintage, variety and vineyard.

Claus Burmeister and his cellarmaster, Jürgen Kern, took us on a tour of their estate. The first stop was the Königsbecher vineyard in Odenheim, a south facing slope where Pinot Noir is planted. Between the vines, violet and yellow flowers thrive, proving that the vineyard is alive! “Here thousands of microorganisms provide minerals to the roots,” notes Jürgen. “The more minerals, the healthier the vine. The flavour of the wine is thus composed in the vineyard and not in the cellar.” Neither industrial substances nor chemical fertilizers are used in the vineyards, only homemade compost and biodynamic teas: valerian, chamomile and horsetail. Since 2013, Heitlinger is certified organic and all farming done ecologically.

Next stop on our tour was the Heinberg site. With ideal conditions for powerful Chardonnays displaying salty minerality, it should come as no surprise that Cistercian monks already cultivated wine here centuries ago. The soil in the adjacent Spiegelberg vineyard contains more iron and lime, which is why Pinot Gris is planted there. Its name derives from an old signal tower with a huge mirror, in German Spiegel, built by the Romans. On the opposite slope is the Wormsberg site, a dizzyingly steep vineyard with an impressive 70° incline. Pinot Noir was planted here in 2012.

The renaissance of historic sites

Almost everywhere in the vicinity are ancient sites waiting to be resurrected, natural treasures that demand hard work and patience. It takes about ten years to revitalize an old vineyard, but Claus Burmeister and his team have been amply rewarded for their efforts. In 2017, for example, their Grand Cru Heinberg was voted Germany’s best Chardonnay and given the prestigious Wein Pur Trophy.

Our last stop was at the Hassapfel site, a vineyard that will produce in 2021 Germany’s first grand cru made from Auxerrois, a subtly flavoured variety quite important in the Kraichgau region. According to Claus Burmeister, “viticulture can be seen both as a handicraft grown in harmony with nature or as a creative activity. However, one does not necessarily exclude the other, but rather complements it.”

Aus der Lage Hassapfel, in der Nähe des Weinkellers, kommt seit dem Jahrgang 2012 der erste deutsche Auxerrois-Wein aus einer VDP-Grossen Lage. Auxerrois ist eine der klassischen Rebsorten für den Kraichgau. Sie zählt zu den Burgundersorten und profitiert ebenso wie ihre Verwandten von dem hohen Kalkanteil des Bodens, der diesem feinwürzigen Weißwein eine große geschmackliche Harmonie verleiht. Weinbau kann man als Handwerk verstehen, das stark mit der Natur verwachsen ist, oder aber als gestalterische und schöpferische Tätigkeit. Dass das Eine das Andere nicht ausschließt, sondern viel mehr ergänzt, ist der Anspruch von Claus Burmeister und seinem Team.

Baden, Germany