Our final full day of visits took us back to Germany, this time to the Kaiserstuhl wine region, just across the Rhine from Colmar.
Our morning visit was to St Remigius, founded by Conrad Isele and Edgar Bärmann in 1989. Philipp Isele met us with a glass of crémant, and we stood on the terrace looking across to the Achkarrer Schlossberg vineyards, which spread across three steep hills, the remnants of a volcano. Philipp introduced the family and the winery, which makes 50,000 bottles a year, having grown from 3ha to 9ha, with vineyards in Merdingen and Niederrimsingen as well.
The winery was built in 2020, having outgrown their old weingut in the village.
Phillipp explained that the area is famous for its volcanic soils, with basalt making the hillsides very free draining and fertility poor. Loess provides a bit more water retention in the valleys. He grows mainly Burgundian varieties (ie the Pinots and Chardonnay), but has also planted Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Muskateller and Riesling – and in the cellar we found four demi-johns of Cabernet Franc, which he is experimenting with in an effort to respond the warming climate. This year there was no rain during June until the final day, when 200mm fell. Clearly the soils drain well as everything still looked pretty dry. He mulches with straw, and has installed drip irrigation and expects to use it increasingly.
We escaped the wind to enjoy more wines in the small tasting room, with Philipp’s mum assisting. Philipp gave brilliant explanations of his wine making which is clearly very thoughtful, his barrels are from French, German and Hungarian oak, with low levels of toast, and he is experimenting with a clay pot. He will keep some in bottle for a year before release, and many of them have a lot of ageing potential.
And of course they were lovely: the Crémant (Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay) was very creamy, the Pinot Blanc Gutswein with a bit of barrel fermentation was fresh with a lovely texture, the Pinot Blanc ‘Selektion’ was lovely, with beautiful restrained oak. and the Reserve Pinot Gris, Chardonnay were all superb. His Merlot Selektion was really interesting – a very fresh, aromatic take on a grape that I sometimes find a bit too velvety. Philipp must have liked us because he opened some more bottles, including a white wine made from Pinot Noir which I really enjoyed.
We very reluctantly had to take our leave, many of us clutching bottles which we were hoping we would be able to squeeze into our hold luggage!
It was a short drive to the village of Bischoffingen, where we had a lunch at Bianca’s Gastro, owned by the daughter of Irene and Karl Heinz Johner whose Weingut’s wines we tasted with our casual lunch of flammenkeuchen.
The Johners are very accomplished and experienced winemakers – Irene explained that they had been consulting in the 1970s, and found themselves at the Lamberhurst vineyard in Kent, where they enjoyed the three day week and other bits of British history! They set their own winery up in 1985, and then headed off to New Zealand with their son Patrick to set up a winery in Martinborough – added to the list of places we must visit next time we go!
With a series of flammekeuchen we drank their Rivaner (which is what Germans now call Müller Thurgau), an early picked Rollander (Pinot Gris), a Pinot Blanc/Chardonnay blend, a ‘Blauer’ Spätburgunder (a German Pinot Noir clone) and a Burgundian Pinot Noir clone from the Bischoffinger Steinbruck vineyard. We finished with a Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon blend which demonstrates that Baden definitely has a warm enough climate to ripen these varieties, and with our flambéed apple Flammenkeuchen we enjoyed a Spätlese. Irene and Bianca were absolutely lovely, and worked really hard to entertain not just us but all the other people who were popping in for good wine and food.
We even got back to Colmar in time for some shopping or relaxing, before heading out for our final night dinner – at the Maison des Têtes. We enjoyed a lovely rabbit terrine, pike or chicken, and an unctuous chocolate mousse, with guess what some Crémant, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Pinot Noir! It was a great evening, and some very nice things were said about the tour, which still has one more visit to enjoy!