Driest around Kaiserstuhl they say. Philipp confirms. Thats how it is. Minus 10 degrees Öechsle the latest harvests. Lower alcohol comes as a consequence. The essence lies in the acidity, which in this rather hot area calls for earlier harvests. Or, as sometimes happen, a combination of an early harvest together with a later to optimize flavours and acidity level in the wine.
Konrad Salwey was one of three reasons for our trip to Pfalz and Baden early this spring. We met him, together with Monika Dapprich from Siegrist in Pfalz and Robert Schätzle from Schloss Neuweier in the north of Baden, in the impressive line of German VDP producers gathered for the Sommeliers’ Day in Gothenburg in the beginning of the year.
With a yearly production of around 300.000 bottles Weingut Salwey is one of the bigger producers around Kaiserstuhl in the South of Baden. Member in VDP since 1926. The Salwey family has a history of wine growing in Kaiserstuhl since the middle of the 17th century, but it was in 1950 that the present winery in Oberrotweil was started by Benno Salwey. Konrad is the third generation and took the whelm after his father Wolf-Dietrich’s demise in 2011.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet Konrad Salwey again. He was in sick bed, but Philipp Hettich who takes part of the cellar work during harvest, is involved with the blending of the wines and work as a sales representative, welcomed and guided around the winery in Oberrotweil.
In the barrel cellar we also got a chat with Sandi Benzarti who came to Salwey 33 years ago. The mechanic from Tunisia who became cellarmaster with responsibility for all the wines in barrel, found in the cellars. And destiller master. Because this place is not just the origin for fine wines, but also for stronger beverages.
However, on this rather chilly day in March, it is the barrels with Spätburgunder that require attention. The humidity is high in the cellar tunnel, built as late as 1997, but the content of the barrels still evaporate. To the delight of the cellar angels, a yearly total of 1000 liters rise from the barrels. Topping up is needed every week. Each time, a days job.
Two grape varieties rule at Salwey, counting for around 80% of the production from the 40 hectars, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), half of each. On third place we find the Weissburgundern (Pinot Blanc) with 18% and then only two percent are left for some additional classical German varieties. The grapes for the higher qualities come from vulcanic soil in the west of Kaiserstuhl. The yields are lower here than on the loess terraces on the eastern parts of Kaiserstuhl.
It is almost a liberating feeling, after the first overwhelming experiences of super long wine lists from so many producers, to be able to focus on three grapes in three qualities: the entry level wine, gutswein, then “RS” Reserve Salwey and on the top, the grand cru wines, Grosses Gewächs (GG) from different sites.
Salwey’s dry Grauburgunder is a real favourite. Super dry, complex, light and fresh, sailing among the highest summer clouds in the heaven of Grauburgunder/Pinot Gris, that was the summary in the last post.
The samples from the grand cru sites Eichberg and Henkenberg 2013, tasted a week Before bottling, confirmed the impression. Attractive, palate filling and slender Grauburgunders, where some extra nerve in the Eichberg brought it to the favourite position. Philipp thought the 2013 to have great storage potential, even better than the 2012. Would love to go back and fill our car boot.
The Weissburgundern is also very good. Henkenberg GG Weissburgunder 2012 paints with yellow fruits, butteriness and floral notes. Fills the palate beautifully with good acidity, tension and nerve. Delicious from the vulcanic soil topped with loess and calcareous clay.
Up to 2007 Salwey’s vinification was traditional with destemming, very clear juice and quick fermentation. But in 2008 Konrad went for new tactics. For all wines, at the same time (no cautious use of smaller test vinifications, oh no, full scale from day one). Today the grapes are destemmed and then left for about 24 hours of maceration. Then slow pressing and no sedimentation or clarification of the must. Fermentation with the natural yeast. Then to barrel. Battonage or not? Depends on the vintage. And if so, most often only up to the start of the malolactic fermentation, which usually starts by itself. Malo is made on all wines, whites as well as reds.
2003 was the last year Konrad’s father used small barriques for the white wines. It became too powerful. Today larger oak barrels are used. The oldest 40 years, the newest only a few. The wood comes from Kaiserstuhl, but the barrells are made of coopers in Burgundy. All wines get 12 months in barrel.
“In general, Kaiserstuhl is more influenced by Burgundy than Alsace,” emphasized Philipp. The use of oak barrels is one example, the drier wines another, not to forget the admiration of the Burgundy style. And that even though Alsace is just a short distance away, on the other side of the Rhine.
We continue with the reds. Philipp explains that the philosophy for the Spätburgunder is to make it fruity and soft with pronounced cold climat character. The entry level Salwey Spätburgunder 2012 from loess is just that light and soft, really dry with appealing strawberries and ruburb in the fruit. The bottle we opened yesterday had developed notes of compost and vegetables. Grape typical, basic quality, easy to drink, for consumption in the near future. Very nice to our grilled Friday burger.
Salwey RS Spätburgunder 2012 has its origin in three grand cru vinyards near Oberrotweil with vulcanic soil; Kirchberg, Henkenberg and Eichberg. 30% new oak. The fruit is darker and the strawberries mixed with morello cherries. The tannins are marked and fine grained. Fine balance, concentration, texture. Structure with backbone. Like!
We jump up to the grand cru level, always matured on new small barriques. First we try the Henkenberg GG Spätburgunder 2012 characterized by Philipp as “entry level GG” with an optimal storage time of five to six years. The nose is complex with oak and fruit, compost and spiciness. On the palate concentrated mature fruit and a big dose of tannins. Very fine balanced and excellent structure. Delicious!
Kirchberg GG Spätburgunder 2012 is “best of the best” and Philipp consider it to win with storage for at least ten years, with potential up to 20. The nose reveals its youth with a lot of red fruit and oak. The tannins are fine grained and the concentration large. The length eternal. Pure, young, exquisite, to hide and forget for many years.
Bone dry Salwey? Yes, it is so, both for whites and reds. Dry and delicious. A visit to the winery in Oberrotweil is recommended for those passing Kaiserstuhl.
Link to Salwey’s website.
Previously about Salwey on Lovely Wine Grapes: Salwey in Grauburgunder Heaven
About our visit to Kaiserstuhl: Kaiserstuhl weekend and Wine route impressions from Pfalz and Baden.