Tag Archives: VDP

Weingut Kistenmacher und Hengerer: The Wines

The wines of Württemberg winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

The wines of Württemberg winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

As promised, I wanted to share some of my tasting impressions from my visit to Kistenmacher & Hengerer winery in November (you can find my introduction to the winery here):

We started with the Rieslings, which Hans Hengerer likes to make in the trocken (dry) style (90% of his Riesling production). We tried 2012 and 2011 Rieslings, from Gutswein, which is the estate wine, via Ortswein, which would be a village in Burgundy, and then on to his Kabinett and Spätlesen. I was surprised by the sheer number of Rieslings Hengerer produces. Most of the wines showed a beautiful creaminess combined with spiciness. His 2012 Riesling Theresa, a village wine, showed great aromas of caramel and peach with just 4 grams of residual sugar, and his 2012 Alte Reben Spätlese, from vines that were planted in 1971, was dense and concentrated, with nice acidity and time to develop. A 2012 cuvée of Kerner and Riesling, made as a sweet wine with 50 gr/l, was also quite impressive.

We then tried a 2012 Gelber Muskateller, which blew me away. I could not move on from this wine, and at the end of the tasting, I went back to it. The aromatics just were incredible. Gelber Muskateller, according to Austrian Wines called “Yellow Muscat” in English, which is a direct translation of the German term, is a version of Muscat a Petit Grains, according to the San Francisco Exmaminer, which also reports it is the oldest type of Muscat and one of the oldest grapes known (read more here). The vines were planted in 1971, so this is a nicely aged vineyard to begin with…In the nose, I got grapefruit and pine needles. Very intense. I was so surprised by this. On the palate, I got rosemary and again pine needles, coupled with yellow fruits. It was SO intense, hard to put in words. The wine was dry, and tasted great. We discussed what to pair the wine with, because it seems that is a problem, and I suggested pork roast with a mustard crust. Sabine Hengerer was skeptical and later asked a sommelier, who thought it wasn’t a good idea…we tried it out, and while it wasn’t a bad pairing, it also didn’t really help either wine or food to shine…nonetheless, a great experience to try this grape, and what an aroma-intense wine this was.

We moved on to the reds, where I want to focus on the 2011 Trollinger Alte Reben, a grape that is very prominent in the region and also known as Vernatsch or Schiava. The vines were planted in the 1960s, and the first thing one notices is how light the color of the wine was, having a red brick, almost terracotta color. The nose showed ginger bread and meaty aromas, a weird combination but not unpleasant at all. On the palate, the wine is light and refreshing. At 12.5% ABV it’s a great wine to drink with a typical German dinner of bread, meats and cheese, and according to Hans Hengerer it can be served chilled in the summer.

Another red wine we tried was a 2009 Clevner, which is a Pinot droit clone, which is a clone of Pinot noir. The nose was full of red fruit, with earthy aromas and ginger and ginger bread. I really liked that combination of fruit and ginger bread, and the earthy aromas hammered home its Pinot noir character. Fascinating wine. The must had contact with the grape skins for 5 weeks, and the wine was produced in 30% to 50% new wood.

Two Pinot noirs from 2009 and 2010, which were concentrated and intense, yet soft and enticing, were followed by a 2009 Lemberger Alte Reben, which I enjoyed quite a bit as well. Lemberger is a big deal in the region, and Hengerer wants to increase production because the grape copes better with higher temperatures than Pinot noir. The aromas in the wine were great, cherries and tobacco, great acidity and a couple more years to go.

Hengerer also produces more international blends: I tried the 2010 M+C (Merlot and Cabernet Franc) and the 2009 Maximilian (which is a cuvée of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Spätburgunder aka Pinot noir). The M+C was fruity and nicely soft, with some green pepper aromas and a good length. I could see Nina falling in love with this wine. The Maximilian was a lot more round than the M+C, seemed in a better place at this point of its development. 2009 definitely helped because the acidity was more in check. The wine is aptly named after one of the Hengerers’ children’s cuddle toy, and one can’t help but notice how apt that is: The wine is cuddly and pleasant, very open and very enjoyable.

Hengerer has his own opinion about Merlot and why he blends it. He doesn’t see it as a very interesting grape by itself, but thinks it adds to cuvées. His comment about Merlot: “Does’t hurt, doesn’t make you blind” (“Tut net weh, macht net blind”). Now don’t take this a summary of his collection of wines! Hans Hengerer produces a great array of different wines from different grapes, which I think takes a lot of skill and dedication. The results are at times surprising and challenging (I look at you, Gelber Muskateller!), but always worth the experience. These wines are made for the long(er) run, as was shown by the older wines I was lucky to try. I hope you’ll get a chance to try some these one of these days.

With Hans Hengerer

With Hans Hengerer

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Meeting the Vintners: Weingut Kistenmacher und Hengerer, Heilbronn (Württemberg), Germany

The wines of Württemberg winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

The wines of Württemberg VDP winery Kistenmacher & Hengerer

While visiting Germany back in November, Delta’s weird flight scheduling and pricing made it so that flying into Stuttgart instead of Frankfurt made my flight $400 cheaper. Stuttgart is about 2 1/2 hours from my hometown, and a train ride is about $30, so this was a no-brainer. A good friend of mine lives in Heilbronn, about 45 minutes from Stuttgart, and I decided to visit him for a weekend as well. While making those plans, I figured it could also be worthwhile to expand my scope and palate and go try some wines at a winery in Württemberg, an area I had never visited. A quick Google search made it clear that Kistenmacher & Hengerer should be the place to visit in Heilbronn: They were admitted to the elite winemaker association VDP in January 2013, are part of the Slow Food movement, and have garnered great reviews for their wines. In other words: Another no-brainer. I contacted the winery and after some very friendly back and forth we agreed on meeting on a Sunday morning to have some quiet time with each other.

Let me give you some background on the German wine region of Württemberg first (you can find more info on this website): Württemberg is Germany’s fourth largest wine region (only topped by Rheinhessen, Palatinate, and Baden) with 11,359 hectares (approximately 28,000 acres) under vine according to the German Wine Institute’s 2012 statistics. It’s located in Southern Germany, roughly in the area along the river Neckar between Stuttgart and Heilbronn. Unlike many other wine regions in Germany, the focus in this region is not on white grapes but rather red grapes. Again citing the German Wine Institute’s 2012 numbers the most prevalent grapes are: Trollinger (red) with 20.4% of the total area under vine, Riesling with 18.5% of total area, Lemberger (red) with 14.6%, Schwarzriesling (red) with 13.8%, and Spätburgunder (aka Pinot noir) with 11.4%. You probably have not heard of some of these grapes, and that is the other great news about this area: It’s bursting with indigenous grapes which are rather unique for this area and make distinct and interesting wines. And can boost your Wine Century Club application if you need more grapes…

When the day of the visit came, it was pouring cats and dogs, but only after I had decided to walk the 30 minutes to the winery…and on a Sunday morning in Heilbronn, no cabs could me made out…the greater my joy when I arrived at Kistenmacher & Hengerer, where Sabine Hengerer greeted me with warmth and a smile, and some hearty breakfast foods. How better to start a wine tasting? Plus: There were some pretty excited dogs to be greeted! Still, I was quite nervous. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone, which in Germany is the Mosel and some of Rheinhessen regions. This was going to be different, wine-wise, people-wise. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of someone I had never met, and the list of wines and unknown grapes was long…

Yes, we were both excited...

Yes, we were both excited…

When Hans Hengerer first came down the stairs, he initially seemed the quiet type. There is a calm about him that struck me: He knows what he wants, and he knows how to achieve that. He is sincere about his wine philosophy and work, and not prone to long introductions to his wines. He likes to let them speak for themselves, and gave me plenty of time to assess them on my own, before we would talk about them. I really liked that. But let’s take a look at the winery:

Kistenmacher & Hengerer is the result of a “merger” between the Hengerer and Kistenmacher families that happened in the 1950s, and Hans Hengerer took over operations in the mid-1990s. Yet, the two families have a long history, with winemaking dating back to the 1400s and 1500s. But that does not really seem to matter all that much to winemaker Hans Hengerer. When I asked him about the long history, he was rather dismissive as if he saw it as potentially inhibiting. We talked about the differences to his parents’ generation when it comes to winemaking and it is clear that he has respect for what they did, but is finding his own ways. They took him to South Africa, and upon his return led him to explore the older and at times forgotten local grapes Muskateller and Samtrot, and Clevner, grapes many (including me) are, if even, only dimly aware of. All the while, he also produces Riesling and Spätburgunder (Germany’s Pinot noir). Hengerer strongly believes in intensive vineyard work and low yields: he produces between 70,000 and 80,000 bottles per year. Terroir matters to him, the soils he works on can be challenging, and he wants every wine to be the result of its climate and soil. Uniformity is as far from his idea of wines as you can imagine. Most of his wines are made in the dry style (90% of his Riesling is dry).



Hengerer is also a founding member of the group “Junges Schwaben” (aka “Young Swabia”), a group of five winemakers from the Württemberg growing region that began cooperating in 2002, and in which every one of the quintet makes one particular wine that is marketed particularly as a Junges Schwaben wine (in Hengerer’s case a Spätburgunder). Hans Hengerer’s sense of humor, a quiet, witty humor, shone through when he insisted with a wink that the group was called Young Swabia, and not Young Swabian”s” because none of the winemakers should qualify as “young” anymore (he was born in 1967). They wanted to highlight the awakening of the region, which is indeed moving rapidly from Trollinger-dominated vineyards to broader and more experimental wine making.

The tasting at the winery took around three hours, as I said, the Hengerers were generous with their time. I got to try 16 of their wines, beginning with the Rieslings from estate wine to late harvest, with a Gelber Muskateller and a cuvee of Riesling and Kerner thrown in, and then on to the reds, from lighter Trollinger to Samtrot to Clevner and his outstanding Spätburgunder. I will go into more detail about some of the wines in the next post, but let me say this: I loved the variety of grapes, and the variety of wines within single grapes. None of his wines were “easy”, they all had character. It really was like every wine was telling its own story. Hengerer insists that his wines take time, that they need to continue developing in the bottle and I can see what he means.

I wasn’t able to take many wines with me, but I decided to take some of the more unusual ones that I wanted Nina to try: the Muskateller, the Samtrot, a Lemberger and some cuvees. Most of them, and I am sure Hans Hengerer would like that, will still be waiting for a while until we open them…you can find more detailed reviews of the wines I tried in my notes here.

You can visit Kistenmacher & Hengerer Monday through Friday from 4pm until 6.30pm, Saturdays from 9am until 11am and from 1pm until 4pm or make an appointment via email or telephone. The winery is located at Eugen-Nägele-Str. 23-25, Heilbronn. Heilbronn is about a 45 minutes drive from Stuttgart.

With Hans Hengerer

With Hans Hengerer


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2011 von Hövel Scharzhofberg Riesling Kabinett

2011 von Hoevel Scharzhofberg Riesling Kabinett

2011 von Hövel Scharzhofberg Riesling Kabinett

After the Finger Lakes Virtual Tasting last Saturday, we opened another bottle from my beloved Scharzhofberg. For those unfamiliar with the vineyard, let me use the explanation I gave in my review of the Bischöfliche Weingüter Scharzhofberger:

The Scharzhofberg is a vineyard along the Saar, a tributary to the Mosel. The Saar meets the Mosel just south of Trier, in the town of Konz. It springs in France and then flows into Germany. It is a mere 246 km (152 miles) long, but only the final parts in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate are used for growing wine, mostly Riesling. The Saar is known to produce more mineralic, somewhat tarter Rieslings than the middle Mosel. The micro climate tends to be cooler than at the Mosel, so the grapes usually ripen later and can reach acidity levels without the higher sugar levels you can find on the Mosel, which gives them a distinct character. Most of the vineyards belonged to the church, but in the course of the secularization in the 19th century, many private investors bought plots and began wine making. Rich families began to settle later in the 19th century which led to the term “Saarbarone” (baronets of the Saar, a term derived from “Ruhrbarone” which was used for the industrialists in the Ruhr area that made a fortune when the industrial revolution took off). A lot of the estates on the Saar are very grandiose, unlike most Mosel estates.

The Saar boasts many prime vineyards that you might have heard of: Kanzemer Altenberg, Ockfener Bockstein, Ayler Kupp and also, the most prominent among them, the Scharzhofberg. Technically belonging to the village of Wiltingen, the vineyard is so prominent that the wineries do not have to list the village name on their labels. They proudly just use “Scharzhofberger”. The vineyard stretches over 28 hectares (around 70 acres) in steep slopes (30 to 60 degrees) facing south, the soil consisting of slate and rocky soil with high amounts of iron and clay. Only Riesling is grown here by a few producers that read like the who is who: Egon Müller-Scharzhof, van Volxem, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Bischöfliche Weingüter, Vereinigte Hospitien, Johannes Peters, Weingut Resch and also the winery that produced this wine: von Hövel. The wines from this vineyard are prized and it is easily the most famous vineyard of the Saar.

Weingut von Hövel has been owned by the von Hövel family since 1803 (just in time for secularization). It is a member of the prestigious German association of quality winemakers, VDP, and owns a total of 11 hectares (27 acres) in the Saar valley which are planted with Riesling only. Its annual production is around 60,000 bottles. Since 2010 Max von Kunow has been the owner of the estate. Besides holdings in the legendary Scharzhofberg, the winery exclusively owns the vineyards Kanzember Hörecker and Oberemmeler Hütte.

But on to the wine: In the glass, we found a very pale, light yellow color. The nose showed floral and herbal aromas, with some overlying fruit (apple maybe?). But all in all it was a rather restrained nose, clean and focused. On the palate, the wine was light-bodied and luckily a typical Kabinett style sweet wine. When I say Kabinett style I mostly refer to its lightness and how refreshing and clear it was, despite it being a sweet wine. I just really like that combination of lightness and sweetness. However, I always struggle with describing these wines from vineyards that are especially dear to me. There was something that made me think it reflected the terroir quite well. I believe I would recognize a Scharzhofberger in a blind tasting (don’t dare me, though). I do believe the wine could have used a bit more acidity, but then again it was a 2011 where a lot of the grapes suffered from low acidity levels. The finish was very nice, with decent length.

In my view, this is a very good wine for someone interested in trying a Scharzhofberger without breaking the bank and at the same time finding out what all the fuss is about the Kabinett wines. This von Hövel also showcased the 2011 vintage nicely, which is already where drinkable and accessible for the wine drinker.

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