Holger Koch - Herrenstück Chardonnay 2017
From the importer-
The village “Herrenstück” wines are more serious: long and complex, made mostly from selection massale parcels on the lower slopes above the village, these are wines that are eminently suitable for medium to long term aging.
Holger and his wife Gabrielle started making wine in 1999. Like many in our band, the family story is singular. Holger grew up believing he didn't much like wine, yet he also grew up among vines, and there was a vaguely tacit understanding with his parents that one day he might take over the family vineyards in Bickensohl… At some point, in the course of his experiences working in wineschool, his stages at somewhat spooferic estates in Bordeaux and working for an importer in Frankfurt, Holger discovered that, actually, he did like wine -- quite a lot in fact -- but only if it met his very exacting standards.
This led to some difficult decisions when he returned to Bickensohl to steer the Koch domain out of the local co-op and into the deep water of fine hooch: Holger was unhappy with the quality of the clones that dominate local viticulture, and with which his parents had recently replanted many of the vineyards at some expense. To cut a long story short, he knew that to make good wine he needed good material in the vineyard, and to those ends, much of the local Pinot Braun was not up to snuff. So the nettle was grasped, and most of the vineyards were replanted with Selection Massales from Alsace, Auxerrois or Burgundy, with only a few plots of old vines that were to Holger's satisfaction also making the cut.
After a few years studying his land and getting a clear idea of what is best for his wines, he now makes the finest Pinots -- Noir, Blanc and Gris -- in Swabia. Holger's rules are simple. There is no dogma, just absolute pristine viticulture, and a belief in the idea that several days in the vineyard are preferable to a quick fix in the cellar, where Holger's touch is light indeed. Chaptalization and yeasting are viewed with suspicion, if not disdain (there was a sense of sorrow in his voice when Holger once informed us that he'd had to inoculate a cuvée to fix a fermentation that had gotten stuck from an overabundance of fructose), and the elevage of each wine is approached with a rare thoughtfulness and flexibility.
The majority of the vineyards sit on Loess soil, a very sandy, easily breakable mix of pulverized limestone from long eroded mountains to the east and clay, at 250 meters above seal level. The mountain chain where the winery is located has one of the warmest climates of Germany. Indeed, after many years work restoring a disused volcanic vineyard (a pet project), Holger was dismayed to realized that the less exposed plots were too warm for Pinot Noir, and so after much deliberation, a little Syrah was planted. Though he professes to have no idea what he will do with the out of these vines, we can report that the small amount of a blend he made form the young Pinot and Syrah vines in this vineyard in 2014 was a delicious vin de soif.
The Kochs divide their wines into three overall levels of quality. The Basics take the “Kaiserstuhl” designation. The whites, a Grau- and a Weißburgunder, are bottled under screwcap, and are fresh, vibrant, youthful, and are intended for early consumption The red Spätburgunder is predominantly old vine Pinot Noir from the best of the vines Holger inherited, along with a little young vine juice form his best sites. It is good to go out of the gate, crunch, fresh and pithy, but we have been impressed with its ability to age too.