Meet Peter from Heinrichshof

Published: 01-12-2016

This month Stannary St Wine Co. were glad to host a visit from one of our suppliers and producers, expert winemaker Peter Griebeler of the Heinrichshof estate in Mosel. During his few days with us Peter  visited some of top class restaurants which stock his wines here in London.

Peter Griebeler started his winemaking career in 1993 with a three year-long apprenticeship programme during which he gained experience at several famous German wineries. During the first two years Peter worked at the Mosel estates of Max Ferdinand Richter and Fritz Haag whereas during his third year he worked in the Nahe region alongside Armin Diel, one of the most important wine personalities in Germany who back then was a wine critic and  Editor of the prestigious wine guide ‘Gault Millau’.


 

The experience and passion for winemaking gained during these three years encouraged Peter to take things one step further and study winemaking in the renowned university for winemaking of Geisenheim. After that he got the interesting and exciting opportunity to do an internship in Gallo’s research cellar in California. Contrary to how one might imagine work at Gallo, Peter worked on small batch wine production researching the how  various grape varieties and Californian vineyards/ terroirs interacted and affected qualities in the wine. Later back in Germany Peter became winemaker at Reh-Kendermann and later head winemaker at ZGM, where he stayed for 10 years.

In 2014 Peter decided to return to his family home and take over the winery which his family had owned for many generations. His parents used to sell their entire wine production at the cellar door to private, regular customers, hence not many people have ever heard about Heinrichshof’s wines, even within Germany. However we are pleased to be able to share his great wines with our customers and to give them a much wider audience.

Peter is now responsible for 6 hectares of vineyards on the Heinrichshof estate, set in the stunningly beautiful Mosel Valley, in south-western Germany. With its steep sunlit slopes along the river and slate rich soil, the wines of the Mosel are renowned for their light and elegant style, allowing them to express the fresh and delicate fruit and floral notes of the grapes as well as the often rich minerality of the soil.

Peter’s vineyards are split into many small parcels totalling 7000-8000 square metres in each of Zeltinger Sonnenuhr and Zeltinger Schlossberg. Römische Kapelle is a steep south-west facing vineyard parcel located within Zeltinger Himmelreich. The Zeltinger Himmelreich vineyard is of a relatively larger size (more than 100 hectares) and also includes flatter and less well exposed parcels,  and so features less prominently on labels. Peter doesn’t use its name at all as all of his parcels are located in the steeper, more highly rated parts of the vineyard.

To achieve the best possible grape quality, which of course translates into wine quality, Peter focusses on meticulous work in his vineyards. Pruning is extremely important in the fairly cool Mosel region, to ensure grapes will get enough sun exposure. To give you an idea, a hectare of a steepest, old vine Mosel vineyard requires about 2,500 hours of manual labour per year in comparison to an average of 35 hours required in a vineyard which can be mechanically worked (for example in huge Australian vineyards). The average of Heinrichshof’s vineyard work lies between 500 & 600 hours of manual labour per hectare and per year.

 

In terms of winemaking, Peter puts his emphasis on dry styles and he has a fairly traditional approach to winemaking. 30-40% of  each vintage is fermented in oak barrels which can hold 1000 litres of wine (this is a traditional barrel size for the region and it’s called ‘Fuder’) made from the fine grained, local oak with some barrels dating back to 1959.

Overview of Recent Vintages in the Mosel

2016 – A tough year, with yield volumes down leading to a focus on quality

Similarly to the rest of Europe 2016 proved to be one of the most challenging vintages of the decade, especially at the beginning of the year, for two reasons: Firstly, due to frost and hail, quantities were severely limited (in the Mosel region yields were about 15% down compared to previous vintages). And secondly, due to rainy and humid conditions during the growing season, some vineyards were threatened by downy mildew (Peronospera) and a huge effort of vineyard work, such as leaf pruning, was required to achieve healthy grapes by harvest time. Incidentally Peronospera was imported into European vineyards from overseas, similarly to the root louse (Phylloxera), which was the reason for most European vineyards being grafted on American rootstocks since the 1920s. As European vines have less or no resistance to these growing hazards, vineyard care plays an extremely important role to protect vines.

Thankfully around mid-August the weather changed to nothing less than perfect ripening conditions. There was no rain in September, in fact Peter mentioned that young vines, which had not yet developed deep enough roots, were suffering water stress. Harvest finished much later this year with the last Heinrichshof grapes brought into the cellar on 4th November. Despite the smaller quantities the remaining grapes turned out to be of perfect quality. Peter mentioned that even his Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) has a good, deep colour which is a major challenge in the northerly climate.

2015 – The best of recent years for wines of Mosel and right across Germany

A picture perfect year and literally a great vintage throughout all of Germany’s wine regions. An even ripening period lead to good maturity levels. Out of 2014, 2015 and 2016 this is the most highly rated vintage. The year started off with a mild winter and bud burst occured slightly earlier than usual. Spring was warm with some very dry weeks, there was very little pressure of diseases. The first half of summer was hot ad very dry and especially the younger vineyards suffered from the heat. The second half was bit cooler with some rain. Harvest was earlier than usual again, but not as early as 2014. Sugar levels of Riesling were very high, but also the acid levels were high, too, providing perfect balance in the wines produced. Overall this is an excellent vintage for Heinrichshof and the whole of Germany. This was also a good vintage for  Pinot Noir in Germany. Heinrichshof picked theirs at 94°Oe - with picture perfect grapes.

2014 – A great year for sweet wines, more challenging for dry styles

Due to rain during harvest this ended up being a demanding and work-intense vintage for  wine producers. The prevailing high humidity and warmth in the months from September to October favoured the development of noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea) and a rigorous  grape selection was the only way to achieve high quality, especially for the production of dry wines. This noble rot encouraged many winemakers to produce higher quantities of sweeter Riesling styles of Auslese, BA and TBA quality. We are extremely pleased about the quality of Heinrichshof’s wines and in a year like 2014, which proved to be challenging even for famous and long established German wineries, they scored a staggering 95 points in the Decanter Riesling Panel tasting and were “highly recommended” by the panel of judges. What a great start for Peter’s first vintage at his family estate.

By Anja Breit 

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