Koehler-Ruprecht is perhaps the most traditional farm in the Palatinate, with a history dating back to the 18th century. The classic methods that have been at the center of the farm's operations since the beginning are still cherished: all the farm's wines are aged in old, even hundred-year-old Palatinate oak vats of 240-2400 liters, and steel tanks are only used for settling the juice. All winemaking is guided by the principle of minimal intervention, and nothing extra is used in the cellars, such as yeasts, enzymes, yeast nutrients, let alone sugar. The only electrical aid in the cellar is a heater, which ensures the malolactic fermentation of red wines. Otherwise, the wines are allowed to ferment at their own pace, and the fermentation is not controlled, let alone closely monitored. All wines are also matured on lees for 7-12 months.
The Koehler-Ruprecht farm was once founded by the Ruprecht family, which after a few decades joined forces with the Koehlers. Today, the estate is owned by the American Sauvage brothers, who also own the Burn Cottage winery in New Zealand's Central Otago. Dominik Sona, who has been cellar master since 2010, has his hands fully in the game in achieving the top quality of the estate's wines. Even though Dominik doesn't own the farm himself, he gets to make his wine following his own philosophy exactly as he sees fit, with the farm owners trusting his judgment 100%. Dominik's winemaking does not follow any kind of recipes, so Mr.'s time is largely spent in the cellars, listening to the characteristics of each wine and respecting them.
Koehler-Ruprecht's wine plots cover 12 hectares in the northern part of the Palatinate wine region in Kallstadt. All white grapes are picked by hand, and only when forced by weather conditions, some of the Pinot Noir grapes may be picked by machine. Depending on the year, the grapes are picked by 12-16 people who have 30 years of harvesting experience on the farm. The vineyards are visited up to five times, and the grapes are picked based on their color and taste, so that only the ripest grapes are harvested, while the last ones remain on the vines to ripen. The old vines growing in the shelter of the old limestone quarries next to the Haardt mountains absorb their nutrients through the limestone deposits formed thousands of years ago. The layers between layers contain sand, loess, clay and gravel. Koehler-Ruprecht's wines have garnered praise for how well they express their vintages. Harvest amounts vary annually, but on average the farm produces around 80,000 bottles per year. In 2019, the average yield was around 55 hl/ha.
One of the stars of the estate, the Saumagen vineyard in the village of Kallstadt, is a Grosses Gewächs plot of the highest quality classification in Germany, considered the best wine-growing area in Kallstadt or even in the Palatinate. Located west of Kallstadt, on a cartoonishly symmetrical hill at an altitude of 120-150 meters, the soil of the 40-hectare nursery consists of limestone. The south- and southeast-facing slopes are populated by old Riesling vines, which are sheltered from the cool winds from the north and west. The name of the plot refers to the local delicacy saumagen, i.e. pork belly. At the farm in Saumagen, Koehler-Ruprecht usually harvests in three different parts. The yellowish green grapes are picked first, the brighter yellow grapes next, and the amber colored grapes third. In the best years, there may be 2 more harvests, when the grapes that have dried up on the vines are picked last. All grapes with noble mold are cut off and left in the orchards. However, the final classifications for the wines are made in the cellars, and if the wine made from grapes picked at Auslese maturity does not match the Auslese in terms of taste profile, the wine may be classified as Spätles or Kabinett.
Koehler-Ruprecht does not lack straightforwardness. The estate decided to say goodbye to the VDP organization after 80 years of membership in 2014, as they wanted to continue making dry Prädikat classified wines. The changed rules of the VDP allowed only the production of dry Grosses Gewächs wines on the Saumagen plot, where Koehler-Ruprecht had traditionally also produced Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines. The VDP would have only allowed these wines to be classified as Qualitätswein, which also allows the wines to be chaptalized, that is, the addition of sugar to increase the alcohol percentage. Chaptalization is completely opposed to Koehler-Ruprecht's ideology and operating principles, and they did not want to be part of an organization that allows the activity. Koehler-Ruprecht also does not follow the instructions or regulations dictated by organic or biodynamic certificates, but manages its nurseries exactly as it feels is best in terms of increasing their vitality.
Another of the farm's most important parcels is Kallstadter Annaberg, located on the western edge of the Kallstadt area, right at the foot of the Haardt mountain range. Erste Lage Plot Annaberg's soil consists mainly of red sandstone covered by a two-meter layer of sand. The location at an altitude of 220 meters manifests itself in wines with commendable acidity. What makes the plot exceptional is the wall bordering it, which is rare in the Palatinate. The total area of Annaberg is 6 hectares and 2/3 of this is owned by Koehler-Ruprecht. Only the best vintages are allowed to bear the name of the column on their label. The worse vintages are bottled under the reduced name Kallstadter. Wines from these Koehler-Ruprecht's most famous plots have garnered praise from Robert Parker to Gault Millau largely due to their complexity, aging potential and terroir representativeness. The estate's top wines are released to the market only when they are 4-6 years old.
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