Ancient chronicles reveal that 1728 was an excellent year for wines. Perhaps even back then, the generation that founded the winery (now known as Dreissigacker) was blessed with a good harvest because at that time, founding father, Jacob Sauer, not only farmed a wide range of agriculture but succeeded at cultivating a vineyard, lying the foundation for generations to come. Be that as it may, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the focus shifted to winemaking when Adolf Sauer III decided to export his wines to England. After the Second World War, in 1952, the husband of Christa Sauer, Philipp Dreissigacker, took over the business and forty years later, in 1991, all other agricultural pursuits were abandoned to focus solely on winegrowing when Frieder and Ute Dreissigacker took charge. At that time the winery used conventional methods to cultivate a large number of different grape varieties, but when their son (and current proprieter) Jochen Dreissigacker entered the business in 2001, radical changes were made–crucially, converting the estate to employ labour-intensive, organic viticulture. Today, the name Dreissigacker stands for outstanding rieslings of the highest quality, both in Germany and abroad.
Rheinhessen is a supremely unique expression of German viticulture. Normally when we think of the greatest vineyard sites for riesling, we envision the breathtaking slopes of the Mosel or the hand-worked terraces of the Rheingau but in the best villages of Rheinhessen, the vines grow on gentle slopes with shallow deposits of loess and loam, overlying a bedrock of active limestone—reminiscent of the great terroirs of Burgundy– and is packed with history. In fact, the vineyards surrounding Jochen’s town of Bechtheim are the oldest known sites for growing wine in the Rheinhessen. Historically, these plots of land were reserved exclusively for viticulture. As early as 1780, the Prince of Leiningen issued a decree in Bechtheim that resulted in Germany’s first demarcation of terroirs; this decree threatened to punish anyone who planted grape vines outside of the specifically designated, predestined areas – a ground-breaking step on the path toward modern, high-quality viticulture. Today, this historic soil that is over 230 years old, is used to grow Jochen’s young vines. These sites produce wines of great depth and concentration with scintillating tension amongst fruit, ripe acidity and mineral structure.
Jochen Dreissigacker is a young vigneron, fiercely dedicated to giving voice to some of the most exciting vineyard sites of Rheinhessen, though according to his parents, he was not destined to become a vigneron. Jochen’s older brother was to inherit the family-business while he was encouraged to pursue something that was more “down-to-earth”–what resulted as an education in accounting. Despite his degree, Jochen couldn’t ignore his strong desire to make wine and began apprenticing with various winemakers–most notably of which was the iconic Klaus-Peter Keller. After several years of working alongside Keller, Jochen took the reins at his family estate.
“Luckily, my brother bought a neighboring winery in 2006, so we could both practice the professions we love. Today, both wineries work closely together.”
Jochen continues to focus on enhancing the vitality of his soils using natural methods, limiting yields, harvesting by hand and vinifying with native yeasts; here, he captures the individual mineral character of each of his parcels, revealing wines with power and depth without the weight of high alcohol that many of the region’s more famous wines possess.
Since converting to sustainable farming practices in 2001, the soil has been successfully restored and the estate is now certified Organic. Dreissigacker sows green manure to boost the humus allowing cover crops to loosen the soil with their roots, absorb all superfluous nitrogen and, in conjunction with microorganisms and other soil-dwelling life forms, constantly regulate the nutrient content of the soil. If necessary, weeds are removed mechanically, the area around the vines is hoed and on occasion, if necessary, they add small quantities of organic fertilizer. All of these measures help to create balanced plant growth and strengthen the root systems, encouraging them to penetrate deeper into the mineral-rich layers, absorb additional nutrients and better resist disease. In addition to mindful farming, Jochen tremendously reduces his yields–sometimes as low as 15 hl/ha! At the beginning of summer the crew cuts off at least one third of the grapes on each vine. As a result, the bunches that remain on the vine absorb additional nutrients, light and air, ensuring optimal quality.
Accompanying the importance of soil composition, climate and farming techniques, is the act of picking and pressing the grapes. Jochen and his team handle the grapes very carefully; bruising the skins is avoided to prevent oxidation or premature fermentation, both of which can be detrimental to the quality and result in a loss of flavor. Once the grapes arrive at the winery, most are macerated to extract additional aromas and structure. The fruit is then pressed and left to ferment without any further interference to ensure a natural fermentation process.
“A few years ago, when the time came for me to take over the family winery and realise my own ideas and vision, I made a decision. I wanted to take something good and make it truly excellent, to transform good flavour into an exciting experience, and elevate pleasant wines to an inspiring experience. In all that I did, I worked with the unique mineral composition of our vineyards, the local climate and microclimate and harnessed my deep passion for winemaking. Ecology, sustainability and the respectful use of the existing resources has gradually changed the face of our vineyards. Imagination and pragmatism were my daily helpers in my search for the perfect wine.”
Jochen is at the vanguard of the revolution in quality for the region. We are excited to be working with him and cannot wait to taste the continued fruits of his labor.