Julia Bertram grew up in a winemaking family in the tiny Ahrweiller village of Dernau. As a child, she never envisioned herself working in the family business as she watched her parents and grandparents burn the midnight oil in both the vines and in the cellar. But when she was old enough to drink wine, toward the end of high school, she became enchanted by the fruit of their vines and the unique flavors expressed by spätburgunder on slate. Inspired, she worked for several years at the iconic Meyer-Näkel estate before enrolling in the viticulture and oenology program at the University at Geisenheim.
The Ahr is one of the most northern wine regions in Germany yet boasts one of the warmest, mediterranean growing climates in the country with over 1500 hours of sunshine a year. The Ahr river flows from west to east and the vines planted on its treacherous slopes are all south and south-west facing; these slopes hold the summer heat and protect the vines from any radical temperature fluctuation. Guarded from extreme weather by the Eifel and Ardennes highlands, the Ahr receives an average of only 615mm of precipitation a year which helps eliminate Bortrytis—what is normally a major struggle for steep vineyards.
The wines of the Ahr are truly unique as it is one of the only regions in the world where you can find Pinot Noir grown on slate soils. The wines have a distinctive ripeness and juicy character, balanced by smoke and mineral cut that is a result of the steep slate terraces.
In 2012, Julia was named German Wine Queen and spent a year representing German wines around the world. Julia began working full time at the family estate in 2014 becoming the 5th generation to do so. At the moment, Julia is making a small amount of wine under her own name with plans to increase her production as she slowly absorbs her family’s domaine.
When Julia began working full time at the family estate, she had strong ideas about improving viticulture. Now, she dedicates herself to focusing only on the best sites, with the oldest vines, and is continually implementing new sustainable practices in the vineyards, undaunted by the challenges of working on the slate terraces. In the cellar, the fruit is handled very gently and the wines are fermented naturally. They are raised in oak barrels of various ages and sizes with the goal of making clear, nuanced wines that articulate their respective terroirs.
“We try to preserve the quality we grow inside the vineyards. So for me, 90% of the quality is growing outside in the steep slopes and our task in the cellar is to help express their elegance and complexity in the best way. By working very gently and without any additions (chemical or otherwise) we give our wines the opportunity to develop themselves.”