What makes Heidelberger Wein so different?

I grow my wines in the south of Heidelberg, in the middle of the Großlage (collective site) called Mannaberg, on a gentle slope facing southwest. The names of my sites are Heidelberger Burg and Heidelberger Herrenberg. An analysis of the soil which is done every three years shows that it predominantly consists of loess ( a fine- grained accumulation of clay and silt particles that have been deposited by the wind). This analysis is important to ensure that the vines get exactly those fertilizers they need to produce the highest-quality healthy grapes possible. This soil gives my wine its distinctive character.

Three grape varieties are grown in my vineyard: Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Weißer Burgunder (Pinot Blanc). It was the Weißer Burgunder that already won renown for my grandfather years ago. And it is he, too, to whom I owe my passion for winemaking.


My total vineyard area is a little less than one hectare. From this I produce about 5,000 litres of wine, 90 percent of which belong to the classification Kabinett or even to a higher one.
A Kabinett wine is the “most honest“, as the experts say. It usually has less alcohol and for quality wines of this category and upwards the German Wine Law does not allow chaptalization, i.e. enrichment by adding sugar, in case the must weight should ever be unsatisfactory ...

Quality begins in the vineyard, is created in the winery and ends with bottling the wine.
Each of my vines has known me personally since being planted. I visit them several times a year.
A winemaker’s year begins with pruning, which lasts from the late winter months until early spring. Each of my vines is invariably pruned to only one cane, because this is where determining wine quality begins. Then the canes are arched in the middle over a wire, which ensures that the sap of the vine reaches all buds evenly. During the main period of growth well into the summer the new shoots have to be put back into the trellis system again and again so they won’t be torn off by the tractor when I have to drive between rows.
Of course I practise integrated production (similar to sustainable viticulture as practised in the USA). I let the grass grow between the rows and regularly cut and use it as green manure. By this time of the year I have received the results of the soil analysis from the lab and can now start fertilizing properly according to the time of the year and quantity.

“The vineyard wants to see its master every day!“ my grandfather used to say in his days. Thanks to modern viticulture this is no longer necessary. There is no need for the big spraying attack just because a single leaf is affected by disease. I like to treat the vines several times with a milder spray instead of using powerful chemicals a few times only.
If there still are too many grapes on a single vine although each vine has been pruned back to a single cane, the strenuous work of controlling yield by crop thinning begins. Because the maximum yields I am permitted by law are 90 litres per are. This means I simply cut off the grapes I don’t need. Only this way I manage to produce wine of convincing quality.
In fall I decide myself when it is time to pick, because I don’t belong to a co-operative that prescribes the timing of harvest. This is the climax of a winemaker’s year and now the whole family as well as friends and other people I know will help. I usually pick each parcel twice so that I can harvest the grapes according to their individual degree of ripeness. The best point to choose is when there is a harmonious balance of acidity and alcohol.
Of course my grapes are picked by hand. Many tests show that anything but the most careful handling of the fruit will hurt the grapes and wine quality. The grapes are destemmed so the tannins contained in the stems do not get into the must. This is where the state authorities come in again - I have to send a detailed harvest report to the state wine research institute in Freiburg, and at the same time I have to keep a meticulous cellar record with entries for each operation in the cellar so that the official inspector who can inspect the cellar any time without warning is able to check each step in the making of my wine.
I use stainless steel tanks for both fermentation and aging, which allows me to produce 100% varietal wines. There is no light, smell or taste that could influence the fermenting and aging process and no evaporation is possible. But most important of all: these tanks are easy to clean and there is no risk of bacteria.
The same vineyard, the same grapes and still the wine tastes different every year, and this a good thing.
I don’t want my wines to always taste the same. I’m sure our Lord knows what he‘s doing. And if he decides to let it grow that way, I’m not going to meddle in his affairs by using any dubious means or substances. Sulphur, however, I can’t do without. But no more than necessary for preserving the wine. See for yourself and compare the results of analyzing my wines with those of other wines. Know your wine!

Now the winemaker is standing in front of the big barrel addressing his wine:

“Prisoner, do not despair, your liberator has come!“

The moment has come when winter is over and it is getting a little warmer in my vaulted cellar, too, in say late May or early June. Again the whole family is put to work when the wine is bottled. Weeks before bottles were bought and some thought was given to which bottle goes with which wine. Equally important is the quality of the cork: it determines the potential life of the wine. Corks must be branded and marked with the bottler’s numerical code so the origin of the wine can at all times be determined. Know your wine!
After each bottling one sample of each wine is sent to a food analyst who makes an analysis on behalf of the state authorities. The analysis report is then sent together with three sample bottles to the above-mentioned wine institute in Freiburg to apply for the AP number (Amtliche Prüfungsnummer), which appears on the label of every bottle and allows me to offer the wine for sale. At the institute my wine is tested by a panel of expert tasters applying the senses of sight, smell and taste (eye, nose and mouth). Only after passing the test and if it actually meets the criteria for its classification may the wine be sold. The AP number is like a car license number. So you, the consumers, are on the safe side, two of the samples of the wine I submitted to the institute are kept there for years making it possible for you to compare it with the wine you purchased and drank.


While one year’s vintage isn’t even bottled yet, the new season’s pruning work in the vineyard is already done. A winemaker’s year passes so quickly!

What is different about my wines? Everything is in the same hands! You can be sure - you know your wine - that every drop comes from this particular vineyard. You can tell by experiencing that my wine won‘t give you a hangover even if you’ve had a drop too many. Just imagine - the vines of my Weißer Riesling, my rarity, were planted as early as before World War II and as a little boy I helped plant most of my Weißer Burgunder. And everybody knows that the older the vine the smaller the yield but the better the quality.

You ought to savor each single drop and remember:
“Only if you drink it yourself it tastes best.“


Heinz Kaltschmidt








last update: 101003 thx to H. Freese

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