To make great wine many things are needed: good soil, the right amount of sunshine and rain and – above anything else – a love for winemaking. The Swiss Klettgau region was long overlooked but today has become famous for its Pinot Noir wines. Since 2001, the Rötiberg winery has created wines with character following the idea that only the best grapes are key for outstanding and elegant wines.

The river Rhine has formed the Klettgau region in northern Switzerland since primeval times. Therefore, the vines growing on about 60 hectares around Wilchingen profit from a soil formed by Earth’s history. The Rötiberg vineyard cultivates 32 hectares in this south-facing area, with most of the vines growing on 230 to 250-million-year-old layers of rock. This leaves traces in the wine. But not only the soil structure and the microclimate are responsible for the Rötiberg’s vibrant and fruity wines: the 65 vintners working in the Klettgau region have a close connection to nature, the plants they are growing and the grapes they are harvesting. Among them is the team of the Rötiberg winery.

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“Inventiveness and creativity have always been our key features when it comes to winemaking,” says Rötiberg’s executive Stephan Keller. Stephan Keller and cellarer Sebastian Gerner form the core of a young and motivated team not only searching for new challenges but also new ways to make better and more tasteful wines.

Pinot Noir grapes are the queens among all wine varieties grown in the Klettgau region, even though many other varieties are grown here as well. Pinot noir wines – also known under the German name Blauburgunder – are true divas and need tender care and treatment. But since the way Pinot Noir grapes are pressed and ripened determines the taste, a wide range of flavours can be the result even when different wines are made from the same grapes. From light and fruity to heavy bodied. At the Rötiberg winery grapes for example are pressed the traditional way and the wines ripen and mature in French or American oak barrels.

Wines honouring poetry and the secrets of winemaking

The Rötiberg winery creates some rather special wines. The ‘Dichterwii’ – poet’s wine – in white and red homages the Wilchingen’s poetry tradition. “Maybe it was even the village’s wines that have inspired poets to write in the first place?” says Stephan Keller. Every year Hans Ritzmann, poet, vintner and Wilchingen’s honorary citizen, creates a new poem adorning the Dichterwii bottle labels. Each poem is written honouring the vintages’ individual character. “Our Dichterwii is even served in the famous Enoterra Wine Bar in Sanlitun, Peking.”
Yet this is not the only wine innovation: “Last year we brought a new wine into market that we call Undercover,” says Keller. “Like famous chefs we have our secret recipes when it comes to winemaking.” That is where the name comes from. Undercover is a red cuvee made of grapes from Wilchingen, but the exact composition is – as the name tells – a secret. With velvety tannins and a powerful body, the tobacco aroma is combined with that of vanilla and fruits preserved in rum and sugar. Undercover has a long and seemingly ever-lasting finish. In short, it is a wine to remember.

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International success proves Rötiberg winery’s team right

Rötiberg winery has enjoyed international success. Participating in the AWC Vienna international wine challenge, one of the most sophisticated blind tastings, the Rötiberg wines were awarded five gold medals, two silver medals and a bronze medal. And to crown the success: Rötiberg winery was additionally named ‘Best Swiss Producer of the Year 2015’.
But the Klettgau is not only a wine growing region but also a famous tourist destination. The village Wilchingen, home to the Rötiberg Kellerei, lies north of Zurich and only about 15 minutes away from the famous Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall and one of Switzerland’s main attractions.

Experiencing winemaking directly on site

Whoever visits the region might enjoy a tour through Rötiberg’s wine cellar, either at one of the yearly degustation events, a guided German or English speaking tour, a live concert or during the autumn wine festivals. All wines can be tasted for free during regular opening hours. There are also courses introducing the right way to degust wines or explaining a vintner’s work directly on site. “We want our guests to have fun and try to make possible nearly everything they wish for,” says manager Stephan Keller. So, why not combine a tour through the cellars with a barbecue in the vineyards? Accompanied by tasteful Rötiberg wines of course.

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TEXT: JESSICA HOLZHAUSEN | PHOTOS: ANDRINA WANNER

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