Every month, ‘Whose Wine is it Anyway?’ profiles a German winemaker to give you a behind-the-vines look at the world of German wine. This month, we’re highlighting Konrad Salwey, who showcases his creativity through the art of winemaking. Located in Baden, the Salwey Estate’s commitment to innovation rivals its prioritization of simplicity, producing unique, dry wines mostly from Pinot varieties.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Konrad Salwey
Meet Konrad Salwey
Estate: Weingut Salwey
Village: Oberrotweil in the Kaiserstuhl area
Focus: Pinot Noir (39%), Pinot Gris (35%), Pinot Blanc (17%), Chardonnay (8%), Other Varietals (1%)
Located in the Kaiserstuhl area of Baden, the estate sits on top of an extinguished volcano in Germany’s most sun-drenched and southernmost region. While the family’s viticultural roots reach back to the 18th century, the name Salwey didn’t join the family-operated winery until three generations ago.
Heinrich Nepomuk Steiert laid the foundation for the winery as early as the 1920s, joining the Association of German Natural Wine Auctions – the forerunner of today’s VDP. His daughter Anneliese married Benno Salwey in 1940, and together they ran the farm with a mixed focus on agriculture and viticulture. Their son, Wolf-Dietrich Salwey, took over in 1985, converting the family business to focus exclusively on wine and further developing the reputation of the Salwey estate for quality wines. His passion was Pinot Noir, and he was an active supporter of the founding of the VDP Baden, leading Weingut Salwey to become the first Baden member of the VDP.
Wolf-Dietrich’s oldest son, Konrad, trained as a winemaker at other famed German estates, including Hans Wirsching in Franken and Müller-Catoir in the Pfalz. Salwey then wasted no time completing his oenology studies at the acclaimed University of Geisenheim. After spending time in Alsace (Zind-Humbrecht) and Burgundy (Michel Juillot and Perrot-Minot), he then returned to his family’s winery in 2002 to gradually assume ownership of the Salwey Estate, fully taking charge in 2011.
Today, Konrad remains responsible for the strategic direction of the winery, working to maintain the balance of rich tradition and industry-altering innovation. Salwey is best known for experimenting with new techniques and procedures, working to advance the style of vinification. Konrad transitioned the estate to produce only dry wines, and placed greater emphasis on single-site wines. One of his greatest passions is Pinot Gris, a cornerstone of the Salwey estate. A Burgundian specialist, Salwey is considered an industry leader when it comes to Germany’s light, fresh, and low-alcohol Pinot varietal wines.
The Salwey Estate is located in the Kaiserstuhl, a small volcanic mountain range that formed around 13 to 15 million years ago. The eruptions, faults, and folds that occurred millions of years ago give its vineyards a unique topography. The countless varieties of lava, magma, and volcanic rocks create a unique soil mineralization and terroir composition.
Loess, or sand and desert dust, may have been carried by wind from Africa and deposited in the Kaiserstuhl thousands of years ago. This unique, fertile sediment contributes enormously to the region’s rich viticulture, producing soft, supple, and aromatic wines. Together, these factors create an unmistakable minerality and taste to the wines.
In addition, the Salwey vineyards see a Mediterranean climate with substantial rainfall, good winds, and around 1,800 hours of sunshine, which is rare for most German regions. The estate’s top locations for growing are the Kirchberg, Henkenberg, and Eichberg.
Known as the “local mountain,” the Salwey Estate owns 4.5 hectares of vineyards on the Kirchberg. Now containing one of the best-protected nature reserves in the country, the region consists of hard, barren volcanic rock crossed with limestone veins. In the summer, only deeply rooted vines can survive the hot temperatures of the Kirchberg. The estate’s vines are located on steep slopes that receive cool winds from the east, ensuring the grapes are fresh and retain a nice acidity, producing bold, long-lasting wines.
The Henkenberg is easily overlooked due to its moderate slope and inconspicuous location. However, the region’s unique soil cannot be missed, consisting of cooled, weathered lava and limestone veins. Covered by dark volcanic ash, the Henkenberg’s topography produces some of the Salwey Estate’s best Pinot Noir, harvested from old vines.
Vineyards in the Eichberg consist of completely sun-drenched vines, grown in black, volcanic soil. The Salwey Estate’s plots strategically face east in order to protect the grapes from the harsh afternoon heat of the Kaiserstuhl. The Eichberg produces wines with great aging potential, with clear fruit and minerality.
“Our vineyard sites are our greatest constant; I want to do them justice. I don’t want to change much about the varieties; but I can influence the clone selection here and there.”
— Konrad Salwey
The Salwey Estate is committed to the classic varietals of the Kaiserstuhl: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, though they cultivate a number of other varieties. Grapes are always harvested by hand and vinified into dry wines.
The style of the Salwey Estate is consistently clear and straightforward. The differing flavors and styles of Salwey wines depend primarily on the terroir, as Konrad believes in allowing nature the time and space to shape the final product. This includes high farming standards in the vineyards to using natural yeast in the cellar and avoiding fining of the wines and filtration. Konrad is also known as a specialist in selecting the finest wood barrels and barriques, and the Estate produces three levels of wines: Salwey Estate wines, Reserve Salwey “RS”, and “Grosses Gewächs GG.
Salwey Estate wines are classics of the Kaiserstuhl, always dry and of excellent quality. These wines are perfect for day-to-day drinking or for any occasion. Reserve Salwey “RS” are Burgundian varietals from the Oberrotweiler region. The grapes are harvested late from old vines, fermented fully, and aged in large wooden barrels. “RS” wines are made to pour for special moments. The Grosses Gewächs, or GG, wines are certified by the VDP and consist of elegant and dry Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir.
“Our wines should be stimulating. Evenings spent with them should be long, lively and interesting.”
— Konrad Salwey
The Salwey Estate’s dedication to innovation doesn’t stop once the grapes are harvested. In 1997, Wolf-Deitrich created the estate’s pride and joy: the mountain cellar. Located at the Salwey Estate in Oberrotweil, a tunnel around 35 meters long was driven into the side of a mountain to create the perfect aging environment. The cellar creates consistently cool temperatures year round, which is vital to the success of the wines. The cellar also contains a built-in sprinkler system that controls the air’s humidity, benefitting the red wines in particular.