Holger Koch Is Making Us Fall In Love With Baden

Holger Koch is one of Baden's most refined craftsmen in the cellar and vineyard, rivaling the team at Wasenhaus while offering more affordable options.

 If you haven't heard of Germany's Baden region, just across the border from Alsace, you should listen up. The most in-demand wines we offer every year come from Wasenhaus in the same region, and they are proving that Baden is able command prices that rival top-growth Burgundy. Yet while the Wasenhaus team has only a few vintages under their belts, Holger Koch has been at it since 1999. I've been a big fan of his for seven or eight years, I'd guess, and I grew even more enamored with his work after visiting him in 2015. In many ways he is the one who showed the path forward in Baden, and knowing his wines I was able to quickly get on board with Wasenhaus before it was the runaway train it became. Baden's climate today is far closer to what Burgundy was in the 1970s. However, the soils are different, and the wines being produced there are still underappreciated, to large degree.

Holger's latest release to land in New York is at more friendly prices than his or Wasenhaus' top wines, so this is a great chance to get to know the enormous potential in Baden. It also shows a more playful side of Holger, with the release of a zero sulfur version of his Herrenstück Pinot Noir, labeled 'SF' for sulfur-free. It only had about 15ppm of sulfur added before, but he went completely zero this time around. It's slightly wild but majorly delicious and won't be on our shelves for long.

Wasenhaus has successfully tapped into an appreciative audience for wines in this style, but they are almost too successful, since we rarely have enough to go around. Holger is not only able to fill some of this void but supplement it with exceptional wines for under $30, something not in the Wasenhaus lineup. The two wines from Holger's Kaiserstuhl line are extraordinary values, and wines that I want to drink again and again because they are so versatile.

Convincing the American public that you're making compelling German Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc that aspires to Burgundy is not easy. Holger, for his part, has stuck by his guns over the years, regardless of the public's attention. He was on the early side of using organic vitculture and employing an impressive cellar of Stockinger barrels, which complement and help his top wines to last for a decade or more. His approach is very Burgundian, but they are unashamedly from Baden, showing the character of the more volcanic and loess soils.

Holger has once again given us wines that are irresistible in their charms and their accessibility. Though Baden may seem obscure to some, the profile of the wines feels as classic and satiating as my favorite Beaujolais and Burgundy producers, but with less hype and less strain on my wallet. It's really hard not to love Holger and the work he continues to do to elevate the natural gifts that Baden has been hiding for too long.




Image of Holger Koch Weissburgunder Kaiserstuhl 2020
Holger Koch Weissburgunder Kaiserstuhl 2020


Coming from his flatter, lower-elevation vineyards planted on löss soils, this is nevertheless a precise, detailed, exciting expression of Weissburgunder (aka Pinot Blanc). 5% whole cluster, it has a mineral structure and flashy lift that is every bit as crispy and delicious as Chablis. It's consistently one of my favorite Weissburgunders, as it takes a grape that too often makes a flabby wine into a lively, serious affair with spicy herbal notes and an exciting tension between the body and the fresh acidity. Fermented and aged in a mix of stainless steel and 1200L Stockinger barrels.

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Image of Holger Koch
Holger Koch "Kaiserstuhl" Spatburgunder 2020


Holger Koch makes both Pinot Noir and Spätburgunder, and while they are ostensibly the same, the Spätburgunder is made from a parcel of nearly 70 year-old vines planted by his father. Koch relies upon his stellar vineyard work and grape selection to produce this soulful, deeply satisfying Spätburgunder. It is subtle, pretty, dark, and there is ripeness to the fruit but it somehow floats cloud-like on the palate, soothing and cool. Be careful, this wine will spoil you at this price, few others manage to have this much purity and finesse.

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Image of Holger Koch Chardonnay Herrenstuck 2020
Holger Koch Chardonnay Herrenstuck 2020


It is hard not to be enthusiastic about Chardonnay when you find a version like this. Bruised apple and honeysuckle notes are met with zippy acids. Beneath it all is just enough body, with ripe orchard fruit and an engaging salinity. Not too creamy or rich, but not too bright and austere, there are hints of nutty complexity amidst the crispy, playful profile. It almost feels like a combination of Chablis and topped-up Jura Chardonnay, which is pretty high praise.

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Image of Holger Koch Pinot Noir Herrenstuck SF 2020
Holger Koch Pinot Noir Herrenstuck SF 2020


[2 bottles max per customer] As a longtime fan of Holger's wines, I was a little nervous to see what zero sulfur would do to his classic Herrenstück Pinot. Though it may need a little air, the subtle spritz quickly settles down and shows a whimsical side of Holger's more staid vibe. Delicately floral with rosepetals and blueberry skin, this is lighter than many cru Beaujolais but reveals more and more volcanic, savory depth as it opens up. Sour cherry, mandarin orange, lavender, and sumac notes with mineral overtones. The mix of lively, wild edge with umami and ethereal balance is a dynamic and delicious.

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