Holger Koch: Undersung Brilliance In Baden
If the idea of Pinot Noir from Baden seems familiar, it's probably because we have spared few words when announcing the arrival of each vintage of Wasenhaus, who on their third release is fast becoming one of our favorite producers. So we're long overdue on singing the praises of Holger Koch, who began making wines in the same region, with the same approach, almost a generation ahead of Wasenhaus, in 1999.
Why is Holger in the shadow of the younger guard? I really don't know. I've adored his wines for six or seven years, and have been only moderately successful in convincing people that his wines were as exceptional as I believe them to be. Selling German Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc that aspires to Burgundy is not easy. But as Wasenhaus has proved, there is a growing awareness of the great potential in Baden, and a growing demand. Holger, for his part, has stuck by his guns over the years, and still believes in Baden and in his wines, so I think it's nigh time to shout out Holger's wines again.
We just have two of his wines to offer today, a single vineyard Pinot Noir and a deliciously affordable Weissburgunder, but they are a perfect sneak preview of what he's up to. When his full lineup becomes available again, you'll be the first to hear about it. For now, there is enough of the Weissburgunder for everyone, but we have to ask for just 2 bottles each of the Pinot Noir per customer.
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A quick refresher on Baden: right on the border with Alsace, it's the warmest wine region in Germany. Global climate change has shifted Baden's average temperatures to something that resembles Burgundy in the 1970s. In conjunction with climate change, Baden has been successfully moving away from the domination of cooperatives that were largely responsible for the middling quality coming out of the region for most of the 20th century. There are still not a lot, but Holger can now count Enderle & Moll, Wasenhaus, Shelter, and Ziereisen as independent producers who are finally showcasing the enormous riches of Baden.
Holger was certainly on the early side of this movement, 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 style is unashamedly Burgundian, and it really does suit the fruit and the terroir. What I find in them is even more finesse and vivacity, and perhaps a touch more playfulness than in textbook Burgundy, and this is why I always feel his wines starting in my head and moving directly towards my heart in rapid succession. When I visited Holger several years ago, he seemed to me a little technical and stoic at first, earnest and impressively intelligent to be sure, but after a few hours with him one-on-one I also saw how passionate and warm he was. This is exactly how his wines land, too, a mix of raw intellect and passion sublimated to the service of great wine.
Though for now I'm hoping Holger gets the recognition he deserves, I may regret letting this secret out — my guess is we're going to end up running out quickly.
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