A visit to Karl H. Johner in the Kaiserstuhl

Last week we spent a couple of days just outside Basel, close to the triangular borders of France, Switzerland and Germany. The weather was glorious so we decided to visit the wine region of Kaiserstuhl, an hour’s drive to the north, in Baden-Württemberg.

Kaiserstuhl, Baden

Kaiserstuhl, Baden opposite Colmar, Alsace ©winesofgermany

We planned a walk up through the vineyards before lunch, and made a last-minute arrangement for an afternoon visit to a winery run by an old friend.

The walking map provided by the local tourist board was excellent as were the many signposts all along the way up to a stunning viewpoint. Click on the photos below to see the terraced vineyards.

Welcome to the Johner Estate, Bischoffingen, Baden

Later than planned, after a relaxing lunch on the downward trail at Rasthaus Lenzenberg, we made our way to Weingut Karl H. Johner in the village of Bischoffingen, near Vogtsburg. Wink had visited here about 15 years ago with a group of Master of Wine students – and she was remembered!

Patrick with a handful of vinous joy!

It was my first visit to the region and the winery, although I had met Patrick Johner, social media man extraordinaire, on a number of occasions. So it was good to see him at home, meet his parents, unexpectedly over from New Zealand, and to taste some wines.

After working ten years at Lamberhust Vineyards in England, in 1985 Karl Heinz Johner and his wife Irene established a little Weingut (wine estate) in their home village Bischoffingen. Later, once Patrick was able to run things in Germany, they established an outpost near Martinborough, New Zealand.


Oak barrels in the Johner cellar



Controversially, from the beginning they started ageing their wines in oak barrels, the “focus being on the Burgundian styles – wines full of structure and pure elegance”. Originally contrary to the German quality wine laws, meaning they had to label the wines as ‘Table Wines’, the practice was eventually accepted.




The Johners have about 17 hectares of vineyards in Bischoffingen and surrounding areas, starting with just three varieties, now planted with eight white and ten red grape varieties! The latter include experimental varieties, being tested to suit their rather variable climate.

Inevitably, then, the tasting that Patrick organised for us was fascinating, with wines not only from Baden but also from their winery in New Zealand, Johner Estate.

Here are my notes of a few of the wines:

Sauvignon Blanc, Karl Johner, Baden 2011
Pale gold. Grassy gooseberry. Dry crisp ripe fruit, lemony, so bright. Gooseberry preserve on granary toast.

Gladstone Sauvignon Blanc, Johner Estate, New Zealand 2011
Light gold. Deep gooseberry fruit. 6 months lees contact adds a depth to the structure and a dimension to the acidity and fruit. Punchy mouthfeel.

Rivaner, Karl Johner, Baden 2011
Müller-Thurgau. Pale greeny gold. Peachy, apricot, touch floral. Dry, warm, spicy aromas, very ripe, powerful  – in fact too much alcohol.

Weisser Burgunder and Chardonnay, Karl Johner, Baden 2011
2/3 Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc), 1/3 Chardonnay. Mid gold. Lots of ripe peach with hints of oak. Dry rich notes with a touch of toast. Sappy acidity, big mouthful.

Grauer Burgunder, Karl Johner, Baden 2011
Pinot Gris. Greeny gold. Apples, cinnamon, lemon curd. Dry, spicy, plump acidity, a big fruity treat. 

A trio of 2009 delights – SJ is their special selection

Chardonnay SJ, Karl Johner, Baden 2009
Oaky spicy deep peach and apricot fruit. Dry, rich, full.

Weisser Burgunder SJ, Karl Johner, Baden 2009
Greeny gold. Rich warm spicy yellow fruit. Greengages. Dry good acidity rich juicy crunchy fruit. Long.

Grauer Burgunder SJ, Karl Johner, Baden 2009
Lots of spices and herbs as well as fruit. Dry, aromatic, rich, herby. Big.
On to the reds:

Blauer Spätburgunder, Karl Johner, Baden 2009
Blauer Spätburgunder is the German for Pinot Noir. Light ruby. Big jammy blackberries with a touch of oak. Dry, ripe tannins. Lots of black fruits with great depth. Shiny!

Gladstone Reserve Pinot Noir, Johner Estate, New Zealand 2009
Cooked plums and apples with a touch of spice. Dry big zonker!

Blauer Spätburgunder SJ, Karl Johner, Baden 2009
Mid ruby. Animal farmy and blackberries. Dry, big tannins, intense rich fruit and oaky tannins, stony minerality, big.

Cabernet & Merlot Lyndor, Johner Estate, Wairarapa, New Zealand 2009Mid ruby. Concentrated mint and blackcurrant. Dry, lovely, rich flavourful. Gobs of rich, well structured red fruits.

Syrah, Johner Estate, Gladstone, New Zealand 2010
Minty peppery perfumed rich fruit. Dry, fine long redcurrant and black pepper fruit. Robust finish.

It was a very interesting tasting and I understood all the more about the style and quality of the Johner wines made in Baden and in New Zealand.

Their UK importer is Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies who will tell you who stocks Johner wines.

Raise a glass to the Johner Estate!

This visit was a perfect ending to our day in the Kaiserstuhl, Baden – thank you!

Do let me know what you think!