Premium Wines, German Monarchs, and Vineyard Slopes with an Exotic Micro-Climate

by Manuela Thoma

On the slopes of the historic old Württemberg, surrounded by beautiful vineyards on the outskirts of Stuttgart, lies the home of the Rotenberg and Uhlbach wine producers. The Rotenberg and Uhlbach associations of wine growers brought into existence the Collegium Wirtemberg, a cooperative wine-growers association, in April 2007.
This cooperative received this year’s Gault Millau award as Newcomer of the Year 2014, and was appraised by the editors as „a pleasant surprise“, and „a great performance with expressive white wines and dense reds“.

Not only are the enchanting views of the Neckar Valley, down to Esslingen, Bad Cannstatt and Stuttgart worth a visit for their idyllic wine villages. The impressive-looking local wine presses in Rotenberg and Uhlbach are also real treasure troves to any and all wine lovers. Collegium Wirtemberg offers regional specialty and classic wines that are characterized by a clear structure in aroma and flavor and bring out beautifully the variety of aromas from each different grape, and their salubriousness. In addition, elegant, refined, strong tasting varieties are also on offer, from these selectively harvested grapes from old, crop-reduced vines, to mature, compact and full-bodied wines expressing the characteristics of their regional origins beautifully – location, climate, and soil.

High above stands the chapel grave of Queen Katharina, beyond the vineyards of the Württemberg region that was named by King William II and until 1907 still was called Rotenberg. The grave chapel was built for Katharina Pavlovna (1788-1819) , second wife of William I of Württemberg (1781-1864). William himself is buried here too, as is their daughter, Marie Friederike Charlotte of Württemberg (1816-1887).

The crypt chapel was built after the death of Queen Katharina from 1820 to 1824, following designs of Italian court architect Giovanni Salucci. It is built on the foundations where once stood the former castle Wirtemberg, the house of Württemberg’s ancestral home, just in between the old Rotenberg and Uhlbach wine presses. The historic buildings are premises for tastings and sales, and popular visitor destinations with a rustic flair today. Unique too is the cultural landscape around them. In the warm micro-climate on the steep slopes of the Neckar Valley, the grapes ripen partly on terraces. Even Mediterranean vegetation such as lavender, figs and delicate English rose grow here. The maintenance of these systems is part of the work of the Collegium Wirtemberg, thus ensuring the survival of the wine making tradition. The walk up through the vineyards from the outskirts Untertürkheim up to the Württemberg and then across to Uhlbach is a completely unique experience.

The Collegium Wirtemberg honors its historic location through having the grave chapel as its logo. Two of its best wines from just around the venerable grave chapel are dedicated to King William and Queen Katharina: The dry 2011 Riesling „Katharina“, which received the Artvinum Award 2014, and the 2011 Trollinger „Wilhelm“, which was awarded the third place at the German Red Wine Award 2013 – a breakthrough for the much-underrated red Trollinger wine. A third wine of the so-called „monarchy Troika“ honors the architect of the grave chapel by dedicating him his very own dry red Cuveé „Salucci“ (grapes: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Mitos and Lemberger). Through its dark and soft touches and its international style, it is reminiscent of the full red wines of Italy.

Cellar-master Martin Kurrle achieves such success thanks to the remarkable „Holzfasskeller“, a special cellar located in the so-called „Fleckensteinbruch“, which is naturally conditioned by a granite fountain. Here, 60 large wooden barrels and 370 barrique barrels are stored. From this former stone quarry came the stone blocks that were used to build the vineyard terraces on the steep slopes of the Württemberg. Once more the Collegium Wirtemberg links up wine and culture: the fountain was designed by the artist Siegfried Berger from Rotenberg, whose art can be seen at the Collegium Wirtemberg. At this year’s local trade fair day on April 5th, we got a chance to visit the barrel cellar and the vineyards and to taste the new vintages and the entire range of the Collegium Wirtemberg. It’s a little known and underrated cultural gem full of unforeseen delights and treasures.

Sources: (website checked on 15.05.2014) Checked on 15.05.2014 Checked on 15.05.2014

Image : Wikimedia Commons

Manuela Thoma studied history, comparative literature, and German literature at the University of Tübingen. She is particularly interested in post-medieval European history and is currently writing her doctoral thesis in Tübingen and Oslo. Manuela is a passionate cook and a lover of wine and whiskey. She works part-time in a traditional wine store and accompanies her boss to renowned wine fairs all over Germany.