Searching Terroir - The silent star from Rheinhessen

Sieferheim is a sleepy village, located in the vast region known as Rheinhessen, just a few kilometres south of the town of Bad Kreuznach. In the undulating and lovely landscape Daniel Wagner, the silent star of the German wine scene has his winery. “I always loved earth and soil” said Daniel Wagner and laughs likeable and juvenile, when asked why he became a winemaker. However, it took a while until he knew that becoming a winemaker is the right thing to do. His family already owned the winery since the year 1845 but the vineyards were part of a mixed farm. His father produced just bulk-wines, a classical business model for Rheinhessen wineries some decades ago. It was during a school exchange in France where teenager Daniel was bitten by the wine bug. While being fascinated about the wine-culture in “la Douce France” he decided to become a vintner and started his apprenticeship.

He was young when he vinified his first vintage in the year 1992 and full of youthful diligence. After an internship in California he planted in 1995 some Merlot and he was a big fan of all the new cellar techniques that university textbooks offered. Still today he calls himself a “grape variety hoarder”, loving to play around with Silvaner, Pinot Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. He was one of the press-admired “young and wild” who made upfront fruity and crowd-pleasing wines, which mirrors the preoccupation of that time around the millennium. But very soon he became aware about the hidden gems located around the village of Siefersheim. The elevations of Heerkretz or Höllberg, which are visible from afar. Having originated around 250 million years ago, where the magmatic rock formed the mountains like balconies of an antique amphitheatre. Those great but at this time totally unknown terroirs made him curious. He enlarged his ownership in the best and steepest parcels with their stone-rich soils and he took the challenge to define meticulously the taste-profile of those terroirs via the grape variety Riesling. It was Daniel who turned an unknown mixed farm into a widely renowned wine estate, and leading the Höllberg and Heerkretz vineyard sites to supra-regional importance. 

Who goes with Daniel Wagner through those vineyards sees that he knows every vine and that he is connected to the soil. To change towards organic viticulture was an emotional one, he says and you believe him. He liked the idea of growing wines like the great-grandfathers did, but he doesn’t make a big marketing fuzz out of it. Today he is convinced that his wines became more profound and that organic farming is a quality advantage since the soil can cope better with weather extremes. 

In the little cooler climate and with the acidic soil types Porphyr and Melaphyr his wines have a filigree subtlety in their DNA. While talking with him about his wines and tracking his development you see that it was a personal metamorphosis that brought Daniel to that point where he is now: he is one of the best winemakers in the country. He really works hard to become invisible in the taste profile of his great Rieslings. Only focused and independent personalities are able to do this. Which is pleasant in times where so many in the wine world are victims of their own ego. Daniel Wagner has the ability to self-criticism and many failed barrels in the cellar, which made him capable to make those wines, which are much more than just „yummy“. His sovereign and sophisticated qualities taste so humble and quiet as their maker rests in himself. This is the secret of his wines and the reason why those artworks made their route to the wine lists of the world. 

Rheinhessen is the biggest wine-region in Germany and a vast area with a plethora of soil types, climates and grape varieties. Some decades ago the region was known for the production of Liebfraumilch. Famous vineyards around he villages Westhofen, Flörsheim-Dalsheim or Siefersheim were brought just two decades ago onto stage by such pioneers. It was the explanatory spirit of the “young and wild” that made Rheinhessen into one of the most dynamic regions of Germany. The youngsters grew up and today the wind of change and success blows through those hyped wine-villages. Despite all his achievements, Daniel Wagner is a quiet and pleasant modest man. In the loud noise of a fast-moving world, his wines spread peace and joyful serenity, taste sovereign and are in a beneficial way emotional. The taste profile only makes you realise why he is one of the great in the German wine industry. 

His famous vineyards made for great Riesling

Höllberg / Sieferheim

Formed out of volcanic rocks the Höllberg is located north of Siefersheim. It occupies a favoured position, sheltered from the wind, featuring numerous dry-stone walls and parcels of shrubs. The south facing exposition and the stony soil provide year after year full-bodied, powerful, concentrated wines with prominent mineral notes as well as spicy fruity aromas.

Heerkretz / Siefersheim

The name Heerkretz describes a steep volcanic cliff in the south of Siefersheim. The whole site is extremely fissured and gashed, with many deposits of boulders and coarse gravel, dips and exposed sloping sections exposed to cold breezes. These conditions provide the wine with its well-bred, racy character, with subtle complex aromas, refreshing acidity, slightly salty mineral notes as well as concentration and full body.