Every other month, ‘Whose Wine is it Anyway?’ profiles a German winemaker to give you a behind-the-vines look at the world of German wine. This month, we’re highlighting Friedrich Keller of Weingut Franz Keller! Located in one of the most acclaimed districts of Baden, Friedrich carries on his family’s legacy in winemaking as well as hospitality and international wine trade, overseeing the estate that is best known for invigorating the production of Burgundian varieties in the region.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Friedrich Keller
Born in Lahr in western Baden and raised in Oberbergen in the Kaiserstuhl hills of Baden-Württemberg, Friedrich Keller represents the Franz Keller estate’s fourth generation. The familial history in winemaking strengthened Friedrich’s passion for the art and led him to study International Wine Business in Geisenheim. He went on to work with Weingut Dr. Heger in Baden, Stark-Condé in South Africa, and Domaine Paul Pillot in Burgundy, refining his skills and finding a deeper appreciation for the Burgundian winemaking approach, which he brought back with him to Franz Keller. Friedrich officially joined the family business in 2015 after serving as apprentice to his father, Fritz Keller, since 2010. As the General Manager, Friedrich oversees all winery operations, splitting his time throughout the year between the cellar, vineyards, and office.
Weingut Franz Keller is regarded as a pioneer of the Kaiserstuhl area, helping establish Baden as the premier Pinot region of Germany. Towards the end of the 19th century, Franz Anton Keller I purchased the Schwarzer Adler Inn in Oberbergen and introduced an on-site restaurant with the intent to showcase their easy-drinking wines alongside perfectly paired dishes. Around the year 1900, he was also trading wines between Kaiserstuhl and Alsace (France), establishing the family’s import and export business. Franz Anton Keller II continued the legacy and grew the wine trade arm of the Franz Keller wine dynasty to include Germany’s largest selection of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. These initiatives eventually evolved into crafting high-quality, single-vineyard wines from the family’s small Baden winery, a vision that rings true to Franz Keller wines today.
The Schwarzer Adler restaurant received its first Michelin star in 1969, and Franz Anton Keller II began making waves as a winemaker soon after. He campaigned for yield reduction and promoted barrique aging and fully fermenting dry wines. Keller’s outstanding Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris established a new style for German varieties, earning the estate an international reputation as “the jewel of Kaiserstuhl.”
The family business – including the winery, hotel, restaurants, and wine trade – passed to Fritz Keller in 1990, then to his son Friedrich. The estate joined the VDP in 2014 and continues the quality philosophy under Friedrich’s leadership today.
The Franz Keller estate spans 35 hectares across 9 vineyards in the historic Kaiserstuhl region, each with their own distinct features. The Kaiserstuhl is the warmest winemaking region in Germany and known for its volcanic soils layered with loess that vary from vineyard to vineyard, giving the wines from each site a flavor and character of their own. The steep slopes of the region, paired with the Mediterranean climate and unique soils, provide the optimal growing environment for the Burgundian varieties that Franz Keller specializes in. The Kellers’ terraced, small-lot vineyards are planted with 38% Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), 30% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), 17% Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and 8% Chardonnay.
Grapes are 100% hand harvested, maintaining the viticultural philosophy set forth by Franz Keller, where the focus is placed on nurturing and conserving the historic vineyards and setting forth an environmentally friendly and gentle, yet effective, approach to winemaking. This is accomplished through the practices such as organic fertilization, planting of cover crops, and yield reduction. Since 2021, Franz Keller has been converting to organic and projects their first certified organic harvest in 2024, with biodynamic methods employed in some vineyards.
With the intention of always demonstrating the terroir and origin of each wine, Franz Keller creates expressive Burgundian-style wines with finesse and individual identities that pair wonderfully with food. The Franz Keller trademark is bone-dry, refreshing, and fruit-forward varieties with complex, mineral-driven, and powerful characteristics. With the three floors of the winery built directly into the hills of the vineyard slope, the winemaking process is done through gravity flow. This form of production provides a gentler approach and allows each step of the process to flow from one level of the winery to the next, resulting in a delicate wine free from harsh intervention.
For those new to their wines, Friedrich recommends the vom Löss Pinot Noir “Gutswein”. This particular wine is made of grapes mainly sourced from the Oberbergener Bassgeige, one of the winery’s cooler vineyards with higher elevation, which in turn results in an elegant, approachable wine with a balanced acidity, liveliness, and delicate fruit.
Burgundy is the role model for our wine style. It is simultaneously important to us to preserve our own identity and to emphasize the unique vineyard sites of the Kaiserstuhl.
— Friedrich Keller
A Winery in and of the Hills
The Franz Keller winery built into the sweeping slopes of the terraced vineyard is not only beautiful, but functional. The idea was to accommodate the many facets of the winemaking process under one roof embedded seamlessly into the unique landscape – streamlining the workflow while also representing the relationship of Franz Keller to nature. The architecture embodies the family’s legacy as a whole, with wine production facilities, a cellar, a tasting room, and a restaurant “KellerWirschaft” all housed in the same building.
Since 2013, our winery has been built over three floors into the vineyard slope. This makes gentle wine processing with gravity flow possible. This is fully in line with our credo ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary.
— Friedrich Keller