Every 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 Joachim Heger of Weingut Dr. Heger. Located in Baden, Weingut Dr. Heger is a third generation winery recognized for redefining the potential of both the region and of Pinot grapes in Germany.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Joachim Heger
Meet Joachim Heger
Estate: Weingut Dr. Heger
Focus: 30% Spätburgunder, 30% Grauburgunder, 15% Weissburgunder, 10% Riesling, 3% Silvaner, 3% Chardonnay, 2% Muskateller, 2% Gewürztraminer, 1% Scheurebe, 4% other
U.S. Importer: Schatzi Wines
The unique story of Weingut Dr. Heger lies right in its name, beginning with Dr. Max Heger, who founded the estate in 1935. Unlike many German wine estates with “Dr.” in the name as a reflection of an advanced degree in agriculture or viticulture, Dr. Max Heger’s title represents his medical profession. He was a country physician in the small wine-growing town of Ihringen, where the majority of his patients were winegrowers themselves. Both his exposure to the beautiful vineyards in Baden and the conversations he had with his patients ignited his interest in making wine himself. Over time he acquired vineyards on famed Achkarrer Schlossberg and Ihringer Winklerberg sites, and Weingut Dr. Heger was born.
Dr. Heger ultimately passed the estate down to his son Wolfgang, known as Mimus, who transformed Weingut Dr. Heger into one of the leading wineries in both Baden and Germany as a whole. But while Mimus’ son Joachim grew up around his family’s winery, he instead wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to pursue a career in medicine. Not long after that – and just like his grandfather – Joachim became deeply inspired by the passion of winemakers that he came across, swapping his medical books for enology at the University of Geisenheim. After all, winemaking was in Joachim’s blood.
Mimus handed the job as cellar master to Joachim in 1981 and full control over the estate in 1992. Joachim has been responsible for Weingut Dr. Heger with his wife Silvia ever since, as well as holding the position of chairman of the Baden regional chapter of the VDP since 2009.
While both of Joachim and Silvia’s daughters, Katharina and Rebecca, pursued wine studies, Rebecca began working both in the winery and hand in hand in the cellar with Joachim in 2020. Together, the family has worked to grow Weingut Dr. Heger into the well-known estate it is today.
The quality of wines from Weingut Dr. Heger can be attributed to its exceptional vineyards, including the VDP Erste Lage Ihringer Winklerberg, one of the most famous and warmest vineyards in Germany. These steep, sun-soaked slopes give the winery’s offerings a striking intensity, and the vineyard site’s unique terroir produces outstanding classic varieties, including Riesling, Silvaner, and Pinot varieties.
The Baden region is known as the land of Spätburgunder, with 33% of the vineyards dedicated to Pinot Noir. Joachim is known as a reformer of the variety with over 40 vintages, striving for the utmost quality and continuing the long tradition of cultivating this most-planted variety in Baden.
Weingut Dr. Heger is made up of around 30 hectares of vines composed of weathered volcanic, loess, and limestone soils. Joachim has a reputation for experimenting with methods to maximize quality and maintain the fragile ecosystem of each vineyard. Since 2007, he has farmed his vineyards without herbicides or pesticides. He tests innovative disease-resistant crossings, organic fertilizers, and other vineyard treatments, and he even plows a small plot of old Silvaner vines by horse.
I strive to interpret tradition as something innovative.
— Joachim Heger
The cellar is the heart of Weingut Dr. Heger’s operation, where Joachim and his daughter produce authentic, dry wines. In fact, 98% of the estate’s wines are dry, with residual sugar usually under four grams per liter. Above all, Joachim prioritizes that each of his wines reflect freshness and the unique expression of their growing site.
Just like in the vineyards, Joachim pays close attention to every detail in the cellar. He carries a strong sense of tradition throughout his winemaking process, fermenting wines in large oak barrels, barriques, and stainless steel, and even spontaneous fermentation (wine made from wild yeast). And when the perfect vintage shows itself, Weingut Dr. Heger produces first-class dessert wines, a rooted tradition in Germany.
From age-worthy Riesling to old-vine Silvaner, Joachim believes that what is grown under his watchful care must be protected and nurtured in the cellar. Of all his estate’s wines, Joachim recommends tasting Riesling from the Ihringer Winklerberg and Achkarrer Schlossberg. No matter the variety, all of Weingut Dr. Heger’s wines express the vineyards’ volcanic soil and minerality.
Weingut vs. Weinhaus
Wondering if Weingut Dr. Heger and Weinhaus Heger are related? Early in the Heger couple’s winemaking journey in 1986, Joachim and Silvia found that wine prices were too low to make a profit, especially with wines from Baden at the time. In response, they founded a second estate, Weinhaus Heger, to accompany their operations at Weingut Dr. Heger.
Today, the Dr. Heger label produces Grosses Gewächs and Erste Lage wines from around 30 hectares of vineyards. At Weinhaus Heger, Joachim sources grapes from both his own vineyards and sites belonging to trusted, long-term contract vintners in the region to produce a range of approachable, youthful wines to complement Weingut Dr. Heger’s line-up.