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 Konrad Buddrus & Eva-Maria Wehner of Konni & Evi. Located in Saale-Unstrut, Konni & Evi are redefining the region’s history by producing top-notch organic and biodynamic wines.
Whose *Wine* is it Anyway? Meet Konni & Evi
Meet Konni & Evi
Estate: Konni & Evi
Focus: 70% Silvaner and 30% Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Spätburgunder, Weissburgunder, and Portugieser
U.S. Importer: Vom Boden
While Saale-Unstrut may sound unfamiliar to some, it’s home to centuries of German winemaking history and dedicated vintners. Vines have been cultivated in this most northerly wine region since AD 998, typically with low yields due to tough growing conditions and conflict in the 20th century.
Following WWII, Saale-Unstrut and neighboring Sachsen became part of East Germany with its own government influenced by the former Soviet Union. With this shift of power came a change in winemaking: nearly all of the region’s vineyards were consolidated into large, state-run cooperatives. Quality winemaking was hard to find during these times, and old vines suffered without the attention that such a northern wine region needs. Even after the nation of Germany reunited in 1990, Saale-Unstrut’s winemaking history was largely undocumented and most wines produced were consumed locally.
Then, in the 21st century, came Konni and Evi, local heroes in the return to quality wine from Saale-Unstrut. Konrad Buddrus, or Konni for short, was born and raised in Saale-Unstrut in Burgscheidungen, where he worked in a small winery to earn pocket money at the age of 12. Winemaking quickly became Konni’s life, from training in cooperatives in Saale-Unstrut to working internationally in New Zealand and Austria. He went on to study viticulture and enology near Würzburg, where he met his life (and vineyard) companion, Eva-Maria.
Evi was born in the Rhön mountains, where she grew up pursuing a career in education, ultimately teaching in Würzburg where she met Konni. Despite having no background in wine, Evi followed Konni north to Saale-Unstrut, where the couple purchased a small vineyard parcel that was not even one-third of a hectare. From there, the Konni & Evi brand was created in 2016. The couple has continued to work together to make spectacular Saale-Unstrut wines, and both Konni and Evi are involved in every part of the winemaking process, from vineyard to bottle.
Quality has always been Konni and Evi’s main priority in the vineyards. In fact, they first started harvesting from a parcel of old vines, planted over 20 years before East Germany even existed. Preserving Saale-Unstrut’s winemaking history by way of old vines was extremely important for the couple. Over the past five years, Konni and Evi have acquired 18 more old-vine parcels, which total only less than four hectares overall.
These vineyard sites are scattered over a 25-kilometer radius around Saale-Unstrut, and each parcel was converted to organic farming once purchased by Konni and Evi. Each plot is fertilized biodynamically using dung sprayed with horn silica, and vines are placed under nets to protect against birds.
The majority of Konni and Evi’s vineyards are planted in steep or terraced areas, resulting in time-intensive hand work every harvest season. These difficult landscapes, combined with short growing seasons and harsh winters, result in low yields with the highest focus on quality grapes. It’s clear that Konni wouldn’t have it any other way. When selecting fruit off the vine, he relies solely on taste instead of must measurement, yet another testament to the brand’s natural, detailed winemaking.
If a dry vineyard doesn’t grow, then it shouldn’t grow.
— Konni Buddress
Once the grapes are picked by hand, Konni and Evi process their harvest using a simple basket press, which takes as long as 20 to 24 hours for each batch. Juices are then transferred to dense oak barrels made with wood from the Harz forest, located about an hour north of their vineyards. In some of the brand’s best years, around 12,000 bottles are produced.
The Silvaner variety accounts for around 70 percent of the Konni & Evi portfolio, which along with Müller-Thurgau, is common for most wineries in Saale-Unstrut. Konni and Evi produce cutting, acid-driven wines with a complexity and finesse that is largely unheard of in the region. The couple’s wines are bone-dry and low in alcohol, mostly between 10 and 11 percent. From Portugieser to Riesling to Weissburgunder, all of Konni and Evi’s offerings showcase Saale-Unstrut’s limestone soil and uniquely cool climate.
Aside from hard work and hands-on, detail-oriented methods, a common theme throughout Konni and Evi’s operation is the schoolhouse. While Evi left her home in Würzburg to pursue winemaking with her partner, she never lost her love for teaching. Today, along with raising two kids, Evi continues to work as a school teacher full-time, running the Konni & Evi brand during late nights and weekends.
Ironically, Konni and Evi produce their wines in an old schoolhouse turned cellar, once the most impressive building in the area. The old cafeteria functions as a storage room for freshly labeled bottles, while the seating area functions as a wine cellar. Just like the Konni & Evi brand, the old schoolhouse tells a tale of Saale-Unstrut’s past while creating revival in quality wine from the region.