Interview with Gerhard Gutzler


Father-son duo, Gerhard and Michael Gutzler, are the brains behind Weingut Gutzler which is located in the Wonnegau near the wine-producing community of Gundheim in the hilly southern part of Rheinhessen. The estate has been in family ownership for generations and originally produces various argicultural products including wine.

Gerhard decided to devote his passion exclusively to winemaking after he took over the business from his father in 1985, hence, the business became solely wine-oriented under his leadership, departing from their traditional business. Today, the winery produces approximately 105,000 bottles of wines per year.

Gerhard shares his insights and philosophy about winemaking with Asian Palate.

AP – Asian Palate             GG – Gerhard Gutzler 

AP: You make wonderful Pinot Noirs – tell us about your estate’s history with this red variety.

GG: The type of grape structure in Rheinhessen has changed dramatically in recent years. In the 70s, the old vine varieties were replaced by new ones and the stock of old varieties became smaller. Then in the mid 80´s we started to plant Pinot Noir vines again. We have again reinforced Pinot Noir vines planted in the mid-eighties. We specifically planted this variety in calcareous soils and used different clones. We planted them in a high planting density – 8000 vines / ha.

AP: How do you divide up the work between yourself and your son?

GG: I am 56 years old and Michael is 30 years old. Michael had a good education and is part of the winery for 7 years now. Meanwhile, Michael is responsible for the cellar and the winemaking, but we still work together in the vineyards. And at least every decision concerning the winery is taken by appointment.

AP: What are the key challenges for growing Pinot Noir in Rheinhessen and on your unique soil?

GG: Pinot Noir is always a challenge, whereby the susceptibility for Botrytis is the major one. The wine region of Rheinhessen offers best conditions for growing Pinot Noir. The soils in Rheinhessen are highly calcareous and often not that profound. In order to prevent an early infestation by Botrytis it is important to ventilate the grapes and to ensure that they are not packed too close. The removal of leaves in the grape zone is a must, as the removal of too closely packed grapes.

AP: What is your philosophy and inspiration for producing great Pinot Noir?

GG: For us it is important that our wines carry our signature. Our philosophy is about delicate and a little acid accentuated Pinot Noir wines. To produce wines of this type, the grapes should not be overripe. Overripe grapes lead to sweeping, jammy and quite short-lived wines. Furthermore, the fruity taste of the Pinot Noir is very delicate and sensitive and can be easily destroyed by an excessive use of wood. Pinot Noir doesn´t excuse any mistakes.

AP: What do you think is the potential or future of Pinot Noir in Germany?

GG: The meaning of Pinot Noir picked up pace in all German wine-growing regions in recent years. Today you can find a lot of great pinot noirs from different German regions. But German Pinot Noirs are still not that known, though the best of them are among the best in the world.

AP: What are the best vintages for Pinot Noir in Rheinhessen over the past 10 years and is it the same for other parts of Germany for Pinot Noir?

GG: There might be huge differences between the german wine-growing regions, so a perfect year in Rheinhessen may be rainy and therewith really bad in Baden or the Ahr. Similarly, vice-versa. The best vintages of the last 10 years have been: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2005.

2008 and 2010 were very difficult years in which we had to sort a lot. But every winemaker who has done his work has been rewarded with typical and excellent wines.