Pioneers of natural wine

The Rebholz family in Siebeldingen has been growing wine since 1632, although various members of the family were once brewers or shultheists, but there was always at least one winemaker in the family.

For more than 100 years the Rebholz family has been living in the manor house, which was built in the 16th century. The family began bottling bottled wine after the end of the Second World War. As it was common practice at that time, they had previously supplied the catering trade by shipping their own barrels.

The idea of the «Rebholz type» came to life in the mind of the trained forester Eduard Rebholz (1889-1966), who took over his parents' viticulture after the war and, as an «Oekonomierat», was to make a great deal of publicity. He took offence at the taste of wine of those years. He countered the completely denatured, artificially sweetened wines of his time with his idea of «natural wine».


Throughout his life as a winemaker, the natural scientist experimented and tasted with his son Hans to get to the bottom of the true nature of wines. Without exception, everything was put to the test: the climate had to be better assessed, the soils had to be researched and the ideal plant partners had to be found, the right harvesting period had to be redefined and the common method of vinification had to be replaced by a separate, strict set of rules. And last but not least, scientific findings and the practical experience of winegrowers from other regions had to be included in the own considerations.

His thoughts, which are still relevant today, are documented by some excerpts from the «historical» newsletters

1950: »So sind die oben genannten Weine reif, rein und sauber. Es sind Weine von denen das zweite und dritte Glas besser schmeckt als das erste – nicht umgekehrt!« ( «Thus the above mentioned wines are ripe, pure and clean. They are wines of which the second and third glass tastes better than the first - not the other way round!»)

Eduard Rebholz described his idea of natural wine in June 1951, when he wanted to inform his customers about what makes Rebholz wine so different, so special, in addition to the current range of wines:
»Sie bekommen aus meinem Keller stets nur Naturweine, die das Ergebnis mühe- und liebevoller Pflege der Reben und ebensolcher Kellerwirtschaft sind (keine Zuckerung, kein künstliches Süßhalten oder ähnliche grundsätzliche Strukturveränderungen, die dem Wein den ursprünglichen Charakter nehmen und ihn in meinen Augen nicht mehr als Naturprodukt erscheinen lassen).« («You will only ever get natural wines from my cellar that are the result of the painstaking and loving care of the vines and the cellar management (no sugaring, no artificial sweetening or similar fundamental structural changes that take away the original character of the wine and make it no longer appear to me as a natural product)»).

Eduard Rebholz promoted his wine philosophy in numerous letters to customers. Today they read like a little winegrowing story:
»Wir meinen, daß schon draußen im Weinberg die Qualität des späteren Weines weitgehend bestimmt werden muß. Was dort unwissentlich oder absichtlich versäumt wurde, kann auch durch die raffinierteste Kellerwirtschaft nur mangelhaft ausgeglichen werden. Daher ist Rebholz-Wein das Kind eines Weinbaues, der mit allen Mitteln der Natur die höchste Reife der Trauben zu erreichen sucht, und einer Kellerwirtschaft, die dem Wein in keiner Weise Gewalt antut. Wir verzichten nämlich nicht nur auf die gesetzlich zulässige Weinverbesserung mittels Zucker oder Zuckerwasserzusatz... sondern wir lehnen auch vor allem strikt jene gesetzliche zulässigen ›modernen Methoden‹ der Weinbehandlung ab (Abstoppen der Gärung, Zusatz von Süßwein oder Traubensaft u.dgl.m.), die alle nur einem Ziel dienen: der Süße; der Süße, die den Wein beherrschen und wertvoller erscheinen lassen soll.«
(«"We believe that already out in the vineyard the quality of the later wine must be largely determined. What has been missed there unknowingly or intentionally can only be compensated insufficiently even by the most refined cellar management. That is why Rebholz wine is the child of a viticulture that tries to achieve the highest maturity of the grapes by all means of nature and of a cellar economy that does not in any way violate the wine. Not only do we refrain from the legally permitted wine improvement by means of sugar or added sugar water... but above all we strictly reject those legally permitted 'modern methods' of wine treatment (stopping fermentation, adding sweet wine or grape juice, etc.), which all serve one purpose: sweetness, the sweetness that should dominate the wine and make it appear more valuable.»)

For Hans Rebholz (1920-1978), son of the Economist, the path was mapped out when he returned from being a prisoner of war in 1949. After a quickly completed apprenticeship, he managed the winery together with his father for many years, which he took over sole responsibility after his father's death. He consistently implemented the idea of the fully fermented – even light – wine and thus, as one of the few respected winegrowers in Germany, defied the all-dominant trend of wines sweetened with sweet reserve and sugared in alcohol content. In the mid 70s he experienced the renaissance of dry German wines.

After the premature death of Hans Rebholz in 1978, his wife Christine continued to run the estate in his spirit, supported by her son Hansjörg, who was still young at the beginning.

Since the mid-1990s, the fate of the estate has been in the hands of Hansjörg Rebholz and his wife Birgit, who have not deviated one bit from the principles that have proven themselves with father and grandfather. Nevertheless, there have been important changes and innovations since then, such as the expansion of the farm and the winery buildings, the cooperation with the 5 friends, the collaboration in the VDP or, since 2005, the consistent conversion to organic viticulture. The quality policy and the production of wines full of character have proven themselves and are acknowledged, for example in the wine guide Gault-Millau by the appointment of Hansjörg Rebholz as «Winemaker of the Year» in 2002 or in the magazine Falstaff where he also became «Winemaker of the Year» in 2013.