The Spa (English for Bad) town of Durkheim, embedded into the foothills of the Palatinate forest, marks the heart of the fertile Middle Haardt region of the Pfalz. The area is especially favored by a warm micro-climate in the broad Rhine valley, protected from cold winds by the bordering Pfalz hillside forests. Countless almond trees can thus flourish between the vineyards, their delicate pink blossom heralding the end of the winter. Now in its eighth generation of ownership and management under Konrad Andamp; Alice Fitz, the Fitz-Ritter family estate dates back to 1785 and was a founding member of the Verband Deutscher Pradikats (VDP).
The VDP is comprised of 200 prestigious estates dedicated to producing only "natural" wines of the highest quality. To this day, the environmentally friendly/protective viticulture practices of the VDP are upheld by all of the members. Today, the interest in sustainable viticulture and organic wine growing only underline that Fitz-Ritter has been on the right path, practicing these methods of wine growing for the past 100 years.
Viticulture at Fitz-Ritter
At Fitz-Ritter estate, there is no use of herbicides, insecticides or industrial nitrogen fertilizer, only organic fertilizers are used. Seeds, stems and skins of our own grapes as well as horse and chicken manure are worked into the soil. There is use of other green fertilizers, such as the planting and mulching of a wide assortment of grasses and clovers between vineyard rows. In winter, every row is planted with these soil enriching plants and, in summer, every other row is mulched, thus introducing nutrients into the soil. There is no use of heavy machinery that compresses the soil in the vineyards. Instead, the vineyards are worked primarily by hand, using extensive canopy management (hand cutting of leaves to leave the grapes exposed to the sun, able to dry more quickly etc.). We maintain rigid yield control through strict pruning of the vines, thus ensuring highest quality, fuller-bodied wines with greater density. The grape yield per hectare at Fitz-Ritter never exceeds 6,500 liters per hectare (695 gallons per acre). The Great Growth wines never exceed 3500 liters per hectare (374 gallons per acre). Fitz-Ritter is a member of the "KUW" (Krontolliert Umweltschonender Weinbau) or "Controlled Environmentally Friendly Viticulture." Every 3-4 years, a detailed soil analysis is taken to maintain and control optimal health standards for the vineyards. Our philosophy is to work our vineyards as gently as possible in order to give them sustainable growth.
The old estate mansion with its courtyard, underground cellars and surrounding garden (rare trees include the oldest and largest Ginkgo Biloba in Germany) provide a suitable birthplace for classic wines. The Abtsfronhof vineyard, formerly belonging to the Abbey, is indeed solely owned by the estate and is situated near the Spa town park and salines. The long period of vegetation and fertile soil in this area enable the grapes to fully ripen, even in lesser years. Yields are kept moderately low at the estate to produce aromatic, full-bodied and well-structured rich wines with good concentration of taste and require less residual sugar to harmonize, thus suitable for producing dry wines. These are ideal conditions for the spicy Gewurztraminer with its delicate rosebud aroma, but also for Riesling, producing wines with less tartness and more body than the comparatively light Mosel Riesling wines.