Odinstal Germany

Odinstal is the Pfalz outlier, a leading biodynamic winery and grand cru monopole, all nestled in a raised valley that lies on the edge of an extinct volcano. The Pfalz’s most famous vineyards and producers lie in the northern part of the Pfalz, an area called Mittelhaardt; the southern part of the Mittelhaardt is between the towns of Wachenheim in the north and Forst and Deidesheim in the south. Between these towns are where you’ll find the typical well-manicured German vineyards. Instead, a few kilometers west of Wachenheim, Odinstal’s terraced vineyards are found at the end of a dirt road that climbs 350 meters to a 19th century manor house and cellar. They remain rustic in nature. With a view of the upper Rhine plain on the horizon, here is the Pfalz’s highest vineyards.

The winery has passed through a few families over the centuries, but eventually Thomas and Ute Hensel bought the estate in 1998 to make a winery and home there. The first vintage with the Odinstal label was in 2004. Originally, the house belonged to the mayor of Wachenheim, Johann Ludwig Wolf. Being the mayor in the 19th century had its benefits, and Johann was keenly interested in the Odinstal’s special soils for growing his garden vegetables. Ths soils here are unique – quite different from the rest of the Pfalz. During the ancient Paleogene period, rapidly cooling lava pushed the once horizontal soils into vertical soil plots of nearly pure composition: basalt (basalt), sandstone (buntsandstein), limestone (muschelkalk), and keuper (keuper, a special kind of prehistoric-limestone). From the beginning, Thomas wished to highlight these soils and concluded that biodynamic farming could illuminate these differences most clearly. So, in 2004, Thomas brought on Andreas Schumann, the area’s leading biodynamic practitioner, who is still leading the team to this day.

For all the loveliness of the vineyards and old manor house, Odinstal remains a working farm at its heart, with grazing cows providing fertilizer, and all the biodynamic tinctures and preparations grown and prepared on site. The formal yet impromptu tone one finds at the winery also comes through in the wines’ style: buttoned up yet wild. Sulphur in the wines is minimal, with many wines bottled completely without and no wines are either filtered or fined. It’s a long way from the well-known traditional Pfalz estates where high residual sugar, pesticides, and sulphur are the norm. Odinstal’s style is about imprinting the unique and pure soil types on the wines, without having phenolics that overly leap from the glass in a way that would distract from subtle soil-aromatics and texture, (with one exception). Whole cluster use and single soil plot fermentations in various types of vessels, from steel, used wood, and amphora, allows them to experiment and drill down even further on unique soil expression. Don’t be fooled by the rather classical labels - the amount of risk the team at Odinstal has taken in the recent years is nothing short of inspiring.

It would have been easy for Odinstal to have solely identified as a blue-chip producer of wines of purity, and perfectly ripe fruit. Yet, that’s not the style here, and quite frankly that’s also not the spirit found here. It’s a place of vinous risks and rewards, destined to thrill the lucky ones who snag a bottle.

*In 2021, the VDP has granted Odinstal the special designation of Monopole VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru Monopole), and the permission to use the Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) designation for all their Riesling and Weißburgunder bottlings. Beside the monopole vineyards of Odinstal proper, the estate also recently acquired a 15 year lease on the famous Grand Cru vineyard of Kallstadter Saumagen.