Mr. Ludwig Balz
his life, his cellar, his passion
"On January 15, 1930, I, Ludwig Balz, came into this world as the second oldest of four sons in Oppenheim on the Rhein [Rheinhessen region]. After school and training, I first worked in my father’s stamp and sign business in the old part of town.
In 1951, I married my wife, Hildegard, from Ingelheim [also on the Rhein, across the river from Oestrich]. From this marriage came three children: Hans-Jürgen, Heidemarie, and Ingrid. In 1954, I started my own business; nowadays called “Ludwig Balz Stamps and Signs Company” in Mainz, which is still run successfully by my son.
As a 40-year-old entrepreneur in 1970, I began to have interest in the growth and production of fine quality wines. My special interest went towards Beeren and Trockenbeerenauslese. By intensive reading of specialized wine books and literature, I began to gather more and more knowledge about German wine production and its history. I am of the opinion that the best wine in the world comes from Germany.
I cultivated many very good contacts with the cellar masters of the various wine-producing regions. The Rheingau is especially renowned for its first class vineyards. Why collect wine rather than drink it? It sounds crazy, but it is precisely the collecting that has so much magical appeal for me. My passion for collecting created, apart from incomprehension, admiration and curiosity. The visits to numerous auctions gave the media an opportunity to take interest in me. Through articles about me in the press and on television, I became known outside my region for my extraordinary collection of rarities. This filled me with pride. It is very important to mention that collecting is not the only important thing. The proper cellaring of these expensive treasures is of enormous importance. In the beginning, I stored the wine in refrigerated compartments in various locations. In 1985, we built a country house in the nearby idyllic Rheinhessen town of Harxheim. A large wine cellar with the essential constant climate control took care of the proper storage of the wines at all times.
Dear Dade, I see in you a worthy and competent successor for this truly special wine collection. I hope it gives you, as well as many other connoisseurs of good wines, much pleasure and fills you with the same pride as it does me. At this time, I would also like to give special thanks to my family, who with much understanding, great patience and strong nerves made this passionate collection possible.
Friendly greetings from Germany,
In the realm of fine and rare wine collecting, the most important and really crucial factor is provenance. Where did it come from? Where has it gone since its initial release? How has it been cellared throughout its existence?
No matter how great a wine may be, unless it is stored very well over time, it will not fulfill one’s expectations when it is finally served. Cork taint is always a risk, regardless of the type of wine, but thankfully, instances of bad corks are much less frequent with older wines from the pre-1980 era.
The wines which comprise this truly astounding collection have been exclusively acquired directly from individual estates, whether it be the greatest of the Rhein and Mosel regions, or the tiny, obscure properties in Baden or Franken.
Ludwig Balz assembled this entire collection meticulously over 30 years, either directly from each winery, or through an auction which offered only wines ex–cellars. Needless to say, ex–cellars is the most optimal condition after original release. Many of these wines have original labels, capsules and corks, while others will have been re–corked and labeled at the time of release for sale, usually via auctions. That, together with Mr. Balz’ fastidious waxing and cataloging process (he actually kept every single invoice for the nearly 2000 bottles in his collection) explains why the provenance of this cellar is absolutely perfect, and unlike any other we have ever encountered.
The Annual German Wine Auctions - your chance to acquire rare treasures offered only at these auctions
The annual German wine auctions are the one time of year when a great many of Germany’s top producers bring their finest cuvees to auction in Trier, Bernkastel, Eltville and Bad Kreuznach over a four day period in September.
It is a golden opportunity for consumers and trade alike to acquire some very rare treasures that are only offered at these annual auctions. However, the format is vastly different from what we Americans think of as public auctions, where we have a paddle with a buyer number and raise it when we intend to bid.
In Germany, tradition dictates that one must be represented by an agent or negotiant (literally—Weinkommissionär) who bids on your behalf. Wines are offered in lots of multiple bottles. Sometimes as many as 1200 and other times as few as one single ultra rare, usually older bottle. The agents essentially stand before the podium with their various commissions to bid from clients with specific limits, and as the price goes up bidders drop out and the quantities are divided up amongst the various agents. If the bidding gets out of hand and the price soars the winemaker, who sits to the right of the auctioneer’s podium, is asked if he can offer a few more bottles or enough to cover the demand in order to keep the price at least fairly reasonable. This sort of heated bidding occurs mostly with the top producers such as J.J. Prüm or Egon Müller, but since everyone in attendance sits at long tables and tastes each lot before it is sold, sometimes even wines from less renowned producers that are showing really well can fetch high prices. It all depends on the individual wines and the vintage.
The general rule of thumb, with a few exceptions, is that wines of the previous year are featured so this year it will be wines of the excellent 2015 harvest, and higher-than-average prices are being anticipated. Once again, it also heavily depends on the quantities offered. Usually, the more wine offered the more reasonable the hammer price because there is enough to satisfy demand, but not always. Take, for example, the 2102 Scharzhofberger Kabinett from Egon Müller, which hammered down at €130. This was higher than most everyone else’s Spätlese and was an all-time record for a Kabinett!
At last year’s Trier auction, the 2003 Scharzhofberger Trockenbeerenauslese, which was offered as the final lot, sold for another record price of €12,000!
But this is the very rarest exception and not the rule. Most prices are quite accessible to the majority of fine wine collectors, but be ready to pay top dollar for the Rieslings from the finest estates that are offered in very limited quantities. You won’t be sorry!