GERMANY (Deidesheim) – As few as about ten of his closest occupational and private friends knew. However, as early as over one year ago, there have been rumors that Achim Niederberger, a Palatine businessman, was in bad health. Now it has become painful knowledge. On Thursday, 26 of July, Mr. Niederberger had to say farewell to his family at the age of only 56 years. Mr. Niederberger owned the Winning, Reichsrat von Buhl, and Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan wine estates (all of them situated in Deidesheim), and he was the boss of a successful group of companies.
Anyone who knew him could hardly believe that he wouldn’t live up until old age. He lived a very sporty and disciplined life, has always been normal weighted, moreover, he was a real but disciplined gourmet. Furthermore, he was an excellent planner, even during the hardest times in his life. He got the news of his terminal illness as early as in 2011. So he was able to settle his affairs for the time after his death.
It’s clear that Jana Niederberger (32), his wife – who three years ago gave birth to triplets (two girls, a boy) – will continually run the company with its over 1,500 employees. For her, this doesn’t mean to enter unknown territory; since as long as 2005, she has been involved in the business as an associate – after she graduated from the Hamburg University in Business Administration. It will take some time until further children of Mr. Niederberger’s (twelve year-old female twins) will be ready to succeed.
Achim Niederberger turned in a storybook career as a businessman. In 1978, he started as one-man-business. In the end, his company consisted of a printing and publishing house which produced faceted advertising; and then, there were the wine estates, which used to be part of the Jordan estate, and which Mr. Niederberger purchased specifically in order to reconstitute the historic state.
When he started, he was a “mini vintner”. Besides his mansion in Neustadt/Weinstraße, he owned a one-hectare top vineyard, where Hans-Günter Schwarz (managing director of the Müller-Catoir wine estate, who was a legend during his lifetime already) planted different sorts of red wine in 2002. A few years later, Mr. Niederberger got good estimations at national and international level, even from Robert M. Parker. This vineyard still exists but Mr. Schwarz (73) has left its cultivation to the von Winning wine estate. He is still working as a volunteer consultant of the three wine estates.
“Actually, it was me who really brought him to wine”, Hans-Günter Schwarz remembers. Some years later, Achim Niederberger purchased step by step the three wine estates. With Bassermann, he was lucky because junior boss Gabriele von Bassermann, who had inherited two thirds, was not interested in wine. Here, he found a dream team, led by managing director Günter Hauck and Uli Mell, the responsible cellarer. Mr. Niederberger invested above all in the buildings, thus creating the Ketschauer Hof Hotel including a restaurant and bistro.
For the Dr. Deinhard wine estate, a change of name into von Winning was due. And Stephan Attmann, managing director for several years, was allowed to invest much money in the cellar, with the aim to produce great, independent wines with much profile. Much wood was needed to achieve this, but no intense use of small barriques. In 2012, the Gault Millau guide honored those efforts with the title of “newcomer of the year”. The year before, in a large Riesling competition tendered by the Vinum magazine, the wine estate won the title of “Riesling Champion”.
In the end, Mr. Niederberger arranged the new management of Reichsrat von Buhl wine estate. There, he hasn’t had real access to the management for several years because the estate was leased on a long-term basis (until the end of 2013). Many things will happen at Buhl wine estate; maybe this estate, too, will soon be ripe for the fourth Gault Millau grape, as the other two houses owned by the Niederberger group. Marian Kopp (used to work for Racke) is the new director of the estate; from the beginning of 2014, Richard Grosche, journalist at Meininger publishing house, Neustadt, will work there as deputy managing director. (r.knoll)