February 2, 2024|In Winery Spotlight

Johner Estate Presents 'Lime Hill'

Nurturing the Wairarapa whenua with German precision and vision

Karl Johner with son Patrick

Johner Estate (pronounced, ‘Yo-ner’) has been a staple in the D&N portfolio for years – we’ve been lapping up their Pinot, Riesling & Chardonnay vintage after vintage and it’s on many a wine list around the country for good reason! So when they offered us an allocation of their premium range of ‘Lime Hill’ Wines, we jumped at the opportunity…

Lime Hill

The year is 2013, skinny jeans are peak fashion, the iPhone 5S has just been announced and Karl Johner and his winemaker, Raphael Burki have just planted chardonnay and pinot noir on a special plot in the Wairarapa.

On a hillside a few kilometres north east of their Estate vineyard in Gladstone, 200-280m above sea-level, they secured a plot just over 1ha. Even Bob Campbell MW had a wee tour of it,

“The aspect was great, the soils even greater – a thin layer of clay over limestone-rich sub-soils. Karl was clearly very excited about the potential…”

The winemaking is done in the most gentle way to guarantee a natural product where all the excellence of the terroir comes into its own. These wines are exceptional and made in a traditional Burgundian manner in the winery.

With 0.9ha planted with pinot and 0.3 ha planted in Chardonnay, farmed organically – the production is extremely limited and very premium.

I have now tasted Lime Hill Chardonnay from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 vintages, which averaged 95 points… I have only tasted one more vintage of Lime Hill Pinot Noir which earned 95 points… I recommend stocking up on both wines. Quantities are small and the future is very bright.
– Bob Campbell

The Johner Estate:

Karl Johner learned his art at Geisenheim Wine Institute in Germany’s Reingau region. After which he moved to England and became involved in the early days of the English wine scene. Seeing the wine world through the eyes of English collectors, he realised the untapped potential of grape varieties from his hometown in Germany – the seeds for Karl’s vision were germinating.

In 1985, Karl, with his wife Irene and their children in tow, returned to the Baden area and their hometown of Bischoffingen on the Alsace border, to establish a small winery – Weingut Karl Heinz Johner. This was an 18-hectare estate on the western side of the Kaiserstuhl.

With Karl’s obsession for fine Pinot Noir, his conviction in the capacity of his terroir, and not to mention his inventive almost rebellious belief in doing things differently, he unwittingly attracted some controversy from both winemakers and authorities alike. Eschewing the usual German wine classification, he used oak barrels for his wines, experimenting with must concentration and some other ‘off-piste’ techniques. Consequently, the Johner family became instrumental in transforming the previously simple red wines of their province, into much more complex, rich, and modern expressions. Despite the initial opposition, the young winery established itself as a pioneer of a new German wine style, with an international reputation. In fact, Weingut H. Johner were amongst the first vintners in the region to adapt a quality regime and focus on great Burgundian styled wines.

By the mid 1990’s Weingut Karl Heinz Johner was enjoying critical acclaim. With son Patrick Johner following his father’s footsteps, the family decided to look at new wine regions further afield. The father and son team travelled to Australia and New Zealand. They fell in love with NZ, the cool but dry climate and of course, the wine produced – especially Pinot Noir from the Wairarapa region. Now their vision was to create refined, elegant Pinot Noir in New Zealand.


“Their approach to wine is international rather than dedicated to one or the other. The style of the wines is more in the elegant expression, capturing the bright fruit expression that New Zealand is renowned for, but sufficiently restrained to enable accompaniment with food.” – Raymond Chan Wine Reviews

The Johner Philosophy:

At Johner they believe in the ‘circle of life’ and in ‘open soil’ viticulture. Adopting European philosophies to the vineyard, coupled with organic and biodynamic practices, Johner Estate has earned a reputation for clean fruit vibrancy, integrated by savoury notes and a minerality that gives backbone, structure, and length of flavour to the palate.

In the vineyards at Johner Estate, the most ecologically sound methods are adhered to, and all wine making practices are hands-on. Johner Estate is also completely self-sufficient. From growing through to the vinification, bottling, labelling, and selling, every process is overseen by the people at the winery and vineyard. At Johner Estate they pride themselves on knowing every single part of the journey that their wines take from the soil to your glass.

In 2010, an important addition to the Johner winemaking team was Swiss winemaker Raphael Burki. He had studied oenology at the same University of Geisenheim as Karl had. Raphael works with a boutique winery, Weinbau Ottiger in Lucerne, Switzerland. Also famed for producing premium and highly sought-after Pinot Noir. Appropriately, his experience and philosophy are in harmony with the Johner family’s too.


“Our wines reflect a more European style, with many layers of fruit, great depth, and a complex structure that lingers on and on’’. – Karl Johner, owner/winemaker

Johner Estate Lime Hill Vineyard 2022 Chardonnay

100% hand-picked, whole bunch pressed with fermentation in 500L French oak barrels for 12 months.

Light and bright yellow. Tangy, vibrant Chardonnay with pronounced saline. Lime Hill Chardonnay is an outstanding New Zealand Chardonnay. It’s production is tiny but its fleshy, full body and creamy style more than make up for that. Oyster shell characters. Satisfyingly dry and concentrated wine with fruity acidity helping to drive a lengthy finish. Youthful wine with a promising future.

The very good balance and the high extract allow this wine to develop further over the next 2 to 4 years, to further integrate the acidity and secondary aromas and to gain complexity to be aged for another 4 years.

Johner Estate Lime Hill Vineyard 2019 Pinot Noir

100% hand-picked, maceration and fermentation on skins for 3 weeks with 20% whole bunch. Maturation on fine lees in French oak barrels (20% new) for 12 months. This wine has been bottled without any filtration or fining process.

Medium red with a garnet core. A nose of dark red, ripe berry fruit medley, with the barest hint of French Oak vanilla bean. The mouthfeel has the perfect juxtaposition of rich intense mid-palate and salivating acidity and tannin.

Incredible value and the potential of cellaring for another 8 years.