Company history Kiefer & Sester
The origins of our vine nursery date back to 1937, when Anton Kiefer grafted the first vines for his own use following the devastating phylloxera disaster. The cause was phylloxera, which was introduced to Europe from North America in the 19th century. At that time, European vines were propagated ungrafted, which made them extremely susceptible to root phylloxera. Phylloxera causes serious damage to the root system of European vines and leads to the death of the plants in a very short time. The rapid spread of phylloxera and the initial lack of effective control methods brought European viticulture to the brink of extinction.
The realisation that American wild vines had the necessary natural resistance to phylloxera marked the beginning of the use of these vines as rootstock for grafting. In the first third of the 20th century, Europeans began to combat phylloxera organically by planting grafted vines and Anton Kiefer was one of the pioneers of this revolutionary method.
The passion for viticulture was passed on to the next generation of the Kiefer family. The son of Bottenau mayor and farmer Anton Kiefer and his wife Rosa, Josef Kiefer was born on 26 February 1936. After growing up on the Bottenau farm, he attended the agricultural school and the farmer's school in Tiengen. He then worked on his parents' farm.
In 1965, Josef and his wife Meta, born Schwab, walked down the aisle. He also took over the farm from his parents and gave up cattle farming in favour of fruit growing and viticulture.
In the same year, Josef Kiefer was one of the first in the region to start commercial vine grafting and integrated this as a permanent branch of the existing wine and fruit growing enterprise. He recognised the market for grafted vines in the Ortenau region of Baden, a wine-growing region with a long tradition and numerous awards. In the first year, 15,000 grafted vines were grafted by hand using tongue pruning.
In addition to the grafted vines, Josef Kiefer and his wife produced strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants. Forestry was also practised on the farm. The fruit crops and vine nursery were cultivated by very arduous manual labour on steep slopes in Bottenau. The picture shows our farm in 1971.
Within a few years, the vine grafting company made a name for itself both regionally and internationally by selling grafted vines to protect against phylloxera. In 1985, Josef Kiefer decided to expand vine grafting and strawberry cultivation. As a result, the vine nursery and strawberry areas were moved to flat fields (Eichmatt in Oberkirch-Nussbach) and the steep slopes were planted with vines and rootstock parent gardens.
To secure the future and succession of the business, the Kiefers brought Ralf Sester, a trained master fruit grower, into the company in 1997. Together they founded Kiefer & Sester GbR, which Ralf's wife Simone Sester joined two years later. The company was run jointly by the Kiefer and Sester families for ten years.
In 2007, Josef and Meta Kiefer stepped down from their responsibilities for reasons of age. The continuation of Kiefer & Sester GbR was thus placed in the hands of Ralf and Simone Sester.
Ralf and Simone Sester made the ground-breaking decision to completely restructure the company site in order to make the company fit for the future. In the middle of day-to-day business, the old company building was completely demolished and then completely rebuilt. This posed a huge challenge, as there were no cold stores or shelters for equipment and machinery available during this phase. Despite these adversities, the new company building was successfully constructed, creating the basis for a modern and more efficient operating structure. The first construction phase comprised the building of a warehouse with cold storage rooms, a work hall for the crafting work, an office and a private flat.
In 2012, we carried out our first major levelling in our own vineyard in collaboration with Schwörer Erd- und Wegebau. This involved moving large amounts of earth and filling in depressions to simplify cultivation and ensure efficient access for viticultural machinery.
In 2016, we carried out our second major levelling in another vineyard in collaboration with Schwörer Erd- und Wegebau. This involved moving large amounts of earth and filling in depressions to simplify cultivation and ensure efficient access for viticultural machinery.
In 2017, we acquired our own planting machine and launched our planting service in collaboration with Sascha Pfaff. Our primary goal is to make it easier for our customers to plant vines and provide them with the best possible support. In 2020, we took over the planting machine from Maschinenring Ortenau, which significantly increased our clout. This means we are particularly well equipped to carry out planting work extremely efficiently and meet the needs of our customers.
Due to the strong growth of our company in previous years, we reached the limits of our capacity, which restricted the further development of the business. At the same time, good accommodation and catering for our employees is very important to us. For this reason, we made a conscious decision in 2017 to tackle a second construction phase.
This investment included the construction of two floors of staff accommodation, which offer spacious, bright and well-equipped shared rooms, modern sanitary facilities and a spacious common room with a kitchen. A machine hall with workshop, a small distillery and a new woodchip heating system, which heats the entire business with wood from our own forest, were built on the ground floor.
In 2021, we launched our "Wellness for your plants" service in collaboration with GeleeVital® from Ehrenkirchen. With the help of GeleeVital®'s innovative soil additive mixtures, various problems in viticulture are solved in a single operation. The focus is on improving the water retention capacity, adjusting the pH value and enriching the soil with essential micronutrients. The result is an all-round healthier soil, which has an impact on the vitality of the plantation.
In 2022, Kiefer & Sester Reben GbR was dissolved and Kiefer & Sester GmbH was founded at the same time. We look forward to continuing our company history. To be continued...