Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Germany’s Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Vintage 2013 White Wines and Vintage 2012 Red Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany

Photo:  Germany’s Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Vintage 2013 White Wines and Vintage 2012 Red Wines Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany (Photo: Weinkaiser)

Germany’s VDP.Grosse Gewaechs – Grand Cru - vintage 2013 white wines and vintage 2012 red wines were released on September 1, 2014. These are the ultra-premium dry wines from the very best vineyard sites made by some of the best producers in Germany.

At this annual occasion, a number of presentations by the VDP – the association of German elite winemakers - take place in Germany, including one in Berlin during the first days of September and one later in the month in Frankfurt am Main.

Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden

One presentation that clearly stands out is the pre-release tasting for a group of about 120 wine journalists, bloggers, sommeliers, retailers, importers, etc from all over the world, but mainly from Germany, in the old Kurhaus in the stately German spa town of Wiesbaden, which is 45 minutes’ drive from Frankfurt. It is a seated, very well organized tasting where you have the chance to go through the VDP Grosses Gewaechs wines during 2 days. The invitations for this event are highly sought after. This year, I was happy to get again invited by the VDP and to participate in the event. Others I saw at the event were US wine importer Rudi Wiest, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland editor Joel B. Payne, winemaker, blogger and internet-TV star Dirk Wuertz and Riesling guru and wine journalist Stuart Pigott, Master of Wine Caro Maurer from Germany, new Robert Parker team member Stephan Reinhardt, who has replaced David Schildknecht.

Pictures: Prominent Wine Journalists in the First Rows: Stuart Pigott, Joel Payne, Caro Maurer, Stephan Reinhardt

398 wines were poured, down from 420 Grosse Gewächse wines last year.

See here for last year's tasting:
Germany’s 2013 Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2012 VDP.Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2011 VDP Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Grosses Gewaechs

What is a VDP.Grosses Gewaechs? There is still a bit of confusion out there, as (1) Grosses Gewaechs is a term that was created by the VDP only a few years ago and (2) the VDP has establsied a new classification for German wines that differs radically from the German standard classification (and is still in the process of refining and implementing it). The latest revisions were those that came into effect with the vintage 2012.

Grosses Gewaechs and the New German Wine Classification

Although many people think that there is only one wine classification system in Germany – the classification system of the Law of 1971 – this is not correct. True, the classification system of the Law of 1971 is the standard classification system in Germany and the vast majority of winemakers in Germany use this approach. A large number of winemakers, however, have moved away from the standard, in particular the VDP producers.

In a nutshell, the VDP is moving to a classification system that resembles very much the classification system in the Bourgogne. The classification of the VDP puts the terroir principle at the center of its classification approach.

Photos: Tasters from the US - Rudi Wiest, Justin Christoph and Christian G.E. Schiller

With the latest modifications of 2012, the absolutely finest vineyards are called Grosse Lage (for the 2011 vintage still called Erste Lage) and dry wines from these super top vineyards are called Grosses Gewaechs. Grosses Gewächs wines are the finest dry wines from Germany’s finest vineyards.

To qualify for the Grosses Gewaechs label, a number of criteria need to be respected. (i) The fruit has to come from a Grosse Lage (for the 2011 vintage still called Erste Lage) vineyard. (ii) At harvest, the grapes need to be at least at Spaetlese level in terms of the sugar content. (iii) Only certain – typical - grape varieties are allowed, including Riesling and Spaetburgunder. Riesling is the only varietal allowed for Grosse Lage wines in the Mosel, Nahe, and Mittelrhein, but grapes like Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir), Lemberger, Fruehburgunder, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Gewuerztraminer, and Silvaner are included in other regions. (iv) Further restrictions apply: there are yield restrictions; only hand picking of grapes is permitted and harvest must be late in the autumn.

See also:
Steffen Christmann (Weingut A. Christmann) and Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) Presented the New Wine Classification of the VDP, Germany

The VDP

The VDP is the world’s oldest association of wine estates in the world. In fact, it is the only one of its kind worldwide. No other country has a national organization of the top wine makers of the entire country.

Photo: Evening Event with the VDP Board of Directors, including Steffen Christmann, Phillip Wittmann, Armin Diel, Hansjörg Rebholz and Gerhard Aldinger

Throughout the past century, the quality-driven goals and strict standards of the VDP have played no small part in shaping the viticultural and winemaking practices in Germany. With their stringent statutes and their establishment of a German vineyard classification, the 200 members of the VDP have served as role models and justifiably can be viewed as the vanguard of the nation’s producers of top-quality wines.

The Tasting Notes

This is what we had in the glass in Wiesbaden: White VDP.Grosses Gewaechs wines from 2013 and red VDP.Grosses Gewaechs wines mostly from 2012, but some also from earlier vintages. Typically, the red GG's are released a year later than the white GG's, i.e. most of the red wines were vintage 2012.

The tasting covers most of the winegrowing regions in Germany, and not just Riesling. Grosses Gewaechs status has been approved for Silvaner, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), and Lemberger, plus even a Chardonnay was included this year. But the majority of the wines were, of course, Riesling wines, and each region’s wines are grouped together for comparison.

The tasting notes that follow comprise my own tasting notes as well as quotations from other tasters that they released via twitter (for example: Stuart Pigott), facebook or their wine blogs. Most of the quotations are summary assessments for particular parts of the tasting (for example: Rieslings from the Nahe). Other quotations pertain to a single winemaker or wine. Most of the quotations are in German. I also quoted myself (short notes that I had sent out via twitter or facebook during the tasting).

Pictures: At the Tasting

Silvaner

Franken

The tasting list started with 19 Silvaner from Franken – wines which I liked very much but which are difficult to find outside of Germany.

Riesling

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

Last year, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Grosses Gewaechs wines came in 2 groups: (1) At the beginning, wines within the dryness limits of the VDP.Grosses Gewächs and (2) then at the end again a few wines from a Grosse Lage vineyard, that were kind of dry, but slightly above the dryness limit and thus did not qualify as a VDP.Grosses Gewaechs. This year, all wines presented were within the dryness limit.

Although I know that my fellow colleagues at the German Wine Society Board (Washington DC Chapter) all love the fruity sweet wines of Ernst Loosen, Weingut Dr. Loosen, Ernie Loosen put on a very strong performance with his 6 ultra-premium Grosses Gewaechs wines from Himmelreich, Wuerzgarten, Praelat, Sonnenuhr and Treppchen. The 2013 Praelat was sensational.

Christian Schiller ‏@Schillerwein: Top! Ernst Loosen also knows how to do ultra-premium dry wines. 4 outstanding 2013 GGs at #vdpgg14 pre-release tasting @drloosenwines

Markus Vahlenfeld: Den Vogel an der Mosel hat aber mit dem Jahrgang 2013 das Weingut Loosen abgeschossen. Loosen ist ja eine Art Riesling-Institution… Loosen ist meine „Kollektion Mosel 2013“!

Also very impressive: the Marienburg collection of Clemens Busch, the non-conventional winemaker from Puenderich. Clemens Busch shows year after year what is possible in the Mosel Valley, following biodynamic practices. I in particular liked the Marienberg Riesling from the Lieu-Dit Falkenlay.

Stuart Pigott ‏@PigottRiesling: All 28 of 2013 dry #riesling GGs from Mosel at least up to scratch, rich and graceful Doctor "Alte Reben" from Dr. Thanisch!

Summary Assessment:

The Top 5 Mosel wines of my New York colleague Justin Christoph were: 1.) Fritz Haag Juffer-Sonnenuhr, 2.) Clemens Busch Rothenpfad, 3.) Reinhold Haart Goldtröpfchen, 4.) Reinhold Haart Ohligsberg, 5.) Clemens Busch Fahrlay.

Saale-Unstrut

1 wine.

Mittelrhein

5 wines.

My favorite: Hahn, Toni Jost-Hahnenhof

Justin Christoph’s Favorite: Nernstein, Lanius-Knab

Rheingau

56 wines, unchanged from last year.

There was less Rheingau bashing this year than in previous years.Some people were talking about a Rheingau turn-around.

In that context, a name that came up again and again was that of Achim von Oetinger, the charming winemaker and owner of Weingut Achim von Oetinger. He presented 3 wines: Marcobrunn, Siegelsberg and Hohenrain. I liked in particular the Marcobrunn: superb balance of fruit and acid, with some minerality and a very long finish.

Dirk Würtz: ... wieder einmal, Achim von Oetinger … gehört für mich zu den Besten!

Stuart Pigott ‏@PigottRiesling: discovery! Congrats to Achim von Oetinger(Erbach/Rheingau) for 3 delicious dry #Riesling GGs. Prinz, Weil + Kuenstler also top!

Unfortunately, the wines of Achim von Oetinger are not available in the US. Achim says, he is too small for exporting to the US. We have to convince him of the opposite. He can do it!

Fortunately, there is no problem to get the wines of world class producer Weingut Robert Weil in the US. Dr. Loosen Bros. is the importer of Weingut Robert Weil. Weingut Robert Weil is clearly the flagship producer of the Rheingau. The 2013 Graefenberg Riesling is a prime example of a top 2013 ultra-premium dry Riesling from the Rheingau –a true Ambassador for German Riesling.

Christian Schiller ‏@Schillerwein: Weingut Robert Weil 2013 Gräfenberg leading the pack of outstanding #Rheingau GG wines at the @VDP_Estates GG pre-release tasting

Pictures: Christian G:E. Schiller, Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and WineTours, Wilhelm Weil and Weingut Robert Weil 2013 Gräfenberg at Weingut Robert Weil on Sunday before the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden

Almost at the same level as Weingut Robert Weil, both in terms of quality and reputation, is Dömäne Schloss Johannisberg with its 2013 Schloss Johannisberger. The energetic Managing Director Christian Witte is doing an excellent job. His wines are world class wines.

Again, very interesting this year: the GG’s of Weingut Balthasar Ress. Managing Director, Wine Blogger and Wine TV Maker Dirk Würtz continues to lead Weingut Balthasar Ress, which has a long tradition, to new hights.

As an aside, a wine which was not on the tasting list is the Balthasar Ress Von Unserm, an outstanding entry-level wine, which I buy for 12 US dollars at Total Beverages a few blocks from where I live in the US, and which has become our house wine. A typical dry Rheingau Riesling at a very reasonable price. A steel!

Other very interesting wines that you could not taste in Wiesbaden were the GG’s of cult winemaker Peter Jakob Kühn, Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn. He feels that the pre-release tasting in late August comes too early for his wines. Therefore he does not show them at the pre-release tasting. I was lucky and had a chance to taste his 2013 Doosberg Riesling at an event at Weingut Robert Weil just before the pre-release tasting. Amazing! I am looking forward to taste the wine again with Annette Schiller’s Germany North Tour, when we stop at Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn in a couple of days.

Photo: Annette Schiller and Peter Jakob Kühn at Weingut Robert Weil, were Peter Jakob showed his not yet released GG's

At the German Wine Society in Washington DC, USA, Andreas Spreitzer is clearly one of our favorites. We recently even bought a whole case of (sweet) Spätlese for our small wine cellar through MacArthur Beverages in Washington DC. But I have not yet seen any dry Weingut Spreitzer wines there. At the pre-release GG tasting, Weingut Spreitzer showed 3 wines: The St. Nikolaus reminded me in terms of the style of Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, Rosengarten was more approachable, mainstream wine, while Wisselbrunn was wild and vibrant, along the lines of the wines of Achim von Oetinger.

Few people had Desiree Eser, Weingut August Eser (who sells predominantly in the domestic market), on their list, but I think she is a young, promising winemaker. Weingut August Eser has an amazing portfolio of vineyards.

Another producer that sells predominatly on the domestic market and that is someboday to watch is Weingut Jakob Jung. Alexander Jung presented 2 wines, the Siegelsberg and the Hohenrein, both steely, with good acidity.

Mark Barth is also one of the “Jungen Wilden”. Weingut Barth had 3 wines in the presentation: Schönhell, Hassel and Wisselbrunnen, all most interesting wines.

Interestingly, Mark Barth not only makes GG still wines but also GG sparkling wines, i.e. Sekt made from a GG base wine. Sekt- und Weingut Barth did not present the sparkler at the pre-release tasting, but I had the chance to taste a Barth GG sparkler jst before the pre-release tasting – a spectacular sparkling wine, which was dancing on my tongue!

New VDP member Sekt- und Weingut F.B. Schönleber showed 3 wines: Doosberg, St. Nikolaus and Jesuitengarten - all superb wines. Before talking to Justin Christoph at the tasting, I was not aware of the fact that the wines of Sekt- und Weingut F.B. Schönleber are available in the US; Justin Christoph imports them, including Schönleber amazing sparklers. Weingut F.B. Schönleber make super still wines, but their sparklers are out of this world. Welcome to the US market, Bernd and Ralph Schönleber!  

The Rheingau is also experimenting with wood. Baron Knyphausen presented with the Wisselbrunn an excellent example of how it could be done. Generally, with the new team of Wolfgang E. Frank in charge, Weingut Baron Knyphausen is a wine producer to watch, after a number of difficult years.

One of the most fascinating flights of the whole tasting was flight #20, Berg Rottland, the legendary vineyard in Rüdesheim, in 5 interpretations: Balthasar Ress, Johannishof, Künstler, Leitz, G.H. von Mumm’sches Weingut. These were all very strong wines, even the weakest one (Berg Rottland of G.H. von Mumm’sches Weingut was excellent). I noticed that Justin Christoph from New York City had the Berg Rottland of Gunter Künstler as #1 on his list of Rheingau favorites. My favorite was the Berg Rottland of Johannes Leitz, with Balthasar Ress and Künstler following very closely behind him. A good thing is that Weingut Leitz is very present in the US market and Gunter Künstler has just changed his US importer and will continue to be widely available in the US.

Schnutentunker ‏@schnutentunker: 5 mal Rottland, 5 Stile, 5 Interpretationen und 5 mal großes Kino. Ich will den Rest des Tages Rottland trinken. #vdpgg14

Finally: Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, at the western edge of the Rheingau. August Kesseler has a reputation of being a world class producer of Spätburgunder (see below). But his Rieslings are increasingly catching the attention of wine critics and consumers. No doubt, his Berg Roseneck and Berg Schlossberg were at least at par with the 2013 Graefenberg of Weingut Robert Weil and the 2013 Schloss Johannisberger of Dömäne Schloss Johannisberg. Some of my fellow tasters even felt that the Rieslings of Weingut August Kesseler were above all other Rheingau Rieslings.

Marc Dröfke @m_arcon: im Rheingau gibt es einen Winzer & Wein der über allem steht: Kesseler Schlossberg. Im wahrsten Sinne ein GROSSES GEWÄCHS ##vdpgg14

Summary Assessments:

Christoph Raffelt: Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Das ist verdammt schwierig, würde ich mal sagen. Die Bandbreite ist so groß und die Auswahl exzellenter und vor allem spannender Weine so breit gefächert. Bei der Klassik würde ich mich für August Kesseler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg entscheiden. Auch bei Balthasar Ress würde ich mich für den Berg Schlossberg entscheiden. Dann der Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland vom Johannishof, der Erbacher Siegelsberg von August Eser und der Erbacher Marcobrunn von Achim von Oetinger.

Weinschmecker ‏@RWeinschmecker: #vdpgg14 Kesseler, Weil und Prinz on the top im Rheingau unter den Riesling GGs 2013

Justin Christoph: Top 2013 Rheingau Riesling Grosses Gewachs: 1.) Künstler Berg Rottland, 2.) Robert Weil Gräfenberg, 3.) Joachim Flick Königin Victoriaberg, 4.) August Eser Siegelsberg, 5.) F.B. Schönleber St. Nikolaus, 6.) Schloss Vollrads Schlossberg, 7.) Künstler Kirchenstück.

Nahe

24 wines, up from 23 last year.

Overall, Sascha Speicher and Mario Scheuermann had the Rieslings from the Nahe Valley in the lead, ahead of the other main Riesling regions. Others, however, felt that the Nahe producers did not shine this year as much as they did in the year before. Netherless, Dönnhoff, Diel, Schäfer-Fröhlich, Emrich-Schönleber, Gut Herrmannsberg and Kruger-Rumpf presented a very strong series of premium dry Riesling wines.

Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich showed 6 top wines (Halenberg, Frühlingsplätzchen, Stromberg, Felseneck, Felsenberg amd Kupfergrube) all with a distinct “sponti” scent on the nose.

In a rather different style, the 3 wines from Cornelius Dönnhoff (Dellchen, Hermannshöhle and Felsenberg) were also excellent: More pure fruit and no sponti aromas. My personal favorite was Dellchen.

Michelle Bouffard ‏@michellebwine: In love with the 2013 Dönnhoff at #vdpgg14 ! Precise, complex and elegant. These wines will age beautifully!

Stuart Pigott @PigottRiesling: #vdpgg14 Favorite wine 1st day of premier of '13 GGs: Dellchen dry #Riesling from Dönnhoff was beauty!

Schlossgut Diel presented 3 top wines, all from Dorsheim - Pittermännchen, Goldloch and Burgberg. The dynamic and charming Caroline Diel is taking Schlossgut Diel to new hights. Increasingly in Germany, you see young, well educated female winemakers taking over from their parents. Caroline is one of them and definitely one to watch, with father (and grandfather) Armin Diel guiding her and slowly pulling back. All 3 Diel GG's are very low in terms of residual sugar, all in the 2 to 4 grams RS per liter range, with very intense mineral notes. World class wines!

As to Kruger-Rumpf, I got so excited during the tasting about his 2013 Pittersberg that I tweeted the following during the event: The 2012 Weingut Kruger-Rumpf Pittersberg GG Grosses Gewaechs came in as #2 of a recent decanter tasting (September issue). The 2013 Pittersberg is again at this level! Congrats Georg Rumpf for making such exciting wines.

Dönnhoff, Diel and Kruger-Rumpf are all imported into the US by Michael Skurnik/Terry Theise.

Gut Hermannsberg, after the sale to new ownes not so long ago, is getting better and better. I like the Hermannshöhle, with a lot of fruit, which does not crowd-out the minerality of the wine. Great stuff!

Summary Assessments:

Mario Scheuernmann: Nahe - Diese Region gehört zu den Gewinnern dieses nicht ganz leichten Jahrgangs. Hier fand iche eine ganze Reihe herausragender Weine vor allem von Diel und Dönnhoff aber auch von Schäfer-Fröhlich und Gut Hermannsberg. Wenn ich mich denn für einen Wein entscheiden müsste, wäre es wohl das Goldloch vom Schlossgut Diel.

Dirk Würtz: Das Gut Hermannsberg geht seinen Weg unaufhörlich in Richtung Spitze. Da oben stehen in diesem Jahr Dönnhof und Emmrich-Schönleber. Als ausgewiesener und überzeugter Nahe-Fan muss ich allerdings eines auch einmal kritisch anmerken – wenngleich es eine Kritik auf hohem Niveau ist. 2013 kommen die GGs an die überirdischen und galaktischen Vorgängerjahre nicht heran.

Christoph Raffelt - Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Die besagte Niederhausener Hermannshöhle von Helmut Dönnhoff, die Schloßböckelheimer Kupfergrube von Gut Hermannsberg, Schloßböckelheimer Felsenberg und Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen von Schäfer-Fröhlich und die Traisener Bastei von Dr. Crusius.

Justin Christoph - Top 2013 Nahe Riesling Grosses Gewachs: 1.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Stromberg, 2.) Emrich-Schönleber Halenberg, 3.) Dönnhoff Felsenberg, 4.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Felseneck, 5.) Emrich-Schönleber Frühlingsplätzchen, 6.) Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle, 7.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Halenberg, 8.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Felsenberg.

Sascha Speicher: Die Nahe überragend mit einem alle überragenden Schäfer-Fröhlich, Diel mit der besten Kollektion seit Jahren. Auffallend auch die deutlich verbesserten Weine von Prinz Salm. Auch Neuzugang Schäfer belebt, die Superstars Dönnhoff und Emrich-Schönleber solide, souverän, aber nicht brillant.

Rheinhessen

36 wines, up from 32 last year.

For the past years, Weingut Keller and Keller Wittmann were the acknowledged leaders of Rheinhessen, widely regarded as among the greatest producers of dry Rieslings in Germany and perhaps in the world. Close behind the leading duo was always H.O. Spanier with his Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier and Weingut Kuehling-Gillot wines. This year, the gap between the leading duo and H.O. Spanier narrowed further and perhaps disappeared, as some of my fellow tasters felt. Another winery to watch is Weingut Gunderloch, with the son of Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach, Johannes Hasselbach, having taken over and pushing forward.

Klaus Peter Keller showed: Hipping, Morstein and Abtserde. World Class! The Hipping is a perfectly balanced wine. The Morstein is wild, vibrant, salty. Abtserde needs a few minutes to open up; before a wave of wave of minerality and saltyness hits you.

Philipp Wittmann, the 2014 Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year, showed: Morstein, Kirchspiel, Brunnenhaeuschen and Aulerde. Also, word class! Wittmann’s Morstein shows immense minerality; it is a very dense and deep wine. Aulerde has a lot of fruit, is very dense and has small Stinker. Kirchspiel shines with its well integrated acidity, coupled with lots of fruit. Brunnenhaeuschen is similar.

Christoph Raffelt: Ohne seine Konsequenz im Weinberg wäre er nicht da, wo er heute steht: An der Spitze des deutschen Weinbaus. Ich kenne momentan keine besseren trockenen deutschen Rieslinge – vor allem der Morstein, natürlich der Morstein, immer wieder diese Westhofener Hanglage, die Rieslinge von einer gnadenlosen Tiefe und Dichte hervorzubringen in der Lage ist.

There is no need to introduce the wines of H.O. Spanier. Perhaps not yet so well known is the fact that he is responsible for the wines of both Battenfeld-Spanier (his estate) and for Kuehling Gillot (the estate of his wife Caroline Spanier Gillot). H.O. Spanier showed: Kühling-Gillot – Rothenberg “Wurzelecht”, Pettentahl, Ölberg; Battenfeld-Spanier – Zellerweg am Schwarzen Herrgott, Frauenberg, Kirchenstück.

Pettenthal is wild and vibrant. Ölberg is more a classic Red Slope type – super. Rothenberg “Wurzelecht” is made from ungrafted vines. It is intense and flavorful. Most grapevines in the world today are grafted -that is, the vine cutting of one type of grape is attached to the root of another type of grape. The reason for doing this is to avoid the devastating root louse named phylloxera. Zellerweg am Schwarzen Herrgott is ripe, dense and salty, and has some botrytis notes. Frauenberg is more elegant. Kirchenstueck has notes of wood (although I know that there is no wood involved).

The wine Jean Baptiste of Weingut Gunderloch was for many years the best sold German wine in New York. Owner and winemaker Fritz Hasselbach and his wife Agnes were regulars in the US. Fritz Hasselbach told me that during the hightimes he was flying once every month to the US. Fritz and Agnes have pulled back and their son Johannes Hasselbach has taken over and is pushing ahead with innovative ideas. Johannes showed: Rothenberg, Pettenthal and Hipping. I liked the Pettenthal most, with its salty notes.

Dirk Würtz: Was Johannes Hasselbach im Weingut Gunderloch in der jüngeren Vergangenheit macht, ist schlicht und ergreifend sensationell. Angefangen von den Basisweinen, bis hin jetzt zum GG.

With regard to the new member of the VDP Rheinessen, Stefan Winter, Stuart Pigott tweeted during the tasting: #vdpgg14 #Riesling GGs from new VDP member Stefan Winter in Dittelsheim-Hessloch/Rheinhessen (where?) stand against best Keller + Wittmann!

Last but not least, I would like to mention the Kirchspiel and Aulerde of Weingut K.F. Groebe. Top wines from a top producer who is not as much in the lime light as others but netherless delivers highest quality.

Summary Assessments:

Dirk Würtz: Die Dichte in Rheinhessen ist enorm. Keller und Wittmann bekommen mit HO Spanier endgültig einen Dritten an die Seite gestellt. In Rheinhessen herrscht ab sofort ein Dreigestirn. Und wenn Gunderloch konstant so weitermacht, kommt da noch ein vierter hinzu. Ansonsten sieht Rheinhessen wie der Jahrgangsgewinner aus.

Christoph Raffelt: Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Wittmann Westhofener Morstein, Westhofener Brunnenhäuschen, Battenfeld-Spanier Mölsheimer Zellerweg Am schwarzen Herrgott, Kühling-Gillot Niersteiner Ölberg, Wagner-Stempel Siefersheimer Heerkretz, Gunderloch Niersteiner Pettenthal und, noch gar nicht erwähnt, der ob seiner Karamellnoten und superreifen Frucht etwas aus dem Rahmen fallenden Binger Scharlachberg von Kruger-Rumpf – ein Wein für jetzt und die nächsten Tage.

Justin Christoph - Top 2013 Rheinhessen Riesling Grosses Gewachs: 1.) Keller Morstein, 2.) Kühling-Gillot Pettenthal, 3.) Wittmann Brunnenhäuschen, 4.) Wagner-Stempel Heerkretz, 5.) Battenfeld-Spanier Zellerweg am Schwarzen Herrgott, 6.) Keller Brunnenhäuschen "Abtserde”, 7.) Wittmann Morstein, 8.) Keller Hipping, 9.) Kruger-Rumpf Scharlachberg, 10.) Groebe Aulerde.

Pfalz

49 Rieslings, down from 60 Rieslings last year.

Steffen Christmann’s wines are the wines of a President, like the wines of Weingut Robert Weil in the Rheingau – Ambassadors for the Pfalz. They show very well what the world can expect from the Pfalz and what the Pfalz is abel to delivery – world class Riesling. I liked in particular the 2013 Christmann Idig Riesling GG and its strong mineral and salty notes. In addition to Idig, Steffen Christmann also showed: Langenmorgen, Reiterpfad and Mandelgarten. The Langenmorgen was elegant, with noticeable mineral notes. The Reiterpfad was dense with ripe fruit, vibrant. Mandelgarten is more approachable – a very fine wine. All indeed presidential wines!

A good friend of Steffen Christmann is Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz. We will visit both producers on the forthcoming Germany South Tour by ombiasy. Hansjörg Rebholz showed Im Sonnenschein and Ganz Horn im Sonnenschein, a Lieu-Dit. Both wines were very approachable, fruity, with good acidity. Top wines!

The wines of Weingut Knipser – Mandelpfad and Steinbuckel – were very elegant, with some yellow fruit notes and, of course, well integrated wood notes.

Dr. Bürklin-Wolf: The wines were a bit on the backburner this year.

Dirk Würtz: Zum ersten Mal seit Jahren hat mich kein Gewächs aus dem Hause Dr. Bürklin-Wolf spontan überzeugt.

Weingut Von Winning presented Kirchenstück, Pechstein, Ungeheuer, Kieselsberg, Langenmorgen, Spiess. Weingut von Winning is widely available in the US through Michael Skurnik Wines/Terry Theise.

Therry Theise: THE WINERY OF THE 2013 VINTAGE IS - I hate giving this to the same estate twice in a row, but truth is truth, and VON WINNING is showing that their glorious collection in 2012 was no fluke, but instead the arrival at a lofty place they shall continue to set up house in. Believe me, I wondered. Because those astonishing ‘12s might have been lavished with pixie-dust from the weightless weight of the creamy vintage style. Would the ‘13s be arch and angular again? Not a bit of it. These guys are here to stay. It is conceivable that Von Winning ‘13s will be a little tiny bit less grand than their ‘12s, but it’s definite that their ‘13s are dramatically better than almost everything around them.

Photo: Mario Scheuermann - Und das waren heute meine drei Favoriten aus der Pfalz #vdpgg14 (Photo Mario Scheuermann)

The Achim Niederberger Group (run after the untimely death of Achim Niederberger by his wife) owns not only von Winningen, but also Bassermann-Jordan and Reichsrat von Buhl. The 3 estates, which had been divided for many years after the “Jordan Division”, are united again. In the villages of Deidesheim, Ruppertsberg and Forst, the Achim Niederberger Group owns about 150 hectares of the best sites.

Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl presented 4 wines: Pechstein, Ungeheuer, Jesuitengarten, Reiterpfad. The wines of Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl are imported into the US by Rudi Wiest Selections. Rudi Wiest, as in most years, participated personally in the pre-release tasting in Wiesbaden. All von Buhl wines were very dry with quite a bit of acidity. Not all of my fellow tasters liked this. But I did and I am looking forward to drinking these wines again in a couple of years. The 2013 von Buhl have a great future.

Summary Assessments:

Christoph Raffelt - Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Christmanns Königsbacher Idig und Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten, von Winnings Deidesheimer Kalkofen, Rebholz‘ Siebeldinger Im Sonnenschein und Knipsers Laumersheimer Steinbuckel wären in diesem Jahr meine Favoriten. Hinzu käme der Ibesheimer Kalmit von Boris Kranz, ein krasser Wein von Landschneckenkalksedimenten, pur, mineralisch, kompromisslos. Da würde mich durchaus mal interessieren, wie sich dieser Wein entwickelt.

Justin Christoph - Top 2013 Pfalz Riesling Grosses Gewachs: 1.) Karl Schaefer Herrenberg, 2.) Bassermann-Jordan Pechstein, 3.) Bürklin-Wolf Langenmorgen, 4.) Rebholz Im Sonnenschein, 5.) Acham-Magin Pechstein, 6.) Christmann Lagenmorgen, 7.) Rebholz Ganz Horn.

Paul Truszkowski - Director Procurement, Wine in Black: #Pfalz Favorits Pechstein & Ungeheuer by Von Winning & Bürklin Wolf. "Ganz Horn" by Rebholz. Kastanienbusch by Dr.Wehrheim #vdpgg14

Franken

19 wines from Franken.

Summary Assessments:

Stuart Martin Pigott ‏@PigottRiesling: Franken struggles with 2013 GG, some great stuff - Castel, Fuerst, Juliussspital, Loewenstein - many good wines, but 8 of 38 weak!

Justin Christoph - Top 2013 Franken Riesling Grosses Gewachs: 1.) Hans Wirsching Julius-Echter-Berg, 2.) Hans Wirsching Kronsberg, 3.) Juliusspital Würzburg Stein, 4.) Rudolf Fürst Centgrafenberg, 5.) Schloss Sommerhausen Steinbach "Alter Berg"

Baden

While the focus of the wines from Baden was red wines, Baden also presented 6 Riesling wines.

Christian G.E. Schiller on facebook during the tasting: Baden is known to be a leading region for red wines from Germany. But Baden also makes #Riesling. And they know how to do it. Look for Schloss Neuweier. Robert Schaetzle 's GG 2013 Mauer-Wein and Goldenes Loch show very well at the GG Grosses Gewaechs pre-release tasting that is taking place in Wiesbaden, Germany, today and tomorrow, with 160 journalists, sommeliers and trade people from around the world. Another interesting producer is Weingut Dr. Heger #vdpGG14.

Württemberg

Again, another German wine region that is not known for its Rieslings. I must admit I almost never drink Rieslings from Wuerttemberg. 16 wines, up from 14 last year. Ernst Dautel’s “Gruebenstein” Sonnenberg and Wachtstetter Glaukos were my favorites.

Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc)

Sachsen

1 wine.

Saale-Unstrut

1 wine (of Pawis).

Christian Schiller ‏@Schillerwein: Emerging wine region Saale Unstrut in Germany increasingly produces good premium Pinot Blanc + Gris wines, example: Weingut Pawis #vdpGG14

Franken

2 wines.

Pfalz

12 wines.

Baden

11 wines.

Wuerttemberg

3 wines.

Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris)

Saale-Unstrut

1 wine.

Wuerttemberg

3 wines.

Baden

9 wines

Chardonnay

Baden

1 wine.

Frueburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce)

Most of the red wines were 2012, some even from earlier vintages.

Pinot Noir Précoce is a form or mutation of Pinot Noir which differs essentially by ripening earlier than normal (thus the use of the descriptive nomination 'précoce').

Ahr 

3 wines.

Spaetburgunder (Pinot Noir)

There is a red wine revolution going on in Germany and the world increasingly takes note of it. Of course, given its location, the red wines of Germany tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, the share of red wine in total German wine output was not more than 10 percent; in the international wine scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this is changing. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world; the share of red wines in terms of production has increased to about 35 percent now in Germany and increasingly the international market takes note of what is happening in Germany.

Today, Germany is the third biggest producer of Pinot Noir (called Spaetburgunder in Germany), after France and the US, with more planted than Australia and New Zealand combined. However, despite being the world’s third largest producer of Pinot Noir, the country exports just over 1% of its production.

Ahr

12 wines, down from 14 last year.

My favorite producer of the Ahr region is Weingut Meyer-Näkel, which showed 3 wines: Sonnenberg, Kraeuterberg, Pfarrwingert. In particular, the Kraeuterberg was breathtaking.

Dirk Würtz: Meyer-Näkels “Kräuterberg” … Ein Monument, ein Kunstwerk! Ich gebe nie Punkte, aber wenn ich Punkte geben würde, wäre der Wein ein Kandidat für Höchstnoten!

Summary Assessment:

Christoph Raffelt - Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Frühburgunder Dernauer Pfarrwingert von Meyer-Näkel, Ahrweiler Rosenthal von Stodden, Walporzheimer Kräuterberg von Meyer-Näkel, Walporzheimer Pfarrwingert von Meyer-Näkel

Sachsen

1 wine.

Rheingau

9 wines, up from 6 last year

Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen is without doubt the leading red wine producer in the Rheingau. While his Riesling wines still take people by surprise, he is well established as the premier Spätburgunder producer in the Rheingau. Both his Assmannshausener Höllenberg and his Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg were very powerful, yet elegant wines, with a very long finish. World Class!

Dirk Würtz: August Kesslers “Schlossberg” setzt nahtlos da an, wo die Rieslinge aufgehört haben. Diese Eleganz ist annähernd einzigartig im Rheingau. So viel Ausdruck, Frucht, Kraft und Länge mit einer solchen Eleganz zu kombinieren ist bewundernswert… Perfekt!

Sachsen

1 wine.

Rheinhessen

5 wines, up from 4 last year.

Pfalz

10 wines, down from 13 last year.

My favorites were the 2 GG’s of Friedrich Becker in Schweigen, a stone throw away from the French border: Kammerberg and Sankt Paul. Friedrich Becker is one of the fathers of the German red wine revolution. I am looking forward to tasting his wines on the Germany South Tour by ombiasy.

In the 2014 Eichelmann WeinGuide, he got the Best Red Wine Collection of the Year Award: The Pinot Noir Collection is once again very impressive - from „B“ to “Heydenreich“ all wines show pure fruit, structure, and herbs and spices. Great cinema.

Schnutentunker: Friedrich Becker schießt den Vogel ab, seine beiden Weine sind wahnsinnig dicht und haben massig Tannin.

Other great Pinot Noirs were the Idig 2011 of Weingut A. Christmann (a very intense, cool wine with the fruit on the backburner) and the 2009 Im Sonnenschein of Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz (a dense wine with lots of mineral notes).

Summary Assessment:

Christoph Raffelt - Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Siebeldinger Im Sonnenschein 2009 vom Ökonomierat Rebholz, Birkweiler Kastanienbusch von Dr. Wehrheim, Ilbesheimer Kalmit von Kranz und Schweigener Kammerberg von Friedrich Becker sowie Klingenberger Schlossberg von Rudolf Fürst und vom Weingut der Stadt Klinberg sowie Sulzfelder Maustal vom Zehnthof Luckert.

Franken

6 wines, up from 5 last year.

Baden

18 wines, up from 12 wines last year.

The Pinot Noirs from Baden were dominated by the 4 GG’s that Weingut Bernhard Huber showed: Bienenberg, Bienenberg Wildenstein, Schlossberg, Sommerhalde. The wines of Bernhard Huber are widely available in the US, through Rudi Wiest Selection. Also most impressive, as far as I am concerned, were the Schlossberg and the Winklerberg V.B. of Weingut Dr. Heger, which is, as far as the business in the US is concerned in a transitional period (from Rudi Wiest Selection to a new importer, reportedly Schatzi Wines – a new kid on the block, which will also have Leitz, Dreissigacker, Markus Schmidt and others in its portfolio).

Summary Assessment:

Christoph Raffelt - Was ich mir in den Keller legen würde: Malterdinger Bienenberg Wildenstein und Schlossberg von Bernhard Huber.

Württemberg

14 wines, up from 10 last year.

Lemberger

Wuerttemberg

16 wines, up from 11 wines.

All Lembergers shown at the tasting came from Wuerttemberg. All interesting wines. The Austrians are currently showing the world what the Lemberger variety (called Blaufraenkisch in Austria) can produce.

Overall Summary Assessments

Paul Truszkowski's Overall Favorites:

Photo: Paul Truszkowski's Overall Favorites

Stuart Pigott's Favorites - 2013 Riesling GG: Ganz oben

Berg Schlossberg – August Kesseler, Assmannshausen/Rheingau
Dellchen – Dönnhoff, Oberhausen/Nahe
Halenberg – Emrich-Schönleber, Monzingen/Nahe
Hohenrain – Weingut zum jungen Oetinger, Erbach/Rheingau
Kastanienbusch „Köppel“ – Dr. Wehrheim, Birkweiler/Pfalz
Kirchenstück – Acham-Magin, Forst/Pfalz
Marienburg „Rothenpfad“ – Clemens Busch, Pünderich/Mosel
Ohligsberg – Reinhold Haart, Piesport/Mosel
Röttgen – Heymann-Löwenstein, Winningen/Mosel
Weiss Erd – Franz Künstler, Hochheim/Rheingau

Justin Christoph's 2013 Riesling Grosses Gewachs All Stars:

1.) Keller Morstein
2.) Kühling-Gillot Pettenthal
3.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Stromberg
4.) Wittmann Brunnenhäuschen
5.) Emrich-Schönleber Halenberg
6.) Wagner-Stempel Heerkretz
7.) Battenfeld-Spanier Zellerweg am Schwarzen Herrgott
8.) Keller Brunnenhäuschen "Abtserde
9.) Wittmann Morstein
10.) Dönnhoff Felsenberg
11.) Schäfer-Fröhlich Felseneck
12.) Emrich-Schönleber Frühlingsplätzchen
13.) Keller Hipping
14.) Künstler Berg Rottland
15.) Robert Weil Gräfenberg
16.) Karl Schaefer Herrenberg
17.) Bassermann-Jordan Pechstein
18.) Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle
19.) Bürklin-Wolf Langenmorgen
20.) Rebholz Im Sonnenschein
21.) Fritz Haag Juffer-Sonnenuhr
22.) Joachim Flick Königin Victoriaberg
23.) August Eser Siegelsberg
24.) Hans Wirsching Julius-Echter-Berg
25.) Clemens Busch Rothenpfad


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Monday, September 1, 2014

Extraordinary Views of the Rheingau Vineyards - A Spectecular Helicopter Flight over the Rheingau with Rheingau Winemakers, Germany

Picture: Turmberg with Helicopter and Weingut Robert Weil Wine

A group of VDP winemakers – the association of German elite winemakers – from the Rheingau invited me and Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and WineTours, to an extraordinary afternoon and evening event at Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich. At the center was a 20 minutes helicopter flight over the vineyards of the Rheingau, from and to the Turmberg vineyard, during the afternoon. While 4 of us were in the helicopter, the others were tasting the GG’s (Grosses Gewachs) - the ultra-premium dry wines - of the new 2013 vintage of the Rheingau VDP winemakers.

In the evening, we gathered at Weingut Robert Weil for dinner and an informal tasting of older GG’s. As usual, when Wilhelm Weil is hosting, the party went on until the morning hours; we talked, tasted other wines that Wilhelm Weil brought from his cellar, and some of us even played cards for an hour or so (some of us: Mark "Sam" Hofschuster, Dirk Würtz, Andy Spreitzer and Christian Schiller).

We were about 40 people, 20 wine writers and 20 Rheingau winemakers. The following Rheingau producers were there and showed their wines:

Diefenhardt'sches Weingut - Peter Seyffardt
Weingut Künstler - Gregor Breuer
Weingut Toni Jost - Cecilia Jost
Weingut Robert Weil - Wilhelm Weil
Weingut Oetinger - Achim von Oetinger
Weingut Jakob Jung - Ludwig Jung
Weingut Baron Knyphausen - Wolfgang E. Frank
Weingut Prinz - Fred Prinz
Wein- und Sektgut Barth - Mark Barth
Weingut Kühn - Peter Jakob Kühn
Wein- und Sektgut FB Schönleber - Ralf Schönleber
Weingut Josef Spreitzer - Andreas Spreitzer
Schloss Johannisberg
Weingüter Wegeler- Tom Drieseberg
Weingut Leitz
Weingut August Kesseler - August Kesseler
Weingut Balthasar Ress - Dirk Würtz
Weingut Allendorf - Ulrich Allendorf

All photos are from Christian G.E.Schiller or Weingut Robert Weil.

The Rheingau


It is remarkable: For its entire length of nearly 560 miles, the Rhine flows north with one exception – a 28-mile stretch where the river changes its course. Here, it flows to the west, thereby enabling both the river and the vineyards facing it to bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. This is the Rheingau, one of the medium-size German wine regions. It is a quietly beautiful region, rich in tradition. Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for Hochheim's wines contributed to their popularity in England, where they, and ultimately, Rhine wines in general, were referred to as Hock.

Picture: The Rheingau

The third President of the USA - and notable bon viveur - Thomas Jefferson visited the Rheingau in 1788 and wrote that the wine of the "Abbaye of Johnsberg is the best made on the Rhine without comparison … That of the year 1775 is the best." He also referred to the Rheingau’s Riesling as the "small and delicate Rhysslin which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim". Impressed by the quality of the Rheingau Riesling wines, he bought 100 grapevines to take back to his estate in Virginia.

Pictures: Meeting Point - Weingut Robert Weil

Although the Rheingau is one of Germany’s smaller wine-growing regions, its 3,100 ha (7,660 acres) of vineyards are vastly diverse in their geological makeup. The soil varies from stony slate at the western part near the villages of Assmannshausen and Rudesheim to loess, sand and marl in the lower central villages of Geisenheim, Johannisberg, Winkel, Oestrich and Hattenheim. Soil reverts to stony phyllite in the higher central and eastern villages of Hallgarten, Kiedrich and Hochheim. Generally, wines from the lower slopes where the soil is heavier—sandy loam and loess—produce fuller wines, while at the higher slopes where it is more stony and slatey, the wines reflect more minerality, elegance and concentration.

Pictures: From Weingut Robert Weil to the Turmberg

The Rheingau enjoys a distinctly continental climate with cold winters and warm, but not hot, summers. The Rheingau is dominated by Riesling, accounting for 4/5 of the vineyard area. Pinot Noir accounts for 1/10 and is concentrated around Assmannshausen.

Weingut Robert Weil

Founded in 1875, Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich is the Rheingau’s #1 estate and one of Germany’s best. Four generations and over a century ago Dr. Robert Weil, who was a Professor of German at the Sorbonne, was forced to leave Paris because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871). He subsequently joined his brother August in Kiedrich in the Rheingau and established the Robert Weil winery.

Dr. Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in Kiedrich and moved there in 1875, when he bought the estate manor from the heirs of Sir John Sutton, an English baronet. A man of vision, he built up the estate by purchasing 2 local wine estates and the vineyards of Count von Fürstenberg. Contacts throughout the world and the production of great wines brought rapid growth to the Weingut Robert Weil.

Pictures: Extraordinary Views of the Rheingau Vineyards - A Helicopter Flight over the Rheingau, Germany. I flew with August Kesseler, Weingut August Kesseler, Mark Barth, Weingut Barth, and Guiseppe Lauria, Gault and Millau.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, ombiasy PR and Wine Tours, flew with Ursula Haslauer, Falstaff Deutschland, and her husband, and Wolfgang E. Frank, Weingut Baron Knyphausen and Grape Vault Investment.

Today, Weingut Robert Weil is managed by Wilhelm Weil, who owns the winery jointly with Suntory from Japan. With 75 hectares under vine, it is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The historical manor house, the ultra-modern cellars and the vinothek stand side by side in a beautiful park – the same synthesis of old and new that is reflected in the estate’s philosophy of winemaking.

Pictures: Tasting the 2013 Rheingau GG's and Chatting at the Turmberg

The vineyards are planted 100% with Riesling. The estate’s dedication to Riesling since 1875 has led numerous observers of the international wine world to regard Weingut Robert Weil as a worldwide symbol of German Riesling culture. A Riesling wine of the 1893 vintage, grown on the Gräfenberg site, made the estate famous. The imperial Habsburg court in Vienna purchased 800 bottles of this wine at a price of 16 gold Marks per bottle in 1900.

The 1920 vintage of the Kiedricher Gräfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese is described as a Zeppelin wine, as it was served on board the LZ 127 „Graf Zeppelin” dirigible on its circumnavigation of the world in 1929. Robert Weil’s top botrytis wines are sold today at extremely high prices - they are among the most expensive in the world. The current world record (in 2006) is held by a 1999 Weil Trockenbeerenauslese, at DM 5.000 (EUR 2500).

Pictures: Evening - at Weingut Robert Weil, tasting older GG's and other wines

Weingut Robert Weil’s top vineyards all belong to the group of the highlying sites of the Rheingau: Kiedricher Klosterberg, Kiedricher Turmberg and Kiedricher Gräfenberg. Inclination (up to 60 %), exposure (southwest) and the ability of the barren stony soils to absorb heat are the factors that make for three perfect Riesling sites. These conditions, as well as ideal circulation, enable the grapes to remain on the vine for a long time, ripening well into November.

Thanks

Thank you very much Wilhelm Weil and all the other winemakers from the Rheingau for an amazing afternoon and evening.

Picture: 2:00 in the morning - Dirk Würtz Selfie, with Wilhelhelm Weil and  Christian G.E. Schiller

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