Friday, April 2, 2010

Germany's Top Winemakers - The 2010 Awards

This year’s awards were announced a few days ago; the awards ceremony took place at the ProWein trade fair in Duesseldorf, Germany on March 21. is the leading German online Wine Guide. Its data base contains 50.000 wine reviews of 2500 winemakers. Since 1999, Marcus Hofschuster and his team have been tasting wines, describing them and grading them. has 200.000 subscribers who pay Euro 20 (US$ 25) per year to use the data base of the online wine guide.

The Awards

There are three different categories of awards. First, regional awards for the top producer of each of the major wine regions. The winemaker with the highest average ranking of his or her wine portfolio wins the award. Germany’s wine regions differ markedly in terms of size. Then, there is a Rising Star Award. This is the winemaker with the largest improvement in the average score this year. Finally, an award is given to the best wine co-operative of the year.

Awards by Region

Before moving to the winners, here is a list of the regions in terms of their size (in hectares).

Five large regions: Rheinhessen 26000 hectares, Pfalz 23000 hectares, Baden 16000 hectares, Wuerttemberg 12000 hectares, Mosel 10000 hectares.

Three medium-size regions: Franken 6000 hectares, Nahe 4000 hectares, Rheingau 3000 hectares.

Five small regions: Saale Unstrut 700 hectares, Sachsen 500 hectares, Hessische Bergstrasse 500 hectares, Mittelrhein 500 hectares, Ahr 300 hectares.

Picture: The 13 German Wine Regions

Ahr: Weingut H.J. Kreuzberg

The estate is located in the village of Dernau in the Ahr valley. It was founded in 1953 by Hermann-Josef Kreuzberg, who at that stage was the general manager of the co-operative in Dernau. His son Hans-Josef „Jupp” Kreuzberg expanded the property, and in 1994 handed the running of the business to his sons Ludwig (sales, despatch) and Hermann-Josef (cellar, vineyards).

The winery is relatively small with 8.6 hectars cultivated.

Integrated viticultural practices are implemented, with organic soil preparation (organic fertiliser, straw covering, tree bark mulching and cover crops).

Almost exclusively red varieties are planted: Pinot Noir (65%), Pinot Madeleine (10%), Portugieser (7%), Dornfelder (6%), Regent (3%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (2%).

The red wines are matured practically exclusively in barriques. Bottle-fermented sparkling wines, spirits and red wine vinegars are also produced.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Ludwig Kreuzberg, Cellar master: Franz-Josef Stodden, David Kreuzberg

Baden: Weingut Dr. Heger

The estate is located in the town of Ihringen (Kaiserstuhl area). It was founded in 1935 by Dr. Max Heger, who ran it part-time as medical doctor.. In the 1960’s, his son Wolfgang Heger took the estate right up to the top of the best wine estates in Germany. The grandson of the founder, Joachim Heger and his wife Silvia, took over in 1992.

It is a good size winemaker with 15 hectares. To meet the great demand, Joachim Heger founded a small merchant house in 1996, with 16 contract growers supplying the grapes. These wines are marketed under the „Weinhaus Joachim Heger” label Grape varieties planted are Riesling (20%), Pinot Noir (20%), Pinot Gris (19%), Pinot Blanc (14%), Silvaner (11%), Chardonnay, Muskateller, Auxerrois, Scheurebe, Gewürztraminer, Kerner and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The red wines are fermented on the skins for 10 to 25 days. They are then matured in barrique for 12 to 18 months. The white wines, too, are matured in barrique.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) as well as of the Deutsches Barrique-Forum associations.

Gault and Millau 4 Grapes.

Owner: Joachim Heger, Manager: Jürgen Kühnle (Aussenbetrieb), Cellar master: Joachim Heger & Jürgen Jehle

Franken: Juliusspital

The estate is located in the city of Würzburg in Franken. It was founded in 1576 by prince bishop Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn (1545-1617), along the lines of the Hospices de Beaune. For this purpose, he acquired the „Judengarten” (Jews garden) site outside the old city precincts. Even while the prince bishop was still alive, he transferred adequate income and extensive property holdings to the foundation, this included agricultural and forestry land as well as vineyards, including holdings in the world-famous Würzburger Stein site. A hospital as well as other charitable institutions are maintained to this day. The vaulted cellar is 250 meters long, and was built by Antonio Petrini in 1699.

The vineyards total 168 hectares, which is very large by German standards and are spread all over Franken.

Grape varieties planted are Silvaner (48 ha), Müller-Thurgau (21 ha), Riesling (20 ha), Pinot Noir (8 ha), Bacchus (6 ha), Scheurebe (3 ha), Rieslaner (2 ha), Domina, Traminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Muskateller and others.

The wines are fermented slowly, and are then matured on the lees. Maturation is in a combination of stainless steel tanks and in oak vats, some of which are more than 100 years old.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Stiftung Juliusspital, Manager: Dipl. Ing. Horst Kolesch, Cellar master:
Benedikt Then

Mittelrhein: Weingut Ratzenberger

The estate is located in the small town of Bacharach (Loreley district). It is run by Jochen Ratzenberger junior, the third generation to do so.

The vineyard area totals 12 hectares.

More than three-quarters of the area is planted with Riesling (8,5 ha), as well as with Pinot Noir (1,5 ha), Pinot Gris and Rivaner.

Sustainable, integrated vineyard practices are implemented. The estate specializes in high-quality sweet and botrytis dessert wines. Bottle-fermented sparkling wines are also produced.

The wines are exported to Belgium, Switzerland and the USA. The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Fam. Ratzenberger, Cellar master: Jochen Ratzenberger

Mosel: Weingut Knebel

The estate is located in the village of Winningen (Burg Cochem area).

The wine-growing tradition of the Knebel family dates back to 1642. The property was run as the ”Brothers Knebel” after the Second World War, and was split among several family members in 1989. Reinhard Knebel, together with his wife Beate, took over a section with 1,7 hectares of vineyards. In a combination of purchases, exchanges and leases, the newly founded property grew to a vineyard area of more than five hectares over the next few years. In addition, grapes are bought in from neighboring producers with a total vineyard area of 1,5 hectares. Since the death of her husband in 2004, the business has been run by Beate Knebel.

By far the largest section of vineyards owned by the estate is located in the Röttgen site. This is planted with Riesling vines on traditional single-pole trellises, with an average age of 40 years, with a portion of ungrafted vines. The vineyard slopes are extremely steep, making it almost impossible to use machines of any kind, and spraying against pests has to be done by helicopter. The remaining vineyard parcels are in the Bruckstück, Hamm and Uhlen sites. Yields are reduced, and hand-picking is strictly selective, if necessary grapes are sorted and selected once more before pressing. The musts are then fermented in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, using natural yeasts wherever possible. Further maturation takes place either in the stainless steel tanks, or in several 1000-litre oak vats, or in a single barrel of acacia wood. Great attention is paid to keeping the wines as natural as possible.

Gault and Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Beate Knebel, Cellar master: Beate Knebel (mit Unterstützung und Beratung v.Gernot Kollmann)

Nahe: Weingut Emrich-Schönleber

The estate is located in the village of Monzingen. Famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) in his wine notes mentioned an excellent wine from Monzingen. The Emrich family has been involved in wine production in the Nahe region since the middle of the 18th century. Wilhelm Schönleber, the father of the current owner, came to the wine estate by marriage. In the 1960’s, then, the estate developed from its original 2 hectares to its current size, and is today run by Werner Schönleber.

The vineyard area totals 14,5 hectares. Around 75% of the area is planted with Riesling, the balance with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc.

Selective picking takes place as late as possible, the grapes are then gently pressed and cool-fermented. Minimum intervention is the keyword for maturation, with wines being allowed to develop on their own.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 5 Grapes.

Owner: Werner Schönleber, Cellar master: Werner + Frank Schönleber

Pfalz: Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz

The estate is located in the commune of Siebeldingen (Südliche Weinstraße district). Eduard Rebholz and his son Hans were counted among the pioneers in the Pgalz for concentrating on high-quality dry wines. Since 1978 the third generation of the family, Hansjörg Rebholz and his wife Birgit have been in charge here.

The vineyard area totals 14 hectares. The area is planted with Riesling (35%), Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay (50% in total), as well as Gewürztraminer, Muskateller, Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau and Sauvignon Blanc.

Since 1989 the best white and red Pinot wines have been matured in barriques, they are marketed under the „R” designation, without mention of the vineyard site. The premium wines include the first growths (Großes Gewächs) Riesling, Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Weißburgunder (Pinot Blanc) from the „Im Sonnenschein” site. Bottle-fermented sparkling wine and grappa-style spirits are also produced. The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.
Gault and Millau 5 Grapes.

Owner: Hansjörg Rebholz, Cellar master: Rainer Keßler, Hansjörg Rebholz

Rheingau: Weingut Robert Weil

The estate is located in the commune of Mühlberg-Kiedrich. It was founded in 1875 by Dr. Robert Weil. The property was significantly expanded by the purchase of the Nilkens and Buschmann wine estates, of the manor house of the late Sir John Sutton as well as of vineyards previously owned by the Count von Fürstenberg. A Riesling wine of the 1893 vintage, grown on the Gräfenberg site, made the estate famous. The Auslese from the „Kiedricher Berg” was very popular with royal and imperial houses in the past. The 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 called the Zeppelin wine, as it was served on board the LZ 127 „Graf Zeppelin” on its journay around the world in 1929. In 1988, the estate was sold by Robert Weil to the Japanese beverage group Suntory, and his son Wilhelm appointed as estate director. The vineyard area was doubled, and an ultra-modern cellar built.

The vineyard area totals 65 hectares. 97% of the area is planted with Riesling. Particular attention is paid to work in the vineyard. Measures include cover crops, use of organic fertilisers, no use of herbicides, and combating pests with ecologically sound, natural biological measures. Another quality factor is the low yield, achieved by restrictive pruning, thinning out the grapes twice, carrying out a negative selection at an early stage, and an extremely selective hand-picking process ,with grapes being harvested as late as possible, usually only in early November. The harvest can often be spread over a period of eight to ten weeks. Each row of vines can be picked over up to 17 times. When botrytised grapes are being picked, these are selected in the vineyard and immediately sorted into three different containers, depending on the degree of botrytis. The grapes are again selected berry for berry in the cellar. This means that a single helper can manage an amount per day that is equivalent to four bottles of Auslese, one bottle of Beerenauslese, or half a bottle of Trockenbeerenauslese. Natural sedimentation in stainless steel tanks is used for preliminary clarification of the musts, processing is reductive. Fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, and lasts for six to twelve weeks. Further treatment remains reductive, and the wines are kept on the lees for as long as possible while maturing in stainless steel. Red wines are matured in barriques. The top botrytised wines in particular are sold 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).

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 5 Grapes.

Owner: Wilhelm Weil (Gutsdirektor), Suntory, Manager: Clemens Schmitt, Weinbergsverwalter, Managing director: Wilhelm Weil, Cellar master: Michael Thrien & Christian Engel & Stefan Bieber

Rheinhessen: Kühling-Gillot

The estate is located in the town of Bodenheim (Nierstein area). In its present form, it came about by marriage in 1970. Both the Kühling and Gillot wineries could look back on a winemaking tradition of two centuries. It is owned by Roland and Carolin (it is she who is the trained oenologist) Gilot. Carolin, who has been responsible for winemaking since 2002, is the only female member of the „Message in a bottle” wine producer’s association in Rheinhessen. She has been married to Hans-Oliver Spanier of the Battenfeld-Spanier estate since 2006.

The vineyard area totals ten hectares. Grape varieties planted are Riesling (4,3 ha), Pinot Noir (0,9 ha), Pinot Gris (0,8 ha), Portugieser (0,8 ha), Chardonnay (0,5 ha) and Scheurebe (0,4 ha).

Particular attention is paid to maintaining the fruit aromas, by treating the wine with great care from fermentation right through to bottling. The premium wines include the Grosses Gewächs/Grand Cru wines from the abovementioned top vineyard sites.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter – German quality estate producers association).

Gault and Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Carolin Spanier - Gillot, Gabi und Roland Gillot, Managing director: Roland Gillot, Carolin Spanier-Gillot, Cellar master: Roland Gillot , Carolin Spanier-Gillot und H.O. Spanier

Sachsen: Weingut Schloss Proschwitz

The „Schloss Proschwitz Prinz zur Lippe” estate is located in the commune of Dorfanger. It is the largest privately-owned wine estate in the former East Germany, and the oldest estate still in existence in Saxony. The family is one of the oldest aristocratic families in Germany. Until 1918, it was one of the ruling ducal houses, and was one of the most important entrepreneurial families in Saxony. The vineyards in Proschwitz were owned by the bishop of Meissen from the mid-12th century up to the period of Reformation. A large part of the communion wine required in Saxony was supplied by this estate. During the period of the German Democratic Republic, the vineyards were tended by the local agricultural co-operative. The wines, under the name of ”Proschwitzer Katzensprung”, were available to consumers only in very limited quantities, and if one had connections. In 1991, Dr. Georg Prinz zur Lippe purchased large portions of the wine estate, as well as the castle, which is located directly bext to the vineyards. In 2000 the estate moved into the beautifully restored 300-year-old four-sided courtyard in Zadel, high above Meissen. Since then, the ultra-modern cellar, a small guest house and the estate’s vinotheque have been located here. So far, seven million Euros have been invested in restoring the estate.

The vineyard area totals 55 hectares, and the vineyards are stretched out along the banks of the Elbe river, with a view of the town of Meissen, world-famous for its china and porcelain. The vineyards are on red granite soil typical of the region, with layers of loess up to six metres deep. Controlled sustainable, integrated practices are implemented in the vineyards, this includes the use of cover crops, limited fertilising and restricted use of plant sprays. The area is planted with the white varieties Pinot Gris (9 ha), Elbling (9 ha), Pinot Blanc (6 ha), Riesling (5 ha), Traminer, Scheurebe and Goldriesling, as well as with the red varieties Dornfelder (4 ha) and Pinot Noir (5 ha). The estate was the first one in Saxony to join the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association in 1996. Liqueurs and spirits have been produced since 1998.

Owner: Dr. Georg Prinz zur Lippe, Managing director: Leiter Marketing / Vertrieb Peter Bohn

Cellar master: Martin Schwarz

Gault Millau 4 Grapes.

Württemberg: Fürst zu Hohenlohe-Öhringen

The estate is located in the commune of Öhringen im Schloß (Württembergisch Unterland district). The princes and counts of Hohenlohe have owned vineyards here since 1360. The castle and estate are currently in the hands of Count Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Oehringen.

Currently, bottling and storage are still located in the castle cellar nine meters below the surface, built in the early 17th century. A new cellar is being planned, The vineyard area totals 19 hectares, all in the monopole site Verrenberg. The area is planted with the following white varieties: Riesling, Pinot blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Balnc, Müller-Thurgau, Kerner and Traminer, as well as with the following red varieties: Lemberger, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Samtrot. The musts are rigorously clarified, then generally fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Red grapes are always destemmed, and fermented in various tanks on the skins. The skins are pressed even before fermentation is completed, in order to obtain fewer hard tannins in the wines. The red wines are matured in either large old oak barrels or in barriques. The best wines are named after the best parcel of the Verrenberg site, the “Butzen“. Bottle-fermented sparkling wines, wine vinegar and spirits are also produced.

The estate is a member of the Deutsches Barrique-Forum, HADES, Quadriga and of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 2 Grapes.

Owner: Fürst Kraft zu Hohenlohe-Oehringen, Manager: Siegfried Röll, Cellar master: Siegfried Röll & Joachim Brand

The "Aufsteiger des Jahres" (Rising Star) Award: Weingut Bernhart /Schweigen

The estate is located in the commune of Schweigen (Südliche Weinstrasse district) in the Pfalz, on the border with Alsace. The foundation was laid around 1900, with the purchase of some vineyards in Wissembourg in France. This is the reason why two thirds of the vineyards are on French soil in Alsace. The family has been involved in a mixed farming operation for more than 100 years, but bottled wine under an own label has only been marketed since 1971. The estate is run by Willi Bernhart, his son Gerd is responsible for the cellar.

The vineyard area totals 15 hectares in the Sonnenberg (Schweigen) site, including the core site Rädling. The varieties planted are Pinot Noir (3,2 ha), Riesling (2,8 ha), Pinot Blanc (2,3 ha), Pinot Gris (1,5 ha), Portugieser (0,8 ha), Chardonnay (0,8 ha), Dornfelder (0,7 ha), Silvaner, Auxerrois, St. Laurent, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Müller-Thurgau. Great attention is paid to picking the grapes as late as possible, and processing them as gently as possible. White wines are cool-fermented. Red wines are fermented on the skins, then matured in oak barrels for up to 24 months. Grappa-style spirits as well as bottle-fermented sparkling wines are also produced.

The estate is a member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitäts-Weingüter) association.

Gault and Millau 3 Grapes.

Owner: Willi & Gerd Bernhart, Cellar master: Gerd Bernhart

The Best Co-operative Award: Divino Nordheim eG

The wine co-operative is located in the town of Nordheim (Maindreieck district) in Franken. Following numerous experiments, a new philosophy has been in place here since 1997, and production has been completely re-organised. The new concept is based clearly on quality, not quantity. This could only be implemented following a complete change in the vineyard work, and production guidelines are strictly enforced. Correct pruning leads to lower yields of better quality fruit. Under the new system, growers are not paid exclusively in accordance with must weight, instead a whole questionnaire, in which the exact adherence with the guidelines is also assessed, is also used when determining the payment for member growers. A new building was completed in 2003, in which the „Divino Nordheim” vinotheque is also housed. The general manager is Oskar Georg Noppenberger, the cellar master is Ernst Braun.

There are 224 members with a total vineyard holding of around 270 hectares. This area is planted with the following white varieties: Müller-Thurgau (41%), Silvaner (23%), Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rieslaner, Bacchus, Scheurebe, Kerner, Fontanara and Traminer (total of 21%), the remaining 15% is planted with the red varieties Pinot Noir, Pinot Madeleine, Domina, Pinot Meunier, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. 2,8 million bottles of wine were produced in 2005. These are almost exclusively quality wines, with a high percentage of Kabinett and Spätlese wines. The wines are marketed in three principal ranges: Divino (Chardonnay, red and white Pinot varieties, specific and individual use of barriques), Juventa (fresh and fruity wines) and Franconia (wines from classical varieties). In addition, perlé wines, bottle-fermented sparkling wines, liqueurs and spirits (brandy, grappa-style) are also produced.

Gault and Millau 0 Grapes (There is no wine co-operative that has a Gault and Millau Grape)

Owner: Mitglieder der Genossenschaft,Managing director: Markus Schoebel, Cellar master: Ernst Braun
Erlangen, Germany

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