Germany – Masters of Riesling, the 2007 vintage

Having heard about my Australian Riesling adventures I was invited to visit some of Germany’s most prominent Riesling producers –  Dr Loosen (Mosel), JL Wolf (Pfalz), Leitz (Rheingau), Furst (Franken), Gunderloch (Rheinhessen) and Donnhoff (Nahe) – by UK importers Awin Barratt Siegel.

With its marginal location, top German Riesling is defined by its makers ability precisely to balance sugar and acidity across a range of premium styles, labelled:

  • Kabinett (light wines, ideal aperitifs)
  • Spatlese (riper, late harvest wines with more body)
  • Auslese (selected harvest of very ripe bunches, usually sweet)
  • Beerenauslese (selected harvest of individual overripe berries)
  • Trockenbeerenauslese (selected harvest of individual overripe, raisined berries)

With increased demand for dry styles, there are more and more wines labelled Trocken (dry) and Halbtrocken (semi-dry).  Unlike most Australian dry Rieslings, these still retain significant amounts of residual sugar but, because their acidity is much higher than Australian wines, this is not perceptible or very subtlely integrated.

The trip focused on Rieslings from the outstanding 2007 vintage, with a smattering of older vintages and other varieties.  The key to 2007’s success was an unusually warm April which led to the earliest bud burst on record and, after a cool summer and glorious October, record hang times – 130-150 days (the required hang time is 105).  This allowed the grapes to develop great intensity of flavour while maintaining structure – my highlights below.

If you’re interested in purchasing any of the wines, my companions on the trip were all buyers for UK independent wine merchants so they’re a promising port of call – websites listed in strictly alphabetical order!  www.averys.com, www.flyingcorkscrew.co.uk, www.oxfordwine.co.uk, www.petergrahamwines.com & www.tanners-wines.co.uk
 

JL Wolf

JL Wolf Villa Wolf Pinot Noir 2006 – pale garnet, fresh nose, crunchy/fresh acidity, clean red fruits, touch of cinnamon – well done easy drinking style with more palate weight than I expected.

JL Wolf Villa Wolf Pinot Blanc 2007
– textured palate with pear and pear skins, dry, quite mineral.  Good.

JL Wolf Villa Wolf Gewurtztraminer 2007
– aromatic with turkish delight and lifted citrus notes.  Tastes quite dry despite c18g residual sugar with subtle lychee fruit, rose petals and lemony, cleansing acidity.

JL Wolf Wachenheimer Riesling Trocken 2007
– herbal edged fruity nose with an apple/lime blossom palate, quite broad but balanced acidity.

JL Wolf Forster Pechstein Riesling Spatlese Trocken 2007 (tank sample)
– black basalt soils produce a very gunpowdery, mineral, mouth-sluicing palate, tight knit as yet but some exotic notes there with pineapple and candied citrus.

Dr Loosen

Dr Loosen Dr L QbA 07 – fragrant nose with a hint of honey and green apricot fruit, all of which follow through on the off-dry palate together with leesy, mineral hints.  Refreshing, juicy acidity and a touch of spritz add fine balance – very, very good and dangerously quaffable!

Dr Loosen Bernkasteler Lay Kabinett 07
– a steely, tight mineral palate with honeyed citrus, tropical fruit notes and deliciously ripe, fruity acidity.

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Kabinett 07 – earthy, spicy and piquant with attractively spikey, citrus acidity and a pithy texture; long and tightly wound.

Dr Loosen Erdener Treppchen Spatlese 07
– tons of youthful citrus and tropical fruit here – very direct with fresh squeezed lemon and lime acidity.

Dr Loosen Wehlener Sonnenhur Auslese 07 (tank sample) – elegant palate with a seamless stream of slatey, honeyed, greengage, steely and pink grapefruit and bright, bright acidity.  Very good.

Dr Loosen Urziger Wurtzgarten Auslese 07 (tank sample)
– very concentrated, mineral core – lots of dry extract with a core of vibrant slightly under-ripe pineapple; long, dense but clean finish.  Very good.

Dr Loosen Erdener Pralat Auslese 07 (tank sample) – a south-facing special micro-climate (heat retaining cliffs, red slate and the reflection of sunlight from the river) make this an exceptional site for ripeness.  This gushes with exuberant, creamy fruit salad flavours kept in check by slighty sour (in a good way) acidity. Incredibly youthful and primary now, be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Dr Loosen Urziger Wurtzgarten Auslese Goldkapsel 07 (tank sample)
– tight, limpid nose with a core of racy, citrus acidity…very delicate and intense.  Terrific.

Dr Loosen Erdener Pralat Auslese Goldkapsel 07 (tank sample)
– sleek and supple with honeyed grapefruit and herbal edged green apricot; delicious, lingering finish.  Very good.

Dr Loosen Beerenauslese 2006 – rich, layered and sweet with hedonistic, exotic fruits, hints of saffron and earthy porcini animated by lively acidity.

Blue Slate Eiswein 2007 (tank sample)
–  toothsomely sweet with fabulous fruit purity – steely, sugared grapefruit, like a sorbet right now underscored by piercing acidity.  Great clarity/precision.

Leitz

Leitz Eins-Zwei-Dry 2007 – this, the debut entry level dry wine, has style and substance. Thrusting acidity animates clean, ripe apricot and nectarine fruit with an undertow of slate; good palate presence should win new fans for German Riesling.

Leitz Geisenheimer Rothenberg Kabinett Trocken 2007 – (tank sample)
ultra smooth delivery of apricot and steely greengage fruit supported by salty minerality and thirst quenching citrus-spiked acidity.  Very good.

Leitz Rudesheimer Kabinett Trocken 2007 – the nose promises fruit salad but the palate is tighter with mineral slate notes to the fore and mouthwatering acidity; poised and taut, this needs time.

Leitz Rudesheimer Bischofsberg Spatlese Trocken 2007 – super-tight knit grapefruit and whetstone nose and palate with juicy acidity and plenty of dry extract – a finish chiselled with minerals  – exciting potential once it unfurls.

Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Qualitatiswein Trocken – a very cool, clear-eyed minerality with sleek acidity; pithy long, long finish – this really draws you back to the glass, gorgeous!

Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Trocken Alte Reben (old vine) – a heady, rich nose of pineapple, fruit salad and honey, though the palate is much tighter with a textured, mineral quality and piquant salt and spice to the fruit.  Long and intense.

Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Trocken – Alte Reben (old vines)
– lovely sour citrus undercurrent to the fruit; super intense, long, concentrated and textured with a powerful underlying minerality.  Excellent.

Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Spatlese
– a very complete wine with a rich seam of ripe citrus, including vibrant and pretty in pink grapefruit; lively thirst-quenching acidity makes for good persistence.

Leitz Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg Spatlese – a great richness of fruit enhanced by skin contact, some botrytis and lovely rolling acidity; long limpid finish.

Donnhoff

Donnhoff 2007 – quite green nose with granny smiths and golden delicious – dry, fine and racy with an attractive tang to the finish.  Very good starter for ten!

Donnhoff Pinot Blanc 2007 – nicely focused dry wine with a mineral edge to its waxy white peach and lifted floral (acacia) notes – great with fish in a creamy sauce.

Donnhoff Pinot Blanc 2007 (tank sample) – fermented and aged in a new 2400l wooden cask this is Pinot Blanc with stature.  Blossom and vanilla aromas follow through on a rich but balanced palate with waxy yellow plum and orchard fruits. Powerful.

Donnhoff Dry Slate 2007 –  sleek and muscular dry wine with firmly focused steely, grapefruit and a lick of salt.

Donnhoff Hermannshohle Dry Grosses Gewachs 2007
– 50 year old vines produce a fabulously complex, opulent yet elegant wine – one of my wines of the trip. Very flinty, tight nose but already expressive and impactful on the palate with a lovely depth of lithe green apricot and white orchard fruit.  Its supple, muscular quality is supported by sleek, satiny acidity.  Apple core and cinammon spice add flourish to a long, powerful finish…serious gravitas.

Donnhoff Qba 2007 – lovely balance to this off-dry entry level wine.  Sweet edged apple core fruit dances over the palate buoyed by ripe, supple acidity and anchored by an underlying minerality.

Donnhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2007
– animating, juicy acidity gives lots of life and savour to its crystalline pure apple and grapefruit flavours.  Long and lively.

Donnhoff Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spatlese 2007
– pithy, cool, long and elegant with steely, slatey grapefruit; long and limpid.

Donnhoff Kreunacher Krotenpfuhl Riesling Spatlese 2007
–   vibrant citrussy acidity delineates ripe but mouthwatering apple and citrus flavours with lifted lime blossom.  Long, juicy, mouthwatering finish.

Donnhoff Felsenturmchen Riesling Spatlese 2007
– very racy, linear, mineral wine with a rush of lime-driven acidity coarsing through its grapefruit/pink grapefruit and blossom flavours.

Donnhoff Schlossbockelheimer Kupfergrube Riesling Spatlese 2007
– very leesy, tangy nose and a concentrated, pithy pin you down palate – needs time for the acidity to integrate but has a super-cool purity.

Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 2007
– green apricot, a limpid quality, mouth-quenching acidity on the finish – a real baby now – very concentrated long finish….

Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 1989
– golden – very spicy nose, salted limes underneath, some petrol and cassia bark but mouth tingling citrus pulp shot with slate exudes freshness…wow, still so young.

Weingut Rudolf Furst

Weingut Rudolf Furst Silvaner Pur Mineral 2007 – not your average Silvaner, this is top stuff – bone dry with a steely nose, very tight and focused, mineral palate with a backdrop of stone fruits.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Riesling Pur Mineral 2007 – greengage, green apricots, very juicy, slightly tart acidity/sour plum following a mineral nose.  Very pure, clean finish, lively fruity style.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Riesling Centgrafenberg 2007
(Spatlese Trocken) – elegant, very mineral, fresh, pure and clean with plenty of apricot/apricot kernel fruit with an attractively sour twist of acidity, like when you bite around a fruit stone.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Riesling R Centgrafenberg 2007, Grosses Gewach
– mealy/wheat nose, spicy plate with real depth of herbal edged stone fruits; limpid finish.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2007
– very pure nose, mineral, peach, apricot behind…very intense, fruit and minerality running alongside each other; beautifully integrated acidity.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Spatbugunder (Pinot Noir) Tradition 2006
– de-stemmed then fermented on the skins and matured in wooden casks this is aromatic with cranberry, red cherry and smoky, earthy beetroot flavours with lifted floral top notes; quite crisp acidity and more grip than expected. Franconia is well known for its Pinot Noir which is enjoyed with the local venison. – this gets kid glove treatment – whole berry fermentation and maturation in 25% new oak on the lees for around 15 months.  It shows “fatter” fruit, with strawberries and raspberries firmed out by textured tannins; savoury, smoky finish.  A tad austere, will definitely benefit from time and food.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Spatbugunder (Pinot Noir) Centgrafenberg 2006 –
savoury nose, with underbrush/sous bois which follow through on the palate together with crunchy cranberry and red cherry fruit and acidity; firm but ripe, well integrated supporting tannins.

Weingut Rudolf Furst Spatbugunder (Pinot Noir) Klingenberger 2006

Gunderloch

Gunderloch Riesling Trocken 2007 –  tight, racy and mineral with sour plum and tangy apricot fruit.  Fantastic drive, freshness and fruit with an underlying minerality.

Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling 2007
– tangy, waxy, floral wine with rich, ripe white peach; well balanced with an attractive, supple mouthfeel.

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Spatlese Riesling 2007 – Lovely aroma of orange blossoms and spice; rich and textured, lithe and long with very good depth of flavour – peaches, flowers and spice.

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 2006
– pithy nose followed by honeyed grapefruit and orange on the palate with undercurrents of fennel, white pepper and flowers – really dances over the palate with its citrus, delicate and racy acidity.  Would be pitch perfect with seabass with fennel and orange zest or feta, orange, fennel and tapenade tart – yum!

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2006
– declassified Beerenausele this was infanticide but no less delicious for it!   Honeyed – a heady, floral honey – with rich toffee apple, Michelin star style not bonfire night (!) balanced by fresh cut apple.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
May 2008

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