Germany´s 2014 Riesling Revisited

When visiting many of the German top estates in March this year, the youthful 2014 wines showed elegant with low alcohol levels, juicy acidity and creaminess. Some were already delicious in their youth and definitely less challenging that the robust wines from 2013. Especially the Großen Gewächse from the Nahe and Rheinhessen region impressed with harmony, balance and elegance. Without lacking future potential, the wines had great finesse and fascination. They were rather quiet and aesthetic than baroque and opulent.

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Last week I had the chance to taste 19 of those wines next to each other blindly and, thereby, was able to compare, recheck and verify my early impressions of the 2014 Riesling vintage in Germany.
Here are my tasting notes and ratings:

  1. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Frauenberg
    Elegant aromatics of stone fruit and citrus, some herbal spiciness and traces of ripeness. Very balanced and harmonious with precision, decent drive and fine minerality. (91)
  2. Battenfeld-Spanier 2014 Schwarzer Herrgott
    Ripe fruit of apples and stone fruit with delicate, chalky minerality and freshness. Very present, almost opulent, on the palate with dancing acidity, cool depth, herbal spiciness and a lot of fruit. Perfect length with drive. (92)
  3. Kühling-Gillot 2014 Pettenthal
    Dynamic, powerful and exciting aromatics of tropical fruit and smokiness. Some red fruit. Bold and intense on the palate with exotic flavors, spiciness and salty minerality. Finishes long. Beautiful wine that fascinates with a great play of juiciness and vibrant minerality. Fantastic! (94)
  4. Wechsler 2014 Kirchspiel
    Intriguing nose of citrus and stone fruit, (smoked) onion and lighter fuel. Fine sweetness. Precise with substance and grip. First vibrant, then rather astringent in the mouth with a lot of fruit and tension. (93)
    By the way, this wine isn´t classified as GG (Großes Gewächs) since Katharina Wechsler is not a member of the VDP.
  5. Wittmann 2014 Morstein
    Very reluctant at first with fine fruit and minty freshness. Really needs time to open up in the glass (and mostly in the cellar). Very dense and compact, yet harmonious and balanced on the palate with great length, focus and saltiness. A quiet monster of structure, concentration and potential. (95)
  6. Dönnhoff 2014 Felsenberg
    Aromatics of ripe, yellow fruits and cool, freshly-cut herbs. Fine notes of butter. Elegant, but really open and inviting. Juicy and dense on the palate with juiciness of fruit, delicate, vibrant minerality. Perfect structure and length with matching sweetness, acidity and character. Surprisingly open and ready with all its pieces in place and, thereby, a great joy to drink already. (96)
  7. Gut Hermannsberg 2014 Hermannsberg
    Citrus and stone fruit, cabbage, almonds and traces of smoky minerality characterize the nose. Lean and a little bumpy and unsettled on the palate. Time will tell… (89)
  8. Joh. Bapt. Schäfer 2014 Pittermännchen
    Driven by freshness of citrus and green herbs. Fine minerality. Tight and precise with citrus, herbs (woodruff!) and saltiness. Dynamic and long. (91)IMG_2950
  9. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felsenberg
    Distinct Schäfer-Fröhlich with dominant notes of spontaneous fermentation and aromatics of stone fruit, delicate minerality and smokiness. Beautiful fruit and little juiciness on the palate. Some dustiness and sweetness show through a robust, crumbly structure of pure tension. Exciting and wild, but very pure wine! (94)
  10. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2014 Felseneck
    Another highlight from Tim Fröhlich and quite similar to the Felsenberg, but less expressive, more gracefully built and darker! Minerality forward with some stone fruit, herbs and bacon. Dynamic, salty and of perfect structure. Laser-like precision, immense length with citrus freshness, fine juiciness and herbal spiciness. (95)
  11. Clemens Busch 2014 Marienburg Fahrlay
    Quiet aromatics of tropical fruit and peach, some florals and herbs. Fine and elegant, but paltry and broad. Lacking drive and length. (88)
  12. Heymann-Löwenstein 2014 Uhlen Blaufüßer Lay
    Reductive at first. Unusual aromatics of iodine, bacon and pure smokiness. With some ripe peach only little fruit is present. Vibrant, cool and full of herbal spiciness shows the wine on the palate. This is no wine for inexperienced winelovers, because it is really challenging – and nevertheless fascinating. (92)
  13. Van Volxem 2014 Altenberg
    This Riesling shows its drive right from the beginning with smoky minerality and yellow fruit. A little blunt and rather opulent without being really loud. Present ripeness (of botrytis), some lime and little saltiness. Unfortunately lacking density and, most of all drive. Finishes brittle. (87)
  14. Leitz 2014 Schlossberg
    The only Riesling from the Rheingau really performed with sappy tropical fruit and red fruits. Cacao, licorice and some sweetness join the vital, yet delicate and sophisticated aromatics. Mouthcoating with yellow fruits, herbs and orange zest. Finishes very long with precision and vital acidity. A powerful and very approachable wine of finesse. (94)
  15. Bürklin-Wolf 2014 Ungeheuer
    Fine fruit, delicate herbs (sage!) and cool minerality. Little sweetness. Elegant and smoothly structured with proper density and grip. Elegant Bürklin-Wolf needing time. (91)
  16. Georg Mosbacher 2014 Ungeheuer
    Powerful aromatics of ripe stone fruit, some lime and even traces of red fruit. Very straight on the palate while not lacking vibrancy and substance. Vital, yet harmonious wine with delicate minerality and fresh fruits of gooseberry and lime. At the moment, the greater, more fascinating expression of the Ungeheuer. (93)
  17. Philipp Kuhn 2014 Saumagen
    Aromatically dominated by minerality. The fruit needed some time to show with grapefruit and peach. Yet, rather one-dimensional. Puristic, cool and full of salty minerality and vital acidity, this wine finishes long and firm. (92)
  18. Rebholz 2014 Kastanienbusch
    Funky, expressive aromatics of tropical fruits, sweet woodruff, green pepper and candy. Clean, yet rather broad, on the palate with tropical fruit and freshness. This wine improved the most over the time of the tasting as the loud aromatics decreased and more structure and precision showed. (89)
  19. Von Winning 2014 Grainhübel
    Another expressive wine of ripe, tropical fruit, butter, freshness and florals (violets). Herbs, mostly chamomile, and fine fruit dictate the palate. Relatively bold, robustly structured and complex. Good length. (90)

Germany´s 2014 dry Rieslings are elegant, harmonious and almost homogeneously of great quality.
The stars certainly come from Rheinhessen and the Nahe region, where the wines show character, drive and future potential, 2014 is generally a vintage for short- to medium-term drinking. The best wines will last for decades.

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Tasting Note: Dönnhoff 2006 Hermannshöhle GG, Riesling

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1. Introduction:
Dönnhoff owns more than half of the 8 ha (~20 acre) of the famous Hermannshöhle vineyard, which is officially classified as the best site in the entire Nahe appellation for more than 100 years.
Besides the dry Großes Gewächs (GG/ “Grand Cru”) Dönnhoff produces wines with residual sweetness from this southern- exposed, volcanic and slate-soiled vineyard located directly on the banks of the Nahe river, where the Riesling grape is able to enjoy a long growing season and to reach full physical ripeness without accumulating to much sugar.
The complex soils of black and grey slate, volcanic rock, porphyry and lime stone create wines with concentration and deep minerality.
Bottle and cork of our 2006 Hermannshöhle GG are flawless. 13% alc.

2. Appearance:
Golden with green reflexes. Shining and bright!

3. Nose:
Aromatics of (ripe) Stone Fruits, mostly Peach, and Citrus.
Fir Needles, Sweet Honey and Floral Characteristics.
Fine Flintstone and little Licorice.
Voluminous, fresh and precisely multi-layered!

4. Taste:
Dense and soft on the front palate with Stone- and Citrus Fruits.
Grapefruit, some Pear and Pineapple.
Dynamic, Fine and Dancing Acidity which shows powerful on the finish as well.
Finishes long with Fruit (Grapefruit!), Powerful Acidity, some interesting traces of Bitterness plus some Anise/ Pepper Spiciness.

5. Opinion:
Great expression of a famous vineyard in a beautiful interaction of Fruit, Acidity and Minerality.
Powerful, elegant and complex!
This just started to evolve. Armed with perfect structure, this wine will live for a long time.
There is so much in this wine; it´s big, but quiet and multifaceted without being obtrusive.

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Hermannshöhle Vineyard, 04.2013

Große Gewächse 2012 – Best of Dry German Riesling

While chances are high that this year´s vintage will turn out “average” in Germany, the last two years sure were exceptional. With lower yields than 2011, 2012 delivered perfectly ripe and concentrated fruit and, thereby, outstanding wines on both levels- dry and sweet.
In the following I´d like to focus on the dry tier and its premium wines:
The Grand Cru level, which is called “Großes Gewächs” (GG) in Germany. Shortly after the release of these wines in the beginning of September, I had the chance to taste the results from some of the very best producers of dry Riesling and would like to share a selection of my brief tasting notes with you:

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1. Fritz Haag 2012 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr GG
Certainly among the Mosel´s best producers for sweet Riesling and famous for his Auslesen from the Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr site, Fritz Haag shifted his focus more and more on dry Riesling over the last years as well.
His 2012 Großes Gewächs shines light yellow in the glass.
Fine, but vibrant aromas of Citrus and Tropical Fruits. Some Apple with little Sweetness.
Flavors of Citrus and Orange (Zest) plus an interesting play of Acidity and Minerality.
Nice, even a little salty, finish.
Beautifully structured, fresh and very approachable already.

2. A.J. Adam 2012 Goldtröpfchen
Andreas Adam is a young producer who started his winery by re-cultivating the old and abandoned vineyards from his grandfather. The winery is located in Dhron, near Bernkastel, in Germany´s Mosel appellation. Today he runs two sites, Hofberger and Goldtröpfchen, with partially old vines on their original rootstock.
The 2012 Goldtröpfchen comes with powerful aromas of Pineapple, Citrus and Honey, which are repeated on the palate. Round, but heavy. Present Acidity and a strong finish with some bitterness.
A very opulent wine, unfortunately lacking some excitement and refinement.

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3. Dönnhoff 2012 Dellchen GG
Certainly Helmut Dönnhoff is one of the most famous German winemakers and might be the best on earth when it comes to Riesling. He creates wines that strictly reflect the vintage and vineyard and always come with great future potential.
His Dellchen takes off with juicy and lush aromas of Mango, Passion Fruit, ripe Peach and Apricot. Floral characters.
Exotic flavors of mostly Passion Fruit and sweet Mango with little Peach.
Finishes with sweet Fruit and bright acidity and precise minerality. Great!

4. Dönnhoff 2012 Hermannshöhle GG
The Hermannshöhle vineyard is the top-rated vineyard in the Nahe appellation and probably one of the best sites for Riesling worldwide. South facing with very old slate soils with layers of volcanic, lime stone and porphyry soils.
The 2012 Hermannshöhle delivers a lot of Fruit aromas- Pineapple, Pear, Citrus- but also beautiful Minerality with Graphite and Crushed Rock. Freshness and some traces of Honey.
Very intense, but precise and multi-layered!
Great juicy, but minerality-driven mouthfeel with beautiful fruit.
Finishes long with great finesse, dancing acidity and little spiciness. Fantastic wine, which combines the extremes of precision and juicyness!!

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5. Gut Hermannsberg 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Grown on porose, weathered volcanic soil which is rich in minerals and contains layers of copper, this Riesling is loaded with aromas of Flintstone and Minerals. Herbal and Yellow Fruit characters. Traces of Sulfur.
Round on the palate with dominant Mineral and salty flavors. Little Citrus.
Really dense and complex.

6. Schäfer-Fröhlich 2012 Kupfergrube GG
Same vineyard, different winemaker.
Again, powerful aromas of Flintstone. Herbal characters and Roast.
Little Fruit, Grapefruit and Citrus, in the mouth. Present smoky, mineral and salty notes!
A powerful, intense and headstrong Riesling, which reflects the vineyard.
It´s always interesting to compare wines that come from the same vineyard source and are made by different winemakers. In this case the distinct characteristics of the Kupfergrube really shine in both wines, especially in the fascinating minerality and flintstone aromatics.

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7. Von Winning 2012 Pechstein GG
Von Winning in Deidesheim is the shooting star winery of the last years in Germany. Winemaker Stephan Attman has spent a lot of time Burgundy and adopted the French techniques into his winemaking, e.g. aging his Riesling in small oak barrels.
The Pechstein shows great and powerful aromas of Ripe, Yellow and Tropical Fruit.
Nuttily and Sweet Traces. Pastries. Rich, but harmonious.
You can´t deny the oak influence. Cremy and opulent on the palate.
Nice Fruit with mostly Pears and Passionfruit. Straightforward, exciting and multi-layered.

8. Von Winning 2012 Kirchenstück GG
The Kirchenstück vineyard shows a stronger mineral note.
Reluctant Fruit aroma of Citrus and Lychee, but a lot of Minerality and Crushed Rock.
Saltiness. Complex and precise!
More Minerality with Vibrant Acidity. Now more Fruit- Pear, Passionfruit and Ripe Apples.
Depth, opulence and nice salty traces on the finish.

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9. Wittmann 2012 Kirchspiel GG
All following wines from the Rheinhessen appellation are grown on lime soil or at least lime dominated soils. The Kirchspiel site opens up towards River Rhine like an arena or amphitheater and protects the vines from direct wind.
Again, we compare two wines from the same vineyard.
Wittmann´s Kirchspiel shows a Fruit-driven nose with Fine Yellow Fruit-
Passionfruit, Mango and Peach. Little Orange Zest and Strawberry (!).
Flavors of more Yellow Fruit. Even some Cassis.
Very filigree and light, but juicy. Wonderful balance!

10. Keller 2012 Kirchspiel GG
Keller´s Kirchspiel comes very reluctant and introvert, but with great structure and finesse.
Fine aromas of Citrus, Lychee, Pear and more Yellow Fruit. Little Chocolate.
Dancing minerality.
Fresh and juicy flavors. Salty traces. Finishes with Citrus and Orange Zest.
Made for the future.

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11. Wittmann 2012 Morstein GG
Grown on lime stone with clay marl.
Light aromas of Yellow and some Red Fruits. Interesting Coolness. Fresh!
Fruit core on the palate with mostly Citrus and Peach.
Great play of Acidity and Sweet Flavors.
Powerful with great structure and Minerality.

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12. Keller 2011 Abtserde GG
This was the only wine from the 2011 vintage, which was great, too (shorter growing season than 2012, but perfect ripeness and great fruit characteristics).
Beautiful golden-yellow in the glass.
Tight, but soft and very filigree nose with Stone Fruits, Citrus, Orange, some Apple and Lemongrass. Beautiful Minerality. Floral notes and some Rosemary.
Fruit-driven palate. Apples, Pears and Peach.
Very dense, but less juicy. Beautiful acidity. Finishes very long.
Puristic, fine and still young. Keep this one for many years!
A great wine!

While all wines drink quite nicely now, they will start showing their real potential after 5+ years.
Whereas the most “easy to drink” and approachable wine was Haag´s GG, you can only guess the greatness and complexity most of the other wines will be capable of.
Cheers & a special thanks to NobleWine Munich!

Tasting Note: Dönnhoff 2011 Felsenberg GG, Riesling

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1. Introduction:
While Helmut Dönnhoff is probably the international most popular German winemaker, he sure is one of the best.
His name is connected with world-class Riesling from the Nahe Appellation- and especially from his famous Hermannshöhle vineyard.
Today we taste his 2011 “Felsentürmchen”, which is named after the small, historic tower in the vineyard. Harvested from 25 to 30yr old vines growing in the best parcels on steep volcanic slopes on the Felsenberg vineyard, our bottle and cork are in perfect condition.

2. Appearance:
Bright golden-yellow with green reflexes.

3. Nose:
Classic Riesling aromas of Stone- and Citrus Fruits.
Some Grapefruit as well as Floral characteristics. Traces of Herbs as Fresh Parsley.
Minerality and present firestone.
Clean, fresh and complex!

4. Taste:
Again Stone Fruits, mostly Peach, paired with Citrus and herbs.
Finishes medium-long with Fruit, Herbs, Fine Acidity, and Firestone driven Minerality.
Deep and intense flavors! Crisp texture.

5. Opinion:
A great, still very young, Riesling from a good vintage!
Very complex, dense and deep. Distinct firestone characteristics.
This wine will benefit from long term cellaring.

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Talking about wine quality with H. Dönnhoff (04/2013)