Monday, February 8, 2016

Welcome to the USA: Christian L. Stahl from Winzerhof Stahl in Franken, Germany

Picture: Christian L. Stahl's First Appearance in the USA at Cleveland Parc Fine Wines and Liquor Store in Washington DC, with General Manager Anthony Quinn, Simone Stahl and Christian Schiller

With 3/5 grapes in the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2016, Christian L. Stahl, Winzerhof Stahl, belongs to the elite of winemakers in Germany.

Winzerhof Stahl is in Franken. Like so many other colleagues from this region, Christian L. Stahl’s Franken wines are virtually unknown outside of Germany.


Pictures: Christian L. Stahl at Cleveland Park Fine Wines and Liquor Store in Washington DC, with General Manager Anthony Quinn

Within Germany, however, Christian has shown a very strong performance. When Christian Stahl took over the winery of his parents about 10 years ago, the vineyard area totaled 2 hectares. Within a decade, he has gone to 20 hectares. When Christian Stahl took over, the winery was not even mentioned in Germany’s wine guides, like the Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland. Within a decade, he has gone from 0/5 to 3/5 grapes. Christian got the second grape in 2012 and the third grape in 2014.

In 2012, Christian Stahl was Falstaff Winemaker Newcomer of the Year 2012. See here: Best German Wines and Winemakers - Falstaff Deutschland Wine Trophies 2012

Christian decided to start exporting to the US and came on a tour to Washington DC, Chicago and New York in early 2016 to launch his wines into the American market.

I had met Christian some time ago in Germany at the top Restaurant SchauMahl in Frankfurt/Germany, were he came for a winemaker dinner. Here is my report about the fantastic evening:

The Bistronomics Cuisine of Chef Christoph Kubenz and the Wines of Winemaker Christian Stahl at Restaurant schauMahl in Frankfurt, Germany

Pictures: Christian L. and Simone Stahl at Cleveland Park Fine Wines and Liquor Store in Washington DC, with Importer Chris Bartha

Dry Wines

All of the wines of Winzerhof Stahl are bone-dry. He does not produce any sweet-style (fruity-sweet or noble-sweet) wines. Many wine drinkers, in particular outside of Europe, when they see a German wine in the shelves, have the association of a sweet-style wine. This is however misguided. German wines as a rule are dry wines. Let me quote Terry Theise: … What I myself see, from the growers I visit and the restaurants I go to, and the stories I am told, Germany is not only a dry-wine culture, it is militantly and obsessively so. How many letters have I gotten from travelers to Germany who were promptly dismayed to find the utter hegemony of the Trocken style? I did not set these people up. They saw what I see. … If you were dropped from the sky and landed in Germany you would conclude it is a dry wine culture.

Steffen Christmann, the President of the VDP, the German elite wine maker association, estimates that 95% of German wine beyond a price point of Euro 15 is dry. Christian Witte, Domain Administrator of Schloss Johannisberg, says that 85% of the wines he exports to the US are sweet-style. This was 95% 10 years ago. Thus, with his bone-dry wines, Christian L. Stahl is in a niche in the American market, but in a rapidly expanding niche as the world discovers German dry wine.

Pictures: Christian L Stahl Selling his Wines

Wine Classification

Christian Stahl belongs to the group of German winemakers, who go their own way in terms of classifying and naming their wines. Also, he does not sell his wines in the traditional Bocksbeutel bottle, as most of his colleagues do in Franken, but in regular bottles, as in the rest of Germany. Right from the beginning when he took over, he has been using screw caps only.

With regard to classifying his wines, Christian disregards the German (standard) classification of 1971 and markets all his wines as Qualitätswein b.A. But he is not in the group of winemakers, who have instead adopted the VDP approach to classify their wines. He has developed his own, innovative classification system, playing with his name Stahl (= steel).

See also:
Approaches to Classifying German Wine: The Standard Approach (the Law of 1971), the VDP Approach and the Zero Classification Approach

Picture: Christian L. and Simone Stahl, Annette Schiller and Anthony Quinn

Christian Stahl groups his wines into 3 categories:

Top: EDELSTAHL (= precious steel)
Middle: DAMASZENER STAHL
Entry: FEDER STAHL

Also, Christian rejects the terroir principle. You will never find a vineyard name on his bottles. Instead he gives his wines colorful names, such as Literweise (by the liter), Rauschgift (drugs) and Rosenrot (red like a rose).

Pictures: Christian L. Stahl Signing the "Sheet of Fame"

Winzerhof Stahl

Winzerhof Stahl is located in Auernhofen in the Franken wine area. Winemaking is only a recent activity in the Stahl family. Until the mid-1980s, Winzerhof Stahl did not exist. The Stahl family was doing farming and did not make any wine. Christian’s father then decided to acquire vineyards and to shift to winemaking. Today, the vineyard area totals 20 hectares. Winzerhof Stahl also includes a wine restaurant with 200 seats; the food there is at the highest level, as are the Winzerhof Stahl wines.

Christian L. Stahl

Born in 1978, Christian has been in charge of Winzerhof Stahl since 2005. He started his education at Weingut Stein in Würzburg (apprenticeship) in 1999, then spent some time with the biodynamic winemaker Jakob-Peter Kühn in the Rheingau and finished his studies with a Diploma at the Geisenheim University.

My Favorite 3 Wines

Picture: Christian Schiller's Favorites

2014 Winzerhof Stahl Spark! FEDER STAHL

50% Scheurebe and 50% Riesling. Brut. A lightly sparkling wine.
Not well known in the world, but Germany is the largest market for sparkling wine in the world. 1 out of 4 bottles of sparkling wine produced around the globe is consumed in Germany. The Germans love bubblies.

The 2014 Winzerhof Stahl Spark! FEDER STAHL is a lightly sparkling wine, i.e. the carbon dioxide pressure is much less than in a regular sparkling wine. It is almost a still wine which is a bit fizzy. Delicious. I bought 6 bottles (under US$ 20).

Picture: The 2014 Winzerhof Stahl Spark! FEDER STAHL

2014 Winzerhof Stahl Silvaner DAMASZENER STAHL

Silvaner (primarily grown in Alsace and Germany) is the signature grape of Franken. In Alsace, it is one of the four grape varieties that can be used to produce Alsace Grand Cru wine, although only in one vineyard, Zotzenberg.

The 2014 Winzerhof Stahl Silvaner DAMASZENER STAHL shows very well, what the Silkvaner grape is capable of. Subtle in aroma and mild in acidity. Well done Christian (under US$ 20).

Picture: The 2014 Winzerhof Stahl Silvaner DAMASZENER STAHL

2014 Winzerhof Stahl Scheurebe [WHITEOUT] DAMASZENER STAHL

Scheurebe is an indigenous German grape variety, bred in 1916 by Professor Georg Scheu. Its intense bouquet is reminiscent of black currant, peach or ripe pear. Scheurebe wines go very well with aromatic, spicy foods from appetizer to dessert.

You easily loose orientation, when you smell this wine, says Christian. Stop sniffing, drink it! (under US$ 20).

Picture: 2014 Winzerhof Stahl Scheurebe [WHITEOUT] DAMASZENER STAHL

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Tour and Tasting at Weingut Gut Hermannsberg in Niederhausen, Nahe – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Picture: Tasting at Weingut Gut Hermannsberg in Niederhausen, Nahe

Weingut Gut Hermannsberg goes back to the year 1902 when the Prussian government founded the domain on steep, rugged land in the central Nahe valley. Planting vineyards here was an extraordinary effort: rocks had to be blasted and huge masses of earth moved. Until well into the 1980s the domain stayed in public hands.

Picture: The Nahe and Weingut Gut Hermannsberg (Source: Gut Hermannsberg)

Owner was the State of Rhineland-Palatine as the successor of the Prussian State. The estate was privatized in 1998. In 2010 it changed hands again and was renamed Gut Hermannsberg. The new owners invested heavily and brought the estate back to its glory. The vineyards cover 30 hectares and all of which are located in Grand Cru sites. The legendary Kupfergrube, the monopol site Hermannsberg, and the unique Traiser Bastei number among the best Riesling sites in Germany and of the world.

Christian Patsch was our host. He showed us around and led a tasting.

Winemonger is the US importer of Weingut Gut Hermannsberg. Winemonger has a nice write-up about Gut Hermannsberg on its web site.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Gut Hermannsberg

Weingut Gut Hermannsberg

Winemonger: A new incarnation of the old Königlich-Preussische Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schlossböckelheim, Gut Hermannsberg possesses thirty hectares of vines, mostly Riesling, in some of the very best vineyard sites in all of Germany: Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube, their monopole Niederhäuser Hermannsberg, and the Traiser Bastei.

All of Gut Hermannsberg's vineyards are rated as Grosse Lage. These hillsides frequently show 50% incline, along with the Nahe's customary kaleidoscope of soil types and terroir possibilities. A member estate of the VDP— Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter— Gut Hermannsberg combines an attractive and modern style with the most scrupulous respect for traditions both national and regional. "Estate" wines are bottled from Riesling and Weissburgunder, "Village" wines and the prestigious "Grosse Gewächse" exclusively from Riesling.

Pictures: Tasting at Weingut Gut Hermannsberg

Owners and Winemaker

Under the new ownership of proprietors Jens Reidel and Dr Christine Dinse, the domain's 110-year history has entered a chapter that promises to be full of development. This chapter began when the owners engaged Karsten Peter as cellar-master and vineyard manager.

Herr Peter, from Bad Dürkheim in the Pfalz, was born to the vine, and has over the course of three successive vintages shown a keen eye, nose and palate for the techniques and practices that are each year perceptibly more successful in bringing the great potential of these extraordinarily fine vineyard sites more vividly into the bottle. Particular attention is paid to canopy management and the choice of in-house-manufactured compost.

In addition to their modern and very well-balanced dry Rieslings, Gut Hermannsberg bottles a beautifully articulate range of Kabinett and Spälese wines from sites that are particularly suited to these traditional styles.

Pictures: Weingut Gut Hermannsbaerg and its History

Vineyard

Christian Patsch: Gut Hermannsberg today owns an approx. 30-hectare vine area in the communities of Schlossböckelheim, Niederhausen, Traisen and Altenbamberg. Wine-growing is our craft, but it's frequently a grueling task. Here, in the central Nahe tributary, Mother Nature provides us with the ideal starting conditions to harvest perfect grapes. Extremely time-consuming leaf work in the vineyard and the use of compost we produce ourselves are just a few of our endeavors to produce wines that are in harmony with and that respect nature. Wine is nature and great wines are created in vineyards.

Pictures: Touring Weingut Gut Hermannsberg

Cellar

Christian Patsch: Even if the great wines are created in our vineyards, they are given their ultimate form in our cellar. The perfect grapes that come from our vineyards are treated by us in our wine cellar with the utmost care and preservation. For instance, we abstain from any kind of fining of the wines.

We don't want to ‘make’ a wine, but we want to give the individual potential of the individual vineyards the opportunity to develop. For example, we vinify many different vineyard plots individually in order to maintain the different characters of the plots within one site.

For us, it is less about implementing a certain wine style and more about the authenticity of the wines.

Pictures: In the Cellar

The Wines we Tasted

2014 Gut Hermannsberg Weisser Burgunder Gutswein

A juicy wine with a delicate structure and fresh minerality, thanks to the storied vineyard Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube. The density and creamy texture of this pinot blanc come, on the other hand, from the great and historically important Erste Lage site Winzenheimer Berg.


2014 Gut Hermannsberg Just Riesling Gutswein

Just Riesling! The calling card of Gut Hermannsberg. A wine that does not need to play hide and-seek to show how special it is: cheerful yet sophisticated, with plenty of depth. Reflecting the top quality of Erste Lage vineyard sites, this wine marries distinctive character with drinking pleasure.

2014 Gut Hermannsberg Niederhäuser Riesling Ortswein

A Riesling which harmoniously unites the two worlds of fruit and stone, thus creating a very distinctive profile. The wine is produced exclusively from grapes grown in the Niederhäuser Hermannsberg.

Picture: The Vineyards

2014 Gut Hermannsberg Schlossböckelheimer Riesling Ortswein

A heritage wine right out of the picture book! The grapes come from the Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube, and thanks to these volcanic soils, the Schlossböckelheimer Riesling shows off a captivating personality.

2014 Gut Hermannsberg Bastei Riesling GG

This wine originates from the highest cliff-face north of the Alps. The Bastei vineyard is a natural fighter. During the day, temperatures can be excessively warm, and during the night, it becomes very cool. Yet the wine is by no means lean or restrained, yet displays an expressive aromatic character of tropical fruits, coupled with a vibrant body and steely mineral character.

2014 Gut Hermannsberg Hermannsberg Riesling GG

The Hermannsberg GG from the monopole site is an impressive result of intensive vineyard selection – especially during the harvest – together with the unique potential of the Hermannsberg itself. Incredible multi-faceted complexity with very clear, precise fruit. On the palate, the Hermannsberg GG yields a fine acidity structure, enourmous richness and a long finish.


2014 Gut Hermannsberg Riesling Kabinett Fruchtsüsser Wein

The Riesling Kabinett from Gut Hermannsberg is created from grapes grown in various vineyards such as Steinberg or Altenbamberger Rotenberg. These terroirs are perfectly suited to express the classical style of Riesling Kabinett.

2013 Gut Hermannsberg Steinberg Riesling Spätlese Fruchtsüsser Wein

The stone-laden porphyry soils for which the vineyard is named (Steinberg means literally “stone mountain“) nourish the grapes that evolve into this exceptionally distinguished wine. The Steinberg faces south/southwest, which means that it enjoys generous exposure to sunlight.

2012 Gut Hermannsberg Rotenberg Riesling Spätlese Fruchtsüsser Wein

2013 Gut Hermannsberg Rotenberg Riesling Spätlese Fruchtsüsser Wein

The Altbamberger Rotenberg is an extremely steep vineyard bordered by a protective forest. The upper part of the vineyard experiences a long growing season. When the grapes here mature to their optimal level, they are just perfect for Spätlese. The Rotenberg generates powerful, mineral-laden Rieslings that exhibit complexity, spice and long ageing potential.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion in Vosne-Romanée: Wine Tasting in the Cellar with Bernard Rion and Alice Rion – Bourgogne Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France

Picture: Annette and Christian Schiller at Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion in Vosne-Romanée with Bernard Rion and Alice Rion

Domain Rion is widely available in the greater Washington DC area, as it is imported to the US by Elite Wines, based in Virginia.

Picture: Alice Rion in Washington DC ( Photo: Cleveland Park)

Domaine Rion

Domaine Rion is in Vosne Romanée, on the Route National. Domaine Rion was founded in 1880 by Pierre Rion. His son Louis substantially enlarged the domaine. In 1952, the domaine was divided between his 2 sons. The older one, Marcel, stayed in Vosne Romanée. Bernard Rion has helped his father Marcel since 1973 and now manages the Domaine Rion with his wife Armelle and his daughter Alice.

Picture: Arriving at Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion in Vosne-Romanée

Winemaking Philosophy

Alice talked a lot about the winemaking philosophy of Domaine Rion, which is summarized on the web site of Domaine Rion:

Pictures; Cellar Tour

Fertilizer: Organic fertilizer is used exclusively on the sandy slopes in order to maintain the structure of the soil. On average our vines are over 50 years old and their roots draw their nutrition from deep down in the ground.

Cultivation: The vineyards are ploughed in winter and hoed in the spring. Grass is then left to grow naturally between the rows and a light tractor,(limiting soil compaction), is used to hold it back from invading the vines.

Pruning: A preliminary pruning is carried out in autumn, followed-up by a thorough pruning in March. The canes are burnt to prevent any risk of infection.

Treatments: Curative only. We use rational management methods relying on natural or very specific products. 'Pheronomes' are diffused around the vineyards to provoke sexual confusion in certain insects eliminating the need to use insecticides.

Pictures: Tasting

Grape Harvest: Picking is manual, de-stemming is very gentle and there is no crushing.

Fermentation: Natural fermentation is long, lasting from 2 to 3 weeks. The cap is punched manually and a stainless steel pneumatic press presses out at low pressure (2kg/cm2), ensuring fine lees on which the wine will mature for 18 months removing the need for filtration. New oak and oak barrels under 5 years old are used for the maturing process.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Bernard Rion

Bottling: Bottling takes place on the estate with the assistance of a specialized bottling company. New bottles are sterilized and the wine introduced under air-tight conditions. Top quality corks from Portugal are then used.

Conclusion: As one can see from the above description, every effort goes into producing wines to lie down which will develop and be enhanced over the decades provided they are laid down in a cellar maintained at a constant temperature.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Alice Rion

Vosne-Romanée

Clive Coats: Nowhere is wine more noble than in Vosne-Romanée. Between the Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru of Boudots to the south and the walls of the Clos de Vougeot at the northern end lie the 240 hectares of Vosne-Romanée vineyard: the most valuable piece of vinous real estate in the world.

Picture: Arriving in Vosne-Romanée

Appellation Romanée Conti Grand Cru: The Romanée-Conti vineyard dominates the village, with its wines among the most expensive in the world. It is a monopole of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Around 600 cases are made each year from the vineyard's 1.8 ha.

Appellation La Romanée Grand Cru: La Romanée is a monopole of the Château de Vosne-Romanée. Only 300 cases are made each year from this plot of 0.84 ha.

Appellation La Tâche Grand Cru: La Tâche is Domaine de la Romanée Conti's other monopole, and its 6 ha consist of the vineyards of La Tâche and Les Gaudichots.

Appellation Richebourg Grand Cru: The 8 ha of the Richebourg cru are divided between 10 growers, including Domaine Leroy and Domaine de la Romanée Conti.

Pictures: The Vineyards of Vosne-Romanée

Appellation La Grande Rue Grand Cru: The least-renowned of the six grands crus is a monopole of Domaine François Lamarche, and was only promoted from premier cru recently. Its 1.4 hectares lie between La Tâche and Romanée-Conti.

Appellation Romanée Saint Viviant Grand Cru: Domaine de la Romanée Conti owns over half of the area's 9.5 ha.

Although unable to command the same prices as their grand cru neighbors, the village is home to many excellent premier cru wines. Fifty-eight hectares of this is premier cru, and there are 11 of these. Five of them lie just above the grands crus, six on the same altitude or a little further down the slope.

Tasting

Alice Rion: These balanced and complete wines are traditionally vinified. Totally de-stemmed, with a long vinification (2 to 3 weeks in open vats), and they are then aged for 18 months (half in new oak barrels). They are pleasant and fruity for the young vintages, but well-structured enough to ensure good ageing.


2014 Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Coteaux Bourguignons rosé
2013 Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Bourgogne La Croix Blance
2013 Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Vosne Vosne-Romanée Premier Cru “Les Chaumes”
2008 Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Nuits Saint Georges “Les Lavieres”
2012 Domaine Armelle et Bernard Rion Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru

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