Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Meeting J. Schaefer from Weingut J. Schaefer, Hochheim, Rheingau, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Picture: Josef Schaefer and his Wife

I had a lot of fun at the Rheingau Festival in Frankfurt (see my Blog posting of September 2, 2009). There were perhaps 2 dozen booths with winemakers from the whole Rheingau area. I focused on Weingut J. Schaefer from Hochheim.

The senior boss Willi-Josef was there until 16:00; for the rest of the day until mid-night it was his son Josef with his lovely wife, who has been managing the winery now for several decades. This is a family-owned and -operated winery with about 7 hectares of land.

There were 14 wines to choose from, of which 12 were dry and only 2 were sweet. Although from the other side of the Atlantic ocean, you get a different impression, but the Germans predominantly drink dry wine.

11 wines were white and mostly Riesling and 3 wines were red, all Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is coming up in Germany as we all know.

Schaefer wines, though dry, are allways at the legal limit of dryness. You never find bone-dry wines here, but wines with a nice balance between acidity and sweetness.

All wines had screwcaps. Josef Schaefer told me that he has moved over to this concept completely. I noticed that other winemakers use shrewcaps only for the lower quality wines but Schaefer does it for his whole range.

I had four wines.

I started with a Riesling Sekt, traditionelle Flaschengaerung, a very well made Winzersekt:

2007 Hochheimer Stein Riesling brut (Euro 8.50)

Then I move do the successor wine of the wine that got the Best of Riesling 2008 award:

2008 Hochheimer Kirchenstueck, Riesling Spaetlese trocken, a dry Spaetlese with a lot of tropical fruits on the palate and a nice long finish.

Then I moved to an unusual grape; I had a

2008 Gewuerztraminer Spaetlese trocken; also a dry Spaetlese, but a Gewuerztraminer, which is unusual for the Riesling dominated Rheingau: nice wine with lots of tropical fruit, in particular pineapple.

I finished with a

2008 Hochheimer Hoelle, Riesling, Erstes Gewaechs; this was a powerhouse.

At first, crunchy green apples dominate the nose. As the wine blossoms in the glass, wet slate and Asian pear emerge. On the palate, the wine is crisp and full bodied, with underlying slate minerality, and a slight hint of sweetness in tension with firm, crisp acidity. Nice, long finish.

Josef Schaefer explained to me that this wine was his first Erstes Gewaechs. As described in my posting of September 28, 2009, Erstes Gewaechs is part of a new classification that was introduced in Germany a few years ago, pushed by the VDP. In short, all vineyards have been classified along the French terroir way and the top vineyards have been identified as Erste Lage. Schaefer owns Erste Lage vineyards. Subject to a number of quality criteria, an Erste Lage wine can be awarded the Grosses/Erstes Gewaechs label. Erstes/Grosses Gewaechs wines are always dry, although they have to be at least at Spaetlese level in terms of ripeness of the grapes at harvest. This one was at Auslese level. Surprisingly, all Erstes/Grosses Gewaechs wines are sold as a QbA.

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