Saturday, December 5, 2009

In the Glass: The 2007 Liebfrauenberg Cabernet Sauvignon from Ruppert Deginther in Rheinhessen, Germany



Picture: Justus Ruppert, Weingut Ruppert Deginther, Rheinhessen, Germany

2007 Liebfrauenberg Cabernet Sauvignon, Weingut Ruppert Deginther, Rheinhessen, Germany, Euro 9.90

Stuart Pigott's wine of the month of December 2009 is indeed an extraordinary selection, for several reasons.

First, the grape variety – Cabernet Sauvignon. Until a few years ago, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were grape varieties that Germans would know from Bordeaux or other wine regions in the world, but it was alien to German wine making. This is apparently changing. A few weeks ago, I had my first Merlot from Hochheim am Main (Rheingau) and now Stuart Pigott has selected a Cabernet Sauvignon from Rheinhessen as his wine of the month. Well, the story behind this is global warming. The head of the wine maker association in the Bourgogne has warned that in 50 years, there wouldn’t be any Pinot Noir wines from the Bourgogne any more. But we might have excellent Cabernet Sauvignon in the Rheinhessen region. In this global warming process, there will be winners and loosers. And the concept of terroir will loose its meaning, I fear.

Germany is traditionally a white wine country. But German red wines are increasingly appearing in the international wine market. Of course, given its location, they tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, in the international scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this has changed. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world. The share of red wines in terms of production has increased from 10 percent in the 1980s to about 35 percent now in Germany.

Second, this is a wine from Rheinhessen. Rheinhessen is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. About one third of Rheinhessen’s agricultural area is cultivated with vines, more than 26000 hectares. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards, and Silvaner and Dornfelder both for 1/10. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch.

At the same time, Rheinhessen is among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. This is not because of the terroir, but because of the people. There is an increasing group of young, ambitious and dynamic winemakers who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. Obviously, Justus Ruppert, the brain behind this wine, is one of them.

Third, the wine costs ex-winery about Euro 10, which is about US$ 15. In Stuart Pigott’s judgement, you would need to pay US$ 75 to get a wine of the same quality in California. It is a bargain.

Weingut Ruppert Deginther
Kämmerstraße 8
D-67596 Dittelsheim-Heßloch/Rheinhessen
Tel.: 0 62 44/2 92
Fax: 0 62 44/5 71 34
E-Mail: kontakt@ruppert-deginther.de

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