Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Georg Prinz zur Lippe, Weingut Schloss Proschwitz, Prinz zur Lippe, in Sachsen, Germany
Germany’s Prädikat Wine Estates – the members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Praedikatsweingueter) - celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the VDP in 2010 in Germany’s Capital Berlin during September 4 to 6, 2010. I was happy and proud to participate. Among the side-events, the presentation of the new Grosses Gewaechs wines was one of the highlights.
I have given a run-down of the whole series of events here and have reported in more detail on the event: 70 Galleries - 200 Winemakers - 1000 Wines here, on the official ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral here, on Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, who participated in the events, here and on the bottle party at Wein Bar Rutz here.
Grosses Gewaechs Wines
The term Grosses Gewaechs was introduce a few years back by the VDP for use by its members only.
Grosses Gewaechs wines are always fully fermented, dry wines from Erste Lage vineyards of exceptional quality . The Grosses Gewaechs label is thought to resemble the Grand Cru designation in neighboring France. Here and there, these wines refer to a top dry wine from a top vineyard. About 150 sites have been officially deemed ‘premiers crus’ or Erste Lagen, capable of making a great growth, or Grosses Gewächs.
Picture: Stefan Maria Friedrich from Nomacorc, the Initiator of Relaunch F, a Project to support the Faberrebe in Rheinhessen.
As a rule Grosses Gewaechs wines are always sold as QbA wines – Qualitaetswein besonderer Anbaugebiete, although as a condition they must be at least at Spaetlese level in terms of sugar content at harvest. QbA wines, under German law, are allowed to be chaptalised, with the purpose of increasing the alcohol content of the wine. More generally, under the new classification system of the VDP, all dry wines are systematically labeled as QbA wines.
In addition to Grosses Gewaechs wines, there is also the concept of Erstes Gewaechs wines. These terms basically mean the same thing, but for some reasons the latter is used in the Rheingau and the former in all other wine regions. Importantly, in Hessen, Erstes Gewaechs is not a term reserved only for VDP winemakers, but all winemakers can produce an Erstes Gewaechs wine, if the wine meets the quality requirements.
The Presentation in Berlin
White Grosses Gewaechs wines are not allowed to be released before September 1 of the following year. Red Grosses Gewaechs wines are supposed to age at least another year and thus are released in the following year.
What you found on the tabels were thus 2009 white and 2008 red Grosses Gewaechs and Erstes Gewaechs wines.
The event was not comprehensive presentation of the new Grosses Gewaechs and Erstes Gewaechs wines, since those Erstes Gewaechs producers that are not members of the VDP were not present at the VDP presentation.
Not all wines presented were dry and carried the label Grosses Gewaechs. In particular in the Mosel area, winemakers like to leave their wines with a level of residual sugar that exceeds the norm of the Grosses Gewaechs wines. Accordingly, some of the wines I tasted were Erste Lage wines; however due to their level of remaining sugar they were not labeled as Grosses Gewaechs wine, but still presented with the other dry wines.
2009 White Grosses Gewaechs Wines
Lets us start with the Rheingau, home to some of the most famous, most well-heeled, classic estates, a region of which I am big fan of although the Rheingau winemakers are often being criticized of not being innovative enough.
My favorite village is Hochheim, just 30 minutes away from Frankfurt am Main by S-Bahn. Hochheim has 2 VDP members - Weingut Kuenstler and Weingut Domdechant Werner – and both presented a collection of Grosses Gewaechs wines that exceeded my expectations.
The number 1 winemaker of the Rheingau is Wilhelm Weil and the wines of Weingut Wilhelm Weil were again very convincing. This year, I spent a lot of time with my facebook friend Christian Ress from Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim, a renowned winery that produces consistently good Grosses Gewaechs wines and exports a lot of them to the US.
I was also intrigued by the wines of Weingut Allendorf; I had lost touch with Weingut Allendorf over the years, but I rediscovered it at the tasting in Berlin. Interestingly, Ulrich Allendorf has created a "Color Room" at his winery, where you can taste wines in different lighting - red, blue, green, etc - and appreciate how color impacts on how you perceive a wine.
Fred Prinz from Weingut Prinz in Hallgarten, winner of this year's Sauvignon Blanc Trophy Germany, present a strong selection of Erstes Gewaechs Riesling wines.
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Christian Ress, Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim
Picture: Gunter Kuenstler from Weingut Kuenstler and Catharina Mauritz from Weingut Domdechant Werner in Hochheim
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Ulrich Allendorf from Weingut Allendorf in Oestrich-Winkel
Christian G.E. Schiller with Fred Prinz from Weingut Prinz in Hallgarten
Another wine region that is close to my heart is Rheinhessen. Kirchspiel and Morstein, until a few years ago were hardly known outside their own area, have been put definitively on the international map by the twin talents of Philipp Wittmann and Klaus-Peter Keller.
But I also found this year’s Grosses Gewaechs wines of Weingut Battenfeld Spanier, Weingut Grobe and Weingut Gebrueder Dr. Becker very promising.
Picture: H.O.Spanier from Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier with Hugh Johnson
Picture: Fritz groebe from Weingut K.F. Groebe and Lotte Pfeffer-Mueller from Weingut Brueder Dr. Becker
Sachsen, a small wine region in the former East Germany, does not yet play in the first league, but it is catching up. I am very pleased about this development as I was born in the capital of the State of Sachsen, Dresden. Dr. Georg Prince zur Lippe, who repurchased Weingut Schloss Proschwitz after reunification, continues to produce increasingly fascinating wines, including a Grosses Gewaechs wine.
As has been evident now for many years, the Nahe is home to a reassuringly competitive winemaking ethos. Accordingly, Weingut Schaefer-Froehlich, Weingut Doenhoff and Weingut Emmerich-Schoenleber presented again a strong collection.
I also paid attention to Armin Diel from Schlossgut Diehl who also produces the Riesling Poet’s Leap in a joint venture with Long Shadows Vineyards in Washington State in the US. I liked Armin Diel’s range of Grosses Gewaechs wines very much.
Picture: Armin Diel from Schlossgut Diel with Hugh Johnson
In the Pfalz, VDP President Steffen Christmann shined with the Mandelgarten and the Idig. These were for me perhaps the best wines of the presentation. But I was also intrigued by the Grosses Gewaechs wines of Weingut Georg Mosbacher in Forst, in particular by the Freundstück.
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Juergen Dueringer and Sabine Mosbacher-Dueringer from Weingut Georg Mosbacher
Picture: Stuart Pigott and Jancis Robinson with Steffen Christmann of Weingut Christmann
Traditionally the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany’s northernmost wine region, has been associated much more readily with delicate, low alcohol wines with some residual sweet fruitiness rather than with the more austere, dry style demanded by the letter of the Grosses Gewächs law. Thus, generally, the Mosel winemakers are a bit at the edge when it comes to the Grosses Gewaechs wines concept. In fact, many of the wines presented were Erste Lage wines but not Erstes Gewaechs wines, because they did not meet the Erstes Gewaechs requirements in terms of remaining sugar.
I was in particular impressed by the wines of Roman Niewodniczanski (Weingut Van Volxem in Wiltingen in the Saar valley) and Reinhard Loewenstein (Weingut Heymann-Loewenstein in Winningen in the Mosel valley). I liked the former’s Volz and the latter’s Laubach.
Picture: Roman Niewodniczanski (Weingut Van Volxem in Wiltingen)
Picture: Reinhard Loewenstein (Weingut Heymann-Loewenstein in Winningen) with Dagmar Ehrlich, Journalist.
In this region, way to the east of most German wine regions and distinguished by its squat green flagon-like wine bottles, Horst Sauer from Weingut Horst Sauer stood out, with really convincing racy, super-clean fruit, a nice lick of earthiness and great balance.
Picture: Horst Sauer from Weingut Horst Sauer
Red Grosses Gewaechs Wines
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.
In Germany, the Pinot Noir is called Spätburgunder. It is to red wine what the Riesling is to white wine: the cream of the crop. In the US, Pinot Noir shows great promise in Oregon and California. The reputation that gets Pinot Noir so much attention, however, is owed to the wines of the Bourgogne in France, where it has probably been cultivated since at least the 4th century (first documented, however, in the 14th century).
Regardless of where it’s grown, Pinot Noir is not typically a value wine. That is so because Pinot Noir is such a delicate grape that it is difficult and expensive to grow and make into the spectacular wine it can be. It is sensitive to climate and soil, Pinot Noir needs warmth (but not intense heat) to thrive and does well in chalky soils. As the German name implies, it ripens late (spät).
I was very much convinced by the wines of Friedrich Becker from Weingut Becker in the Pfalz, Werner Naekel from Weingut Meyer-Naekel in the Ahr and Ludwig Kreuzberg from Weingut H.J. Kreuzberg in the Ahr. But there were other red wine producers eye to eye with my 3 favorites.
Picture: Friedrich Becker from Weingut Becker in the Pfalz, Werner Naekel from Weingut Meyer-Naekel in the Ahr and Ludwig Kreuzberg from Weingut H.J. Kreuzberg in the Ahr
Schiller Wine - Related Postings
German Wine Society Tastes Outstanding German Wines at the National Press Club in Washington DC
Exclusive, Limited Edition: 100 Cases for 100 Years - Germany's VDP Auctioning off 100 Cases of Grosses Gewaechs and Erstes Gewaechs Wines
A Combination of Extraordinary Wine and Art: Peter Winter's Georg Mueller Stiftung in the Rheingau
The Avantgarde Wine World of Dr. Martin Tesch
Impressions from the Riesling & Co World Tour 2010 in New York
Best of German Dry White Wines and Winemakers - The Falstaff 2010 Ranking
When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose
German Wine Basics: Erstes Gewaechs, Grosses Gewaechs, Erste Lage
German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine
An Unfortunate, uninformed Article in the Decanter about Dry German Riesling
Wine Caravan from Germany Visiting the East Coast, US: Dr. Fischer, Fitz Ritter, Bolling-Lehnert, Schneider, Dr. Thanisch
Germany's VDP Wine Estates Celebrate 100th Anniversary in Berlin
70 Galleries - 200 Praedikat Winemakers - 1000 VDP Wines: Art and Wine in Berlin
A Grand Ceremony in the Berlin Cathedral on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the VDP - Germany's Elite Winemakers
Billy Wagner invited to the 10th Bottle Party at the Wein Bar Rutz in Berlin