Pictures: Wilhelm Weil and the Robert Weil Estate in Kiedrich, Rheingau, Germany
Congratulations to Weingut Robert Weil on having their 2009 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken named a Wine Spectator Top 100 wine for 2010 in the US and on having their 2009 Kiedricher Graefenberg Spaetlese named Best Spaetlese of the Year (Gault Millau WeinGuide 2011) in Germany. The Turmberg is pretty dry with a normal level of alcohol and the Graefenberg is pretty sweet with a low level of alcohol – and both are German world class Rieslings from adjacent vineyards and the same vintage.
2009 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken
Here’s what the Wine Spectator says: A pungent, aromatic white, with gooseberry, peony and spice on the nose. Racy and vividly flavored, with citrus intensity and a laserlike finish. A bit extreme, yet full of personality and a sense of place. The Turmberg was rated #81 in the 2010 Top 100.
The Kiedricher Turmberg (“tower hill”) vineyard right next to the Kiedricher Gräfenberg vineyard, rated as a 1. Lage (grand cru). The German wine law of 1971 incorporated Turmberg into the Gräfenberg, but in 2005 it was reinstated as an individual vineyard.
2009 Kiedricher Graefenberg Spaetlese
Here is what Gault Millau WeinGuide 2011 says: A basket of tropical fruits, vibrant play of the animating acidity and ripe mangos, great Spaetlese with a fantastic finish. The Graefenberg was selected a Spaetlese of the Year 2011.
The Kiedricher Graefenberg is a renowned vineyard, first documented in the 12th century. As the adjacent Turmberg vineyard, it is classified as a 1. Lage (grand cru).
Pictures: The Wines of Weingut Robert Weil Tasted in Kiedrich
Kiedrich in the Rheingau
It is remarkable: For its entire length of nearly 560 miles, the Rhine flows north with one exception – a 28-mile stretch where the river changes its course. Here, it flows to the west, thereby enabling both the river and the vineyards facing it to bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. This is the Rheingau, one of the medium-size German wine regions. It is a quietly beautiful region, rich in tradition. Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for Hochheim's wines contributed to their popularity in England, where they, and ultimately, Rhine wines in general, were referred to as Hock.
Picture: The Rheingau With Kiedrich
The third President of the USA - and notable bon viveur - Thomas Jefferson visited the Rheingau in 1788 and wrote that the wine of the "Abbaye of Johnsberg is the best made on the Rhine without comparison … That of the year 1775 is the best." He also referred to the Rheingau’s Riesling as the "small and delicate Rhysslin which grows only from Hochheim to Rudesheim". Impressed by the quality of the Rheingau Riesling wines, he bought 100 grapevines to take back to his estate in Virginia.
Weingut Robert Weil
Founded in 1875, Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich is currently the Rheingau’s #1 estate and among Germany’s top 10 estates. Four generations and over a century ago Dr. Robert Weil, who was a Professor of German at the Sorbonne was forced to leave Paris because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871). He subsequently joined his brother August in the Rheingau and established the Robert Weil winery. Contacts throughout the world and the production of great wines brought rapid growth to the estate. Today the estate is managed by Wilhelm Weil, who owns the winery jointly with Suntory from Japan. With 75 hectares under vine, it is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The vineyards are planted 99% with Riesling and 1% with Spätburgunder.
Two Outstanding Wines Teach us a Lot About How German Wine is Made
Both wines are outstanding wines, made by an outstanding producer, from two top vineyards that are adjacent to each other. My hunch is that the grapes for both wines were harvested at basically the same level of ripeness. But one wine is pretty dry and the other wine is pretty sweet. Why?
Well - not because in one vineyard there was a lot of sun and in the other one was no sun. The fundamental difference is how they were vinified. The Turmberg was fully fermented , is pretty dry and has 13% of alcohol. The Graefenberg was not fully fermented so that what we have in the glass is a wine that is low in alcohol (8.5%) and high in sugar.
The VDP, of which Weingut Robert Weil is a member (in fact Wilhelm Weil is the VDP President of the Rheingau) has introduced for its members the rule, that only sweet-style wines can carry the predicate labels Kabinett, Spaetlese and Auslese. Dry wines, even if they are harvested at Kabinett, Spaetlese or Auslese level do not carry the predicate labels Kabinett, Spaetlese and Auslese, but are marketed as Qualitaetswein besonderer Anbaugebiete (QbA). QbA wines – in contrast to predicate wines – can be capitalized within certain limits. Furthermore, under German law – but not in Alsace and Austria – winemakers can add sweetreserve – sterilized juice – to the wine in order to increase and fine-tune the level of sweetness in the wine.
So, my hunch is that the grapes for both wines when harvested were very similar in terms of ripeness. The Turmberg was fully fermented and possibly a bit chaptalized to increase the alcohol level of the wine. By contrast, the Graefenberg was stopped during fermentation and some of the sugar that was in the grapes remained in the wine. In addition, the winemaker was allowed to add sweetreserve. I do not know if Wilhelm Weil did this. If he did, then he added just a little bit to finetune the wine. The main factor behind the sweetness is that the fermentation was stopped. Alternatively, he could have let the fermentation run its course and then added more sweet reserve. This would have then been a wine with the alcohol level of the Turmberg and the sweetness of the Graefenberg.
For those, who are not so much interested in technical details, just forget the above and enjoy Wilhelm Weil’s wines – both wines, sweet or dry, are world class wines.
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