Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Wilhelm Weil, Weingut Robert Weil, Kiedrich, Germany
Weingut Robert Weil is without any doubt the Rheingau’s flagship winery. It is currently managed and co-owned by Wilhelm Weil. I met Wilhelm for the first time at the 1. International Riesling Symposium last year at Schloss Rheinhartshausen and we have been in touch since then. For more on the Symposium see here. I was delighted when he invited me over to his Weingut in Kiedrich, when I was in Germany during the summer.
Wilhelm showed us the vineyards and the winery, followed by a tasting of the 2010. An earlier posting “Visiting Wilhelm Weil at his Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Germany” focused on the first part of the visit. This second posting focuses on the tasting of the 2010 Weil wines will.
Weingut Robert Weil
Founded in 1875, Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich is the Rheingau’s #1 estate and one of Germany’s best. 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 Kiedrich in the Rheingau and established the Robert Weil winery.
Picture: Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich
Dr. Robert Weil purchased his first vineyards in Kiedrich and moved there in 1875, when he bought the estate manor from the heirs of Sir John Sutton, an English baronet. A man of vision, he built up the estate by purchasing 2 local wine estates and the vineyards of Count von Fürstenberg. Contacts throughout the world and the production of great wines brought rapid growth to the Weingut Robert Weil.
Picture: The Rheingau
Today, Weingut Robert Weil is managed by Wilhelm Weil, who owns the winery jointly with Suntory from Japan. 75 hectares under vine, it is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The historical manor house, the ultra-modern cellars and the vinothek stand side by side in a beautiful park – the same synthesis of old and new that is reflected in the estate’s philosophy of winemaking. While I visited Weingut Weil in the summer of 2011, major extension works were going on.
In 1988, the estate was sold by Robert Weil to the Japanese beverage group Suntory, and his son Wilhelm appointed as estate director. The vineyard area was doubled, and an ultra-modern cellar built. I did not ask Wilhelm, but he is reportedly in the process of repurchasing shares from Suntory.
Pictures: Wilhelm Weil at the Wine Tasting
While we visited Weingut Robert Weil, there was construction work going. “We want to double the surface of the winery’s underground cellar” Wilhelm said.
Weingut Robert Weil and Riesling
The vineyards are planted 99% with Riesling and 1% with Spätburgunder, but Wilhelm told me that the production of Spaetburgunder at Weingut Weil will cease. The estate’s dedication to Riesling since 1875 has led numerous observers of the international wine world to regard Weingut Robert Weil as a worldwide symbol of German Riesling culture. A Riesling wine of the 1893 vintage, grown on the Gräfenberg site, made the estate famous. The imperial Habsburg court in Vienna purchased 800 bottles of this wine at a price of 16 gold Marks per bottle in 1900. The 1920 vintage of the Kiedricher Gräfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese is described as a Zeppelin wine, as it was served on board the LZ 127 „Graf Zeppelin” dirigible on its circumnavigation of the world in 1929. Robert Weil’s top botrytis wines are sold today at extremely high prices - they are among the most expensive in the world. The current world record (in 2006) is held by a 1999 Weil Trockenbeerenauslese, at DM 5.000 (EUR 2500).
The Top Weil Vineyards: Kiedricher Klosterberg, Kiedricher Turmberg and Kiedricher Gräfenberg
Weingut Robert Weil’s top vineyards all belong to the group of the highlying sites of the Rheingau: Kiedricher Klosterberg, Kiedricher Turmberg and Kiedricher Gräfenberg. Inclination (up to 60 %), exposure (southwest) and the ability of the barren stony soils to absorb heat are the factors that make for three perfect Riesling sites. These conditions, as well as ideal circulation, enable the grapes to remain on the vine for a long time, ripening well into November.
Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Wilhelm Weil Looking at the Weil Vineyards
Classification: Gutswein, Ortswein, Lagenwein, Erste Lage, Grosse Lage, Erstes Gewaechs, Grosses Gewaechs, Predicates, Dry Wines
Weingut Robert Weil is member of the VDP (Wilhelm Weil is the VDP President of the Rheingau) and overall follows the rules and regulations of the VDP for classifying wines.
Importantly, the VDP 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 in terms of ripeness at harvest 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 chaptalized within certain limits. Furthermore, under German law, winemakers can add sweetreserve – sterilized juice – to the wine in order to increase and fine-tune the level of sweetness in the wine. But this approach is not used at Weingut Robert Weil. “For the sweet, non noble-sweet wines, the desired level of remaining sweetness is achieved by interrupting the fermentation” explained Wilhelm.
Picture: The Weingut Robert Weil Tasting Room
Accordingly, for dry wines, the level of quality is expressed by the terroir concept. As a rule, the more specific the vineyard area, the better the quality. As for the Weingut Robert Weil wines, Wilhelm said: “Gutsweine are wines from other vineyards than the top vineyards Turmberg, Klosterberg and Graefenberg. Ortsweine are from Turmberg, Klosterberg und Graefenberg, but only the pre-selected grapes go into these wines. Lagenweine are the best grapes from the three Weil top vineyards, with Klosterberg and Turmberg being a Erste Lage (Premier Cru) and Graeffenberg a Grosse Lage (Grand Cru).”
Another classification concept that the VDP introduced for its members is the Grosses Gewaechs. Grosses Gewaechs wines are always fully fermented, dry wines from Erste Lage vineyards. 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 Erste Lagen, capable of making a Grosses Gewächs. As all other dry wines, 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.
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. Weingut Robert Weil belongs to the 40 or so VDP members in the Rheingau in Hessen and thus produces Erstes Gewaechs wines.
If a Weil wine carries a predicate like Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese, Eiswein, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, it is a sweet wine, with increasing sweetness as you move up the ladder. Each predicate level suggests a certain sweetness as well as quality level. This is the traditional German wine classification based on the sugar content of the selected grapes at harvest. Weingut Robert Weil’s noble-sweet wines – Eiswein, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese - are renowned in the world.
Grosse Lage and Erste Lage - A New Approach?
When you talk to Wilhelm or if you have read the previous text carefully, you notice that Wilhelm Weil not only refers to Erste Lage (premier cru) but also to Grosse Lage (grand cru), a distinction that I knew from France, but had not yet heard in Germany. Kiedricher Klosterberg and Kiedricher Turmberg are premier cru wines (top sites), while the Kiedricher Graefenberg is grand cru (finest top site). “This distinction” Wilhelm Weil explained ”marks a return to the practice of a century ago when only the finest wines bore the name of a specific vineyard site; all others were sold under village or domain names. The estate guarantees the quality of both, but wines labeled with an individual vineyard name also have unique, site-specific qualities.”
The Wines Wilhelm Poured
Wilhelm Weil took us through the whole range of his portfolio.
Pictures: Tasting Room and Tasting Sheet
2010 Weingut Robert Weil Rheingau Riesling Trocken
Gutswein – dry, with grapes from other than the 3 top Weil vineyards, fully fermented in stainless steel, in the old classification a light Spaetlese trocken. I was very surprised that with an entry level Weil wine, you were already in the Spaetlese level in terms of ripeness of the grapes at harvest.
2010 Kiedricher Riesling, Robert Weil, Trocken
Ortswein – dry, with grapes from the early picking at the 3 top vineyards, also fully fermented in stainless steel, more mouth feel than the previous wine.
2010 Kiedrich Klosterberg Riesling, Robert Weil, Trocken
Lagenwein (premier cru) – dry, the first of a 3-wines-flight from the 3 top Weil vineyards, a premier cru wine in the Weil classification, fermented half in stainless steel and half in a Stueckfass, with honey melon and mineral notes.
Picture: The Dry Weil Wines we Tasted
2010 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling, Robert Weil, Trocken
Lagenwein (premier cru) – dry, the Turmberg consists primarily of phyllite mixed with small portions of loess and loam, which accounts for the pure minerality in the wine. The 2009 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken made it to the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines for 2010 (2009 vintage).
2010 Kiedrich Graefenberg Riesling Robert Weil Trocken
Lagenwein (grand cru) – dry, almost exclusively fermented in the Stueckfass, a lush, ripe and full-bodied Riesling that is carried nimbly on a fine mineral frame, less filgrane, more complex than the Turmberg.
2010 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Robert Weil Spaetlese
Lagenwein (premier cru) – sweet, the sweet-style version of the Turmberg Lagenwein, lower in alcohol than the dry wine with a noticeable level of remaining sugar.
Picture: The Sweet and Noble-sweet Weil Wines we Tasted
2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Robert Weil Spätlese,
Lagenwein (grand cru) – sweet, 8,5% alcohol, possibly a wine that in 10 or 20 years will be regarded as the one of the best wines the 2010 vintage had to offer, great Spaetlese with a fantastic finish, the 2009 Kiedrich Graefenberg Riesling Robert Weil Spaetlese was selected the “Spaetlese of the Year 2011” by the German Gault Millau WeinGuide.
2010 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Robert Weil Auslese
Lagenwein (premier cru) – sweet, a wine of stunning nobility and richness, with many layers of complex fruit.
Picture: The Noble-sweet Weil Wines we Tasted
2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Robert Weil Auslese
Lagenwein (grand cru) – sweet, grapes were harvested at the Beerenauslese level (135 degrees Oechsle), thick and rich, racy structure, impressive concentration, with a lingering aftertaste of apricot preserves.
2010 Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Robert Weil Trockenbeerenauslese
Lagenwein (grand cru) – sweet, dazzling golden yellow in the glass, intensive aromas of caramelized apricot, truffley botrytis on the nose, extraordinarily dense and creamy, stunningly long.
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1.International Riesling Symposium
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German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine
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Terry Theise's Top German Wines of the 2009 Vintage
The 100 Best German Winemakers 2010 – Handelsblatt online and Vinum
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Aging Potential of Riesling – A Wine Tasting at the 1st International Riesling Symposium in Germany Led by Jancis Robinson
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In the Glass: 2009 Kiedricher Turmberg Riesling Trocken and 2009 Riesling Kiedricher Graefenberg Spaetlese, both Weingut R. Weil, Kiedrich, Rheingau
Visiting Wilhelm Weil at his Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Germany
Wrap-Up: 4 Extraordinary Riesling Tastings at the 1. International Riesling Symposium at Schloss Rheinhartshausen in the Rheingau in Germany