Monday, August 20, 2012

Best of Riesling 2012 - The Winners, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Christoph Tyrell, Kartaeuserhof, Winner in Category I

Every other year, the best of riesling competition takes place in Germany, organized by the Ministry of Wine of the Land Rheinland Pfalz. Note that the Land Rheinland Pfalz has a Ministry of Wine!

This time, I was honored to be invited to participate in the final tastings of the competition. An earlier posting reported about the event:

Judging at “best of riesling 2012” in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Germany

This posting reports about the winners, which were announced at an event on June 13 in Mainz, Germany, in which I also had the pleasure of participating.

For earlier events see:

Best of Riesling Awards 2010

“Hoffest” (Winery Party) at Weingut Heinrich Baison in Hochheim, Rheingau - Best of Riesling 2010 Award Winner

Best of Riesling Awards 2008

Judging at Wine Competitions in Virginia (USA), Pfalz (Germany) and Rheinhessen (Germany)


Worldwide, there are about 34.000 hectares planted with Riesling. Germany – with 22.400 hectares – accounts for 2/3 of the total. The second largest Riesling producer is Australia, with 4500 hectares. But this is only about 1/10 of the total. Alsace follows with 3500 hectares. Austria, the US with Washington State and New York State as well as New Zealand make up the remainder. But overall, Riesling is really a niche wine, accounting for only less than 1 percent of total wine production in the world - but a very special niche wine.

Pictures: Nathalie Lumpp, Andrea Meininger-Apfel and Thomas Griese

Dry and Sweet  Rieslings in Germany 

Many consumers associate with Riesling a sweet wine. This is not correct. Riesling can be sweet, even sugar-sweet, but can also be bone dry. In fact, most Rieslings are bone-dry.

Pictures: Bootshaus - where the event took place - at the Rhein River in Mainz

Here is why: During fermentation, the sugar in the grape turns into alcohol and CO2; the level of the sugar in the must goes down while the level of the alcohol goes up. Once a certain level of alcohol is attained, around 13 to 15 percent, the fermentation process stops naturally and the unfermented sugar remains in the wine.

For 95 percent of the grapes harvested in Germany, without additional effort of the wine maker, no unfermented sugar remains in the wine and the finished wine will be dry. Except for the noble-sweet wines, grapes harvested in Germany do not have enough sugar to produce a wine that is sweet, if you just leave it to mother nature. Grape sugar only remains for the group of noble-sweet wines, i.e. Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. However, in reality, there are plenty of sweet wines in Germany, at all levels. How does that happen?

Pictures: The Winners

There are two methods used by German winemakers to generate residual sugar in such wine:

First, stopping the fermentation; this is typically done through a skillful manipulation of the fermentation process with sulfur and temperature control. The winemaker needs to follow closely the fermentation process and must make sure that it comes to a stop at the desired level of sugar.

Second, the other technique is to let the wine first fully ferment and then add to the dry and fully fermented wine sterilized grape juice (called in German "Suessreserve"). Here, the winemaker lets the wine fully ferment to produce a dry wine and then experiments with different amounts of Suessreserve to achieve the desired level of sweetness in the final product. Both methods are used and perfectly legal.

Best of Riesling 2012 - The Selection Process

The selection process consisted of 3 stages.

First Stage - 2372 wines were submitted from 11 countries, of which the large majority from Germany. In the first stage, in which I did not participate, 165 judges tasted and rated all the wines. In order to go into the next round, a wine needed to obtain 88 to 89 points on the 100 points scale.

Second Stage - 417 wines made it to the second stage. In the morning of May 30, 67 judges - in 10 groups - from 14 nations around the world, including myself, tasted and rerated these wines.

Third Stage - In the third stage in the afternoon of May 30, the 3 winners in each of the 5 categories were determined.

The event took place at the famous Hambach Castle, close to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, which is considered to be the symbol of the German democracy movement because of the Hambacher Fest which occurred here in 1832.

Best of Riesling 2012 - Presenting the Winners in Mainz

The awards were presented to the winners on ---- by the charming Sommelière and Wine Expert Natalie Lumpp and State Secretary Dr. Thomas Griese.

 Picture: Lunch, prepared by 1 Michelin Star Chef Frank Buchholz

Best of Riesling 2012 - the Winners

There were five categories in this competition:

Kategorie I – trocken bis einschließlich 12,5% Alkohol - Category I – dry - up to 12,5 % alcohol

1. Platz    2011 Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Tyrell‘s Edition Spätlese Mosel, trocken,     Weingut Karthäuserhof, Trier-Eitelsbach

2. Platz   2011 Riesling Qualitätswein Pfalz, trocken, Weingut Thorsten Krieger, Rhodt unter Rietburg

3. Platz   2011 Michelbacher Apostelgarten Riesling Heilmännchen Kabinett Franken, trocken,
Weingut Heilmann, Alzenau

Pictures: The Winners in Category I

Kategorie II – trocken ab 13,0% Alkohol - Category II – dry - over 12,5 % alcohol

1. Platz   2011 Wachenheimer Königswingert Riesling Spätlese Pfalz, trocken, Weingut Zimmermann, Wachenheim

2. Platz   2011 Riesling Steinreich Spätlese Pfalz, trocken,  Weingut Heiner Sauer, Böchingen

3. Platz   2011 Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Spätlese Pfalz, trocken, Weingut Petri, Herxheim am Berg

Pictures: The Winners in Category II

Kategorie III – halbtrocken - Category III – medium dry

1.Platz    2011 Enkircher Steffensberg Riesling Spätlese Mosel, halbtrocken, Weirich Weine, Starkenburg über der Mosel

2. Platz   2011 Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese Nahe, halbtrocken, Weingut Udo Weber, Monzingen

3. Platz   2011 Riesling Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, feinherb, Weingut Neef-Emmich, Bermersheim

Kategorie IV – fruchtig und süß - Category IV – fruity sweet with up to 80 grams per liter residual sugar

1. Platz   2011 Lieser Niederberg-Helden Riesling Spätlese Mosel,    Weingut Ulrich Schumann, Lieser

2. Platz   2011 Valwiger Herrenberg Riesling Edition F Spätlese Mosel, edelsüß, Weingüt Lönartz-Thielmann, Ernst

3. Platz   Kröver Steffensberg Riesling Finesse Spätlese Mosel, süß,  Weingut Trossen, Traben-Trarbach

Kategorie V – edelsüß - Category V – noble sweet with more than 90 grams per liter residual sugar (Botrytised wines and Eiswein)

1. Platz   2009 Würzburger Stein Riesling Beerenauslese Franken, edelsüß, Staatlicher Hofkeller Würzburg

2. Platz   2009 Kirrweiler Oberschloss Riesling Eiswein Pfalz, edelsüß, Weinhaus Hermann Zöller, Kirrweiler

3. Platz   2001 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Auslese Pfalz, edelsüß, Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl, Deidesheim

Picture: The Winners in Category V

Best of Riesling 2012 – 4 Special Awards

Best European Riesling:  2011 Kogelberg Riesling Reserve Qualitätswein DAC Kamptal, Weingut Brandl Zöbing, Austria

Best New World Riesling: 2011 Riesling Columbia Valley, Ste Michelle Wine Estates, Washington State, USA

Best Steep Slope Riesling: 2011 Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Von Alten Reben Spätlese Mosel, trocken, Weingut Rebenhof, Ürzig, Germany

Best Supermarket Riesling: 2011 Riesling Roter Hang Nierstein Qualitätswein Rheinhessen, Weinkellerei Reh Kendermann, Germany

schiller-wine - Related Postings

Judging at “best of riesling 2012” in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in Germany

Best of Riesling Awards 2010

“Hoffest” (Winery Party) at Weingut Heinrich Baison in Hochheim, Rheingau - Best of Riesling 2010 Award Winner

Best of Riesling Awards 2008

Judging at Wine Competitions in Virginia (USA), Pfalz (Germany) and Rheinhessen (Germany)

1st International Riesling Symposium, Rheingau, Germany

Celebrating the Rieslings of the Finger Lakes Region, New York State, US East Coast

Best German Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2012

Germany’s Top 100 Winemakers – Handelsblatt online and Vinum 2011

German Spaetlese Wines Can Come in Different Versions. I Have Counted Five.

Phil Bernstein’s Third Annual German Riesling Tasting with the German Wine Society, Washington DC Chapter - Rieslings With a Touch of Sweetness

Visiting Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach at their Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, Germany

Visiting Weingut Josef Leitz in Ruedesheim – Johannes Leitz is Germany’s Winemaker of the Year, Gault Millau WeinGuide 2011

Impressions from the Riesling and Co World Tour 2010 in New York

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

German Wine Basics: Sugar in the Grape - Alcohol and Sweetness in the Wine

JJ Pruem Goes Supermarket: Meeting Katharina Pruem and Tasting the Incredible JJ Pruem Wines at Wegmans

The Focus on Dry German Riesling – Daniel Hubbard Presents the German DSWE Portfolio to the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter)

The Wines of Franz Kuenstler from Hochheim, Rheingau, Germany


  1. What a fabulous experience! Did you have any personal favorites?

  2. The 2011 Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Riesling Tyrell‘s Edition Spätlese Mosel, trocken, Weingut Karthäuserhof is a true world class wine - a fully fermented late harvest from the Mosel.