Thursday, April 24, 2014

Terry Theise: German 2013 Vintage Wines - Highlights and Superlatives, Germany

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller Tasting with Helmut Doennhoff, see: An Afternoon with Riesling Star Winemaker Helmut Doennhoff at Weingut Doennhoff in Oberhausen in the Nahe Valley, Germany

Terry Theise is one of the leading experts of German Wine in the US. Among the vast number of his followers, he has gained something like a cult status. He publishes a thick catalogue once a year with extensive comments. In addition to the compendium of exciting wine reviews, the Terry Theise’s annual catalogue is a very good introduction to German wine, both to the basics and to the current trends and issues.

His wines are imported by Michael Skurnik, an importer and distributor of fine wines based in Syosset, New York. Terry also imports Austrian wine and Champagnes, including excellent grower Champagnes.

If you want to learn more about Terry, the Washington Post carried an excellent article about him some time ago. See here.

2008 James Beard Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional
2005 Food & Wine Magazine Importer of the Year

His wines are imported by Michael Skurnik, an importer and distributor of fine wines based in Syosset, New York. Terry also imports Austrian wine and Champagnes, including excellent grower Champagnes.

For previous years, see:
Terry Theise: 2012 Vintage Wines - Highlights and Superlatives, Germany
Terry Theise’s Top German Wines of the 2011 Vintage, Germany, USA
2011: Terry Theise’s Top German Wines of the 2010 Vintage
Terry Theise's Top German Wines of the 2009 Vintage

A few comments. First, there are no red wines, although they now account for 1/3 of the German wine output. Terry is clearly focusing on Germany’s white wines. Second, nor have I seen a category for sparkling wines; for sparklers, you have to go to his excellent portfolio of Champagnes, including many grower Champagnes. Third, his list does not include any noble-sweet wines (Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein). Fourth, Terry is known for having a preference for sweet-style wines, although his portfolio increasingly includes also dry wines. Fifth, as mentioned above, this is not a list based on a comprehensive review of German wine, but is limited to Terry Theise’s portfolio of winemakers, which is large and exceptional.

Here is Terry Theise in o-tone. I have added a couple of pictures of the winemakers I have met personally, including references to relevant postings on schiller-wine. Terry Theise

The 2013 Vintage in Germany

The good news is there are plenty of good wines, a decent number of outstanding wines and a small but significant number of superb wines. My job is to find them for you, and I did my job. But another part of my job is to build and maintain trust with you, and here I run afoul of a collateral worry; I can annoy my growers if I am too blunt when they have a dud year. So I am going to tell you as much of the truth as I think you need to hear and they can bear to hear. Of course part of my job is to sell wine, and that entails being able to spin and be relentlessly positive. A grower has every right to believe I’m working on his/her behalf. I have an equal right to suggest that I am most effective for them if my customers believe me. So, watch me pick my delicate way through the thickets.

When 2013 works it gives wines of great relief and contrast; these are vivid wines. They’re almost never creamy, but they are sometimes quite silky. They can seem deliciously savage at times, like a raspy-voiced singer; it isn’t a “pretty” voice but still you love it. 2013s are high in acidity and stunningly high in extract; this is tactile and discernible, not a metaphor. That said, bottling will often subdue this component, not insofar as it exists but insofar as it can be tasted. At that point extract behaves as a buffer to acidity (and to sweetness if it is there) and confers a richness to the mid-palate. 2013s are often high in botrytis, and the degree to which botrytis was managed is a leitmotif of the vintage.

As such ’13 invites comparison to two previous vintages, 2010 and 2000. But it is both less ripe and not as monstrously high in acidity as ’10 was. It has in common with ’10 its tendency to an almost monumental solidity along with always-prominent (and sometimes unbalanced) acids. Regarding 2000, nearly every grower told me the conditions in ’13 were less challenging, there was less overall mildew, plus they’d learned from the earlier vintage and were better prepared this time. All of this may very well be true. The best 2000s have aged surprisingly well, but that “best” is a slim tip of a large iceberg….

The vintage is very small. Many growers made one-third of an average year. At best it was 40-50% below average, coming on the heels of the short crops of 2012 and 2010, and so every possible wine was on the table.


(For any new readers, we have in effect retired Mr. Dönnhoff’s number, because otherwise he’d have all the best wines. Cornelius might well wish to see some actual kudos – not that he needs to be affirmed by the likes of me – but I hope he and you will appreciate that his hors classe estate occupies the highest of summits, and it would be boring to see his name infinitely repeated.)


I hate giving this to the same estate twice in a row, but truth is truth, and VON WINNING is showing that their glorious collection in 2012 was no fluke, but instead the arrival at a lofty place they shall continue to set up house in. Believe me, I wondered. Because those astonishing ‘12s might have been lavished with pixie-dust from the weightless weight of the creamy vintage style. Would the ‘13s be arch and angular again? Not a bit of it. These guys are here to stay. It is conceivable that Von Winning ‘13s will be a little tiny bit less grand than their ‘12s, but it’s definite that their ‘13s are dramatically better than almost everything around them.

I spent a couple days of R&R in Burgundy, and I took a bottle of ’12 Pechstein GG as a gift to each grower I visited. “What is it like?” they asked. I looked for an easy shorthand way to say it. Imagine François Raveneau made Riesling in the Pfalz instead of Chardonnay in Chablis: That’s what it’s like. Any doubt I ever harbored about the impact of Stefan Attmann’s somewhat atavistic style of “winemaking” is now quelled. These wines are miracles.


It is a markedly fine vintage at Müller-Catoir, perhaps even better then ’12, hard as that is to believe. I was also struck by the sure hand and steadily increasing polish at Kruger-Rumpf. I’ve already told you about Merkelbach. My personal darling Carl Loewen keeps having outstanding vintages.

There’s a paradox in which estates who always show an intelligent hand of craftsmanship can get overlooked, just because they did it yet again. We come to expect it of them, so when they keep performing it isn’t news. But attention must be paid to the passionate diligence of Selbach-Oster and Schlossgut Diel.

2013 was especially kind to a few estates who flourished by dint of its acid-structure. These include Eugen Müller, Theo Minges, Jakob Schneider (who’s on a steady upward climb in any case) and Reuscher-Haart.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Armin and Caroline Diel at Schlossgut Diel. See: Visiting Armin and Caroline Diel and their Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen in Germany


Von Othegraven Kanzem Altenberg Riesling Spätlese Alte Reben. This is just an improbable miracle from this vintage, and though it won’t “create sales” as much as a less expensive nominee would, an achievement such as this must be recognized.


A late-released (because long-fermented) 2012 Selbach-Oster Graacher Domprobst Riesling Spätlese Feinherb, an utter Mosel masterpiece, showing a thrilling and soulful pathway to a new/old dialect of slate-grown Riesling that you simply shouldn’t miss.


Müller-Catoir Mandelgarten Riesling Spätlese
Kruger-Rumpf Münsterer Dautenpflänzer Riesling Spätlese
Merkelbach Uerziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese #9


(bearing in mind I selected very few Auslesen this year) Müller-Catoir Herzog Rieslaner Auslese, along with Selbach-Oster Schmitt, two utterly different wines, neither of them at all “dessert” like, each powerfully savory, each a thrall of masterly beauty.


Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett
Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling Kabinett


Schneider Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Trocken, (a markedly expressive wine from this normally opaque terroir, I can barely recall a superior young Dellchen. Dönnhoff’s was also unusually expressive at this early stage.)

Von Winning Sauvignon Blanc, because pyrene-averse little me was quite overcome by how good this was!


The entire Von Winning collection of GGs, especially….no, actually: ALL of them.
Schlossgut Diel Pittermännchen Riesling GG
Kruger-Rumpf Pittersberg Riesling GG
Müller-Catoir Haardt Muskateller (just show me a better Muscat, go on, just do it)


Eugen Müller Forster Pechstein Riesling Spätlese Trocken
Schneider Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese Trocken


Kruger-Rumpf Dautenpflänzer Riesling Feinherb

Picture: With Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf (Nahe Valley) in the Vineyard. See: Cellar Tour, Vineyard Tour, Tasting and Lunch with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley, Germany


Merkelbach Uerziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese #7 (though its sister wine the “Urglück” is also an amazing bargain).


Weingart Spay Riesling Kabinett Feinherb
Darting St Laurent (2011, first being offered)

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