Monday, May 26, 2014

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate – David Schildknecht Leaves and Stephan Reinhardt Joins the Team

Picture: Stephan Reinhard (Black Shirt) at the 2012 Grosses Gewaechs (the Ultra-premium Dry German Wines) Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Robert Parker recently announced a change in his team, with potentially a major impact on how the Wine Advocate will assess German wine. US-based David Schildknecht leaves the team and Germany-based Stephan Reinhardt joins the team.

I have the highest professional respect for David. His talent is exceptional, and he will be greatly missed, said Robert Parker. It's never easy replacing any of our writers, but we believe Stephan is a great addition to the team as a native and recognized authority on German wine.

David Schildknecht

David is one of the authorities for German (but not only German) wine in the English-speaking wine world. He is a legend in German wine circles in the US. I go back with David for many years. When I moved to the US in the early 1980s, David was a retailer in Washington DC. I remember long discussions (in German) with him at Pearson’s on Wisconsin Street, when he worked there. He was also a frequent guest at the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter). He now lives in Cincinetti.

Picture: David Schildknecht at the 1. International Riesling Symposium in Hattenheim, Germany

Stephan Reinhardt

Born, raised and based in Germany, Stephan Reinhardt has established himself as a leading wine journalist in Germany. But he has also gained recognition beyond the borders of the German-speaking part of Europe. Most recently, his book The Finest Wines of Germany was shortlisted as Best International Wine Book of Year by the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Award.

Stephan Reinhardt was editor-in-chief of Vinum, a 10-issue magazine distributed in Switzerland, Germany and Austria, and of Weinwisser, a Swiss/German wine newsletter. He has written stories for a number of publications, including The World of Fine Wine; a handful of German daily newspapers; and lifestyle magazines including Der Feinschmecker, Falstaff and Fine -- das Weinmagazin.

Stephan Reinhardt is passionate about Riesling, Port and Pinot Noir, loves music (especially jazz), travel and soccer (especially the Cologne soccer club). He studied drama (Theaterwissenschaft), communication (Kommunikationswissenschaft) and psychologie (Psychologie) at Munich University and worked as a junior professor (Assistant) at the Institut für Theaterwissenschaft in Munich from 1997 to 2000. He lives with his family near Hamburg, Germany.

I am excited to be writing for one of the greatest wine journals in the world, said Stephan Reinhardt. I have the deepest respect for Robert Parker and the Wine Advocate and am thrilled to be joining his esteemed team of world-renowned reviewers.

German Wine: Reinhardt versus Schildknecht

Looking at David’s and Stephan’s background, I would not be surprised if the coverage of German wine by the Wine Advocate will change with David leaving and Stephan coming on board.

David is very much grounded in the traditional American perspective of German wine. The American taste is leaning towards the fruity-sweet style wines of German white wine. For the American taste, the Mosel Region, with its fruity-sweet Kabinett and Spaetlese wines, is at the heart of German wine. German dry wines are only now gaining interest in the American market. Similarly, although red wine accounts for 1/3 of the German wine production, they are hard to find in the American market.

Pictures: Stephan Reinhard (Black Shirt) at the 2012 Grosses Gewaechs (the Ultra-premium Dry German Wines) Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Stephan comes from different angle. He has lived all his live in Germany. He is very well integrated with the wine scene in Germany - producers, retailers, sommeliers and cunsumers. He is also a bit younger than David and pretty active on facebook. There, in the German discussion groups, or more generally: among wine lovers in Germany, the talk is about premium and ultra-premium German dry wines and the new generation of German premium and ultra-premium red wines. People do talk about fruity sweet Kabinett and Spaetlese wines, but interest for these wines is clearly limited in Germany. Stephan is part of the new wave of German premium dry white and premium red wines. A few days ago, with the new job, Stephan Reinhardt supplemented his friend facebook page with a fan facebook page and called the new page: Stephan Reinhardt trocken.

Robert Parker's Wine Advocate Team

Here is the current team.

Stephan Reinhard: Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as Alsace, Champagne and the Loire Valley.

Robert Parker: Northern California, Bordeaux, California Retrospectives, Bordeaux Retrospectives, Value Wines

Neal Martin: Burgundy's Cote d'Or, Macon, Beaujolais, Chablis, sweet white wines of Bordeaux, South Africa, Port, Madeira & Banyuls

Mark Squires: Dry table wines of Portugal, Israel, Greece, Romania, Lebanon and Bulgaria
Lisa Perrotti-Brown: Australia, New Zealand

Jeb Dunnuck: Rhone Valley (North & South), Central & Southern California, Washington State, Languedoc-Roussillon, Southern France

Monica Larner: Italy

Luis Gutierrez: Spain, Chile, Argentina

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Winemaker Dinner with Château LAFON-ROCHET Wines and Winemaker Anaïs Maillet at Chef Bart Vandaele’s Hipp B Too Restaurant in Washington DC, US/France

Picture: Annette Schiller and Château LAFON-ROCHET’s winemaker Anaïs Maillet at B Too in Washington DC (Picture: Charlie Adler, TasteDC: Upcoming Food and Wine Events in DC )

Château LAFON-ROCHET’s winemaker Anaïs Maillet was in town (Washington DC) because of the Heart’s Delight events and owner Basile Tesseron asked Annette Schiller (ombiasy PR and WineTours) to organize a winemaker dinner.

Announcement: Amazing Wine Maker Dinner Featuring Château LAFON-ROCHET on May 4th, 2014 in Washington DC, USA

Château LAFON-ROCHET is a 4ième Grand Cru Classé en 1855 in the Saint-Estèphe appellation. The visits of Château LAFON-ROCHET were highlights of the recent Bordeaux tours by ombiasy PR and WineTours.

For more on Château LAFON-ROCHET see:
A Tour and Tasting at Château Lafon-Rochet in Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, with Winemaker and Owner Basile Tesseron (2013), France
An Afternoon with Owner Michel Tesseron at Château Lafon-Rochet, 4ème Cru Classé en 1855, in Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux
Tasting the Wines of Chateau Lafon-Rochet, Saint-Estèphe, 4ème Cru Classé en 1855, with Owner Basil Tesseron at the French Embassy in Washington DC, USA/France

Annette picked Bart Vandaele’s new restaurant on 14th Street, B Too, for the dinner. It turned out to be a great choice. With about 50 wine lovers attending, it was a sold-out event. The food was extraordinary: very creative and matching the gorgeous LAFON-ROCHET wines beautifully.

For more on Bart Vandaele, see:
A Feast with Jean Trimbach, Maison Trimbach in Alsace, and Chef Bart M. Vandaele at B Too in Washington DC, USA/France

Anaïs and Bart were the perfect hosts: Anaïs talked about LAFON-ROCHET and commented on each wine. She walked from table to table to meet everybody and to address questions that came up during the tasting. Bart made sure that the evening proceeded with clockwork precision.

Pictures: Château LAFON-ROCHET’s winemaker Anaïs Maillet and B Too Chef Bart Vandaele (Pictures: Charlie Adler, TasteDC: Upcoming Food and Wine Events in DC)

Annette was thrilled and honored to see eight out of the ten participants of last year’s Bordeaux tour at the dinner. Some even travelled long distance for this dinner to indulge in the memories of last September’s visit at LAFON-ROCHET and to reunite with their fellow Bordeaux wine lovers. The boisterousness at their table definitely added to the animated ambiance of the evening.

Pictures: The 2013 Bordeaux  by ombiasy Tour Group

Unfortunately I was out of the country and therefore not able to attend the dinner, but my friend Charlie Adler, TasteDC: Upcoming Food and Wine Events in DC, was so kind to take pictures. Annette also took some pictures.

Champagne Reception

Chicken egg / Caviar lolly pop / Beet salad sponge cake

Champagne Eric Rodez Grand Cru Ambonnay

Pictures: Champagne Reception (Pictures: Charlie Adler)

The Menu and the Wines

Since its opening a year ago B Too, sister restaurant of Belga Café on Capitol Hill, consistently receives high acclaims for its creative cuisine. Fresh, local, seasonal produce and continual creativity in the kitchen make every meal exceptional. The following menu was prepared by Chef Bart Vandaele to pair with the fruit and earth profiles of each wine:

Quail, endive, truffle, pear, peas
Château Les Pèlerins de LAFON-ROCHET 2009

Lamb head to tail, cauliflower flan, thyme jus, spring garden
Château LAFON-ROCHET 2006

Grilled short Rib, 3 carrots, provençale, sauce St. Estèphe
Château LAFON-ROCHET 2000

Foie gras, cacao, brioche, 20 y balsamico, cherry B-waffle
Château LAFON-ROCHET 1996

Visit Château LAFON-ROCHET with ombiasy PR and WineTours

This year again, ombiasy PR and WineTours is organizing a wine tour to Bordeaux, which will include a visit of and tasting at Château LAFON-ROCHET, with winemaker Anaïs Maillet and owners Michel (father) and Basile (son) Tesseron. For more information, see:

Upcoming in September 2014: Bordeaux Wine Tour by ombiasyPR – Bordeaux Immersion

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Michel Tesseron at Château LAFON-ROCHET


Thanks Bart and your team for a great event.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Germany’s Most Expensive Dry White and Red Wines

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with August Kesseler, Weingut Kesseler, in Assmannshausen, see: A Pinot Noir Star: Visiting August Kesseler and his Weingut August Kesseler in Assmannshausen, Germany
German Wine Journalist and Blogger Mario Scheuermann released a most interesting list of the most expensive German dry white and red wines.

Of course, the German noble-sweet Rieslings (from Egon Mueller, JJ Pruem, just to name the two most famous producers) are expensive, sought after in the whole world. But these wines were excluded in Mario Scheuermann’s exercise: he confined himself to those categories – ultra-premium dry white and red – that are not yet on the radar of the wine lovers in the world, but nevertheless have seen a tremendous upswing in the past decades.

Mario Scheuermann grouped the wines into what he called the Grands Crus and the Premiers Crus categories. His starting point was Euro 28, which is according to the VDP – the association of about 200 elite winemakers in Germany - the current average price for Grosses Gewaechs (ultra-premium dry white and red) wines (presumably ex winery). Currently, there are more than 500 wines, which carry the label Grosses Gewaechs.

Picture: Mario Scheuermann (in the Middle) Tasting in Wiesbaden

Moving on from this price point, he grouped all wines in the Euro 50 to 100 as Premier Cru wines and those above Euro 100 as Grand Cru wines.

The prices are basically ex-winery prices, if I understand Mario Scheuermann correctly. The current US$/Euro exchange rate is Euro 1 = US§ 1.38.

Here is what he found.

Dry White Grands Crus

G Max Riesling, Weingut Keller (Rheinhessen), 350 – 500 Euro
Nierstein Hipping Riesling GG, Weingut Keller (Rheinhessen), 131 Euro
Gutedel hoch 4, Hans Peter Ziereisen (Baden), 120 Euro
Forst Kirchenstück Riesling GG, Dr. Bürklin Wolf (Pfalz), 100 Euro

Dry White Premiers Crus

Stromberg Riesling GG, Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich (Nahe), 85 Euro
Westhofen Morstein Riesling GG, Weingut Keller(Rheinhessen), 74 Euro
Westhofen Abtserde Riesling GG, Weingut Keller (Rheinhessen), 72 Euro
Forst Jesuitengarten GG Dr. Bürklin Wolf (Pfalz), 70 Euro
Nierstein Pettenthal GG, Weingut Keller (Rheinhessen, 65 Euro
Zeltingen Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese trocken***, Markus Molitor (Mosel), 61,90 Euro’
Graach Himmelreich Riesling Auslese trocken ***, Markus Molitor (Mosel), 59,90 Euro
Forst Kirchenstück Riesling GG, Bassermann-Jordan (Pfalz), 59 Euro
Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling GG, Kühling-Gillot (Rheinhessen), 59 Euro
Steinberger Riesling Riesling GG, Staatsweingut Kloster Eberbach (Rheingau), 59 Euro

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Tim Fröhlich, Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich, in Wiesbaden

Red Grands Crus

Mayschoss Mönchberg Spätburgunder trocken, Jean Stodden (Ahr), 145 Euro
Rüdesheim Schlossberg Spätburgunder GG, August Kesseler (Rheingau), 120 Euro
Rüdesheim Drachenstein Pinot noir, Chat Sauvage (Rheingau), 120 Euro
Assmannshausen Höllenberg Pinot noir, Chat Sauvage (Rheingau), 120 Euro
Wildenstein Spätburgunder Reserve, Bernhard Huber (Baden), 120 Euro
Pinot noir Heydenreich Grosse Lage, Friedrich Becker (Pfalz), 110 Euro
Spätburgunder Reserve, Friedrich Becker (Pfalz), 105 Euro
Rottweil Eichberg Blauer Spätburgunder SJ, K H Johner (Baden), 100 Euro
Assmannshausen Höllenberg Spätburgunder GG, August Kesseler (Rheingau), 100 Euro

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Michael Staedter, Weingut Chat Sauvage, in Johannisberg, Rheingau, see:  Weingut Chat Sauvage – Bourgogne in the Middle of the Rheingau: Meeting Chat Sauvage’s Winemaker and General Manager Michael Staedter, Germany

Red Premiers Crus

Bürgstadt Hundsrück Spätburgunder GG, Paul Fürst (Franken), 85 Euro
Spätburgunder Alte Reben, Jean Stodden (Ahr), 85 Euro
Graach Himmelreich Spätburgunder trocken ***, Markus Molitor (Mosel), 82,50 Euro
Walporzheim Kräuterberg Spätburgunder GG, J.J. Adeneuer (Ahr), 78 Euro
Brauneberg Klostergarten Spätburgunder trocken ***, Markus Molitor (Mosel), 77,20 Euro
Spätburgunder trocken Lange Goldkapsel, Jean Stodden (Ahr , 75 Euro
Rech Herrenberg Spätburgunder GG, Jean Stodden (Ahr), 69 Euro
Kreuzwertheim Kaffelstein Spätburgunder Edition Ottmar Hörl, Weingut Alte Grafschaft (Franken), 69 Euro
Nieder Flörsheim Frauenberg Spätburgunder GG, Weingut Keller (Rheinhessen), 68 Euro
Ihringen Winklerberg Häusleboden GG, Weingut Dr. Heger, 68 Euro
Spätburgunder CCL, Weingut Fritz Wassmer (Baden), 68 Euro
Walporzheimer Klosterberg, Meyer-Näkel Ahr), 65 Euro
Schweigen Kammerberg, Friedrich Becker (Pfalz), 65 Euro
Weil Schlipf Pinot noir CS Reserve ***, Weingut Claus Schneider, 65 Euro
Leimen Herrenberg, Spätburgunder GG, Weingut Seeger, 64 Euro
Rech Rosenberg Spätburgunder, Jean Stodden (Ahr), 60 Euro
Assmannhausen Höllenberg Spätburgunder trocken aus dem Cabinetkeller, Staatsweingut Assmannshausen (Rheingau), 59 Euro
Dottingen Castellberg, Pinot noir GC, Weingut Martin Wasmer (Baden), 58 Euro
Klingenberg Schlossberg Spätburgunder GG, Paul Fürst (Franken), 57 Euro
Oberrotweil Eichberg Spätburgunder, Franz Keller (Baden), 56 Euro
Hecklingen Schlossberg GG, Bernhard Huber (Baden), 55 Euro
Schweigen Sonnenberg Sankt Paul Grosse Lage, Friedrich Becker (Schweigen), 55 Euro
Syrah Reserve, Weingut Knipser (Pfalz), 55 Euro
Lemberger Cuvée trocken, Burg Ravensburg, 55 Euro
Walporzheim Gärkammer Spätburgunder, J. J. Adeneuer (Ahr), 54 Euro
Mayschoss Mönchberg Spätburgunder , Deutzerhof (Ahr), 52 Euro
Altenahr Eck Späturgunder GG, Deutzerhof (Ahr), 52 Euro
Klingenberg Schlossberg Spätburgunder GG, Weingut Stadt Klingenbergm Benedikt Baltes (Franken), 52 Euro
Caroline, Schlossgut Diel (Nahe), 50 Euro
Siebeldingen Im Sonnenschein, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz (Pfalz), 50 Euro
Oberrotweil Eichberg Baron Philipp, Freiherr von Gleichenstein (Baden), 50 Euro
Blauer Spätburgunder SJ, K.H. Johner (Baden), 50 Euro

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Paul Fuerst, Weingut Rudolf  Fuerst, in Mainz

A Few Comments

Overall, a bit more than 50 wines show up on the list, i.e. cost more than Euro 50. Mario Scheuermann noted that quite a number of wines are offered just below Euro 50, so they did not make it into the ranking. If you cut off the list at say Euro 40, the list would be considerably longer.

Interestingly, the red wine list is much longer than the dry white wine list. The former is comprised of 42 items, while the latter contains only 14 items. But as far as white wines are concerned there are all these expensive noble-sweet wines, which were excluded from the exercise. Still, the dominance of red wines is amazing on this list.

Probably coming as a surprise to many readers, Baden is the top performer, a wine region that outside of Germany is barely known as a wine producing region. The Mosel Region, well known over the world, is only represented with one producer (Weingut Markus Molitor). This of course, reflects the fact that the Mosel Valley is not a red wine producer, and when it comes to premium white Mosel wine, the fruity-sweet and noble-sweet styles dominate.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Small, Premium Sekt Producer: Sektkellerei Bardong in the Rheingau, Germany

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Norbert and Renate Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

Norbert and Renate Bardong own and run a small Sekt House in Geisenheim, in the Rheingau in Germany. They came over to Frankfurt – a 45 minutes drive by car - to present their Sekt House and their Sekt portfolio to the Frankfurt Slow Food Group. We tasted 6 different Sekts: 3 of them were Bardong Sekts from their portfolio and 3 of them were Sekts, not on sale: The same base Sekt with different dosages, to introduce us to the skill of fine-tuning a Sekt with the right level of dosage.

Sekt in Germany

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany. Sparkling wine produced in Germany is called Sekt.

Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt Houses that only make Sekt and (iii) wine makers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt Houses tend to be in the demy-sweet and sweet range, while the Sekts of smaller estates and the wine makers are mostly in the brut and extra brut range. The Bardong Sekts are mostly brut, with some being extra brut.

Pictures: Norbert Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

There is a dozen or so large Sekt Houses in Germany, most of them established in the 1800s at the same time as the French Champagne Houses. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the Champagne Houses, the large German Sekt Houses all moved to the charmat method (in a tank) as main method of the second fermentation after World War II. Like the Champagne Houses, Sekt Houses do not own vineyards, but purchase the base wine from wine makers. More than three quarters of the base wine used to make Sekt is imported from other EU countries, essentially Italy, France and Spain. Sekt can only be labeled as Deutscher Sekt if it is made exclusively from German grapes, which is rare in the case of the large and the smaller Sekt Houses. Most of the Sekt Houses have beautiful chateau-type facilities with old underground cellars for the second fermentation and storage. Overall, these Sekts are reasonably priced, are of good quality, but with the introduction of the charmat method are no longer in the same class as their counterparts in the champagne region.

Like the large Sekt Houses, the smaller Sekt Houses – and Sektkellerei Bardong belongs to this group - do not own vineyards, but also buy the base wine from wine makers. They also tend to have a long history and often links to the champagne region, beautiful facilities and old cellars for the second fermentation and storage. The big difference is that they typically have not gone the route of tank fermentation but continue to ferment in the méthode traditionnelle.

Pictures: Norbert and Renate Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

Finally, there is a number of top quality winemakers, who, in addition, to their still wines, have started to include Sekts in their portfolio. These Sekts are typically vintage Sekts, from a specified vineyard, made of specific grapes, often Riesling, in the méthode champenoise and with little dosage (brut or extra but). While the first fermentation typically takes place at the winery, the second fermentation is often not in the cellar of the wine maker but in the cellar of a Sekt House that bottle-ferments for other wineries. Norbert Bardong started his Sekt House that way and still makes Sekt for wine makers, but has over time established his own portfolio of Sekts. Currently, about half of his production is accounted for by Sekt made for winemakers and half for the Bardong portfolio.

See also:
German Wine Basics: Sekt

Sektkellerei Bardong

Norbert Bardong: We do not produce any cuvées, we only make lieu-dit and vintage sparkling wines. The base wines are high-quality Kabinett wines whose fine aromas are to be found in Bardong sparkling wines.

Sektkellerei Bardong was founded by Norbert Bardong in the vaults of the former sparkling wine cellars of Schloss Rheinberg and Schloss Waldeck in Geisenheim in 1984. Norbert Bardong discovered his love of sparkling wine after studying Beverage Technology at the renowned wine university in Geisenheim and completing various internships, including one in the Champagne Region. It did not take him long to reach the decision to refine the wines of his Rheingau home district by himself to produce sparkling wines using the traditional method of classic bottle fermentation.

Pictures: Norbert Bardong, Sektkellerei Bardong

All of the sparkling wines of Sektkellerei Bardong are produced by hand using this method in order to guarantee their high quality. The base wines for these sparkling wines are Kabinett wines. There are no cuvees at Bardong, only sparkling wines made from one grape variety, from one single vineyard and from one vintage.

For the second fermentation, Norbert Bardong explained that he adds 26 gr of sugar. This produces a pressure of 6 bar (compared with 2 bar in a car tire).

All his sparkling wines mature on the yeast for at least 36 months – just like vintage champagne – and some for even up to 20 years, which helps them to develop their very special fine bubbles, delicious lightness and wonderful mellowness. The legal minimum requirement is 9 months.

Annual production is 100000 bottles. Riesling grapes account for 75 % and Pinot Noir grapes for 15 %.

The Sekts Norbert and Renate Bardong Poured

Norbert and Renate Bardong poured 6 different Sekts: 3 of them were Bardong Sekts from their portfolio and 3 of them were Sekts, not on sale: The same base Sekt with different dosages, to introduce us to the skill of fine-tuning a Sekt with the right level of dosage.

2009 Hallgartner Jungfer, Riesling, Rheingau, brut

2006 Chardonnay, Rheingau, brut

2008 Ruedesheimer Klosterberg, Blanc de Noir, Rheingau, brut

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 4 gr/l dosage

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 8 gr/l dosage

2008 Weissburgunder, Saale Unstrut 12 gr/l dosage

The favorite of the group was the one with the lowest dosage. Interestingly, the least liked Sekt was the one in the middle.

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German Wine Makers in the World: Anton Mueller Invented the Remuage Technique Revolutionizing Sparkling Wine Drinking, 1800s, France

German Wine Makers in the World: Eduard Werle --- Owner of the Veuve Cliquot Champagne house (France)

German Wine Makers in the World: Robert Alwin Schlumberger--the Father of Austrian Sekt (Austria)

As Close as You Can Get to Champagne – Claude Thibaut and His Virginia Thibaut Janisson Sparklers at screwtop Wine Bar, USA

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weingut Franz Kuenstler, Hochheim, Rheingau, Joins Terry Theise Portfolio, USA/Germany

Picture: Gunter Kuenstler and Christian G.E. Schiller at Restaurant Kronenschloesschen in the Rheingau (2013)

Last year, at one of the larger wine tastings in Germany, Gunter Kuenstler, Weingut Franz Kuenstler in Hochheim, Rheingau, told me that he was in the process of changing his American importer. He had already terminated the contract and was looking for a new importer. We talked a bit about his motives and options. This year, at the Weinboerse in Mainz, Gunter told me that he had decided to join the portfolio of Terry Theise.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Weingut Kuenstler in Hochheim (2013)

The German Terry Theise Portfolio

Terry Theise is one of the leading importers, if not the leading importer of German wine in America. He has a large portfolio, comprising 40 German winemakers or so, including Doennhoff, Kruger-Rumpf, Diel, Selbach-Oster, Mueller-Catoir, Von Winning, to name a few.

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.

Pictures: The late Franz Kuenstler with Annette Schiller at a Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim Tasting (2009)

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.

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller with Gunter Kuenstler at Weingut Franz Kuenstler (2009)

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

A few comments on the German Portfolio of Terry Theise: 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, Terry is known for having a preference for sweet-style wines, as far as German white wines are concerned, although his portfolio also includes dry wines. Remember, Terry also imports Austrian white wines and they are all dry. Fourth, his portfolio does not include any noble-sweet wines (Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein).

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

Weingut Franz Kuenstler

Weingut Franz Kuenstler is one of Germany’s world class wine producers. It has 5 F’s (out of 5) in the Feinschmecker WeinGuide ranking. The Wine Estate is currently run by Gunter Kuenstler, who took over from his father Franz a number of years ago. Basically, until the late 1980s Franz was in charge and from the early 1990s on, the Kuenstler wines were made by Gunter. Before founding his own winery in 1965, Franz Kuenstler worked for other wineries in Hochheim for 15 years.

Pictures: Gunter Kuenstler and Gregor Breuer at Weinboerse in Mainz, Germany (2014). See also: 2014 Weinboerse in Mainz – The VDP Producers of the 2014 ombiasy Germany North Tour

The wine growing tradition of the Künstler family can be traced back to Southern Moravia in 1648. After the Second World War, the Künstlers had to leave their home in what is now the Czech Republic and the head of the family, Franz Künstler, laid the foundations in Hochheim for what was to become one of the most successful family businesses in the Rheingau.

I remember very well the small row house in Hochheim that was the initial home of the Kuenstler winery. And I remember very well the wonderful tastings we had at the Kuenstler estate. All my life I have been buying Kuenstler wines and there is quite a number of Kuenstler bottles in my wine cellar in McLean, Virginia.

Gunter Künstler bought the Geheimrat Aschrott'sche Erben wine estate in Hochheim in 1996 and in doing so acquired a major share in the very best vineyard locations in Hochheim (12 hectares). A few years ago, as another giant leap, the Kuenstler estate moved into the former Burgeff Sektkellerei, just at the entrance of Hochheim, when you come from Mainz. It is very impressive.

Pictures: Annette and Monika Kuenstler (2013)

Most recently, Gunter Kuenstler started a cooperation with a winemaker in Ruedesheim and began to offer wines from vineyards in Ruedesheim. This cooperation, however, is coming to an end. In the future, you will not see any wines from Ruedesheim in the Kuenstler portfolio.

Picture: Annette and Gunter Kuenstler in Wiesbaden (2013)

The vineyard area totals 37 hectares in the Domdechaney, Herrnberg, Hölle, Kirchenstück, Reichestal, Stein and Stielweg (Hochheim) as well as Weiß Erd (Kostheim), excluding vineyards in Ruedesheim. Riesling accounts for the bulk of it (29 hectares) but there is also Spätburgunder, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Winemaking: Gunter Künstler, Rolf Schregel
Marketing: Gregor Breuer, Monika Künstler
Production: 20000 cases

schiller-wine: Related Postings (Weingut Franz Kuenstler)

Germany's Top 18 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2013

Kuenstler, Meyer-Naekel, Wirsching – Winemaker Dinner at Kronenschlösschen in Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany

The Wines of Franz Kuenstler from Hochheim, Rheingau, Germany

Franz Kuenstler, Founder of the Renown Franz Kuenstler Estate in Hochheim, Rheingau, Germany, dies at Age 84

Franz Kuenstler, the founder of the Weingut Franz Kuenstler, was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership of the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim, Germany

Wine Video: German Top Wine Maker Gunter Kuenstler interviewed by Hendrik Thoma

World Class Wines in Hochheim, Rheingau, Germany - Weingut Kuenstler

Five Hochheim (Rheingau) Winemakers Presented their Vintage 2011 Wines in Hochheim, Germany

schiller-wine: Related Posting (Terry Theise)

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

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

Thursday, May 15, 2014

South Africa Top 20 Wineries 2014

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Winemaker Jean Smit at Boekenhoutskloof
A panel of 29 sommeliers, retailers and wine writers selected its 2014 top 20 winemakers from South Africa. You find the list below, following some introductory remarks about the wine producer South Africa.

Wine Producer South Africa

South Africa is a New World wine country, with a long wine history. With about 100.000 hectares of land under vine, it accounts for 1.5% of the world's grape vineyards. Yearly production is around 10 million hectoliters, which puts the country among the top ten wine producing countries in the world.

I have traveled in South Africa many times in the past 3 decades, in particular during the period 1989 to 1992, when I used to live in Madagascar.

When traveling in South Africa today, it quickly becomes evident that apartheid is resting in the dustbin of history. South Africa’s current President is the Zulu Jakob Zuma, who is mired in personal and political controversy. The Txosa Nelson Mandela, who had spent more than 25 years in prison during apartheid, was President in the 1990s and is now a revered elder called "Madiba" ("Papa"). South Africa successfully hosted the Soccer World Cup. The Soccer World Cup was hoped to provide a boost to the tourism industry; but indications are that the expected boost did not materialize, at least not fully. The gap between the haves and have-nots continues to be wide, but is narrowing and a black middle class is emerging. This, however, is not so much evident in the wine region, which continues to be dominated by the whites; Cape Town even has a white mayor. 99% of the vineyard area is in the hands of whites. The AIDS pandemic is taking a huge toll with the HIV infection rate at about 20 percent.

Over the course of the years, I have detected an increasing openness, pride and camaraderie among all the South Africans – white, colored or black, Boers or Brits; Indians, Jews, Zulus, Txosas or Vendas, I met. Nevertheless, this rainbow society with a share of 75% of blacks, has huge challenges to cope with.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Sales and Marketing Manager (from 2009 to 2012) Thys Lombard at Tokara

Wine History

It all began in 1655, with wine seedlings from Europe, ordered by the commander of the newly formed station of the Dutch East India Company - the largest company in the world at the time - at the Cape, the Dutch surgeon Jan van Riebeeck. He knew that for the long ship journey from Europe to India around the Cape of Good Hope, wine was better than water as the latter often got rotted in the barrels, causing the dangerous scurvey for sailers. Four years later, in 1659, Jan van Riebeeck made his first wine in South Africa.

Before the arrival of the European settlers, African tribes had settled in the area. Today, the most influential African tribes are the Xhosas (the most famous Xhosa is former President Mandela) and the Zulus (the most famous Zulu is current President Zuma).

Among the white settlers were former sailors, adventurers and people who left Europe for religious reasons. The latter included the Huguenots who had fled to Holland to escape religious persecution. Many of them settled in Franschhoek and brought wine-making know how to the Cape region.

Another mile stone in the wine history of South Africa is the pioneering work of the Boer Governor Simon van der Stel. He founded the famous Constantia Estate that is viewed as the nucleus of the South African wine industry.

As the 18th century drew to a close, the Dutch power began to fade worldwide, and the Cape region fell under British rule. When the Brits arrived, 25000 white mainly Boer colonists lived in the region; they were pushed up to the north as the Brits took over the region. As a result of the British rule, the South African wine industry blossomed as it benefitted from preferential treatment in the British market. By 1859 more than 4 million liters of South African wine were exported to Britain. This changed dramatically when as the result of the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty in 1861 the preferential tariffs were abolished helping French wine exports to regain the British market. By 1865, exports had dried up to a mere 0.5 million liter.

The turn of the century saw a large overproduction of wine in South Africa. To cope with the surplus, the South African winemakers formed a wine cooperative in 1918, the Kooperatieve Wijnbouw Vereniging van Zuid Afrika (KWV). Initially started as a cooperative, the KWV soon grew in power and prominence to where it would to set policies and prices for the entire wine industry. At the same time, in the second half of the 1900s, the trade barrier of anti-apartheid sanctions ensured that South Africa’s wine exports fell to virtually zero and that the tiny domestic market became the industry’s only consumer.

It was not until the end of apartheid in 1993/94 that the wine industry started to see a brighter future again, and the renaissance of the South African wine industry began. This renaissance was fueled by a rapid increase of foreign demand for South African wine and substantial investments, financed by foreigners as well as locals. Most of the wineries I visited in October 2010 had come into existence only after the collapse of the apartheid regime. Today, South Africa is a New World wine country, with a long wine history and tradition of winemaking.

Wine Industry

Unlike other New World wine regions, the South African wine industry is strongly influenced by several large wine-cooperatives, including Distel and KWV; in total, there about 60 co-operatives. In addition, there are about 25 trading companies, or negociants, which often operate wineries, but seldom own their own vineyards. Among these are SAVISA, Winecorp, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Graham Beck; Western Wines is among the trading companies that are foreign based and owned; their brand Kumala is by far South Africa’s biggest brand. Over 80% of the total crop is delivered to these large wineries by about 4000 wine growers. However, private wineries have increasingly emerged and seen an impressive growth; there are now about 600 winemakers with their own cellars, most of them in the premium wine segment.

More than half of the total production is exported. The previous Cape powers, the UK and Netherlands, are traditionally the main destinations for wines shipments; but other markets are coming up, including Sweden, Denmark, the USA, Germany and Angola.

The wine industry is firmly in the hands of the whites, both white South Africans and foreign investors. But I had the pleasure to meet Ntsiki Biyela, a female black winemaker, who is producing outstanding wines at Stellekaya in Stellenbosch. Also, the Diemersfontein wine portfolio included a line of wines that was produced in the framework of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) program (to promote the black community's involvement in the South African wine industry-including ownership opportunities for vineyards and wineries).

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller and Anthony Hamilton Russell

Grape Varieties

Although there has been a significant shift in favor of red wine varieties, reflecting increasing demand for the international varieties Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, white wine is still in the lead, accounting for a bit more than half of the total. Pinotage, which is a native grape of South Africa, also shows an upward trend. Among the white wines, Chenin Blanc is the front runner, followed by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Cabernet Sauvignon has become the most widely planted red grape variety, accounting for 25 percent of the red wines. Shiraz seems to like the climate of the Cape very much and produces very intense full-bodied wines. In recent years, Shiraz has been planted in particular in the warmer growing areas. Although Pinot Noir is rarely grown in South Africa, it can be found in the cooler regions Walker Bay and Elgin, producing exceptionally good wines there. Merlot has traditionally been used for cuvees with Cabernet Sauvignon; but winemakers have started to produce 100% Merlot wines.

Pinotage is the signature grape of South Africa. In 1925, a South African researcher at the University of Stellenbosch crossed the Pinot Noir with the Hermitage (Cinsaut): This was the birth of Pinotage. It now accounts for more than 20 percent of South Africa’s red wine. It is made in a broad range of styles, from easy-drinking quaffing wine and rosé to barrel-aged wine intended for cellaring. It is also used for port-style wine and red sparkling wine.

In recent years, many new Chardonnay vineyards have moved into the production phase. Whether fermented in barrels or in steel tanks, the Chardonnay from the Cape region is always elegant in style, combined with refreshing fruit flavors on the palate. Viognier shows its full potential in South Africa and plantings are increasing. Two hundred years ago, Semillon was the dominant grape variety in the Cape region; today it is rather the exception. South African Sauvignon Blancs enjoy an increasing popularity; the plantings are concentrated in the cooler altitudes of Constantia, Paarl and Stellenbosch. Although on a downward trend, some South African wine makers are pushing the Chenin Blanc grape, trying to improve the quality and diversifying into different styles. Other white varieties include Colombard, Gewurztraminer, Muscat of Alexandria and Pinot Gris.

Finally, Cape Riesling is widely grown in the Cape, but is actually not a Riesling, the great grape from Germany, but a Crouchon Blanc, originating in Southern France, but seldomly grown there. By contrast, the noble Riesling is a niche wine, which, until this year, had to be labeled as Weisser Riesling or Rhine Riesling. Only from this year on, Riesling can be labeled as Riesling, without the pre-fixes Weisser or Rhine.

Picture: Entrance of Klein Constantia

Wine Growing Regions

Under the "Wine of Origins" (WO) system, wine zones fall under one of four categories. The largest are Geographical Units (such as the Western Cape region), which includes the smaller, but still largely defined Regions (such as Overberg), followed by districts (like Walker Bay) and finally wards (such as Elgin). WO wines must be made 100% from grapes from the designated area.

Constantia ward: Located south of Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic ocean, it is the cradle of the South African wine industry and was through the 18th and 19th centuries regarded as South Africa’s grand cru territory.

Stellenbosch district: the second oldest wine zone, accounting for around 14% of the country's wine production. The seven wards of Stellenbosch-Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch are well known for their red wines.

Paarl: For most of the 20th century, Paarl was for all practical purposes the heart of the South African wine industry, as it was the home of the KWV. The importance of Paarl has declined with the emergence of a strong private sector.

The Franschhoek Valley, a ward, was founded by Huguenot settlers who brought with them their winemaking know-how.

The Breede River Valley, located east of the Drakenstein Mountains, is a warm climate region; the river itself provides easy access to irrigation which makes bulk wine production of high yield varieties commonplace. The Robertson district is located closest to the river along alluvial soils. The Worcester district is responsible for more wine than any other wine region in the country with almost one quarter of the total coming from this area.

The cool climate Overberg region received very little attention until the late 20th century, but its wines are becoming increasingly sought after, notably the wines of Walker Bay with the various Hemel-en-Arde wards and of the cool, higher elevation vineyards of Elgin located east of Cape Town.

The Atlantic influenced West Coast region includes the areas of Durbanville, Olifants River, Piketberg and Swartland. Historically known for its bulk wine production, in recent years, in particular in Swartland, innovative producers making excellent premium wines have emerged.

The Top 20 Producers

Here is the list, published in the Mail and Guardian on April 23, 2014, with the comments of the Mail and Guardian.

1. Sadie Family Wines. Eben Sadie, an emblematic figure of the Cape's wine revolution, has been making his red Columella and white Palladius blends since the early years of the century. Local and international acclaim brought fame to the whole Swartland area, initiating its great renaissance. Then came Sadie's widely-inspiring Old Vineyard Series, confirming his vision, insight and energy.

2. Mullineux Family Wines. Young Chris Mullineux and his American wife Andrea are based in the little town of Riebeek-Kasteel, buying grapes, especially Shiraz and Chenin Blanc, from Swartland vineyards. They soared onto the Top 20 list in 2012 at number 10, and this year made another record leap: they are just squeezed out of the top spot by their good friend and near-neighbour.

3. Kanonkop, in Stellenbosch, is the longest-established winery in the Top 5 - and the only winery to have been there every time since the first poll in 2001. No other producer in the list has such an impressive track record of great wines ?– especially the Paul Sauer blend, made since 1981, but also Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon.

4. Boekenhoutskloof was in the 2001 Top 20 category, but has grown in size and is renown under the continued direction of cellar master Marc Kent. Based at the organic home-farm in Franschhoek, it also draws grapes from far and near.

5. Chamonix started revealing the vinous potential of its Franschhoek mountainside soils after Gottfried Mocke arrived in 2001 to look after vineyards and cellars with his flair and insight. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have always done well here; now a handful of reds, especially Pinot Noir, join them amongst the country's best – and there's not a dud in sight.

6. Paul Cluver Estate makes mostly white wines off the extensive, pioneering Elgin domaine, but the Pinot Noir is equally fine.

7. Newton Johnson is one of this year's big climbers. This quintessential family farm in the Hemel-en-Aarde near Hermanus is most famous for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

8. Cape Point Vineyards, lashed by cool sea-winds near Noordhoek on the Peninsula, has seen winemaker Duncan Savage establish an enviable reputation for its white wines.

9. Hamilton Russell Vineyards, pioneer of winemaking in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, is still famous for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – the latter widely regarded as the country's finest.

10. Vergelegen is one of Stellenbosch's great historic and contemporary showplaces, with André van
Rensburg continuing to produce a range of red and white wines to match.

11. Tokara, high on the Helshoogte Pass just outside Stellenbosch, makes superb, elegant wines from there (as well as Agulhas and Elgin) under Miles Mossop's deft direction.

12. Thelema is Tokara's neighbour but longer established (since 1983), with cellar master Gyles Webb amongst the pioneers of modern winemaking in the Cape.

13. Jordan has a large range of wines (modest to grand) from its sizeable Stellenbosch estate, run in masterly style by husband-and-wife winemaking team Gary and Kathy Jordan.

14. Cederberg is the highest new entry, as its mountainous vineyards are among the Cape's loftiest, though David Nieuwoudt also makes a fine range from vineyards near Cape Agulhas.

15. Delaire Graff – third and oldest of the Helshoogte wineries in the region – arrives to trumpet its reinvigoration since its purchase a decade back by British diamantaire Laurence Graff.

16. AA Badenhorst Family becomes the third Swartland winery in the Top 20, marking the great success of Adi Badenhorst's mighty labours on the run-down farm the family acquired in 2006.

17. Klein Constantia represents the Constantia Valley here, as well as the prestige particularly (though not solely) of its famous, historically relevant sweet wine, Vin de Constance.

18. Meerlust is one of Stellenbosch's great old estates, owned by the Myburghs since 1757, it's fine winemaking tradition re-energised for the past decade by winemaker Chris Williams.

19. Reyneke, one of few biodynamic wineries in the Cape, has its organic Stellenbosch vineyards cared for by "vine-hugger" Johan Reyneke, and its elegant wines crafted by the brilliant Rudiger Gretschel.

20. De Trafford returns after a brief absence, with David Trafford's big, ripe but well-balanced Stellenbosch wines as commanding as ever.

Judging Panel

Sommeliers: Hansi Joakim Blackadder, Gareth Ferreira, Neil Grant, Higgo Jacobs, James Pietersen, Joerg Pfuetzner, Francois Rautenbach.
Retailers: Carrie Adams, Carolyn Barton, Mark Norrish, Roland Peens, Caroline Rillema.
Local writers and critics: Michael Crossley, Christian Eedes, Michael Fridjhon, Edo Heyns, Tim James, Angela Lloyd, Melvyn Minnaar, Cathy Marston, Maggie Mostert, Ingrid Motteux, Christine Rudman, Cathy van Zyl.
International writers and critics: Tim Atkin, Tom Cannavan, Jamie Goode, Neal Martin, Anthony Rose.

schiller-wine - Related Postings

In the Plane: Wine on South African Airways from Johannesburg to Livingstone in Zambia (Victoria Falls)

New World Wine Producer South Africa

Boekenhoutskloof – Producer of Sensational Premium Wines as well as Good Value Table Wines in Franschhoek

Lunch with Raphael Dornier in Stellenbosch

Burgundy Wines in South Africa: Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Devon Rocks - A Boutique Producer of Pinotage in South Africa

Wining, Dining and Relaxing with the Chocolate/Coffee Pinotage at Diemersfontein Wine and Country Estate in Wellington, South Africa

In the Glass: A Rust en Vrede 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon With South African Oysters in Stellenbosch

Marianne Wine Estate: South African Wine with a French Soul

Meeting Ntsiki Biyela at Stellekaya in Stellenbosch – South Africa’s Only Female and Black Winemaker with International Recognition

Wine, Art and Food: Donald Hess’ Glen Carlou Estate in South Africa

Riesling in South Africa