Monday, October 5, 2015

Germany’s Grosses Gewächs GG Wines Released (2014 White and 2013 Red) - Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Picture: Germany’s Grosses Gewächs GG Pre-release Tasting in Late August 2015 in Wiesbaden, Germany

Germany’s VDP.Grosse Gewaechs – Grand Cru - vintage 2014 white wines and vintage 2013 red wines were released on September 1, 2015. These are the ultra-premium dry wines from the very best vineyard sites made by some of the best producers in Germany.

At this annual occasion, a number of presentations by the VDP – the association of German elite winemakers - take place in Germany, including one in Berlin during the first days of September and one later in the month in Frankfurt am Main.

Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden

One presentation that clearly stands out is the pre-release tasting for a group of about 120 wine journalists, bloggers, sommeliers, retailers, importers, etc from all over the world, but mainly from Germany, in the old Kurhaus in the stately German spa town of Wiesbaden, which is 45 minutes’ drive from Frankfurt. It is a seated, very well organized tasting where you have the chance to go through the VDP Grosses Gewaechs wines during 2 days.

Pictures: Wiesbaden

The invitations for this event are highly sought after. This year, I was happy to get again invited by the VDP and to participate in the event. Others I saw at the event were US wine importer Rudi Wiest, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland editor Joel B. Payne, winemaker, blogger and internet-TV star Dirk Wuertz and Riesling guru and wine journalist Stuart Pigott, Master of Wine Caro Maurer from Germany, new Robert Parker team member Stephan Reinhardt, who has replaced David Schildknecht, US Importer Justin Christoph from New York and Anne Krebiehl, MW, from London.

See here for last years' tastings:
Germany’s 2013 Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2012 VDP.Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2011 VDP Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Grosses Gewaechs (GG)

What is a VDP.Grosses Gewaechs? There is still a bit of confusion out there, as (1) Grosses Gewaechs (GG) is a term that was created by the VDP only a few years ago and (2) the VDP has established a new classification for German wines that differs radically from the German standard classification (and is still in the process of refining and implementing it). The latest revisions were those that came into effect with the vintage 2012.

Pictures: Germany’s Grosses Gewächs GG Pre-release Tasting in Late August 2015 in Wiesbaden, Germany

Grosses Gewaechs Wines and the New German Wine Classification

Although many people think that there is only one wine classification system in Germany – the classification system of the Law of 1971 – this is not correct. True, the classification system of the Law of 1971 is the standard classification system in Germany and the vast majority of winemakers in Germany use this approach. A large number of winemakers, however, have moved away from the standard, in particular the VDP producers.

In a nutshell, the VDP is moving to a classification system that resembles very much the classification system in the Bourgogne. The classification of the VDP puts the terroir principle at the center of its classification approach.

With the latest modifications of 2012, the absolutely finest vineyards are called Grosse Lage (for the 2011 vintage still called Erste Lage) and dry wines from these super top vineyards are called Grosses Gewächs. Grosses Gewächs wines are the finest dry wines from Germany’s finest vineyards.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller

To qualify for the Grosses Gewächs label, a number of criteria need to be respected. (i) The fruit has to come from a Grosse Lage vineyard. (ii) At harvest, the grapes need to be at least at Spätlese level in terms of the sugar content. (iii) Only certain – typical - grape varieties are allowed, including Riesling and Spätburgunder. Riesling is the only varietal allowed for Grosse Lage wines in the Mosel, Nahe, and Mittelrhein, but grapes like Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Lemberger, Fruehburgunder, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Gewuerztraminer, and Silvaner are included in other regions. (iv) Further restrictions apply: there are yield restrictions; only hand picking of grapes is permitted and harvest must be late in the autumn.

See also:
Steffen Christmann (Weingut A. Christmann) and Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) Presented the New Wine Classification of the VDP, Germany


The VDP is the world’s oldest association of wine estates in the world. In fact, it is the only one of its kind worldwide. No other country has a national organization of the top wine makers of the entire country.

Throughout the past century, the quality-driven goals and strict standards of the VDP have played no small part in shaping the viticultural and winemaking practices in Germany. With their stringent statutes and their establishment of a German vineyard classification, the 200 members of the VDP have served as role models and justifiably can be viewed as the vanguard of the nation’s producers of top-quality wines.

Picture: Stuart Pigott

What did we have in the Glass in Wiesbaden?

This is what we had in the glass in Wiesbaden: White VDP.Grosses Gewächs wines from 2014 and red VDP.Grosses Gewächs wines mostly from 2013, but some also from earlier vintages. Typically, the red GGs are released a year later than the white GGs, i.e. most of the red wines were vintage 2013.

Overall, 536 GGs from 162 VDP producers were released on September 1, 2015 and could be tasted in Wiesbaden. This was an increase of 27 wines, compared with the year before.

The tasting covered all winegrowing regions in Germany and it did not cover just Riesling. Grosses Gewächs status has been approved for Silvaner, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), and Lemberger, plus even a Chardonnay was included this year. But the majority of the wines were, of course, Riesling wines, and each region’s wines are grouped together for comparison.

The GGs came from 272 vineyard sited. Riesling dominated the show, accounting for 55 percent or 297 wines of the total.

In terms of the regional distribution, the Pfalz showed the largest number of GGs – 107 wines, followed by Baden (93), Württemberg (59), Rheingau (58), Franken (55), Mosel (52) and Rheinhessen (51).

Not all potential GG wines were presented in Wiesbaden, because (1) a number of wines did not pass the internal review of the VDP and thus will never be released as GG and (2) increasingly, winemakers are holding their wines back to release them later. For example, the 2014 Kirchenstück of Dr. Bürklin-Wolf will only be released in March 2016, to give it more time to develop. Julisspital decided to present its white GGs not after 12 months, but after 24 months aging. Peter Jakob Kühn did not show any wines. And so on.

Picture: Joel B. Payne


The Ahr valley north of the 50 °latitude is unquestionable the northernmost region for producing top Pinot-Noirs. The secret lies in an ideal micro-climate found in the narrow canyons along the river with their very special geological conditions, and south-facing slopes. Wine making along the tiny Ahr River goes back to Roman times.

The Ahr region showed only red wines: 3 Frühburgunder GGs and 14 Spätburgunder GGs.

Schiller’s Favorites: Meyer-Näkel (Sonnenberg, Pfarrwingert and Kräuterberg)

Picture: Stephan Reinhardt (Robert Parker)

There is a red wine revolution going on in Germany and the world increasingly takes note of it. Of course, given its location, the red wines of Germany tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, the share of red wine in total German wine output was not more than 10 percent; in the international wine scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this is changing. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world; the share of red wines in terms of production has increased to about 35 percent now in Germany and increasingly the international market takes note of what is happening in Germany.

Today, Germany is the third biggest producer of Pinot Noir (called Spaetburgunder in Germany), after France and the US, with more planted than Australia and New Zealand combined.

Picture: The Ahr GG Wines


Baden is the most southerly German wine-growing area in Germany's southwestern corner. On the other side of the Rhine Valley is Alsace. Baden is known for its pinot wines – red, grey and white.

The Spätburgunder is the most widely grown variety in Baden, but Baden showed also a number of GGs from other grape varities.

Baden showed the largest number of Spätburgunder GGs, with those of Weingut Bernhard Huber standing out, but those of Weingut Salwey and Weingut Dr. Heger also showing very well.

Baden also showed 15 Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) GGs and 10 Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) GGs.
In addition, Baden showed 1 Blaufränkisch GG (Weingut Seger Herrenberg Spermen), 3 Chardonnay GGs and 6 Riesling GGs.

Picture: Weingut Bernhard Huber GGs


Franken is known for its crisp, crystal clear wines from their signature grape Silvaner. Indeed, it was the only region to show Silvaner GGs, excellent wines, but hard to find outside of Germany.

Schiller’s Favorites: Am Stein, Ludwig Knoll, Stein, Bickel-Stumpf, Mönchshof

Franken also showed 15 Riesling GGs and 1 Weisser Burgunder GG.

3 of the 6 Spätburgunder GGs which Franken showed came from Franken’s red wine star Weingut Rudolf Fürst: Schlossberg, Centgrafenberg and Hundsrück.

Justin Christoph (New York) - For Franken Riesling GGs this year, it was Wirsching and Weltner at the top, then everybody else @grapeylyle

Picture: The Franken Riesling GGs

Picture: Weingut Fürst GGs

Hessische Bergstrasse

No wines.


Mittelrhein showed 3 Riesling GGs and 1 Spätburgunder GG. Both the Riesling and Spätburgunder Hahn GG of Toni Jost were excellent.

Picture: The Rudi Wiest Team from the USA


Traditionally, the Mosel is not a region well known for its ultra-premium dry white wines. Instead, the fruity sweet Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines as well as the noble sweet BA, TBA and Eiswein wines are sought after all over the world by the lovers of fruity and noble sweet wines. But things are changing and the Mosel showed an impressive list of Riesling GGs. In particular, I like the GGs of Clemens Busch (Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay, Marienburg Falkenlay) and Dr. Loosen (Treppchen, Prälat, Würzgarten, Sonnenuhr, Himmelreich, Lay). In total, the Mosel showed about 40 GGs, all Riesling – no other grape variety.

Picture: Dr. Loosen GGs

Justin Christoph (New York) - Top 2014 Mosel Riesling Grosses Gewachs from the Wiesbaden presentation: 1. Fritz Haag, Juffer-Sonnenuhr 2. Clemens Busch, Marienburg "Fahrlay" 3. Karthäuserhof, Karthäuserhofberg 4. Heymann-Löwenstein, Uhlen "Blaufüßer Lay" 5. Peter Lauer, Schonfels 6. Heymann-Löwenstein, Röttgen 7. Clemens Busch, Marienburg "Falkenlay" 8. Peter Lauer, Saarfeilser

Picture: Justin Christoph from New York


Like the Mosel, the Nahe showed only Riesling GGs – a total of 22 wines. My favorites were Kruger-Rumpf (Dautenpflänzer, Im Pitterberg), Diel (Pittermännchen, Goldloch, Burgberg) and Dönnhoff (Dellchen, Hermannshöhle).

Justin Christoph (New York) - My Top 2014 Nahe Riesling Grosses Gewachs tasted in Wiesbaden: 1. Schäfer-Fröhlich, Felseneck 2. Diel, Pittermännchen 3. Schäfer-Fröhlich, Stromberg 4. Emrich-Schönleber, Halenberg 5. Kruger-Rumpf, Dautenpflänzer 6. Diel, Burgberg 7. Donnhoff, Felsenberg.

Picture: Yves Beck from Switzerland


The Pfalz belongs to the group of regions that showed both white and red GGs. As for the white GGs, it showed Riesling and Weisser Burgunder GGs.

The Pfalz showed almost 60 Riesling GGs and many of my fellow tasters thought that these wines were the stars of the whole presentation. Among those, I saw the wines of A. Christmann (Langenmorgen, Reiterpfad In der Hohl, Idig, Mandelgarten) and Ökonomierat Rebholz (Im Sonnenschein, Ganz Horn im Sonnenschein, Kastanienbusch) in the lead.

Turning to the Weisser Burgunder, I liked the Langenmorgen of von Bassermann-Jordan best among the 12 wines presented.

Picture: Anne Krebiehl, MW, from London


The Rheingau is the region that is closest to my heart. My wife Annette and I discovered the world of wines with the wines of Rheingau, while we lived in Mainz for 10 years. The Rheingau also showed 6 Spätburgunder GGs, but was one of the dominating forces, as far as the Riesling GGs are concerned. Overall, they all were a tick drier than last year, as the Rheingau in general is trying to brng the remaining sugar level in its Riesling GGs down. Künsterl, Toni Jost, Robert Weil, Barth, Jakob Jung, Achim von Oetinger, Josef Spreitzer, Fritz Allendorf, J. Wegeler, Schloss Johannisberg, Baltasar Ress, Leitz all showed super wines.

Flight 18 with 5 Berg Rottland Riesling GGs ( Balthasar Ress, Johannishof, Künstler, Leitz, von Mumm) was one of the most interesting flights of the tasting for me.

Picture: Guiseppe Lauria, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland


Rheinhessen showed 34 Riesling GGs and 8 Spätburgunder GGs. Among the Riesling flights, flight 25 was my favorite: it included the Pettenthal from St. Antony, Rappenhof, Gunderloch and Kühling-Gillot. They were all excellent, with the last two perhaps standing out.

Overall, Gunderloch (Rothenberg, Pettenthal, Hipping), Keller (Hubacker), Kühling Gillot (Rothenberg, Ölberg, Hipping) Wittmann (Aulerde, Kirchspiel, Brunnenhäuschen, Morstein) and Battenfeld Spanier (Am Schwarzen Herrgott, Frauenberg, Kirchenstück) were my favorites.

Paul Truskowski: The Star of this years Grosse Gewächs Preview is definitely Johannes Hasselbach and his team of Weingut #Gunderloch. The collection of three Grand Cru Rieslings - #Hipping #Pettenthal and #Rothenberg - is not just impressive. It is the benchmark. At Roter Hang and also in complete #Rheinhessen. Chapeau! #vdpgg15

Justin Christoph (New York) - Top '14 Rheinhessen GGs: 1. Battenfeld-Spanier, Am Schwarzen Herrgott 2. Battenfeld-Spanier, Frauenberg 3. Kühling-Gillot, Rothenberg 4. Groebe, Kirchspiel 5.Wittman, Aulerde 6.Wagner-Stempel, Heerkretz 7.Kühling-Gillot, Pettenthal 8.St. Antony, Pettenthal 9.Wittman, Morestein

Picture: Flight 27 (Rheinhessen)

Saale Unstrut

The tiny wine region in the former GDR, showed 2 GGs, both by Pawis and both excellent: Riesling Edelacker and Weisser Burgunder Edelacker.


The other tiny region in the former GDR, Sachsen, did not present any wines.


Wine from Württemberg is mainly red wine. The main production area is along the Neckar river between Stuttgart and Heilbronn and, more wine is consumed here than anywhere else in Germany - actually twice as much as in the rest of Germany. The German poet Friedrich von Schiller wrote already several centuries ago: “A Württemberger without wine--is that a real Württemberger?”

Wines from Baden and Württemberg are hard to find in the US. This is partly explained by the production structure, which is dominated by co-operatives. Much of the wine sector in Baden and Württemberg is in the hands of local co-operatives. These co-operatives are known for producing top class wines. But they tend to be less aggressive in terms of penetrating new markets. Stuart Pigott, the German wine writer, believes that Württemberg is the area with the largest potential for quality growth in Germany.

Württemberg showed 16 Riesling GGs.

Schiller’s Favorites: Neipperg (Ruthe, Schlossberg), Wachstetter (Höhenberg), Dautel (Sonnenberg), Schnaitmann (Götzberg, Lämmler).

Picture: Dautel and Schnaitmann GGs

In addition, in terms of white wines, Württemberg showed 2 Weisser Burgunder GGs and 1 Grauer Burgunder GG.

Turning to red GGs, Württemberg showed 11 Spätburgunder GGs.

Allmost all of the Lemberger GGs were from Württemberg, with the wines of von Neipperg (Ruthe, Schlossberg), Dautel (Michaelsberg) and Schnaitmann (Lämmler) standing out.

Picture: The End

schiller-wine: Related Postings

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Germany-East Wine and Art Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Germany-North Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany-South Wine Tour by ombiasy, 2014

Germany’s 2013 Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany

Germany’s 2012 VDP.Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Germany’s 2011 VDP Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

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