Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 100 Best German Winemakers 2010 – Handelsblatt online and Vinum

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Prinz zur Lippe, Owner of the Largest of the Top 100 Wine Estates, Weingut Schloss Proschwitz in Sachsen.

This is a pretty good list of Germany’s Top 100 Wine Estates. Overall, I would say, right on the dot, although there are always wineries where you wonder why they are on the list and other where you wonder why they are not on the list. The Handelsblatt online and Vinum list is released on an annual basis - this year for the 25th time, in December 2010. Handelsblatt is the German Financial Times and Vinum is a wine journal.

Here is a link to the list of Germany’s Top 100 Wine Estates (in German).

6 wine estates were promoted to the list, although 3 of them had been on the list before: C. von Schubert/Mosel (again), Kuenstler/Rheingau (again), Schloss Johannisberg/Rheingau (again), Schloss Schoenborn/Rheingau (new), Kuehling-Gillot/Rheinhessen (new), Dreissigacker/Rheinhessen (new).

Interestingly, Schloss Johanisberg was already on the first list of 25 years ago, but dropped out in the meantime. Schloss Johannisberg is a Wine Estate in the Rheingau that has been making wine for over 900 years. The winery is most noted for its claim to have "discovered" the Spaetlese wine, late harvest wine. This, however, is contested by the Hungarians; they claim that the late harvest was discovered in the Tokaji region.

Wine making in the Schloss Johannisberg vineyards started long before the castle was build, during the reign of Charlemagne. The hill became known as Johannisberg (John's mountain) in the 1100s, when a Romanesque basilica in honor of John the Baptist was built on the hill. The Chateau that we see today was built in the 1700s by the Prince-Abbot of Fulda. In 1720 he planted Riesling vines, making it the oldest Riesling vineyard in the world.

Picture: Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau

The estate changed hands several times during the Napoleonic Wars, but in 1816 the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II, gave it to the Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich to thank him for his great services. The estate is in the hands of the Oetker family today.

Schloss Johannisberg is a single vineyard designation (Einzellage) in its own right. Like the Steinberg, it is one of a handful historic German vineyards which do not have to display a village name on the label. Thus, the vineyard designation on the label is Schloß Johannisberger. There are currently about 35 hectares (86 acres) of vineyard.

I was happy to see Weingut Kuenstler from Hochheim back on the list; in my view, it was a mistake to have dropped it from the list. Schloss Schoenborn has for many years been producing exceptional wines and clearly deserves to be on the Top 100 list.

Pictures:Christian G.E. Schiller with Christian Hass, Winemaker at Schloss Schoenborn, and Annette Schiller and Gunter Kuenstler, Owner and Winemaker at Weingut Kuenstler in Hochheim.

It is also gratifying that Rheinhessen is now represented with two more names among the 100 best: Dreissigacker in Bechtheim and Kühling-Gillot in Bodenheim. The largest (with 26 440 hectreas) growing area in Germany was for a long time suffering from its past as a supplier of cheap, sweet wines, but the hilly region in the triangle Bingen, Mainz and Worms has experienced a strong rebound in recent years with a new generation of young, dynamic, innovative winemakers such as Dreissigacker, Keller, Wittmann, Battenfeld-Spanier and Kuehling-Gillot. H.O. Spanier from Battenfeld-Spanier and Caroline Gillot from Kuehling-Gillot are married and both exceptionally talented winemakers.

About a dozen winemakers have been continuously on the list for 25 years. I find this very impressive. It is indicated by the number 24 next to their name; Schlossgut Diel is one of them.

Picture: Armin Diel, Schlossgut Diel, with Friedrich Becker, Weingut Becker, In Berlin in 2010

About 20 of the top 100 winemakers follow organic or biodynamic principles in the vineyard, indicated in a separate column.

The table also gives the share of dry wines in total production for each winery. There are obvious regional differences, with the Mosel region clearly standing out in terms of a large share of sweet wines in total output. For most of the Mosel estates, sweet wines account for 50 % or more of the production, while it is the opposite in all other German wine regions.

In terms of size, none of the wineries is large by international standards. About 20 have less than 10 hectares and about 20 have more than 30 hectares. The largest is Weingut Proschwitz in Sachsen with 88 hectares. The remaining 60 percent of the wineries are in the 10 to 30 hectares range.

Schiller Wine - Related Postings

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When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

In the Glass: 2007 Rheinhessen with Oysters at the Ten Bells in the Lower East Side in Manhattan

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

An Unfortunate, uninformed Article in the Decanter about Dry German Riesling

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Wine ratings: Top 100 of the Wine Spectator 2009 include Wittmann and Loosen Rieslings

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