Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gault Millau WeinGuide Germany 2011 – Ratings

Picture: Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year Weingut Joseph Leitz

Gault Millau published its new wine guide for Germany - Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2011 - in November 2010. It reviews on 912 pages about 948 wineries, with about 7500 wines. Its rating symbol is a grape and Germany’s best winemakers are awarded one to five grapes, a bit like the forks in the Gault Millau food guide.

Ever since 1994, the Gault Millau WeinGuide Germany has honored outstanding personalities of the German wine world and special wines. This year, the outstanding personalities are:

Wine maker of the year: Johannes Leitz (Rheingau)

I was in Germany, when the 2011 Gault Millau WeinGuide Germany came out. Immediately, I called Weingut J. Leitz, but was told that Joseph Leitz had just left for a trip to the US. However, his head winemaker Eva Fricke was around and ready to receive me.

Weingut Josef Leitz dates back to 1744 and - like so many wineries in Germany - has passed from one generation to the next for virtually 4 centuries. Johannes Leitz, the current owner and winemaker, took charge of the estate in 1985, when he was in his early 20s. At that time, Weingut Josef Leitz had 3 hectares of vines and was virtually unknown among German wine connoisseurs. When you visit his winery today, you can see where Johannes Leitz comes from. The winery looks more like a regular house than the winery of the Winemaker of the Year.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Eva Fricke, Weinmaker at Weingut Johannes Leitz

Early on, Johannes Leitz connected with Washington DC based importer Therry Theise, with a view of expanding production by pushing exports. Today, Johannes Leitz has successfully grown to 40 hectares of vineyard area and 90% of the production is sold in the export markets, notably the US. You have probably seen a bottle of his famed 1-2-Dry or his well known Dragonstone. “It’s a fantasy name,” Eva Fricke says “Johannes is trying to make the wine user-friendly to the millennial generation who grew up on Harry Potter novels.”

“9 out of 10 bottles of my production are exported”, said Johannes Leitz, when he received the award and “the market is really booming, despite the financial crisis.” He sells his Riesling wines mainly in the U.S., but increasingly also to Scandinavia and Great Britain. Far East is now also a market for his winery, he said. In Germany, Weingut Leitz is very strong in the Berlin market, as Berlin officials like to serve a German wine from somebody, who is well known around the world. Johannes Leitz spends many months of the year traveling the world. Among his customers are reportedly also very prominent Americans, such as Yahoo founder Jerry Yang and actor Kevin Costner.

Weingut Josef Leitz has a nice web site, with lots of information on it. I in particular like the panorama picture of the Ruedesheimer Berg (see above) and the degree of steepness of the various Leitz vineyards. However, the website is in German only. But Terry Theise has 4 great pages on Johannes Leitz and his wines in his German wine catalog.

Shooting star of the year: Philipp Kuhn (Pfalz)

Weingut Philipp Kuhn is in the Pfalz region. Philipp Kuhn took over the family winery in 1992, when he was just 20 years old. The vineyard area totals 16.5 hectares. The vineyards are planted in a about equal parts with red and white grapes. Philipp Kuhn is one of those German winemakers who confidently cover what seems like the whole spectrum of wine, from Riesling to Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Viognier, Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Lemberger, Merlot and a few others. Weingut Philipp Kuhn is a member of the VDP.

"Since he took over the family estate at age 20 in 1992, he has worked his way up with great energy and enthusiasm for fine mineral Rieslings and velvety Pinot Noirs” said editor Joel Payne during the presentation.

Discovery of the Year: Arno Augustin (Franken)

The 36 year old Arno Augustin from the Franken region is the discovery of the year. Arno Augustin studied in Geisenheim enology and graduated as Diplom-Önologe. The family-run (with his wife Verena) winery has 11 hectares of vineyard land, planted mainly with Silvaner, Bacchus, Riesling, Müller-Thurgau.

Best wine collection of the year: Weingut Gerhard Aldinger (Wuerttemberg)

Weingut Gerhard Aldiner is in Fellbach in the Württemberg wine-growing region in Germany, which is very little known outside of Germany. In fact, more wine is consumed here than anywhere else in Germany - 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?” In Württemberg the Trollinger is the most important variety. It is a typical Vierteleswein, equivalent to a vin ordinaire and so-called because such wines are normally ordered by the quarter liter. There is also Lemberger, which is a much better wine. Weingut Gerhard Aldinger convinced the Gault Millau editors in particular with its Lemberger wines.

Weingut Gerhard Aldinger has a long winemaking tradition, going back to 1492, when „Bentz der Aldinger" was already planting vines there. Today, the estate is run by Gert Aldinger, the 15th generation of the family, with the help of his 2 sons Hansjörg und Matthias. The vineyard area totals 20 hectares. Weingut Gerhard Aldiner is a member of the VDP.

Best Sekt of the Year: Raumland (Rheinhessen): 1997 Dalsheimer Bürgel Pinot Brut Prestige

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world, which is not well know around the world. Germans drink lot of sparkling wines. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine produced in the world is consumed in Germany, roughly 500 million bottles. 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, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt estates 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.

There is a dozen or so large Sekt houses. Most of these large Sekt houses were established in the 1800s. At that time, there was only one method known to produce Sekt, the méthode traditionnelle. But in contrast to the champagne houses, the large Sekt houses have all moved to the charmat method 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 winemakers.

The smaller Sekt houses, like the large Sekt houses, do not own vineyards, but buy the base wine from winemakers. 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.

Increasingly, 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 or not 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 winemaker but in the cellar of a Sekt house that bottle-ferments for other wineries.

Raumland belongs to the third group, but is kind of unique in Germany. Raumland makes a bit of still wine but is clearly focusing on his world class Sekts. The Raumland Sekts are like Champagnes, without copying them, say his fans.

Best Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) of the Year: Martin Wassmer (Baden): Dottinger Castellberg Chardonnay Spätlese »GC«

Best Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) of the Year: Bernhard Huber (Baden): Schlossberg »Großes Gewächs«

I had the pleasure to participate – with the Weinfreundeskreis Hochheim – in a wine tasting at Weingut Huber in Baden. Weingut Huber is one of the leading German red wine producers.

Baden is known for its Pinot wines, both white and red, which account for more than half of Baden’s wine output. Riesling plays only a minor role. By far the most commonly cultivated single variety is Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) with nearly forty percent of the total vineyard area. r

Der Feinschmecker, the leading German food and wine journal, carried in the November 2009 issue an article about German red wine. Its message is that Germany has established itself as a serious red wine country during the past 30 years. Der Feinschmecker portraits 10 winemakers behind this wine revolution. One of them is Bernhard Huber. It is not for no reason that he was Gault Millau’s wine producer of the year in 2007.

Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller at Weingut Huber with Assistant Winemaker Yquem Viehauser

The Huber Estate is located in Malterdingen in the Breisgau area. In 1987 Bernhard Huber and his wife Barbara started their own Estate, leaving the co-operative. The vineyard area totals 26 hectares, with holdings in the Bienenberg (Malterdingen), Schlossberg (Hecklingen) and Sommerhalde (Bombach) sites. 70 % is planted with Pinot Noir, the rest with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Auxerrois, Freisamer, Muskateller, Müller-Thurgau, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Huber Estate is a member of the VDP and the Deutsches Barrique-Forum association.

Best Riesling trocken of the Year: Klaus Peter Keller (Rheinhessen): Abtserde »Großes Gewächs«

Best Riesling halbtrocken of the Year: Johannes Leitz (Rheingau): Rüdesheimer Berg Kaisersteinfels feinherb Alte Reben

Best Riesling Kabinett of the Year: Carl von Schubert (Ruwer): Maximin Grünhaus Herrenberg – 12 –

Best Riesling Spätlese of the Year: Robert Weil (Rheingau): Kiedricher Gräfenberg

Congratulations to Weingut Robert Weil on having their 2009 Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken named a Wine Spectator Top 100 wine for 2010 in the US and on having their 2009 Kiedricher Graefenberg Spaetlese named Best Spaetlese of the Year (Gault Millau WeinGuide 2011) in Germany. The Turmberg is pretty dry with a normal level of alcohol and the Graefenberg is pretty sweet with a low level of alcohol – and both are German world class Rieslings from adjacent vineyards and the same vintage.

Pictures: Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Wilhelm Weil at the 1. International Riesling Symposium in Germany and the Weil Wines at the Wine Estate in Kiedrich

Founded in 1875, Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich is currently the Rheingau’s #1 estate and among Germany’s top 10 estates. Four generations and over a century ago Dr. Robert Weil, who was a Professor of German at the Sorbonne was forced to leave Paris because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870/1871). He subsequently joined his brother August in the Rheingau and established the Robert Weil winery. Contacts throughout the world and the production of great wines brought rapid growth to the estate. Today the estate is managed by Wilhelm Weil, who owns the winery jointly with Suntory from Japan. With 75 hectares under vine, it is one of the largest estates in the Rheingau. The vineyards are planted 99% with Riesling and 1% with Spätburgunder.

Best Riesling Auslese of the Year: Willi Schaefer (Mosel): Graacher Domprobst Goldkapsel –7–

Best Riesling Edelsüss of the Year: Robert Weil (Rheingau): Kiedricher Gräfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese

This is an outstanding lusciously sweet Riesling. At the invitation of Wilhelm Weil, I recently participated in a tasting of lusciously sweet Rieslings, as part of the 1st International Riesling Symposium at Schloss Rheinhartshausen in the Rheingau in Germany. The symposium was attended by about 150 people, including such luminaries as Jancis Robinson from the UK, Willi Bruendlmayer from Austria, Helmut Doennhoff from the Nahe, Ernst Loosen from the Mosel and Colette Faller from Domaine Weinbach in Alsace, and many others. I have provided my impressions about the symposium here and the tasting of 21 lusciously sweet Rieslings from Germany, France and Canada here.

schiller-wine - Related Postings

German and Austrian Wines in the Wine Spectator Top 100 2010

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

1.International Riesling Symposium

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

When Americans Drink German Wine - What They Choose

Terry Theise's Top German Wines of the 2009 Vintage

Germany's Top 16 Winemakers - Feinschmecker WeinGuide 2011

German Wine Society Tastes Outstanding German Wines at National Press Club in Washington DC

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

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


  1. Aahh, wine. One of the strongest products exported in the U.S. Germany's economic growth now continues, which makes them next to China as top exporters in the world. Weingut Leitz always brings great surprises in their wines and the taste must be really a favorite of the executives of the world; so, there's no surprise that they're being recognized as Winemaker of the Year; although, I can say that their winery looks quite modest.

  2. I just had the Dragonstone Riesling for the first time this past weekend and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I've been trying to find some new wines to try while I am exploring the whole wide world of wine. However, I'm not sure I could sit down and read 912 pages of reviews! Thanks for breaking down the essentials! Come check out my blog at and let me know if you have any suggestions of wines we should try.