Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Edition Maximilian Wines of Hans Lang in Hattenheim, Germany

I have met Hans Lang on various occasions in Germany, including at his winery in Hattenheim and I appreciate his world class wines very much. Thus, back in Washington DC, I was delighted to find his Edition Maximilian wines at Trader Joe’s at very reasonable prices.

Weingut Hans Lang in Germany

The Weingut is located in Hattenheim in the Rheingau in Germany, but Hans Lang also owns vineyards in Assmannshausen, the red wine village of the Rheingau.

Hattenheim is nestled between the rolling green Taunus hills and the Rhine River. The wide expanse of river at Hattenheim reflects the heat of the sun and moderates between night and daytime temperatures. Some of the finest examples of Rheingau wines are produced from grapes grown in the vineyards of Hattenheim. Hattenheim's ties to winemaking date as far back as Roman times. Most of today's vineyards were first mentioned in the Cistercian monastery, Kloster Eberbach's records, composed sometime before 1211.

Weingut Hans Lang is new estate by German standards; it was founded by Johann Josef Lang in 1953, and has been run by his son Johann Maximilian (Hans) Lang since 1972. The vineyard area totals 18 hectares, including, holdings in the Grand Cru classified Hassel and Wisselbrunnen (Hattenheim) sites.

As the Rheingau is most famous for its Riesling wines, Hans follows the tradition in producing 75% Riesling. But he also devotes a considerable amount of his energies to producing Pinot Noir wines. This grape was imported to this region by monks from Burgundy in the 11th century. It accounts for 15% of the Weingut Hans Lang’s vineyard area. Indeed, Hans is regarded as something of a pioneer in this field; he was the first winemaker in the Rheingau to employ small French oak barriques for the aging of his red wines and has been a member of the Barrique forum since 1995.

Weingut Hans Lang is a member of the VDP.

Winemaking Philosophy

Integrated, sustainable vineyard practices are employed in the Lang vineyards, the grapes are always harvested by hand and undergo strict selection to ensure only the healthiest fruit is used for our wines. To promote ripeness, Hans deliberately restrict yields.

Temperature-regulated stainless steel tanks are used in the winery and certain wines benefit from aging in either traditional German oak barrels or small French oak barriques. Approximately 90% of production focuses on dry wines. When vintage conditions permit, sweet botrytis dessert wines such as Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese, as well as Eiswein are produced. In addition, bottle-fermented sparkling wines are also produced.

Hans has studied oenology and viticulture at the renowned Geisenheim Wine Institute.

Edition Maximilian

Edition Maximilian is a second label of Hans Lang. I am not sure, Edition Maximilian wines are sold in Germany. I have bought them at Trader Joe’s, an US discount store, in Washington DC. The Edition Maximilian wines come as a Riesling and a Spaetburgunder, which Hans calls – for marketing reasons - Pinot Noir. They are both in a very reasonable price category - around US$ 7 - and are both crafted for consumers who prefer a bit of sweetness in the wine.

Here are the two Edition Maximilian wines I bought and tasted.

2008 Pinot Noir Rheingau, Edition Maximilian: This is a soft, uncomplicated red wine with a lot of fruit and little, if any, wood flavors. It's relatively low in alcohol (11.5%) and semi-dry, which accentuates the fruitiness. In terms of tannin, the wine is on the light side. At US $ 6.99, it is a steal. An easy drinking wine for day to day consumption.

2009 Riesling Spaetlese Rheingau, Edition Maximilian: This is a Spaetlese, i.e. the grapes were harvested at an elevated level of sweetness. Despite the increased sugar level, the grapes harvested at Spaetlese level do not have enough sugar so that mother nature can make sweet wines out of them. To produce sweet Spaetlese wines, you need a bit of help by the winemaker, either by stopping the fermentation or by adding sterilized juice to the finished wine or a combination of both.

I guess, Hans went for the third option and what he produced is a delicious sweet-style Riesling with a very modest level of alcohol (9.5%) - a type of wine that has made the middle Mosel so popular. Consider that it costs only US$ 8.99, it is also a steal, produced by a big Riesling gun.

Of course, the Edition Maximilian Riesling Spaetlese it does not have the complexity and quality of Weingut Hans Lang’s regular Riesling Spaetlese wines. But then you are in a different price category. By the way, these wines are readily available in the US and imported by, which also represent Weingut Barth, also located in Hattenheim. I have written about Weingut Barth here.

The Wines are imported by Plume Ridge Wine Negotiants in California and shipped by Mo-Rhe-Na. The latter is a trade export body representing wine estates, their cellars and great vineyards from all mayor German wine growing regions and takes its name from the Mo(sel), Rhe(in)and Na(he) regions. It is co-owned by Hans Lang.

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