Thursday, November 8, 2012

Germany’s Ultra Premium Dry Riesling Wines – The Berlin Riesling Cup 2012

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and this Year's Winner of the Berlin Riesling Cup, Tim Fröhlich, Weingut Schäfer Fröhlich; Brandenburg Gate in Berlin; and Christian G.E. Schiller and Martin Zwick

This is a very special ranking of German wines, at least for 2 reasons. First, it includes only dry ultra-premium Rieslings, mainly Grosses Gewaechs wines. So, (1) the whole segment of red wines (accounting for about 1/3 of German wine production) is excluded (2) as is the segment of fruity sweet and noble sweet Rieslings (which are so popular in the German export markets) and (3) as is the non-Riesling white wine segment, which is being pushed by many in the German wine industry. Second, and what makes this ranking so interesting, it is a very early ranking, basically the first one after the release of the wines in September.

Berlin Riesling Cup

The Berlin Riesling Cup is the baby of Martin Zwick. The first large tasting of the Grosses Gewaechs wines of a vintage takes place a bit less than a year after the harvest, in the city of Wiesbaden in late August, with a group of perhaps 130 national and international wine journalists, bloggers, sommeliers and importers at the invitation of the VDP (Grosses Gewaechs Pre-release tasting). Martin Zwick is one of them. On the basis of his impressions and those of others, he then selects what he believes are the top wines from the Grosses Gewaechs wines presentation in Wiesbaden, adds a few other super-premium Rieslings from non-VDP producers or Grosses Gewaechs wines not presented at the VDP tasting in Wiesbaden and invites a few days later a group of journalists, sommeliers, wine-dealers and Riesling lovers to Berlin for a blind tasting of his selection.

This year, he selected 41 wines, up from 35 wines the years before. By definition, the 41 wines represent a subjective selection, but I think it probably includes all ultra-premium Rieslings who could be the grand cru top wines of the 2011 vintage. 2 bottles come on the table. It is a blind tasting. Martin always has a good attendance. This year, 13 people were there, with 11 people voting (Martin and a wine retailer did not vote).

Martin Zwick alias BerlinKitchen

I know Martin through his blog 'BerlinKitchen' and various internet fora. On BerlinKitchen you will find tasting notes from wines around the world, wine-related articles and videos, podcasts with winemakers and recipes with step by step. Martin Zwick used to publish under the name Martin Barz, but he changed his name after he got married.

Ranking - Berlin Riesling Cup 2011/12

1 Schäfer Fröhlich Felseneck 95,22
2 Schäfer Fröhlich Felsenberg 94,56
3 Von Winning Langenmorgen 94,00
4 Battenfeld Spanier Am schwarzen Herrgott 93,89
5 Wagner Stempel Höllberg 93,78
6 Wittmann Brunnenhäuschen 93,44
7 Keller Abtserde 93,33
8 Dönnhoff Felsenberg 93,33
9 Diel Pittermännchen 93,22
10 Christmann IDIG 93,22
11 Emrich Schönleber Halenberg 93,11
12 Keller Pettenthal 93,00
13 Diel Burgberg 92,67
14 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger P 92,67
15 Kühn Landgeflecht 92,44
16 Kühling-Gillot Rothenberg 92,11
17 Emrich Schönleber Frühlingsplätzchen 92,11
18 Rebholz Kastanienbusch 92,11
19 Battenfeld Spanier Frauenberg 92,00
20 Rebholz Im Sonnenschein "Ganzhorn" 91,89
21 Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle 91,63
22 Künstler Hölle EG GK 91,44
23 Van Volxem Gottesfuß 91,33
24 Schloss Johannisberg Johannisberg 91,33
25 Breuer Nonnenberg 91,33
26 BW Pechstein 91,11
27 Wittmann Morstein 91,11
28 Bürklin Wolf Kirchenstück 90,89
29 Fürst Centgrafenberg 90,78
30 Alternberg AR 90,78
31 Künstler Hölle EG 90,67
32 Kühling Gillot Pettenthal 90,56
33 Bürklin Wolf Gaisböhl 90,56
34 Keller Morstein 90,22
35 Schloss Schönborn Marcobrunn 90,11
36 Bassermann Jordan Pechstein 90,00
37 Keller Kirchspiel 89,67
38 Horst Sauer Eschendorfer Lump 89,33
39 Dönnhoff Dellchen 88,56
40 Ress Rottland 87,67
41 Breuer Schlossberg (corked)

Grosses Gewaechs Wine

What is a VDP Grosses Gewaechs wine? There is currently a bit of confusion (and there will be even more confusion in the years to come) as (1) Grosses Gewaechs was a term that was created by the VDP only a few years ago and (2) the VDP is still in the process of refining its classification concept.

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.  The pyramid of ripeness has been moved to the backburner and indeed for dry wines completely removed.

With the latest modifications of earlier this year, 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 Gewaechs. Grosses Gewächs wines are the finest dry wines from Germany’s finest vineyards.

To qualify for the Grosses Gewaechs label, a number of criteria need to be respected. (i) The fruit has to come from a Grosse Lage (for the 2011 vintage still called Erste Lage) vineyard. (ii) At harvest, the grapes need to be at least at Spaetlese level in terms of the sugar content. (iii) Only certain – typical - grape varieties are allowed, including Riesling and Spaetburgunder. Riesling is the only varietal allowed for Erste Lage wines in the Mosel, Nahe, and Mittelrhein, but grapes like Spaetburgunder (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.

2011 Berlin Riesling Cup

For the results of last year, see here:

Germany’s Top Wines – The Berlin Riesling Cup 2011 Ranking

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