Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Ortswein (Village Wine) Tasting of the Top Rheinhessen Producers in Mainz, Germany

Picture: Gesine Roll, Weingut Weedenbornhof, Kai Schaetzel, Weingut Schaetzel and Philipp Wittmann, VDP President Rheinhessen and Weingut Wittmann in Mainz

What is an Ortswein? Many wine consumers do not know the answer, even wine consumers living in Germany.

Ortswein is a term of the new German wine classification of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Praedikatswein Produzenten), the association of about 200 elite winemakers in Germany. In the new VDP wine classification, Ortswein is the middle level wine in terms of quality, above a Gutswein and below a Lagenwein (Erste Lage und Grosse Lage).

The VDP Rheinhessen organized an Ortswein Tasting of the 2013 vintage in Mainz recently. All VDP producers from Rheinhessen were there plus an even larger number of Non-VDP producers from Rheinhessen “that are in the second row” and aspire to be accepted to this prestigious club at some point.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Stefan Maas and Yutaka Kitajima, Japan, in Mainz

Ortswein and the VDP 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. There are four approaches to classifying wine in Germany. True, the classification system of the Law of 1971 with its pyramid of ripeness of the grapes at harvest (Qualitaetswein, Kabinett, Spaetlese, Auslese …) at the center 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 powerful group of German elite winemakers, the VDP, which has conceived its own classification system. Other winemakers moved to a zero classification system – no classification, an approach very familiar in the New World. Finally, there is a fourth group of winemakers that have designed their own classification system.

See also:
New Developments in German Wine - Annette Schiller at the German Wine Society in Philadelphia, USA 
QbA, Kabinett, Spaetlese….No, there is not just 1, but there are 4 Different Wine Classification Systems in Germany

The VDP Classification

In sharp contrast with the standard classification system, the VDP classification system is based on the terroir principle. The pyramid of ripeness of the grapes at harvest (which dominates the standard German wine classification of 1971) has moved to the backburner in the VDP system. Instead, following Bourgogne, the terroir principle has taken center stage. And here, the VDP has moved from a 3 tiers quality ladder to a 4 tiers quality ladder in its recent modifications, effective with the 2012 harvest. The VDP has added an additional layer to its classification system, which consists now of the following 4 layers. (In brackets, the equivalent quality classes in the classification system of the Bourgogne):

• VDP.Grosse Lage (Grand Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Erste Lage (Premier Cru in Burgundy)
• VDP.Ortswein (Village level in Burgundy)
• VDP.Gutswein (Bourgogne régional in Burgundy)

Note that for some legal reasons, the VDP has started to use the terms Grosse Lage, Erste Lage, Ortswein and Gutswein with the pre-fix VDP.

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

VDP.Ortswein - Sourced from Superior Soils

VDP: A VDP.Ortswein originates from a village's best vineyards that are planted with grape varieties typical of their region, equivalent to a village wine in the Bourgogne. Maximum yield is at 75hl/ha. A dry VDP.Ortswein is labeled Qualitätswein Trocken. A VDP.Ortswein with residual sweetness is labeled with one of the traditional Prädikats.

Interestingly, at the tasting, practically all Ortswein wines poured were trocken.

For the consumer, to recognize an Ortswein, is not difficult. An Ortswein shows the name of the winery and the name of the village – no vineyard name. A Gutswein only shows the name of the winery on the label, nothing else and a Lagenwein shows the name of the winery and the name of the vineyard.

VDP Classification in Rheinhessen

Diverting from the national approach, the VDP members in Rheinhessen decided to stay with a 3-tier system: Gutswein, Ortswein, Grosse Lage – No Erste Lage.

Picture: Rheinhessen VDP Classification


Rheinhessen is the largest viticultural region in Germany. Every fourth bottle of German wine comes from Rheinhessen. About one third of Rheinhessen’s agricultural area is cultivated with vines, more than 26000 hectares. The high-yielder Mueller-Thurgau accounts for about 1/5 of the vineyards, and Silvaner and Dornfelder both for 1/10. Overall, Riesling is on the backburner. Unlike in other German wine regions, where monoculture of the vine is the norm, here the many rolling hills are host to a wide variety of crops grown alongside the grape. Rheinhessen also has the rather dubious honor of being considered the birthplace of Liebfraumilch.

At the same time, Rheinhessen is at this time among Germany’s most interesting wine regions. A lot is happening there. There is an amazing group of young, ambitious and dynamic winemakers, led by star winemakers like Klaus Peter Keller, Philip Wittmann and H.O. Spanier, who want to produce and indeed do produce outstanding wine and not wines in large quantities. Philip Wittmann and H.O. Spanier were at the Ortsein presentation, but also many others, not yet as famous as the two of them, including Kai Schaetzel, Jochen Dreissigacker, Johannes Thoerle, Katharina Wechsler, to name just a few of them.

Schiller’s Favorite Ortswein Wines

Here is a listing of all wine producers who presented their Ortswein wines. For my favorite winemakers, I have also included the wines they presented at the Ortswein tasting.

Battenfeld-Spanier and Kuehling Gillot (VDP)

2013 Hohen-Suelzen Sylvaner trocken
2013 Hohen-Suelzen Weisburgunder trocken
2013 Hohen-Suelzen Riesling trocken
2013 Moelsheim Riesling trocken
2013 Nackenheim trocken
2013 Nierstein trocken

Picture: Caroline Gillot-Spanier

Becker Landgraf
Beck –Hedesheimer Hof
J. Bettenheimer
Bruder Dr. Becker (VDP)


2013 Bechtheimer Silvaner trocken
2013 Bechtheimer Riesling trocken

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Jochen Dreissigacker

Winzerfamilie Flick
Oeknomierat Johann Geil I. Erben

K.F. Groebe (VDP)

2013 Westhofener Grauburgunder trocken
2013 Westhofener Riesling trocken
2013 Westhofener Riesling Alte Reben

Picture: Friedrich Groebe

Gunderloch (VDP)

2013 Nackenheimer Silvaner trocken
2013 Niersteiner Riesling trocken
2013 Nackenheimer Riesling trocken

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Johannes Hasselbach

Gutzler (VDP)

Keller (VDP)

2013 Westhofen Riesling trocken


2013 Appenheimer Silvaner trocken
2013 Appenheimer Weissburgunder trocken
2013 Appenheimer Riesling trocken
2012 Ingelheimer Spaetburgunder trocken

Picture: Tobias Knewitz and Guy Bonnefoit

Dr. Koehler

Kruger-Rumpf (VDP)

2013 Binger Riesling trocken

J. Neus
Rappenhof (VDP)


2013 Niersteiner Silvaner trocken
2013 Nackenheimer Silvaner trocken
2013 Niersteiner Riesling trocken ReinSchiefer

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Kai Schaetzel

Schloss Westerhaus (VDP)

St. Antony (VDP)

2013 Niersteiner Riesling trocken
2012 Niersteiner Pinot Noir trocken

Picture: Felix Peters

Weinbaudomaene Oppenheim (VDP)


2013 Saulheim Silvaner trocken
2013 Saulheim Weisburgunder trocken
2013 Saulheim Riesling trocken
2012 Saulheim Spaetburgunder trocken

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller and Johannes Thoerle

Wagner-Stempel (VDP)

2012 Siefersheimer Silvaner trocken
2013 Siefersheimer Weissburgunder trocken
2013 Siefersheimer Riesling trocken vom Porhyr
2012 Siefersheimer Spaetburgunder trocken


2013 Westhofener Sylvaner trocken
2013 Westhofener Riesling trocken

Pictures: Katharina Wechsler


2013 Westhofen Weisburgunder trocken Vom Kalkmergel
2013 Westhofen Riesling trocken
2012 Bechtheimer Spaetburgunder trocken

Winter (VDP)

Wittmann (VDP)

2013 Westhofener Riesling trocken
2012 Westhofener Spaetburgunder trocken

Picture: Philipp Wittmann

Drinks after the Tasting at Weinhaus Bluhm

Kai Schaetzel, Katharina Wechsler, Ralf Kaiser, Justin Christoph and others went over to Roland Ladendorf's Weinhaus Bluhm after the tasting for dinner and more wine.

Picture: Ralf Kaiser, Kai Schaetzel, Katharina Wechsler, Justin Christoph (New York City) and Christian G.E. Schiller, see: Weinhaus Bluhm in Mainz: A Cosy and Basic Wine Tavern Serving World Class Wines from Germany

Postings on schiller-wine

Here is a list of postings about those winemakers that participated and that I have written about.

Battenfeld-Spanier and Kuehling Gillot (VDP)
Doepfner’s im Maingau Meets Frankfurt/Wein, with Weingut Battenfeld-Spanier and Weingut Chat Sauvage, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
The Wine Maker Couple H.O. Spanier and Carolin Spanier-Gillot, with Roland Gillot, Lead Wine Tasting of Kuehling-Gillot and Battenfeld-Spanier Wines at Weingut Kuehling-Gillot, Germany

The Wines Chancelor Merkel Served President Obama and Michelle Obama in Berlin (and the Wines she did not Serve), Germany

Gunderloch (VDP)
Special Wine Event on March 18, 2014, in Washington DC with "Wurzelwerk": 3 Terroirs, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines
"Wurzelwerk" Goes America: 3 Vineyards, 3 Winemakers and 9 Wines
Weingut Gunderloch – The New Generation: Owner Johannes Hasselbach in Washington DC, US 
Visiting Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach at their Weingut Gunderloch in Nackenheim, Rheinhessen, German
Riesling Lounge Goes Lomo, Germany

Kruger-Rumpf (VDP)
Cellar Tour, Vineyard Tour, Tasting and Lunch with Georg Rumpf, Weingut Kruger-Rumpf, Nahe Valley, Germany
Winemaker Dinner with Georg and Stefan Rumpf and with Cornelia Rumpf at Weingut Kruger- Rumpf in the Nahe Valley, Germany 
Wine Maker Dinner with Stefan Rumpf at Weinstube Kruger-Rumpf in Muenster-Sarmsheim, Germany

Celebrating Riesling and my Birthday at Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany
A New Fixture in the Reemerging Red Slope of Nierstein - Visiting Kai Schaetzel and his Weingut Schaetzel in Nierstein, Rheinhessen, Germany
Riesling Lounge Goes Lomo, Germany

Tasting with Johannes and Christoph Thoerle, Weingut Thoerle in Saulheim, Rheinhessen, Germany
The Tim Atkin Pinot Noir Taste-Off of October 2011: Germany Versus the Rest of the World - German Red Wines Show Strong Performance
Surprising the World with their Pinot Noir: Johannes and Christoph Thoerle, Winzerhof Thoerle, Rheinhessen, Germany
The Wines of Up and Coming Winzerhof Thoerle, Rheinhessen

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