Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Stuart Pigott’s Winemaker of the Year (FAS 2015): Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Germany

Picture: Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, with the Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), see: Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

A few weeks ago, German wine journalist Stuart Pigott published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung his favorite German wines and favorite German wine makers of the year – in German (Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 29. November 2015, Nr.48). I reported about it here: Germany’s Best Wines and Winemakers – Stuart Pigott’s Favorites (December 2015)

This posting focusses on Stuart Pigott's selection for Winemaker of the Year: Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz

Stuart Pigott

Stuart Pigott was born in the UK and Berlin-based for the past 20 years or so. During this period, he emerged as the leading German wine writer, mostly writing in German, and focusing on German wine. Notably, he now regularly writes for the specialist magazines Feinschmecker and Weingourmet as well as the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. He also produced a TV series on German wine.

Picture: Stuart Pigott and Christian G.E. Schiller in Washington DC, see: Late Night German Riesling Tasting with Riesling Gurus Paul Grieco and Stuart Pigott in Washington DC on the 2013 Riesling Road Trip, USA

A few years ago, Stuart Pigott started to spend a lot of time in New York City, turning his attention to the global world of Riesling. His first major output of the move to New York City is a major book about Riesling in the world, which was published in June 2014: The Best White Wine on Earth: The Riesling Story.

Winzer des Jahres – Winemaker of the Year: Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz

Here is Start Pigott’s original text in the FAS, in German, and my translation into English.

The estate of Rebholz family is one of the modern legends of the Pfalz. Since the end of World War II, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, which is now following the biodynamic winemaking approach, is on an upward trend, with a strong innovative push. Its most recent innovative phase was the development of the ultra-premium Grosses Gewächs wines of the grape varieties Riesling, Pinot Blanc (white wines) and Pinot Noir (for red wines), beginning in the end of the 1990s. Today, the Rebholz Grosses Gewächs wines belong to the best the Pfalz and Germany has to offer in this category.

These are not just noble and complex wines, but also extremely original wines. The smell of 2014er Kastanienbusch Riesling "GG" (about 44 euros in stores) is a true bouquet of wild herbs; at the same time there are lots of lemon and passion fruit notes in the nose. In tasting the wine, its power seems nevertheless curbed; the wine shows no hint of heaviness or loud sounds, but is very complex and nuanced to the finish. Significantly more creamy tastes the 2014 Im Sonnenschein Weißburgunder „GG“ (about 37 euros in stores). But the wine is very fine on the nose, reminding you of fresh nuts and dried pears. The gentle fullness of the wine is beautifully complimented by its astringent nature. The surprising elegance in the aftertaste crowns the whole tasting experience despite the wine’s power. But even the ordinary Rebholz wines are very well done in 2014.

Das Weingut der Familie Rebholz gehört zu den modernen Legenden der Pfalz. Seit Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs strebt das Gut, das seine Weinberge seit jüngstem nach biodynamischen Richtlinien bewirtschaftet, ununterbrochen nach oben und zeigt einen starken Innovationsdrang. Dessen jüngste Phase war die Entwicklung der trockenen „Großen Gewächse“ aus den Traubensorten Riesling, Weißburgunder (für Weißweine) und Spätburgunder (für Rotweine) ab Ende der neunziger Jahre. Inzwischen gehören diese Weine Jahr für Jahr zu den besten dieser Kategorie in der Pfalz und Deutschland.

Pictures: Hansjörg Rebholz, Birgit Rebholz and (son) Hans Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, in Mainz. Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz won the Bester Weißer Burgunder Award for: 2014 Chardonnay »R« Ökonomierat Rebholz (Pfalz), see: Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2016 Awards: The Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

Es handelt sich dabei aber nicht nur um sehr edle und komplexe Weine, sondern auch extrem eigenständige. Der Duft des 2014er Kastanienbusch Riesling „GG“ (etwa 44 Euro im Handel) ist ein wahrer Strauß von Wildkräutern; zugleich strömen Zitronen- und Maracuja-Noten aus dem Glas. Im Geschmack wirkt die Kraft des Weins trotzdem gezügelt; er zeigt keinen Hauch von Schwere oder lauten Tönen, sondern wirkt sehr vielschichtig und nuanciert bis ins strahlende Finale. Deutlich cremiger schmeckt der 2014er Im Sonnenschein Weißburgunder „GG“ (etwa 37 Euro im Handel). Aber auch er wirkt im Duft sehr fein, erinnert vor allem an frische Nüsse und getrocknete Birnen. Die sanfte Fülle des Weins wird wunderbar von seiner herben Art komplimentiert, und die überraschende Eleganz im Nachgeschmack setzt dem Ganzen dann bei aller Kraft die schwerelose Krone auf. Aber auch die ganz normalen Rebholz-Weine sind 2014 ausgesprochen gut gelungen.

Picture: Annette and Christian Schiller with Hansjörg and Birgit Rebholz at Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, see:
Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany – Schiller’s Impressions 

Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz

Hansjörg and Birgit Rebholz, the third generation of the Rebholz family, continue what the founder, the Ökonomierat Eduard Rebholz began: producing highly individualistic wines by working as close as possible with nature.

Hansjörg Rebholz was Winemaker of the Year 2013 (Falstaff) and Winemaker of the Year 2002 (Gault Millau). Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz has the top 5 out of 5 grapes rating in the Gault Millau (with 10 other winemakers). Also, Hansjörg Rebholz is one of the movers and shakers in the Grosses Gewächs movement in Germany.

The first day of the Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014) in the Pfalz ended with a tasting at Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz in Siebeldingen, before heading to Deidesheim for dinner. The tour participants rated the Rebholz tasting as one of the top 3 tastings of the whole tour.

Eduard Rebholz (1889 – 1966), an Oekonomierat (Economic Counsellor), became well-known as an advocate of the natural wine school of thought. Eduard took great exception to the then contemporary taste in wine and countered the unnatural, artificially sweetened blends with his idea of natural wine. His doctrine that good vinification could do without chaptalization, without “Süßreserve” (the adding of sweet/unfermented grape juice), or structural changes to the wine due to cellar techniques, influenced the work of the succeeding generations.

A trained scientist he researched climate, soils in the vineyards and the appropriate varietals, harvesting periods redefined, methods of vinification replaced by its own strict rules. He even included in his research practical experience of winegrowers in other regions. All of this forms the foundation of the Rebholz style.

Pictures: Arriving at Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz in Siebeldingen, Pfalz


There are three distinct terroirs in the estate’s vineyards. In the Süd-Pfalz, where the estate is located, limestone terroir rules and it is ubiquitously present in one part of the Im Sonnenschein (or in the sunshine) vineyard where Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and to lesser amounts Pinot Gris and estate specialties Gewürztraminer and Muskateller are planted.

In the Ganzhorn, a small parcel of the same site the estates Riesling excels. It performs the minor miracle of exquisite peach, apple and apricot aromas sourced from the deluvial shingle of the Queich Brook.

Rebholz’ oldest vineyard, the Albertsweiler Latt, in Albersweil was planted to Gewurztraminer in 1947. The vines are trellised on pergolas because at the time, Hansjorg’s grandfather believed the region had a similar climate to Tuscany.

Last but not least there is the Kastanienbusch (or chestnut bush), one of the steepest and highest slopes in the Pfalz at 300 meters, on red slate soil that is unusual in the region. This iron-rich, well-draining soil produce wines of great concentration. It simply produces some of the greatest dry Rieslings not only in Germany – but anywhere.

The estate’s 22 ha are farmed bio-dynamically with a production of about 10,000 cases.

Pictures: Tasting with Hansjörg Rebholz, Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, see. Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Natural Wine

Hansjörg Rebholz: For more than 50 years, we've been making wines containing only what nature intended for them. We do not chaptalize our wines (the addition of sugar prior to fermentation in order to increase the alcohol content), nor do we use a 'Süßreserve' (unfermented grape must added to the finished wine prior to bottling).

We are proud that despite these strict and self-imposed restrictions, our name has regularly come out on top of numerous and international tastings and competitions. This continued success serves as a constant reminder for us that while we may not have chosen the easy path, for us it is indeed the right one.

Working as close to nature as possible — nothing more, nothing less. This is what we believe makes a natural wine. It is our mantra, our philosophy and our goal in the vineyard. In practice, our long established principles and methods align closely with sustainable winegrowing.

For starters, we've been following organic guidelines in our vineyards since 2005. In an effort to promote a healthy ecosystem and to protect the environment, we also forgo the use of herbicides, synthetic fungicides and mineral fertilizers. We use only organic techniques and materials that promote healthy plants, helping the vines grow strong and prosper naturally. While these methods involve more time and effort, it is a price we willingly accept in order to best protect and preserve the biodiversity within our vineyard.

We believe that this work directly impacts the quality of our wines. Each terroir is defined by its own distinct native flora and fauna, the living organisms in the soil, the natural topsoil and a certain capacity on the part of the vines and their roots to tap into and work with these elements. By nurturing a more natural ecosystem in the soil, we help the vines better express the distinct character of their terroir in their fruit, and thus ultimately in our wines. And that's exactly what we're after.

Even so, fine wine is only one reason why we pursue sustainability. We see it as our social responsibility to preserve nature, first and foremost our vineyards but also the larger world around us. We never allow ourselves to forget that we are mere stewards for the generations to come.

Our wines conform to the published standards of the EU Eco Regulation and have earned EU organic certification. All of our wines bear the Öko-Kontroll number DE-ÖKO-003

Pictures: Impressive Line-up, see: Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

schiller-wine - Related Postings

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Germany-South Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Late Night German Riesling Tasting with Riesling Gurus Paul Grieco and Stuart Pigott in Washington DC on the 2013 Riesling Road Trip, USA

Germany’s Best Winemakers and Wines – Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland 2016 Awards: The Awards Ceremony in Mainz, Germany

Germany’s Best Wines and Winemakers – Stuart Pigott’s Favorites (December 2015)

Prowein 2015 in Düsseldorf, Germany – Schiller’s Impressions 

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