Thursday, July 14, 2016

Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2016: Germany's Best 2015 Riesling Kabinett Wines

Picture: Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2016: Germany's top 3 2015 Riesling Kabinett Wines (Photo: Facebook)

The BerlinKabinettCup 2016 took place in Berlin, Germany, a few weeks ago, orchestrated by Martin Zwick. 43 German Riesling Kabinett 2015 wines were included and ranked in the tasting. 2/3 of the wines came from the Mosel Saar Ruwer area. The wines were blind-tasted by 9 wine experts, including David Schildknecht.

Martin Zwick and his Berlin Cups

Martin Zwick was initially known for organizing the BerlinRieslingCup. The BerlinRieslingCup is about Germany’s ultra-premium dry grand cru (Grosses Gewächs) Rieslings from Grosse Lage vineyards. It typically takes place in the second half of September, following the release of the Grosses Gewächs wines of the previous year.

In the following years, he added 3 other Berlin Cups: The BerlinGutsrieslingCup, which reviews and rates entry-level Rieslings. The BerlinKabinettCup: A ranking of off-dry, light Rieslings that carry the Kabinett predicate. Finally, the BerlinSpätburgunderCup, a ranking of German Pinot Noirs.

Thus, there are now 4 BerlinCups: BerlinRieslingCup, BerlinGutsRieslingCup, BerlinKabinettCup and BerlinSpätburgunderCup. See more below.

Pictures: Tasting with Max von Kunow, Weingut von Hövel, see: Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Von Hövel in Konz, Saar Valley, Mosel, with Owner and Winemaker Max von Kunow - Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

What is a Kabinett?

What is a Kabinett? That depends.

In the framework of the standard classification of German wine (the Law of 1971), a Kabinett is defined by the sugar content of the grapes at harvest. It is a wine made from grapes harvested with a sugar content of 67 to 87 degrees Öchsle that was not chaptalized. Such a wine can be fully fermented and become dry. These are the Kabinett Trocken wines.

Alternatively, the winemaker could stop the fermentation so that natural sugar remains in the finished wine (and perhaps add a bit of sterilized juice – Süssreserve) to produce a wine that is fruity-sweet.

Depending on the ripeness of the grapes (i.e. the sugar content at harvest) and the timing of the winemaker for stopping the fermentation (early or late during the fermentation process), fruity-sweet Kabinett wines can range from lightly-sweet (halbtrocken, feinherb) to fully-sweet. The law of 1971 does not define any limits for the sweetness of a Kabinett wine and thus you find a wide sweetness range in the market. What they all have in common is that they are rather light wines, with a low alcohol level, made with grapes that were picked early in the harvest.

Pictures: Tasting with Thomas Haag, Schloss Lieser, see: Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential German Riesling and the Northernmost Pinot Noir

The VDP producers have introduced a new classification, very much based on the Burgundian approach. In their new classification, Kabinett no longer stands for a certain ripeness of the grapes at harvest, but stands for a certain sweetness level of the wine in the bottle.

For the VDP producers, Kabinett is an indication of a certain sweetness profile. Only wines that have a certain sweetness in the finished wine can be sold as Kabinett. Kabinett Trocken does not exist for VDP producers (although some VDP members still produce Kabinett trocken during a transition period). With a few exceptions, all the wines sold as Kabinett are fruity-sweet and in in a certain sweetness range. Auslese is sweeter than Spätlese and Spätlese sweeter than Kabinett. The terms “Halbtrocken” and “Feinherb” have become redundant in the VDP classification system.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Christian Schiller and Clemens Busch in Washington DC, see: Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Clemens Busch – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

The wines in the BerlinKabinettCup 2016 were all wines where the fermentation was interrupted to generate a wine “that dances” as Stephen Rheinhardt put it in the Süddeutschen Zeitung: A low alcohol wine with some remaining sweetness, no Trocken Kabinetts.

Martin Zwick: I made this "BerlinKabinettCup" not because of another Cup, not because of ranking, not because of scores. The true star is the KABINETT. Here in Germany Kabinett was heavily overlooked in the last years, as most people drank trocken, trocken, trocken. My "BerlinKabinettCup" created awareness in Germany for Kabinett and now the people buy more Kabinett. That´s all about.

Winner: Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, Mosel

Fina and Rare: Critics are tentatively suggesting that Germany 2015 is “epic” and the “vintage of the century”. In Jancis Robinson’s words: “What wonderful 2015s Germany has produced!” And now they have started to arrive…

Picture: 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Max Ferd. Richter (Photo: Facebook)

Having followed this wine for the last five vintages, we are excited to offer Max Ferd. Richter’s stunning Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett 2015 at £99 per case of 12 bottles in bond. Although critics are yet to score it, in forums published on Wine Pages and Wine Berserkers German wine expert Martin Zwick has flagged it as a: “strong contender for ‘Kabinett of the Year’” and “one of the discoveries of the year.” It looks as if his prediction was correct as this wine won the BerlinKabinettCup (attended by David Schildknecht of Wine Advocate). Having recently tried it in the offce, we can confirm that it very much lives up to the praise.

Only 900 cases are produced, the majority of which are sold in Germany and the US, but FINE+RARE have exclusively secured the allocation for the UK market. The precipitous and craggy Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard is a veritable who’s who of German wine, being home to Joh Jos Prum, Dr Loosen, Markus Molitor and Max Ferd. Richter to name just a few. It produces some of the Mosel’s finest wines and the 2015s from here look set to be unmissable (two of the Top 3 in the BerlinKabinettCup hail from this vineyard).

Lars Carlberg (one of the tasters): The winner of the tasting was the 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett from Max Ferd. Richter. This happened to be Martin's top contender to win the Cup and one of his favorite wines in recent months, so it was only fitting that it unfolded this way. Martin, who was grinning during the flight, later confirmed that Max Ferd. Richter produced from 1.5 hectares in Wehlener Sonnenuhr almost 10,000 bottles of this wine, or the equivalent of 8 Fuder. Congratulations to Constantin Richter! I've yet to taste his other 2015s. For those curious about the numbers of the 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett: 82 degrees Oechsle, 45.9 grams per liter residual sugar, 9.9 per mil acidity, and 7.5 percent alcohol.

Runner-up: Saar Riesling Kabinett, von Hövel, Saar

Lars Carlberg: The second-place wine was von Hövel's 2015 Saar Riesling Kabinett. Max von Kunow wrote that his Estate Riesling Kabinett, which placed higher than his 2015 Scharzhofberger Kabinett, comes from "long-forgotten grand cru sites of the Saar." He signed a long-term lease for the following vineyards in Konzer Tälchen (the little valley of Konz): Oberemenniger Euchariusberg, Krettnacher Katzenbuckel, Krettnacher Altenberg (including Silberberg), Oberemmeler Karlsberg, and Niedermenniger Sonnenberg. The average yield was 55 hl/ha and the average ripeness was 86 degrees Oechsle. After fermentation, the wine was racked from the lees and blended in a 20,000-liter tank. He has 26,000 bottles of this wine. I couldn't believe it really placed second, though.


1. Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Max Ferd. Richter
2. Saar Riesling Kabinett, von Hövel
3. Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Schloss Lieser
4. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett, Reinhold Haart
5. Scharzhofberger Kabinett, Egon Müller (AP Nr. 2)

Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2016: Germany's Top 5 2015 Riesling Kabinett Wines (Photo: Facebook)

6. Krettnacher Euchariusberg Kabinett, Hofgut Falkenstein (AP Nr. 12)
7. Burg Layener Schlossberg Kabinett, Diel
8. Wolfger Goldgrube Kabinett, Vollenweider
9. Kanzemer Altenberg Kabinett, von Othegraven
10. Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett, Willi Schaefer
11. Pündericher Marienburg Kabinett, Clemens Busch
12. Saarburger Rausch Kabinett, Zilliken
13. Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg Kabinett, Karthäuserhof
14. Schloss Reichartshausen Kabinett, Balthasar-Ress
15. Bockenauer Felseneck Kabinett, Schäfer-Fröhlich
16. Monzinger Kabinett, Emrich-Schönleber
17. Scharzhofberger Kabinett, von Hövel
18. Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett, Dr. Loosen
19. Trittenheimer Apotheke Kabinett, Ansgar Clüsserath
20. Münsterer Kapellenberg Kabinett, Kruger-Rumpf
21. Bacharacher Hahn Kabinett, Toni Jost
22. Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Kabinett, von Schubert (AP Nr. 16)
23. Dhroner Hofberg Kabinett, A.J. Adam
24. Bernkasteler Doctor, Thanisch
25. KabinNett, Schätzel
26. Ürziger Würzgarten Kabinett, Dr. Hermann
27. Kesten Kabinett, Meierer
28. Riesling Kabinett, Schloss Vollrads
29. Dorsheimer Goldloch Kabinett, Diel
30. Hallgartener Jungfer Kabinett, Prinz
31. Gimmeldingen Kabinett, Müller-Catoir
32. Erdener Treppchen Kabinett, Fuder 6, Dr. Hermann
33. Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Kabinett, Joh. Bapt. Schäfer
34. Jean Baptiste Kabinett, Gunderloch
35. Pündericher Marienburg Kabinett, Walter
36. Scharzhofberger Kabinett feinherb, von Kesselstadt
37. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Kabinett, Julian Haart
38. Riesling Kabinett, Brand
39. Enkircher Ellergrub Kabinett, Weiser-Künstler
40. Rutz Rebell Kabinett, von Hövel
41. Winninger Röttgen Kabinett, Knebel
42. Johannisberger Mittelhölle Kabinett, G.H. von Mumm
43. Ockfener Bockstein Kabinett, St. Urbans-Hof (seemed off)

Picture: Tasting with Hanno Zilliken, see: Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential German Riesling and the Northernmost Pinot Noir

Lars Carlberg’s Overall Impressions

Lars Carlberg: Charlie Gierling says: "The wines showed admittedly the slim style, which one so loves about Kabinett, but I wished they had more liveliness and tension. The wines made a serious impression. Nevertheless: buy!" He felt, as others did, that certain wines tasted too sweet and more like Auslesen. In his tasting notes, he rated the 2015 Saarburger Rausch Kabinett from Zilliken and the 2015 Maxmin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Kabinett 90 and 91 points, respectively. But he noted that they were Auslese in style. Of course, most of these "fruity-sweet" wines had Oechsle levels above 88 degrees and had more than 50 grams of unfermented sugar. In general, the 2015s have both ripeness and briskness.

On the Procedure

Lars Carlberg: Martin had opened the bottles the night before and had a second sample of each wine, just in case. The table included tasting sheets, spittoons, and a couple of Zalto Universal glasses for each guest. Martin sat at the head of the table and passed around two chilled bottles of wine per flight. After 10 Kabinetts, the scores for each bottle were noted using the 100-point system. The labels were revealed only after we tasted all the wines. The results, which left some of us scratching our heads, are based on the average score of each taster, wherein the best and worst scores of each wine were dismissed. Felix Eschenauer of Medienagenten, who was given the details of each Kabinett (ripeness, residual sugar, and acidity), arranged the flights.

The Jury

Paula Redes Sidore, wine writer and translator, Weinstory
David Schildknecht, wine critic at Vinous, The World of Fine Wine, and Wine & Spirits
Markus Budai, wine writer at Weinwisser
Lars Carlberg
Christian Schoßau, wine merchant at Weinhandlung Suff in Berlin
Karlheinz "Charlie" Gierling, Mosel wine expert, Weinlagen
Patrick Farago, "Riesling Roboter," zero dosage
Jens Bordasch, collector
Nikolai Lassmann, Riesling lover

Picture: Tasting (Photo: Martin Zwick)

schiller-wine: Related Postings (Berlin Cups)

Germany’s Best Ultra-premium Dry Riesling Wines - BerlinRieslingCup 2015, Germany
Germany’s Best Ultra-premium Dry Riesling Wines - BerlinRieslingCup 2014, Germany
Germany’s Best Ultra-premium Dry Riesling Wines - BerlinRieslingCup 2013, Germany
Germany’s Ultra Premium Dry Riesling Wines – The Berlin Riesling Cup 2012
Germany’s Top Wines – The Berlin Riesling Cup 2011 Ranking

Martin Zwick’s BerlinGutsrieslingCup 2015 - Rating Dry Entry-level Rieslings from Germany's Best Producers
Martin Zwick’s BerlinGutsrieslingCup 2014 - Rating Entry-level Rieslings from Germany's Best Producers
BerlinGutsrieslingCup 2013 – Rating Entry-level Rieslings from Germany
Berlin Gutsriesling Cup 2012, Germany

Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2016: Germany's Best 2015 Riesling Kabinett Wines
Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2015: Germany's Best 2014 Riesling Kabinett Wines
Martin Zwick's BerlinKabinettCup 2014, Germany
BerlinKabinettCup 2013 - Kabinett 2012, Germany

Germany's Best Pinot Noir Wines - BerlinSpätburgunderCup 2013/2015
Germany's Best Pinot Noir Wines - BerlinSpätburgunderCup 2012/2014
BerlinSpaetburgunderCup 2011/2013, Germany

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Germany-East Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: Wine, Art, Culture and History

Germany-North Tour 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential German Riesling and the Northernmost Pinot Noir

Burgundy (and Champagne) 2016 by ombiasy WineTours: From Lyon to Reims - Wine, Food, Culture and History

Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France

Cellar Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Von Hövel in Konz, Saar Valley, Mosel, with Owner and Winemaker Max von Kunow - Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting at Weingut Clemens Busch – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2014)

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

Approaches to Classifying German Wine: The Standard Approach (the Law of 1971), the VDP Approach and the Zero Classification Approach

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