Thursday, September 29, 2016

Germany’s Grosses Gewächs GG Wines Released (2015 White and 2014 Red) - Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Picture: Stuart Pigott and Jancis Robinson at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Germany’s VDP.Grosse Gewächs – Grand Cru - vintage 2015 white wines and vintage 2014 red wines were released on September 1, 2016. These are the ultra-premium dry wines from the very best vineyard sites made by some of the best producers in Germany.

At this annual occasion, a number of presentations by the VDP – the association of German elite winemakers - take place in Germany, including one in Berlin during the first days of September.

Pictures: Christian Schiller at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden

One presentation that clearly stands out is the pre-release tasting for a group of about 120 wine journalists, bloggers, sommeliers, retailers, importers, etc from all over the world, but mainly from Germany, in the Old Kurhaus in the stately German spa town of Wiesbaden, which is 45 minutes drive from Frankfurt. It is a seated, very well organized tasting where you have the chance to go through the VDP Grosses Gewächs wines during 2 1/2 days.

Pictures: GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

The invitations for this event are highly sought after. This year, I was happy to get again invited by the VDP to participate in the event. Others I saw at the event were US wine importer Rudi Wiest, Gault Millau WeinGuide Deutschland editor Joel B. Payne, winemaker, blogger and internet-TV star Dirk Würtz and Riesling guru and wine journalist Stuart Pigott, Master of Wine Caro Maurer from Germany, US Importer Justin Christoph from New York, Switzerland-based wine critic Yves Beck and Anne Krebiehl, MW, from London.

See here for last years' tastings:
Germany’s Grosses Gewächs GG Wines Released (2014 White and 2013 Red) - Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2013 Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in August 2014 in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2012 VDP.Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany
Germany’s 2011 VDP Grosses Gewaechs – Grand Cru - Wines Released. Notes from the Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Grosses Gewächs (GG)/  Grand Cru

What is a VDP.Grosses Gewächs? There is still a bit of confusion out there, as (1) Grosses Gewächs (GG) is a term that was created by the VDP only a few years ago and (2) the VDP has established a new classification for German wines that differs radically from the German standard classification (and is still in the process of refining and implementing it). The latest revisions were those that came into effect with the vintage 2012.

Picture: Benjamin Schiller Pouring for Armin Diel

Grosses Gewächs Wines and the New German Wine 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. 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.

With the latest modifications of 2012, 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 Gewächs. Grosses Gewächs wines are the finest dry wines from Germany’s finest vineyards.

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

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


The VDP is the world’s oldest association of wine estates in the world. In fact, it is the only one of its kind worldwide. No other country has a national organization of the top wine makers of the entire country.

Throughout the past century, the quality-driven goals and strict standards of the VDP have played no small part in shaping the viticultural and winemaking practices in Germany. With their stringent statutes and their establishment of a German vineyard classification, the 200 members of the VDP have served as role models and justifiably can be viewed as the vanguard of the nation’s producers of top-quality wines.

Picture: Alexia Putze (VDP), the Head of the Organization Team, and Armin Diel

What did we have in the Glass in Wiesbaden?

This is what we had in the glass in Wiesbaden: White VDP.Grosses Gewächs wines from 2015 and red VDP.Grosses Gewächs wines mostly from 2014, but some also from earlier vintages. Typically, the red GGs are released a year later than the white GGs, i.e. most of the red wines were vintage 2014.

The tasting covered all winegrowing regions in Germany and it did not cover just Riesling. Grosses Gewächs status has been approved for Silvaner, Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), and Lemberger, plus even a Chardonnay was included this year. But the majority of the wines were, of course, Riesling wines, and each region’s wines are grouped together for comparison.

Not all potential GG wines were presented in Wiesbaden, because (1) a number of wines did not pass the internal review of the VDP and thus will never be released as GG and (2) increasingly, winemakers are holding their wines back to release them later. For example, the 2015 Kirchenstück of Dr. Bürklin-Wolf will only be released in March 2017, to give it more time to develop. Juliusspital decided to present its white GGs not after 12 months, but after 24 months aging. Peter Jakob Kühn did not show any wines. And so on.

Schiller’s Favorites

In the following, I list, region by region, my favorite GGs poured at the GG pre-release tasting in Wiesbaden in late August 2016. This is followed by the recommendations of Schnutentunker, a popular German blogger and by the recommendations of Jancis Robinson as far as white non-Riesling GGs are concerned.


The Ahr valley north of the 50 °latitude is unquestionable the northernmost region for producing top Pinot-Noirs. The secret lies in an ideal micro-climate found in the narrow canyons along the river with their very special geological conditions, and south-facing slopes. Wine making along the tiny Ahr River goes back to Roman times.

The Ahr region showed only red wines: 1 Frühburgunder GG and 10 Spätburgunder GGs.

Schiller’s Favorites: Meyer-Näkel (Sonnenberg, Pfarrwingert, Kräuterberg), J.J. Adeneuer (Sonnenberg, Rosenthal, Gäskammer)

There is a red wine revolution going on in Germany and the world increasingly takes note of it. Of course, given its location, the red wines of Germany tend to be not like the fruity red wines we know from warmer countries, but lean and more elegant, with a lot of finesse. 30 years ago, the share of red wine in total German wine output was not more than 10 percent; in the international wine scene, people would not talk about German red wine. But this is changing. Germany now produces red wines that can compete with the best of the world; the share of red wines in terms of production has increased to about 35 percent now in Germany and increasingly the international market takes note of what is happening in Germany.

Today, Germany is the third biggest producer of Pinot Noir (called Spätburgunder in Germany), after France and the US, with more planted than Australia and New Zealand combined.

Picture: Guiseppe Lauria, Weinwisser, at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany


Baden is the most southerly German wine-growing area in Germany's southwestern corner. On the other side of the Rhine Valley is Alsace. Baden is known for its pinot wines – red, grey and white.

The Spätburgunder is the most widely grown variety in Baden, but Baden showed also a number of GGs from other grape varieties.

Baden showed the largest number of Spätburgunder GGs, with those of Weingut Bernhard Huber (Bienenberg, Schlossberg, Sommerhalde) standing out, but those of Weingut Salwey (Kirchberg, Henkenberg) and Weingut Dr. Heger (Schlossberg, Vorderer Winklerberg) also showing very well. Weingut Franz Keller also impressed with the Eichberg and Kirchberg GGs.

Baden also showed 9 Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) GGs and 10 Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) GGs.

In addition, Baden showed 8 Chardonnay GGs (Top: Bernhard Huber) and 3 Riesling GGs.

Picture: US Importer Justin Christoph at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany


Franken is known for its crisp, crystal clear wines from their signature grape Silvaner. Indeed, it was the only region to show Silvaner GGs, excellent wines, but hard to find outside of Germany.

Schiller’s Favorites: Staatlicher Hofkeller Würzburg (Stein), Horst Sauer (Am Lumpen 1655), Bickel-Stumpf (Mönchshof), Hans Wirsching (Kronsberg, Julius-Echter-Berg), Schmitt’s Kinder (Pfülben), Am Stein, Ludwig Knoll (Stein).

Franken also showed 18 Riesling and 2 Weisser Burgunder (Pinot Blanc) GGs.

Schiller’s Franken Riesling Favorites: Staatlicher Hofkeller Würzburg (Pfülben, Stein), Rudolf Fürst (Centgrafenberg), Am Stein, Ludwig Knoll (Stein), Hans Wirsching (Julius-Echter-Berg, Kronsberg), Horst Sauer (Am Lumpen 1655), Schmitt’s Kinder (Pfülben).

3 of the 6 Spätburgunder GGs which Franken showed came from Franken’s red wine star Weingut Rudolf Fürst: Schlossberg, Centgrafenberg and Hundsrück.

Picture: Nico Rechenberg, Dirk Würtz, Weingut Balthasar Ress, Marcus Hofschuster, Wein-Plus, Armin Diel, Schlossgut Diel, Paul Truszkowski, Wine in Black, and Felix Bodman at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Hessische Bergstrasse

Hessische Bergstrasse presented one GG: Centgericht of Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach


Beginning just below Bonn and extending about 100 km south along the banks of the Rhine, the Mittelrhein is a beautiful region of steep, terraced vineyards and some of the wine world's most splendid scenery, medieval castles and ruins clinging to rocky peaks, sites of ancient legends where Siegfried, Hagen and the Loreley seem to spring to life. Nearly three quarters of the vineyards are planted with Riesling. The Middle-Rhine valley is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Mittelrhein showed 5 Riesling GGs. Both the Engelstein of Matthias Müller and the Im Hahn of Toni Jost were excellent.


Traditionally, the Mosel is not a region well known for its ultra-premium dry white wines. Instead, the fruity sweet Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines as well as the noble sweet BA, TBA and Eiswein wines are sought after all over the world by the lovers of fruity and noble sweet wines. But things are changing and the Mosel showed an impressive list of Riesling GGs.

In particular, I liked the GGs of Clemens Busch (Marienburg, Marienburg Rothenpfad, Marienburg Fahrlay, Marienburg Falkenlay), Dr. Loosen (Treppchen, Prälat, Würzgarten, Sonnenuhr, Himmelreich, Domprobst), Schloss Lieser (Himmelreich, Niederberg Helden, Fritz Haag (Juffer, Juffer-Sonnenuhr), van Volxem (Goldberg, Volz, Scharzhofberg), Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken (Rausch), Peter Lauer (Kupp. Schonfels, Saarfeilser), Nik Weis – St. Urbans-Hof (Bockstein, Saarfeilser), Maximin Grünhaus – von Schubert (Abtsberg, Herrenberg).

In total, the Mosel showed 50 GGs, up from 40 GGs last year, again all Riesling – no other grape variety.

Picture: US Importer Rudi Wiest at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany


Like the Mosel, the Nahe showed only Riesling GGs – a total of 27 wines, up from 22 last year. My favorites were Kruger-Rumpf (Burgberg, Dautenpflänzer, Im Pitterberg), Diel (Pittermännchen, Goldloch, Burgberg), Schäfer-Fröhlich (Felsenberg, Felseneck, Stromberg, Frühlingsplätzchen, Halenberg) and Dönnhoff (Dellchen, Hermannshöhle, Brücke, Felsenberg “Felsentürmchen).


The Pfalz belongs to the group of regions that showed both white and red GGs. As for the white GGs, it showed Riesling and Weisser Burgunder GGs.

Among 60 Riesling GGs that the Pfalz showed, I saw the wines of Rings (Weilberg, Saumagen), Reichsrat von Buhl (Freundstück, Jesuitengarten, Pechstein, Ungeheuer, Kieselberg, Reiterpfad “Hofstück”, Reiterpfad “In der Hohl”, Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan (Jesuitengarten, Kirchenstück, Pechstein, Ungeheuer, Kalkofen, Grainhübel, Hohenmorgen), A. Christmann (Meerspinne im Mandelgarten, Idig, Langenmorgen, Reiterpfad “Hofstück”) and Ökonomierat Rebholz (Im Sonnenschein, “Ganz Horn” im Sonnenschein, Kastanienbusch) in the lead.

Turning to the Weisser Burgunder, the Pfalz showed 11 GGs. I liked the Langenmorgen of Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan and Im Sonnenschein and Mandelberg of Ökonomierat Rebholz best.

Picture: Joel B. Payne and Carsten Henn, Gault Millau Weinguide Deutschland


The Rheingau is the region that is closest to my heart. My wife Annette and I discovered the world of wines with the wines of Rheingau, while we lived in Mainz for 10 years. The Rheingau also showed 7 Spätburgunder GGs, but was one of the dominating forces in terms of the Riesling GGs.

Schiller’s Rheingau Riesling GG Favorites: Joachim Flick (Nonnberg, Hölle Kantelborn, Königin Victoriaberg), Künstler (Hölle, Kirchenstück, Weiss Erd, Berg Rottland, Berg Schlossberg), Domdechant Werner (Kirchenstück, Domdechaney), Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach (Domdechaney, Marcobrunn, Baikenkopf, Berg Schlossberg), Robert Weil (Gräfenberg), Toni Jost-Hahnenhof (Walkenberg), Diefenhardt (Langenberg), Jakob Jung (Hohenrain, Siegelsberg), Achim Ritter und Edler von Oetinger (Hohenrain, Marcobrunn, Siegelsberg), Barth (Wisselbrunnen, Schönhell), Hans Lang – Urban Kaufmann (Wisselbrunnen), Balthasar Ress (Wisselbrunnen, Nussbrunnen), Josef Spreitzer (Wisselbrunnen, St. Nikolaus, Rosengarten), Georg Müller Stiftung (Nussbrunnen), Prinz (Jungfer, Schönhell), Peter Jakob Kühn (St. Nikolaus, Doosberg), F.B. Schönleber (St. Nikolaus, Jesuitengarten), August Eser (Doosberg), Fritz Allendorf (Hasensprung, Jesuitengarten, Berg Roseneck), Domäne Schloss Johannisberg (Schloss Johannisberger), August Kesseler (Berg Roseneck, Berg Schlossberg), Leitz (Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland, Berg Schlossberg, Berg Kaisersteinfels).

The Rheingau showed 7 Spätburgunder GGs, all excellent: Künstler (Reichestal, Höllenberg), Diefenhardt (Schlenzberg), Hans Lang – Urban Kaufmann (Hassel), Hessische Staatsweingüter Kloster Eberbach (Berg Schlossberg, Höllenberg), Fritz Allendorf (Höllenberg).

Picture: Jürgen Fendt, Sommelier, Bareiss


Rheinhessen showed 34 Riesling GGs, the same number as last year, and 10 Spätburgunder GGs.

Kühling-Gillot (Rothenberg “Wurzelecht”, Pettenthal, Ölberg, Hipping) Gunderloch (Rothenberg, Pettenthal, Hipping), Keller (Hubacker), Wittmann (Aulerde, Kirchspiel, Brunnenhäuschen, Morstein) and Battenfeld Spanier (Zellerweg Am Schwarzen Herrgott, Frauenberg, Kirchenstück) and Schätzel (Ölberg, Hipping) were my favorites.

Saale Unstrut

The tiny wine region in the former GDR – Saale Unstrut - showed 5 GGs, by Pawis and Lützkendorf: 2 Rieslings, 1 Traminer and 2 Weisser Burgunders, all excellent.


The other tiny region in the former GDR – Sachsen - present 2 GGs, a Weisser Burgunder GG and a Spätburgunder GG, both by Schloss Proschwitz – Prinz zur Lippe, both top.


Wine from Württemberg is mainly red wine. The main production area is along the Neckar river between Stuttgart and Heilbronn and, more wine is consumed here than anywhere else in Germany - actually twice as much as in the rest of Germany. The German poet Friedrich von Schiller wrote already several centuries ago: “A Württemberger without wine--is that a real Württemberger?”

Wines from Baden and Württemberg are hard to find in the US. This is partly explained by the production structure, which is dominated by co-operatives. Much of the wine sector in Baden and Württemberg is in the hands of local co-operatives. These co-operatives are known for producing top class wines. But they tend to be less aggressive in terms of penetrating new markets. Stuart Pigott, the German wine writer, believes that Württemberg is the area with the largest potential for quality growth in Germany.

Württemberg showed 15 Riesling GGs.

Schiller’s Favorites: Weingut des Grafen Neipperg (Ruthe, Schlossberg), Wachstetter (Höhenberg “Glaukös”), Ernst Dautel (Steingrüben), Herzog von Württemberg (Brotwasser).

In addition, in terms of white wines, Württemberg showed 4 Weisser Burgunder GGs and 2 Grauer Burgunder GGs.

Turning to red GGs, Württemberg showed 12 Spätburgunder GGs.

Schiller’s Favorites: Graf Neipperg (Schlossberg), Ernst Dautel (Schupen, Forstberg), Schnaitmann (Lämmler).

Finally, all of the Lemberger GGs were from Württemberg, with the wines of von Graf Neipperg (Ruthe, Schlossberg), Ernst Dautel (Michaelsberg), Herzog von Württemberg (Mönchberg) and Schnaitmann (Lämmler) standing out.

Schnutentunker’s Favorites

Here are the favorites of Felix Bodmann, Schnutentunker, a popular German Blogger.

Picture: Felix Bodmann, Schnutentunker, at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany

Achim Ritter und Edler von Oetinger Siegelsberg
Achim Ritter und Edler von Oetinger Hohenrain
Clemens Busch Marienburg „Fahrlay“
Clemens Busch Marienburg „Falkenlay“
Emrich-Schönleber Halenberg
Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken Rausch
Fritz Allendorf Berg Roseneck
Geh. Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan Ungeheuer
Heymann-Löwenstein Kirchberg
Heymann-Löwenstein Stolzenberg
Heymann-Löwenstein Röttgen
Heymann-Löwenstein Uhlen „Blaufüßer Lay“
Heymann-Löwenstein Uhlen „Laubach“
Horst Sauer Am Lumpen 1655
Jakob Jung Siegelsberg
Joachim Flick Königin Victoriaberg
Johannishof Berg Rottland
Maximin Grünhaus – von Schubert Herrenberg
Ökonomierat Rebholz Kastanienbusch
Peter Lauer Kupp
Peter Lauer Schonfels
Peter Lauer Saarfeilser
Reinhold Haart Grafenberg
Reinhold Haart Ohligsberg
Robert Weil Gräfenberg
Schäfer-Fröhlich Halenberg
Schloss Lieser Niederberg Helden
Schlossgut Diel Pittermännchen
St. Urbans-Hof Saarfeilser
St. Urbans-Hof Bockstein
von Othegraven Altenberg
von Othegraven Bockstein
Wagner-Stempel Heerkretz
Wagner-Stempel Höllberg
Wittmann Brunnenhäuschen
Zehnthof Luckert Maustal

Jancis Robinson: German non-Riesling Whites to Look for

Here are the favorites of Jancis Robinson of the Financial Times as far as non-Riesling white GGs are concerned.

Picture: Jancis Robinson at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany (Photo: Deutsches Weininstitut)

• Bürgerspital, Stein Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Bürgerspital, Stein-Harfe Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Ludwig Knoll, Stein Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Rudolf May, Langenberg Himmelspfad Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Horst Sauer, Am Lumpen 1655 Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Weltner, Küchenmeister Hoheleite Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Zehntof Luckert, Maustal Silvaner 2015 Franken
• Bercher, Feuerberg Haslen Weisser Burgunder 2015 Baden
• Bercher, Feuerberg Haslen Grauer Burgunder 2015 Baden
• Dr Heger, Schlossberg Grauer Burgunder 2015 Baden
• Stadt Lahr, Chardonnay 2015 Baden
• Stigler, Winklerberg Pagode Grauer Burgunder 2014 Baden
• Stigler, Winklerberg Pagode Chardonnay 2015 Baden
• Alexander Laible’s Chara dry Grauburgunder 2014

Stuart Pigott's Favorites

Stuart Pigott wrote a long article about the Wiesbaden tasting in the FAS of September 4, 2016, in German. Below, I tried to summarize his recommendations.

Picture: Stuart Pigott at the GG Pre-release Tasting in Wiesbaden, Germany



At the top of my list are the 4 GGs of Dönnhoff (Felsentürmchen, Dellchen, Brücke, Herrmannshöhle)
The 3 Riesling-GGs of Schlossgut Diel
The 6 Riesling-GGs of Weingut Schäfer-Fröhlich
The Halenberg GG of Emrich-Schönleber
The Steinberg GG of Gut Herrmannsberg


The Riesling-GGs of Heymann-Löwenstein
The Riesling-GGs of Dr. Loosen, with Prälat being the best
Peter Lauer
Van Volxem


Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan


The Berg Schlossberg GG of August Kesseler
The Riesling-GG of Schloss Johannisberg
The 3 Riesling GGs of Achim von Öetinger
Fred Prinz


The 4 Riesling-GGs of Wittmann
The Heerkretz GG of Wagner-Stempel
A full paragraph on Schätzel and his low-alcohol GGs


The Im Sonnenschein GG of Ökonomierat Rebholz
The Mandelberg GG of Bergdolt
The Mandelberg GG of Dr. Wehrheim


The Mönchshof GG of Bickel-Stumpf
The Rothlauf GG of Rudolf May

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