Friday, October 13, 2023

Wine: Germany’s Kaleidoscopic Diversity (GG, Chardonnay, TBA, Spätburgunder) - Stuart Pigott/ James Suckling (August 2023)

Picture: Stuart Pigott, Wilhelm Weil (Weingut Robert Weil) and Gesine Roll (Weingut Weedenborn) with Annette and Christian Schiller (ombiasy WineTours) at Gut Hermannsberg in the Nahe Region.

A few weeks ago, under the heading "Germany's Kaleidoscopic Diversity", Stuart Pigott issued a most interersting article about German wine.

In his article, which I am re-releasing below, Stuart refers to 4 German ultra-premium wines.

First, a Weingut Wittmann Riesling GG, a world-class, bone dry Riesling from Rheinhessen.

Second, a Weingut Weedenborn Chardonnay, also from Rheinhessen, an ultra-premium wine that wine experts not necessarily would associate with Germany.

Third, a Weingut Robert Weil Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese from the Rheingau, a classic mainsstream world-class German wine.

Fourth, a Weingut Thoerle Spätburgunder, again from Rheinhessen, an example of a wine why people are talking about the German Pinot Noir miracle and are considering German Pinot Noir as the first alternative to wines from Burgundy. See here: Highly Recommended Read: The German Pinot Noir Miracle (Fallstaff International, August 18, 2023)

Annette Schiller and I have visited all 4 producers on recent wine tours by ombiasy. I am adding pictures from these visits.

Germany’s Kaleidoscopic Diversity - Stuart Pigott/ James Suckling (August 2023)

This is a very busy time of year for Senior Editor Stuart Pigott because a swath of single-vineyard dry whites of the new vintage are released each year on Sept. 1, and our policy in most places is to try and taste bottled wines immediately before release so that you don’t miss out on exciting new wines simply because of late reporting.

This meant that Stuart spent the past week zig-zagging across the wine regions of the Rhine Valley and its tributaries tasting mostly 2022s and some late-released 2021s and 2020s. These were mostly rieslings (Germany’s most widely planted grape with just shy of 25 percent of all vineyards), but pinot blanc, pinot gris and chardonnay are also important white grapes for Germany now. In certain places, spatburgunder, or pinot noir, reds have also become very important. 

To this complexity must be added the dramatic diversity of terroirs, and this week everything from volcanic porphyry to limestone and slate were represented. The result is a kaleidoscopic diversity way beyond what most consumers associate with Germany. For us, what makes Germany really fascinating is the dynamism of the leading producers. Many of the most sought-after dry wines come from terroirs that were forgotten or unknown just a generation ago.

Of course, the most important moments are when a row of extraordinary wines stand in front of us on the tasting table, as was the case when Stuart tasted at Weingut Wittmann in the Rheinhessen. The wines were the dry rieslings from the 2022 vintage, most important the single-vineyard  GGs – Germany’s equivalent of grand cru.

It was no surprise that the most amazing of these was the Wittmann Riesling Rheinhessen Morstein GG 2022, but the almost supernatural freshness of the wine after the mostly hot and dry 2022 growing season was a revelation. For us it is one of the dry rieslings of the vintage in Germany. How did winemaker Philipp Wittmann achieve that?

“When we were processing the grapes I did everything possible to achieve purity and precision,“ Wittmann said. “We did a lot of whole-cluster pressing, like they do for Champagne, which isn’t normal for us. I think it worked really well.“

He also explained how the drought and the need to remove grapes from young vines and mature ones negatively affected by it had reduced quantities, but they are large enough that we didn’t need to use the words “limited production” for any of the Wittmann wines.

Wittmann was not the only one to move in this radical direction in 2022. Gut Hermannsberg, in Germany’s Nahe region, did the same, and there’s already a controversy raging on the German wine scene about whether they went too far in the razor-sharp direction. You may find they remind you of Australian dry rieslings, due to a flavor profile far removed from traditional German stylesSee Stuart’s tasting notes below for our opinion on the matter. 

The strange thing about this discussion is that in the United States, some sommeliers have clearly decided that 2022 is not an interesting vintage for German wines because the vintage is too low in acidity. The truth is that the stylistic diversity of the 2022 dry wines is huge, and sweeping judgments like “2021 is better than 2022“ dumb the whole thing down in a manner we reject as oversimplification.

Tour and Tasting at Weingut Wittmann in Westhofen, Rheinhessen, with Philipp Wittmann - Germany-South and Alsace 2017 Tour by ombiasy WineTours 

One of the week’s most exciting wines was a late release, the Weedenborn Rheinhessen Grand Réserve Trocken 2020. This cuvee of 60 percent sauvignon blanc and 40 percent chardonnay melds these two grapes to a seamless whole that doesn’t taste directly of either or very much of the oak casks that the wine was matured in on the lees for 30 months. The concentration and textural complexity are also stunning.

“Right from the beginning this tasted special,“ winemaker Gesine Roll said. “There was never any doubt in my mind that it’s the best vintage so far.“

Not only is it the best Grand Reserve since its launch with the 2017 vintage, it’s also a great innovation. Who even imagines there could be a leading German producer whose main grape variety is sauvignon blanc? Here is the New Germany!

2022 was not an easy vintage for the nobly sweet rieslings for which Germany is famous, because the wet fall encouraged the development of botrytis, but not the shriveling of the affected grapes that’s necessary to achieve the concentration.

“You had to wait a long time and the quantities were small, but in the end it was possible and the results were really good,” explained Wilhelm Weil of the Robert Weil winery in the Rheingau, who has a major reputation for this special category of German wines.

Cellar Tour and Tasting in the Courtyard with Owner/ Winemaker Gesine Roll at Weingut Weedenborn in Monzenheim, Rheinhessen - Germany-South and Alsace 2022 by ombiasy WineTours

The results of his patience and some extreme selection work are spectacular and also have the special brilliance talked about above. The most amazing among them, but also the most expensive and hard to find, was the Robert Weil Riesling Rheingau Kiedrich Gräfenberg Trockenbeerenauslese 2022. Tasting this feels like staring into a deep abyss of exotic dried fruits and spices. The acidity tastes vibrant enough to wake the dead!

Cellar Tour and Tasting at Weingut Robert Weil in Kiedrich, Rheingau, with Jan Christensen - Germany-North Tour 2019 by ombiasy WineTours: Quintessential Riesling 

The new vintage for German spatburgunder is 2021, and like in Burgundy it was a challenging growing season followed by a rather wet fall. Christoph and Johannes Thorle in little-known Saulheim may not (yet) be international stars but have built an excellent reputation among insiders for Burgundy-inspired pinots. Their 2021s are a remarkable group of wines in the context of the vintage globally. The Thörle Spätburgunder Rheinhessen Hölle 2021 has extremely polished tannins and a sensational interplay of savory and earthy character with delicate fruit. Prices for these wines are friendly compared with Burgundy of similar quality.

Visiting #worldclass Producers Christoph and Johannes Thoerle of Weingut Thoerle in Rheinhessen/ Germany (2023)

schiller-wine: Related Postings

Christian Schiller`s SCHILLER-WINE Blog on Corking Wines` Top 101 Wine Writers of 2020 List 

A German Riesling Feast in New York City: Rieslingfeier 2016, USA 

ombiasy WineTours: Wine Tour Schedule 2023 - Austria, Germany/East, Burgundy/ Champagne, Germany/ North

Maison Guigal in Ampuis, Côte Rôtie, Northern Rhône: Cellar Tour, Tasting and Vineyard Tour - Rhône Valley Tour 2022 by ombiasy WineTours: Wine, Culture and History, France

Tour and Tasting at Château Haut-Bailly, Graves, Appellation Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé, with Cellar Master Jean Christoph - Bordeaux Tour 2022 by ombiasy WineTours, France

Tasting with Helmut Dönnhoff and Sascha Johannes Schömel at Weingut Dönnhoff (VDP) in Oberhausen, Nahe - Germany-South and Alsace 2022 by ombiasy WineTours

2022 Annual Riesling Party at the Schiller Residence in McLean, Virginia, USA 

The Wines of Germany: Presentation by Annette Schiller at the German Embassy in Washington DC/ Consular Conference December 2021

Massive Tasting of Bordeaux 1982 - the Vintage that made Robert Parker a Star, USA/ France

Carl Willner, Christian Schiller and Ken Bensley of the German Wine Society/ Washington DC Chapter (Re-)elected to the National Board, USA, Germany 

The American Wine Society National Conference 2022 in Bellevue/ Seattle, Washington State - Seen through Christian Schiller`s Camera Lens

The End of the "Grosslage" in Germany - Seminar about the new German Wine Law of 2022 at the 2022 American Wine Society National Conference in Bellevue/ Seattle, Washington State, led by Annette Schiller

Christian Schiller: Re-elected to the Board of the "Weinfeder", the Association of German Wine Journalists

2022 Holiday Party of the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter) at the Cosmos Club in Washington DC Downtown, USA/ Germany

Germany's Weingut Künstler #2 on James Suckling's List of the Top 100 Wines of the World (2022)

The New German Wine Law of 2021 - Tasting at the German Wine Society (Washington DC Chapter), presented by Annette Schiller  
Dry Rieslings from Italy, Austria, Alsace and Germany at the Washington Wine and Cheese Seminar, presented by Annette Schiller, September 2023

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