German Wine Specialist
16th January 2006
I suppose the headline for this tasting is that German wines aren't all rieslings, and they're certainly not all underpriced. Prices shown are from the Winebarn, who laid on this tasting. For up-to-date prices and more details see the Winebarn website.
Helmut Solter trained in Champagne and Australia, in addition to obtaining a winemaking and oenology degree from the Fachhochschule Geisenheim. He follows the procedures he learnt in Champagne in producing his wines in Rüdesheim. The grapes are hand picked and the bottles and hand riddled. The grapes come from vineyards in Lorch (which add subtle, delicate notes), from Rüdesheim (whence the grapes add elegant, minerally tones), from Geisenheim, Johannisberg and Winkel (light fruity aromas) and from Hochheim (whence the grapes lend a powerful earthy character to the Solter Sekts).
2002 Rheingau Riesling Brut, Solter
Grown on stone soils. A light oily nose. Decent palate. A touch hard. Very average. Good +
2002 Spätburgunder Rosé Brut, Solter
The pinot noir grapes for this rosé come from the Kaiserstuhl, Assmannshausen and Rüdesheim. A soapy, aromatic nose. Delicate and inoffensive. Very Good.
2000 Pinot Cuvée Brut, Solter
A blend of pinots noir, blanc and gris from the Kaiserstuhl, pinots noir and blanc from the Rheingau. The pinot gris wines are fermented and aged in barriques, and all the base wines are ripe, with a Spätlese character.
A powerful, spicy nose. Very full flavoured. Nice character. Very Good Indeed.
1994 Riesling Reserve Brut, Solter
From riesling vines grown on slate soils. Disgorged December 2005. Very peachy on the nose. Similar on the palate. Rich and creamy with some bready flavours. Very fine. Very Good Indeed.
Weingut Dr v. Bassermann-Jordan
The Jordan family established the estate, still in the family’s hands, in 1718, though the family’s museum library apparently has vintages going back to 1706 and 1811. There are around 42 hectares under vines, largely riesling, divided into twenty separate sites.
2005 Estate Weisser Burgunder trocken
Very pale lemon appearance. Delicate buttery nose. Clean, very decent body. Very fine finish. Excellent length. Very Good +
2004 Estate Riesling trocken
A pale lemon gold. Very zingy, fresh citrussy nose. Decent enough on the palate, but hardly striking. Just a touch unbalanced. Good.
2004 Deidesheimer Kalkofen Riesling, Grosses Gewächs
Yields are kept low: around 20hl/ha. This wine is produced 100% biodynamically. A pale lemon yellow. Lovely rich, minerally nose. Lovely weight on the palate. This has a nice richness, balanced by lots of acidity on the finish. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Deidesheimer Leinhöhle Riesling Auslese
A very concentrated, powerful nose, showing dried peaches and pears with a bit of grapefruit. Very focussed attack. Very pure flavours. Great concentration. Very impressive. Excellent balance. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Deidesheimer Maushöhle Riesling Beerenauslese
Gentle honey, apple blossom and honeysuckle nose. Deeply flavoured and richly textured, yet with really superb balance. Very Good Indeed.
First established in 1457, the family-run Weingut Bercher has 42 hectares of vines including the second largest private vineyard in the Kaiserstuhl. They farm organically.
2004 Jechtinger Steingrube Weisser Burgunder
Produced in stainless steel. A very delicate, lightly buttered nose. Simple and straightforward on the palate, yet relatively satisfying. Very Good.
2004 Jechtinger Eichert Grauer Burgunder Kabinett
Produced in large fuder. Attractive appearance: a pinkish pale gold. A round, lightly fragranced pinot gris nose. Lightish attack; decent weight, with the spice building. Very full on the finish. Very Good +
2004 Burkeimer Feuerberg Weisser Burgunder Spätlese
trocken, Erstes Gewächs
Very light, gently floral nose. Much more concentrated than the Jechtinger Steingrube kabinett, but not at all over powerful. This has the balance just right: rich and creamy on the palate with lemony hints. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Königsschaffhauser Hasenberg Gewürztraminer
Delicate rosewater nose. Very dry on the attack. This has the gewurz richness and flavour but also lots of acidity. The chief, impression, however, is that it’s completely bone dry.
2003 Berchers Spätburgunder Barrique
This spent some fifteen months in barrique. A light raspberry red. Strawberry juice and bubblegum on the nose. Light and gentle. Fair structure. Good/Very Good.
2003 Limberg III Barrique trocken
A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, limberger and pinot noir (basically all the red grapes in their vineyards!), this spends around seventeen months in barrique, with a higher proportion of new oak. A dullish nose with no particular characteristic – perhaps reflecting the blend – just some oak and blackberry. Very rounded attack: open and expressive. This has really nice character and excellent balance. Excellent length with a continuing purity of flavours. Very impressive indeed. Excellent.
Goetz Blessing and his wife have run this estate in Münster-Sarmsheim since 1993.
2004 Münsterer Dautenpflänzer Riesling Selection
A zesty, fresh nose – quite delicate. Very good on the palate. Crisp and clean. Lovely length: indeed it seems to go on forever. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Münsterer Chardonnay Spätlese trocken
A rather short, buttery nose. Nice weight. Good freshness. This works fairly well, with a good finish and great length. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
2004 Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Kabinett
Curiously rich nose, but lacking riesling character. Good rich palate. Nice body, though it seems more kabinett than halbtrocken. Nice length with good purity. Very Good.
2004 Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Auslese**
A very delicate, very elegant nose. Very full on the
palate, with lots of richness: it almost seems very near Beerenauslese
weight. Excellent balance. Almost Excellent.
Weingut Dr Heger
Previously Dr Max Heger had been a country doctor but in the early to mid 1930s he bought some of the best sites in the Kaiserstuhl area and the Weingut was founded in 1930.
2004 Ihringer Winklerberg Muskateller Kabinett
Produced entirely in stainless steel. A lovely, delicate muscast nose. Very, very dry. Decent pure muscat flavours on the palate, but overall it’s just a bit unfocussed. Good/Very Good.
2004 Ihringer Winklerberg Weissburgunder Spätlese
trocken, cask aged
This has spent nine months in large Fuder. A delicate nose. Very direct and even a touch aggressive, perhaps from the combination of the wood and the late harvest. Good.
2004 Ihringer Winklerberg Weissburgunder Spätlese
trocken – Grand Cru
Entirely fermented in barriques, using around 60% new oak. There is oak on the nose, and really very little else. But it’s lovely on the palate: richly textured and layered, though ultimately it seems a bit simple. Very Good.
2003 Heger Spätburgunder Q trocken, QbA
Matured in sixty year-old large fuder. A lovely fresh, stewed strawberry nose. Very fresh and vibrant. Nice character, but really rather simple. Very Good.
2003 Ihringer Winklerberg Spätburgunder MIMUS
trocken, barrique, QbA
This had only been bottled a matter of weeks previously, on the 20th December 2005. Not unsurprisingly, the nose is very closed, and it’s very tight on the palate too. Soft, tannic finish. This has promise. Very Good (+?)
NV Eau de Vie Dr Heger Baden Williams-Christ Birne
Far from the best eau de vie of pear. A bit lacking on the nose, but with decent grainy pear texture on the palate.
Weingut Schwarzer Adler/Franz Keller
Another of the Winebarn’s producers in Kaiserstuhl. The 100 acre estate is run by Franz Keller and his son.
2004 Oberbergener Bassgeige Grauburgunder trocken
A light, fresh, clean pinot gris nose. Nice body with a good balance and a good weight. Very fine on the finish and with huge length after. Very Good Indeed.
2003 Oberbergener Pulverbruck Weissubrgunder Classic
Fermented in barrique, then transferred to fuder, where it spent nine months on its lees before being bottled unfiltered.
A lovely complex nose: a touch nutty with quince jelly and a hint of aniseed. Full bodied in the mouth with decent balance. Perhaps a bit overblown. Very Good.
2003 Weissburgunder Selection –S- barrique trocken
Huge oak on the nose, and very concentrated, with some blackberry fruit. Very creamy textured on the palate and very full. The oak is just a bit too noticeable on the palate. This is really a food wine. Very Good Indeed.
2003 Spätburgunder Selection barrique trocken, QbA
This has spent ten months in barrique. Just a bit of oak on the nose alongside a bit of red fruit. Quite biscuity flavours. Nice sandy tannins. A bit hot. Good.
2003 Spätburgunder Selection –S- barrique trocken
From 45-year old vines, harvested in three goes and with long skin contact during fermentation. A smoky, gently oaked nose. Good, full body with very good concentration. Fairly impressive. Very Good Indeed.
Weingut August Kesseler
August Kesseler took over the vineyards from his father in the late 1970s and became one of the pioneers of pinot noir and the use of barriques in Germany: his pinot noirs have almost cult status in Germany. He uses barriques much more rarely now, and instead places much greater emphasis on terroir, as he does too with his rieslings.
2004 Estate Riesling Kabinett trocken
A blend of grapes from Rüdesheim and Lorch. A slightly pinkish green. Very full nose – it almost seems a touch pinot gris-like. A ripe, basic Gutsriesling. Very full on the palate. Very Good, though they’re hardly giving it away at around £9.50 a bottle.
2002 Lorcher Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese trocken
From vines grown on slate soils. A very minerally nose with vanilla and a blast of zesty lime. Lovely pure attack. Lots of weight on the palate, losing some riesling character as it goes on. Very Good.
2001 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese
From vines grown on sandy clay soils. An oddly eggy-sulphury nose with white pepper and some apples. Rather muddy on the palate. Might be okay with food, I suppose. OK.
2004 Spätburgunder trocken QbA
Fresh, fragrant nose. Simple and light with a gentle tannic finish. Good.
2003 Spätburgunder Cuvée Max trocken* QbA
Very unimpressive nose. These might be cult German pinots, but this just seems to me to be a straightforward German pinot noir. OK.
2003 Assmannshäuser Höllenberg Spätburgunder trocken*
A smoky, woody nose that’s slightly astringent. Good attack. Nice round fruit, but savage tannins quickly appear and dominate. OK.
Werner Näkel’s estate covers more than twelve hectares, of which he owns more than half and of which more than 80% is planted with pinot noir. He was one of the first German red producers to introduce French barriques and in 1989 he became a member of the Deutsches Barrique-Forum. The pinots are all macerated on the skins for a prolonged period and also fermented on their skins; they are then allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation. He also has interests in South Africa. I thought all his pinot noirs were impressive, though the QmP wines are all eye-wateringly expensive (not that the QbAs are particularly cheap).
2004 Estate Spätburgunder QbA trocken
A very clean nose with concentrated raspberry fruit. Very fruity on the attack. This has almost sweet raspberry fruit flavours. Very good finish. Very Good +
2004 Spätburgunder Blauschiefer QbA trocken
From vines yielding around 50hl per hectare and aged in 15-month old barriques. A sour cherry nose with a touch of sulphur evident. Very good on the palate: this is really together and very enjoyable. Great finish. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Spätburgunder S (Selection) QbA trocken
From vines yielding around 30-35 hl/ha and half of it is matured in new oak, half in second use oak barriques. A gentle, slightly toasty red fruit nose. Super attack. Very precise and focussed, with a good tannic structure. Very long. Impressive. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Spätburgunder Dernauer Pfarrwingert Auslese
From low yielding vines (around 25 hl/ha). A big nose. Quite minerally on the palate. It carries the pretty significant alcohol rather well. Jolly nice wine. Very Good Indeed +
2003 Frühburgunder Dernauer Pfarrwingert Auslese
The Frühburgunder is the Pinot Madelaine grape, again from vines yielding around 25 hl/ha and matured entirely in new oak for ten months. This has a smokier nose, with a touch of sulphur, but still very attractive. An impressive attack leads to an impressive wine overall. The family resemblance to pinot noir is obvious, but this is very different and also very enjoyable. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.
2003 Spätburgunder Bad Neuenahrer Sonnenberg trocken,
Aged for sixteen months in 70% new oak and 30% used oak. A cherry-raspberry light nose. Rich attack with a creamy texture. Quite concentrated flavours. Spicy tannins on the finish. Another impressive wine from Werner Näkel. Very Good Indeed.
Weingut St. Urbans-Hof
Weingut St. Urbans-Hof is one of the largest privately owned wineries in the Mosel. It was founded in 1947 by Nicolaus Weis, and is now run by his grandson, Nik Weis. They own parcels in many of the best Mosel and Saar vineyards. While not organic, they stress they work with nature. Yields are kept low and indigenous yeasts are used, which they claim provide some of the sulphur notes that were obvious to me on the nose of most of their dry wines.
2004 Estate Riesling QbA trocken
Quite sulphurous on the nose, with muddy riesling fruit. A nice, plain Gutsriesling. Very Good.
2004 Leiwener Laurentiuslay Riesling Spätlese
trocken Grand Cru
Leiwen is between Trier and Bernkastel. This has a classy nose with quite zesty citrus notes. Very good on the palate: quite creamy and full. Nice balance. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
2004 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling feinherb QbA
Wet granite on the nose. Very focussed and a touch austere. Very Good Indeed.
1998 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel
Initially rather reticent on the nose, though with aeration it opens up a bit, revealing a touch of peaches and citric acid powder. Very, very pure and austere on the palate. Very, very long with interesting grapefruit juice acidity after. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Eiswein
A very fragrant, concentrated nose with scents of lightly honeyed honeysuckle. Delightfully fragrant pear flavours. Lovely concentration. Decent balance. This is sweeter and less balanced than some, but utterly delightful and hedonistic. Very Good Indeed +.
Weingut Hans Wirsching
The Wirsching estate has been in family hands for 15 generations since 1630. They are one of the largest vineyard owners in Franken with around seventy-five hectares in the Iphöfer vineyards: the Julius-Echter-Berg, Kronsberg, Kalb and Mönchshütte. The vineyards are planted with sylvaner (at 38% the dominant variety), riesling (19%) along with Müller Thurgau, Scheurebe, Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder, Bacchus, Kerner, Traminer, Spätburgunder, Portugieser and Dornfelder.
2005 Silvaner QbA trocken (cask sample)
11.5%; 5 g/l acidity; 4.5 g/l residual sugar. This is the Gutssilvaner. A light, direct steely nose. Decent minerally palate. Good easy drinking at a fair price.
2004 St. Veit QbA trocken
12%; 6g/l acidity; 6.5 g/l residual sugar. This is a blend from various sites of silvaner, scheurebe and riesling. A complex, layered nose with hints of citrussy apple and blackcurrant. Round and interesting on the palate, which builds nicely. Has good weight and plenty of interest from the blend. Almost Very Good Indeed.
2004 Iphöfer Julius-Echter-Berg Silvaner Spätlese
trocken “S”, old vines
14%; 6.2 g/l acidity; 5.5 g/l residual sugar. This has a very concentrated, slightly spirity pear drops nose with hints of banana. Very concentrated on the palate. A very interesting wine, but not one that I want to drink too much of. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Iphöfer Kronsberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
13%; 8.2% g/l acidity; 8.5 g/l residual sugar. The vines grow on Wirsching’s “Grand Cru” site, the Julius-Echter-Berg, on steep south-facing slopes. The vines have a minimum age of thirty years and a relatively low yield of around 35 hl/ha. The grapes were picked with a minimum of 100º Oechsle.
A creamy, appley, lemony nose. Good flavours on the palate: nice clean, powerful riesling flavours. Great length. Very dry on the finish. A bit expensive. Very Good/Very Good Indeed.
2004 Iphöfer Kronsberg Scheurebe Spätlese trocken
14.5%, 6.5 g/l acidity; 4.6 g/l residual sugar. An interesting nose with grapefruit and lemon sherbert notes. Zesty and zingy on the attack. Fills out nicely into quite a rich palate. Very good length. Very Good Indeed?
2002 Iphöfer Kalb Silvaner Eiswein
There is something undeniably cute and dinky about the half bottle size of the Franconian Bocksbeutel. “Handy for the jacket pocket” said Dr Wirsching.
10%; 11 g/l acidity; 200 g/l residual sugar. Concentrated kiwi and almond nose. Very, very intense flavours. Rich and, of course, very sweet, but this has really excellent balance. Very Good Indeed/Excellent.
(£36.72, 375 ml)
Günter and Elisabeth Wittman run this 25 hectare estate, which dates back to 1663: they have been certified organic for fifteen years and began implementing biodynamic practices in 2003. The estate is based in Westhofen in the Wonnegau, in the south of the Rheinhessen, between Mainz and Worms. Their 25 ha are planted with riesling (47%), silvaner (10%), Weiss-, Grau- and Spätburgunder (pinots blanc, gris and noir) (30%) and 13% other varieties. Their best vineyards are in Westhofen’s Morstein, Kirchspiel and Aulerde, which now have the Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru) classification.
2004 Scheurebe QbA trocken
Pears and eau de vie de poire (or rather Birnenbrand) on the nose. Good, clean palate, but it’s really very simple and a bit expensive. OK.
2004 Gutsriesling QbA trocken
A very perfumed nose, with light riesling characteristics. Lovely palate. Very direct, upstanding and focussed with lovely purity. Very Good Indeed ++
2004 Westhofener Riesling trocken “S” QbA
From a blend of different terroirs. Very good, complex nose. Rich and full with lots of layers. Very fine indeed. Lovely elegance and great length. Probably the best QbA I’ve ever had. Rates somewhere just below, but very close to Excellent.
2004 Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Grosses Gewächs
From fifty-year old vines grown on clay soils. A very characterful nose with minerally peaches. Very peachy fruit on the attack. Really lovely balance. Has a lot of weight on the palate, but also really good elegance. Very Good Indeed +
2004 Westhofener Kirchspiel Grosses Gewächs trocken*
Unlike the Aulerde, the Kirchspiel has limestone soils. A very zesty nose: much more knife-edge sharpness than the Aulerde. Clean and pure attack. Good balance with lots of charming acidity. Much more lively. Very Good Indeed.
2004 Westhofener Morstein Grosses Gewächs trocken*
The Morstein vineyard is again on limestone soils, but much higher (around 220m above sea level) and cooler. Fresh and fragrant on the nose, and the family resemblance to the Kirchspiel is very evident. This is less austere than the Kirchspiel, and a bit more forthright and pushy. Still very attractive though. Very Good Indeed -
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Last updated: 23 January 2006