You need to be drinking more German wines.
For so long now, Germany has been known for Riesling. Riesling (50% of world production) and Henkell Trocken. But here’s one country – along with the UK – where climate change has had some benefits. Suddenly, weedy Spatburgunder has moved up a notch of ripeness. Even Riesling has become more approachable, with less residual sugar needed to balance out razor-sharp acidity. It all adds up to promise, to a possible German boom time.
Of course, unchecked climate change will eventually swallow up most of the wine industry as we know it, but there has to be a silver lining, if just in the short term. And if you need any proof of the heights that German wine can achieve, let it be the wines below, all tasted at a VDP masterclass held in Sydney with Caro Maurer MW.
As ever, I struggled to put in the correct umlauts and write tasting notes at the same time, hence you won’t see enough of the former, and the latter are shorter than I want. Extra bits in italics.
Flight 1 – the V.D.P pyramid
Fun facts – VDP classified wines make up 3% of production in Germany and yet 5% of vineyards. There are 197 members of the invite-only VDP organisation now. The average size of these VDP estates is 27 hectares, with a turnover €1.7 million.
A. Christmann (Pfalz) Riesling Trocken 2018
11.5% alc. TA 6.8g/L RS 2.6g/L Circa $35. Gutswein.
Juicy, generous, dry Riesling. Hasn’t quite got the balance perfect, but enjoyable. Stonefruit through the middle, but finishes dry. I’d guess riper than 11.5%. A natural fresh drink, but needs a leap in complexity to be more than that. 16.8/20, 89/100.
A. Christmann (Pfalz) Gimmeldingen Riesling Trocken 2017
12.5% alc. TA 7.9g/L RS 4.9g/L circa $51. Orstwein.
An extra year, and additional layers. Trades in more acidity to counter the rather juicy apricot fruit. I would have picked more RS than 4.9g/L. Has a lovely full middle and generosity of flavour. Maybe missing a little intensity, but a pretty joyous drink. 17.5/20, 91/100.
A. Christmann (Pfalz) Konigsbacher Olberg Riesling Trocken 2014
12.5% alc. TA 7.5g/L RS 3.5g/L. Erste Lage.
Honeyed cream but bone dry. Lovely creamy citrus textural delight. Again, I would have picked this as riper (and sweeter). Lovely fragrance and the late stonefruit intensity is excellent. Still just a little broad, but a good drink. 17.7/20, 92/100.
A. Christmann (Pfalz) Reiterpfad – Hofstuck Riesling GG 2017
13% alc. TA 6.8g/L RS 4.5g/L circa $130. Grosse Lage.
Has the punch and pull of a GG but it seems just a little shapeless. Plump and stonefruit-driven dry Riesling. Needs more fireworks but there’s flavour here. It doesn’t feel like a big step up after the Konigsbacher. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Flight 2 Riesling Grosses Gewachs
Donnhoff Felsenburg Riesling GG 2017
13% alc. TA 7.5g/L RS 3.5g/L circa $130.
Exceptional. Such cut and thrust. A powerful, zingy, Australian-esque dry Riesling intensity, but the acidity is on another level. Bang! Like an orange edged citrus grenade. What zing and liveliness. Mega powerful, long and you feel every bump, every edge. Wowsers. 19/20, 96/100.
Heymann-Löwenstein Uhlen Blaufusserlay Riesling GG 2016
13.5% alc. TA 5.8g/L RS 7.2g/L circa $104.
Such a different Mosel Riesling – custardy and not super-pure but has a lovely texture. Famously, Heymann-Löwenstein has this odd sulphur compound that marks the wines. It’s a vineyard/yeast thing, but it’s divisive. Here, you close your eyes, and you’d struggle to call it Riesling. With almost fatty lactic layers through the mid-palate. But it’s not all bad news; there is genuine power and intensity too. 17.5/20, 91/100+
Okonomierat Rebholz Kastanienbusch Riesling GG 2017
13% alc. TA 7.8g/L RS 3.1g/L.
Beautiful Pfalz Riesling, as ever. There’s a gentle pull of talc on the nose, an undertone of apricot skin (skin contact?) with fruit and acidity. Delicious! Such moreish orange juice and stonefruit. Long. Delicious. I can still taste it. 18.7/20, 95/100.
Wittmann Kirschspiel Riesling GG 2017
13% alc. TA 7.6g/L RS 2.7g/L circa $135.
Odd. Has a sort of celery soapy crunch. Maybe too dry, too severe. A concentrated ball of flavour but unyielding too. It will get there; those lines feel classic. Patience. 18/20, 93/100+
Third flight – other varieties
Bernhard Huber Malterdingen Chardonnay Alte Reben Trocken 2015
13% alc. TA 6.2g/L RS 1g/L circa $90.
A massive mouthful of bold Chardonnay. So much oak too. Condensed milk, nuts and figs. Aside from the acidity, this aims for Corton. Not 100% new oak but tastes of barrel ferment and long ageing. I kept thinking of old school Marlborough Chardonnay, but with more acidity. The fruit heads towards apricot and the oak drags after a while. Admirable intensity and weight, not sure I can drink much. 17.7/20, 92/100.
Wagner-Stempel Silvaner Trocken 2018
13% alc. TA 7.4g/L RS 2g/L circa $35.
Fragrant, simple Rheinhessen white wine of unquestioned freshness. Falls away a little. Has this initial burst of marzipan waxy unripe pear then falls into citrus. Maybe a bit light and fleeting. Pleasant. 17/20, 90/100
Muller-Catoir Haardter Mandelring Scheurebe Trocken 2017
13% alc. TA 6.3g/L RS 2g/L.
A variety known as ‘The German Sauvignon Blanc’ from Pfalz. Mandarin and pine lime. Great aromatics – you can see the Sauv Blanc analogue. But the palate lobs up little besides acidity. Just like so much Sauvignon Blanc. 16.8/20, 89/100.
Bernhard Huber Bienenberg Spatburgunder GG 2015
13% alc. TA 5.9g/L RS 1.8g/L circa $135
Baden Pinot Noir that fights against the new oak. But light ruby and so pure. Some whole bunch? There’s a great crunchiness here, a ruby red mid-weight freshness that is quite a contest to the barrel character. Makes for a wine of weight but perhaps trying too hard. Has a great drive of flavour even if the oak is annoying. 17.7/20, 92/100+
Flight 4 the magic of sweetness
Nik Weis – St Urbans Hof Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett 2016
8.5% alc. TA 8.5g/L RS 55.6g/L circa $48
Lovely Mosel Riesling. Has some distinctive lime creme caramel on the nose. Generous. Pure lime fruit. Lovely! Generous and has some honey and caramel fighting the strong lime citrus. I enjoy this style – so easy, so balanced. Yes. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Wwe. Dr H. Thanisch Erben Thanisch Doctor Riesling Spatlese 2018
8% alc. TA 7.5g/L RS 85g/L circa $110.
Another lovely Mosel Riesling. Perfumed and excellent balance here. Orange blossom and mandarin, whispers of perfume. You don’t see the sweetness, just lovely pure, generous fruit. Maybe a little simple? A masterpiece of fruit, though. Just lovely. 18.5/20, 94/100.
Gunderloch Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 2016
7.5% alc. TA 8.9g/L RS 95g/L circa $67 375ml.
Toasty, nutty Rheinhessen Riesling. Clearly some botrytis, the style is very serious. Maturing quick on the nose but the palate is more backward than expected. Compact. A wine for the future too. Power just below the surface. 17.7/20, 92/100+.
Dr Loosen Pralat Riesling Auslese Goldcap
9% alc. TA 8.5g/L RS 101.2g/L
Luscious Mosel Riesling. Sort of wonder what the fuss is about. Crystalline. Maybe too backward. I found this just a little shortish. But the angles are superb. 17.7/20, 92/100+