German Riesling Masterclass by German Wine Queen 2012 Annika Strebel
The wines were tasted in this order (as usual, badly taken notes):
1. Kesselstatt WV Edition I Kaseler Riesling trocken 2009
No chemical fertilisers.
2. Dönnhoff Riesling trocken 2009
No chemical fertilisers. Fruity on the nose.
3. Wittmann Riesling trocken 2009
This bottle was from the personal collection of Boon of Wein & Vin. Certified biodynamic.* Philipp Wittmann’s family estate started in 1663. With intensive vineyard care, old vines, low yield, and good winemaking skillz the Wittmann wines have raised the profile of Rheinhessen slosh. This wine was from many different soils. When you first smell it, you smell the fruitiness of the wine (honey melon, papaya). An amazing wine for Rheinhessen and Wittmann has been awarded four grapes (out of a possible five) by the German wine magazine Weinwirtschaft.
4. Van Volxem Saar Riesling 2009
From the Mosel-Saar region which is a little bit colder than the rest of German winegrowing regions. Still a little bit reductive. Van Volxem is from the Bitburger family. Auditor turned winemaker. Wants to make German rieslings like how they were pre-World War I. He’s a quality freak, up to the quality of the manure used for fertiliser. Waits until very late before harvesting. Latest harvest, spontaneous yeast. His higher level wines go through maceration. Lychee top note. For 11.5% alcohol, it is quite powerful.
There was an interesting bit of information from the representative from the German Wine Institute about how the current system of classification came from the social democratic government. They did not want the same system as Bordeaux (by grapes) or the system in Burgundy (by vineyard sites). They wanted to classify the quality of the wine – but this would be rather subjective. So the compromise was to classify the quality of the grape juice – and this came to the ripeness of the grapes which would be measured by sugar level.
Some years, the grapes are so good that you can only make Spätlese wines. But the winemaker’s customers also want Kabinett wines so the law allows you to downgrade.
But ultimate dryness or sweetness of the wines depends on how long the winemaker allows the grapes to ferment. The earlier you stop fermentation, the sweeter the wine will be.
5. Kesselstatt Josephshofer Kabinett 2010
Monopole of Kesselstatt. Steep slope, 60 degrees gradient, in middle of Mosel. Vines are planted differently here to ensure most exposure to sun. The slate forces the roots to dig deeper, resulting in a mineral taste in the wines. The slate is also very dark and absorbs heat, warming up the vines during the night. Ripe grapes and cold fermentation. Like minty cough drops, liquorice. A bit of residual sugar – half-dry, semi-dry.
6. Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Kabinett 2010
Same winery, different site. Scharzhofberger has become rather famous recently due to Egon Müller. Also steep slope – 30 to 60 degrees gradient. Late harvested, very ripe. Almost sparkling, very lively acidity, residual sugar, very ripe apricots to the nose. Very open even though 2010.
The same vineyards as before but Spätlese, which just means “late harvest”:
7. Kesselstatt Josephshofer Spätlese 2010
More intense as a Spätlese. If you stop fermentation, then lower alcohol, higher sugar. Honey, raisins, apricot in the end. Long finish.
8. Kesselstatt Scharzhofberger Spätlese 2010
There was some discussion about how the amazing thing about German wines is their acidity, which helps with the sweetness. Apparently, Germans usually drink dry wines and export the sweet ones!
We hung around after to talk and drink some more. Much effusive enthusiasm for German wines (and cycling through vineyards), so much more to taste and experience, but may we not destroy ourselves with the mercies of God!
*While many German producers are “ecological” and do not use fertilisers etc, they are not certified organic (EU) or biodynamic (Demeter) because they refuse to have to deal with the bureaucracy that hands out these certifications.