Some impressions of the 2012 and 2013 vintages in Germany
So finally I took some days off from torturing my students and instead
allowed myself a tiny little Riesling orgy by visiting a few producers
in Rheinhessen, Nahe, Saar, Ruwer, and Mosel. So my impressions are just
that - personal observations from a limited subset of growers and does
in no way reflect the entire vintage. But at least it is one data point
on what will hopefully become many more as additional impressions are
added by other Riesling aficionados out there who might have knocked on
doors and tasted fermented grape juice.
One can easily say I visted at the worst possible time - the days prior to the Big Bang: ProWein.
When basically every producer you could imagine are running around in
Angst trying to bottle or prepare samples for the humongous gathering in
Düsseldorf. I tried to get in at Emrich-Schönleber in Nahe and Schloss
Lieser, Fritz Haag and Selbach-Oster in Mosel but they were -
understandably - very busy preparing for the great wine fair. For many
producers it's not just about the ProWein itself but also in conjunction
to it a lot of special tastings, dinners and presentations for
important customers. So I felt kind of awkward asking them the question:
"Hello, can I visit you and taste?" Especially since I didn't
plan this trip bin advance but simply asked them the same day. It would
have been funny to see their expression - "WHAT!!? Of ALL possible days he wants to visit NOW!??"
However, I was still lucky to squeeze myself into some of the wineries
that would either not be present at ProWein or had already prepared
their samples. Next time I must really make better plans because it was
really a question of basically asking the evening before if they might
open the doors next morning. So I'm sitting here with what feels like hundreds
of tasting notes so I was I was indeed able to taste quite a lot wines.
But...I did not taste the 2013 vintage at all estates. Many impressions
will therefore be a chaotic mixture from whatever happened to be
available at the time of my visit.
I started my visit at Zilliken in Saarburg, Saar and
without knowing it I was lucky because they were about to bottle their
entire prodduction over the next two days and that's not a time when you
would want to knock on the doors to a winery with an empty glass in
your hand shouting weeeeeeeinprooooobe! Next I mailed to Maximin Grünhaus in Ruwer
but didn't receive a reply so I just took my chances and drove from
Saarburg to Ruwer to see if anyone might be at home. Luckly, Carl von
Schubert was there and I was able to spend some time in their tasting
facility going through quite an astonishing set of wines but no 2013s.
While tasting there I had a sms dialogue with Rita at Clemens Busch in Pünderlich and
I was fortunate to catch her at the very end of her working day. This
was a first for me - I have tasted wines from Clemens Busch many times
but never visited them before and while doing so it also reminded me
that while looking at a map might have its advantages, the real driving time along the Mosel can quite surprising giving the twists and turns of the river. Next day started with a visit to Willi Schaefer in Graach
where I tasted the 2013s and was reminded that this time of the years
seems like a busy highway as many groups are roaming the German
countryside. Terry Theise had just been there and as I tasted John
Gilman arrived. I continued to Piesport to stop by at Reinhold Haart.
Theo was busy tearing down part of the cellar and Johannes had just
returned from several days in Norway - I'm impressed by his stamina to
still stand on his feet while pouring his 2013s. As always the table
looks like Manhattan skyline when you finish your visit at Haart. I was
lucky with getting two more appointments the very same day. Tim Fröhlich
of Schäfer-Fröhlich in Bockenau, Nahe, had just returned
from a tasting in Switzerland and when I showed up he was busy in the
cellar preparing for ProWein. I had just received a coinfirmation that
Helmut Dönnhoff would be greeting me as my last appointment so when Tim
told me he was extremely busy and could only spend a short time with me,
I thought it fitted perfectly with my schedule. For once I would
actually be in time to my next visit. After having talked for half an
hour while opening only one bottle I realised that time might, after
all, be of essence. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE tasting with Tim. There
is such focus when discussing with him and so much knowledge that I
would gladly throw out months of theoretical wine studies in exchange
for a tasting spent with Tim. And the wines he presented... Tasted all
the dry 2013 before basically just roling downhill to Dönnhoff in Oberhausen,
where Helmut was waiting. By now I was way way late and I apologised to
Helmut and suggested I taste only a few wines because of the late hour
but he stoped in his steps, looked at my and asked: "Are you serious? We will of course taste ALL the wines!".
Well, try guessing the level of persuasion he had to apply there...
Together we tasted every single bottle from 2013 up to the unparallelled
Eiswein. Hm, some interesting impressions here from this vintage, but
I'll come back to this when adding the tasting notes. The next morning,
for the first time feeling a headache after consumtion of wine while on
the road, I continued to Dorsheim and Schlossgut Diel
where Caroline greeted me. Have you met her? Please do, she's like
sunshine. Here too I tasted the 2013s. No time to rest so I continued to
another winery (or two actually) that was a first from me. Battenfeld-Spanier in Hohen-Sülzen
where I was greeted by the lovely and charming couple Oliver and
Carolin. I was lucky to arrive just as a group from Finland were leaving
so I had the opportunity to also taste wines (also 2013s) from Kühling-Gillot from Bodenheim.
A long story so I'll save it for later when I share my impressions with
tasting notes. The same evening also provided some astonishing
rieslings but not at any winery visit. I had the incredibly opportunity
to join a tasting group in Saarbrucken who happened to have a special
theme for this evening - some of the best Rieslings from Germany,
Austria and France from the 2004 vintage. Oh boy... If I remember
correctly there were 8 flights of 3 wines so yours truly were in Riesling heaven. The next day I tasted a few 2013s att Keller in Flörsheim-Dalsheim.
Oh, 28 wines I believe. Mama, please don't wake me up... Some of the
wines here need a special section but I'll come back to that later.
After this there was simply no time or energy for any more winery visits
that day. The next morning I had planned to visit Robert Weil in Kiedrich but
realising they would probably not have the 2013s to taste, I went
straight to the airport but I will nevertheless offer my impressions of
the 2012 that I tasted during another visit at the estate. Arriving to a
cold Stockholm after a trip was not as much fun and the next day my
students at school noticed that I looked "slightly tired". Whatever could have given them THAT impression...??
Hopefully I have amassed at least a few impressions from the 2013
vintage and as to the general overview I can only confirm the
observations by Terry Theise in his vintage report. Talking to the
winemakers there seem to be a HUGE difference between the wine regions.
Rheinhessen had quite a nice harvest season with good and balanced
acidity and a lower crop than usual. And it shows in the wines,
especially in the cheaper segment where 70 hectoliters per hectare was
reduced to 40-45. Nahe seemed to fare very well with Tim reporting a
smaller harvest but really not much to speak of (and excellent quality)
while Dönnhoff reported a more substantial reduction (but oh, the
quality). That leaves us with Mosel-Saar-Ruwer... I can only confirm the
decription offered by Terry Theise - the winemakers told the same story
at many places - they were measuring the acidity and ripeness and one
day the acids were too high and ripeness to low and then 36 hours later
at some spots the grapes were already overripe. Or like Hanno pointed
out - during the day it was warm and at night it rained - Hurra! No
wonder that many estates here showed a record quick harvest as they
basically stopped everyone along the streets, pointed to the vineyards
and shouted - go up there and harvest! I remember one time when I visited Zilliken and he showed me a picture of a pyramide upside down and said: You wan't to taste Kabinett? I have almost none, while he pointed at the tip of the turned-around pyramide. "You want to taste Auslese, Auslese Goldcap, Auslese Lange Goldcap, Trockenbeerenauslese? I have tons!" When
sitting down at the table this time I had to ask if there might be some
printing errors but no - they can offer a lot of Kabinett but no
Spätlese, no Auslese, no Saarburger Alte Reben, no Diabas and no GG.
Imagine the surpise in my face... And harvest totalled...well, I don't
know but surely below 50% of normal. Christoph Schaefer told the same
story in Graach - a very fast harvest but production is even lower than
the 2010 vintage. How could that be? I though the 2010 produced aalmost
nothing. Clemens Busch just confirmed these observations further up
north along the Mosel. The reason apparently being not just the harvest
and ripening conditions but already from the time of uneven flowering
and dito fruit set in the beginning of the season. Add to it a little
hail in the Mosel to further reduce the crop and you get the picture...
We're talking about some of the first class producers out there so
quality will still be high but it won't be a fun vintage for us Riesling
aficionados as the availability will surely be very limited.