Here are three German producers I feel don't get enough credit
It's Christmas time and the end of the year - usually also a point for rest and contemplation. One thing that strucks me in my own drinking habit is the fact that I usually go back again and again to the same producers. And often enough even the same regions and the question to ask is always why? Because they are too good to miss out or just an old habit? I guess it's often a question of money - if you have too much of it then there's never any need to choose and you can buy a case of each wine and buy from every producer you could imagine. For most people the financial situation usually requires a choice and thus limits the possibility or tendency to venture out too far away from a path already taken - which is a limitation, I confess when looking at my own drinking habits. I have my favorites in Nahe from whom I seldom deviate from (Dönnhoff, Emrich Schönleber, Diel, Schäfer-Fröhlich). In Pfalz I buy almost only Müller-Catoir. From Rheingau I seldom buy anything else than Robert Weil although there are probably many interesting producers had I only the time and opportunity to explore them further. In Rheinhessen I'm admittedly a one trick pony with almost all Keller and the occasional Wittman. In Mosel I usually come back again and again to Willi Schaefer, Fritz Haag, Schloss Lieser, JJ Prüm, Christoffel-Erben, Merkelbach, Selbach-Oster, Haart, Adam, von Schubert and Zilliken. But there are so MANY other producers out there that probably produce great wines but are seldom put on my table when it's time for dinner.
Therefore I try to do one thing every time I visit Germany, to bring back some bottle from producers that I seldom buy on a regular basis. Sometimes I grab a bottle from a producer I haven't even heard about, just out of curiosity to try something completely new and unknown. Sometimes I buy from a producer I know but from whom I have almost no wine in my cellar. The following are tasting notes from bottles like that, all very good specimens from excellent producers I wish I hade more wine from.
2007 Heymann-Löwenstein Winninger Rottgen Riesling
Can you imagine a Trier Auction without Reinhard? Impossible. It would be like a bird without feathers, a fish without water. His humor and witty remarks are a welcoming feature each year but best of all are his spontaneous poses in front of the camera - as a PR manager I would hesitate to publish some of the photos I have of him... I think that says it all. Yet he willingly continues to allow me invading with my camera each time. And not only that - he makes helluva great wines up there among the steep terraces in the norhern parts of Mosel. With a very distinct syle of his own, in my opinion. They remind me almost of the oily, tropical character found in Piesport wines, especiellay from Goldtröpfchen but still with a different personality with much more minerality of this feeling of "melted" rock. Have you tasted his wines from 2005? I could swear I didn't find one single fruit aroma in many of the dry wines - they all felt like 100% liquid mineraly as if would have take the rocks of his steep terraces and just crushed them. When I visited him and tasted the 2007s I actually commented on that and said I notice he's turned back into pressing grapes into his wines. But it's not just about stones - his wines display this wonderful mixture of spiciness and sometimes smoke, as well as tropical flavours - yet feel very cool and polished. Why the wines posses this almost "oily" character I don't know - my knowledge and experience from these vineyards far up the Mosel are way too limited so perhaps some others might chum in on what type of soils are most common here and how they affect to final outcome. The wine in question starts with an expressive nose of spices, tropical fruits, star fruit and melon. Take a sip and you get this mixture of spices (again) with some candied fruit, nutmeg and...well, I don't know what to compare to - apricot? Dried apricots? The wine is dry yet the texture is very creamy, rich and polished, which sets the tone and impression througout the palate. When I talk about an "oily" character and creamy texture you might get the impression it's a heavy wine with loads of flavour but little elegeance but here's the thing - it's light on it's feet and feels very refreshing yet very different to the even more transparent and light Mosel rieslings further down south. The stony character creates this crsipy, "salty/bitter" feeling towards the end that mixes up the fruit to create something right in the middle of everything. Not heavy, yet not ultra-light, not completely tropical, yet also nothing similar to citrus, green apples, white peach and other more familiar characters from middle or southern Mosel. All in all a lovely wine. 91 points.
2007 Heymann-Löwenstein Winninger Uhlen Riesling Blaufusser Lay
The name on the label is explained by the soil component - these wines grow on blue slate and speaking of grow...if you look how those vines actually inhabit the terraces you are perplexed as how they could even find a spot to grow in. It doesn't seem as if they actually have any "soil" to live in but rather just trying to push down their roots in crevaces found in the porous slate rock. It should be impossible but they still manage do dig down deep into the slate beneath them so kudos to all those plaants that struggle for the sake of our pleasure! Compared to the previos wine this seems even fresher and more transparent, with a lovely saline approach already from the first sip. On the nose (I sometimes forget to actually start there, instead rushing at the wine and sometimes almost finishing it before realising I should indulge in the aromas as well, not just palate) it's feels more delicate with lots of herbs and dried flowers, slightly sprinkled with some flinty smoke. Another sip reveals the typical Löwenstein characeristic - yes, it has a beautiful precision and lift, yes it's exceedingly fresh and elegant but you have to imagine this together with a pronounced creamy feeling. This was also the case with the Rottgen yet the Blaufusser Lay seems to add intense minerality, salinity and more transparency. Very light and easy on the tongue on the long and persistent finish. Almost menthol minty with a piece of melon right there in the middle. Reminds me of a Spanish/Italian tapas where you just hang at the bar and order a slice of melon together with a Parma ham. Fresh, lively, mineralic and oh so wonderfully delicious! 94 points. Maybe one to high but consider it as a bonus just for Reinhard's character.
2011 Van Volxem Wawerner Goldberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs
It seems to me when I discuss wines from Van Volxem with friends and winemakers that the style from this estate divides most consumers between believers and sceptics. I must honestly say I don't understand why. Sure, it's a very rich style that might not appeal to all but again - it's just another style and interpretation of the terroir like so many other estate that thankfully don't mimic each other but do what they believe in. My only complaint toward the estate would be directed against Roman personally. I always have this pain in my neck after talking to him. And taking photos of him reminds me that I must invest in a shift-tilt lens one of these days. Normally these are used for shooting photos of tall buildings but as anyone who have met Roman can attest, the difference is not too far off. It becomes quite obvious when discussing with Roman that he has a very clear, some would say narrow, mind on what he want's to do with his vineyards and God knows he has the financial means to achieve whatever goal he puts his aim at. I have tasted far too few of his wines to have an broad opinion about his style but the wines I have tasted so far have all been very enjoyable, The Goldert also has, speaking previously about Löwenstein's characteristics, a creamy and luscious feeling but it also posseses more of a succulent texture than the wines mentioned above. While still offering waves of minerailly you have a clear sense of succulent red/yellow peach, a pinch of spices and slightly notes of that flavour I have such difficulties describing. Is it apricot? Or some blend of dried apricot mixed with just the skin of nutmeg? Difficult to describe but adds a certain spicy aroma to both nose and palate and mixed with the yellow peach and apple fruit it combines into a most delightful drink. I have no idea of the sugar content but given it's a GG it should be below 9 grams but it feels like it contains a little more residual sugar than that. Like some version of feinherb. Lovely complexity on the finish with fine tension - makes you go back for another sip and I remember this bottle being consumed in a very short time. 92 points. Need to find more bottles from Van Volxem.
2002 St Urbans-Hof Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese
Nik Weis has opened his door many times and, like Roman and Reinhard, has been posing for many photos - I commend them all for their surprising patience with my obnoxious photo shooting. Just based on Nik's kindness and hospitality, should it be possible, I could award his wines a perfect three digit score every time. And speaking of that last word - time - it's a resource he always seem to generously share with people asking him for a visit. Very impressive. I must admit I'm a sucker for a special vineyard of his, the Ockfener Bockstein. As I said, I have seldom buy wines from this producer but whenever I happen to come across a bottle of the Bockstein I'm always in for a treat. It has the freshness of a Mosel wine, yet it's slightly different, as if mixed with some Ruwer and Saar soil while desperately trying to stay pure Mosel. However, the bottle I opened recently is not from the Saar but from Piesport in Mosel. And speaking of oily, rich and creamy, here you have all of those components, so typically highlighted in this beautiful amphitheater of a vineyard, the Goldtröpfchen. How and why, don't ask me but too me there's always a piece of extra magic when I have a wine that displays so distinct flavours and aromas that I seldom miss to identify its origin. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen is one such vineyard. Whether the characteristics come from the red slate or the perfect sun exposure others have to explain - I can only attest to my fondness of the sum of terroir from this place. I DO understand that it's a wine not for everyone because the distinct characteristics makes it a probable divider among consumers. This is like pure melted gold, like a liquid version of the sun itself, golden yellow and very creamy, rich, "oily", lots of spices and if we talk about fruit think more towards the tropical spectra, like pineapple, dried honey, succulent mango and white raisins. However...had it only been for this the wine would be overwhelmingly heavy and clogging - this one is not. The acidity and minerailty keeps the tension high-spirited and while not transparent and vividly fresh, the wine remains highly enjoyable and playful, even with this level of richness. I urge you to try one out for yourselves to allow for your own opinion. 92 points. Very happy to have a 2002 Auslese from the same vineyard waiting for me to release the genie in the the bottle... :-)
So many wines, so little time... Other bottles further down the pipeline, originating from the same promise to always buy home some bottles of producers seldom tasted, are wines from Schmittges, von Hövel and Kees Kieren.
What's your story? Do you also find yourself buying mostly from a few producers (and many bottles) or do you spread out your purchase and stick to 2-3 bottles from each one of many producers?