Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen

29 06 2016

010ed3efab58f295e3b37d6800cc8431c8fe3ce77aJohannes Hasselbach drove us through Pettenthal and Rothenburg vineyards where we saw how the caterpillar tractors have to be attached to a winch as they go down the steep slopes. It was 33 degrees and really hot and only June! In July and August they have to work in the vineyards in the early morning due to the heat.

Known for its sweet wines (which I still prefer), the rise of dry styles is also reflected here.

My picks:

2014 Riesling Rothenburg GG (Grosses Gewachs)

Has an earthiness and good weight. Only 1.7g/l RS yet tastes a little sweeter.

2015 Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett

Johannes says Kabinett wines are enjoying a bit of a renaissance with young people in Germany. This has a nice balance of sweetness and acidity and good length too. Very different style from the dry wines.

2014 Rothenburg Riesling Spatlese

The best wine so far. No botrytis, spontanous fermentation. Nice length.

2014 Rothenburg Riesling Auslese

7.5%abv. Lusciously sweet. Very good. The 2010 also tasted had a lovely silky, honied texture with lemons, limes and cream.


Weingut Louis Guntrum, Rheinhessen

29 06 2016

0194cfbcae34ced399d91eff7205ec6ffa9dd1587cKonstantin welcomed us onto the river terrace of the Nierstein winery with a glass of Perlfein (their version of Prosecco really) and with the sun beating down it was very refreshing. I remember Guntrum wines from way back and I was impressed with the clean, modern style.

The non-Riesling dry wines were eminently enjoyable eg 2015 Scheurebe, 2015 Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), 2014 or 2015 Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) – all great drinking wines and an interesting alternative to our usual fare.

Plus Guntrum have some stock of back vintages which have been tasted, approved and recorked as necessary.

Here are my pick of the Rieslings:

2015 Niersteiner Riesling Trocken

Nice concentration at this level, light and refreshing

2014 Oppenheimer Sacktrager Riesling Trocken

More terroir on the nose plus richness and power on the palate.  A pineapple ripe note. (We also tasted the 2001 which was very fresh still with some developed diesel aromas – really good).

2014 Pettenthal GG (this is not the VdP Grosses Gewachs but Guntrum’s own trademark)

Real terroir on the nose, lovely weight. Lovely concentration and length.

2015 Nierstein Orbel Riesling Spatlese

Very rich, starts off sweet then closes slightly. Lovely extract.

2015 Nierstiein Hipping Riesling Auslese

Very closed. Usually a dry GG vineyard but there was so much botrytis they picked it for an Auslese. So long and fine, drier on the finish. Lovely balance.

Weingut Dönnhoff, Nahe

29 06 2016

01bfa6f8e26caf2e56d6bf2fc4702f81bf0038f5e4Helmut Donnhoff is the gentlest, nicest man you’ll ever meet. When we arrived he drove us up to a nearby viewpoint on Lemberg mountain at 420m altitude to look down over the sweeping Nahe and its side valleys. We walked into the Hermannshohle vineyard where the virtually organically-grown grapes benefit from the warmth of the river below and then drove to the famous Felsenberg with the tower.

After a refreshing beer and a jolly good dinner we reconvened the next day for the tasting. What enchanting wines are these! Precision, finesse, terroir-driven. I could go on and on. Overall fantastically pure wines that are a delight to drink.

Difficult to pick out favourites here as I liked them all…

2015 Donnhoff Riesling Dry

Crisp, clean, nice balance between acidity and fruit. Light and refreshing. (Tonschiefer is very good too.)

2015 Kreuznacher Kahlenberg Riesling Dry

Earthy good nose – smell the terroir. This is very good. Lovely weight, long and fine.

2015 Roxheimer Hollenpfad Riesling Dry

Red sandstone (the only patch in the Nahe). Zippier, chiselled. Also very fine, more mineral.

The following were cask samples:IMG_0013

2015 Felsenberg Riesling Dry GG (Grosses Gewachs)

Has a smoky, minerality from the volcanic rock – red sandstone. Wow, lovely concentration here, searingly good. Like an elegant lady on a thoroughbred horse. Finish is so long!

2015 Dellchen Riesling Dry GG

Smells of wet stones. This has wonderful crispness and a saline, lime quality too.

2015 Hermannshohle Riesling Dry GG

Very floral, light, delicate, then develops on the finish. Very feminine, very, very fine. Lime-leaf notes.

‘Fruity’ style ie sweet:

2015 Estate Riesling

More texture and weight than the Dry version. 25-28g/l RS, 8.9g/l acidity.

2015 Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett

SE facing, slate. Very delicate, lovely minerality. A little closed at the moment.

2015 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese

A bit closed but really structured and very good. Will age well. Very lime-leaf, primary, saline.

2015 Oberhauser Brucke (monopole) Riesling Spatlese01a7924f5a816d42483ce4183c347dd5412a6e763c

Spritz. Delicate, lacy, dancing, long. Lovely.

2015 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese

Volcanic soils. Can see the weight but quite closed still.

2015 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Auslese

7.5%, >100g/l RS. More colour, more restrained. Botrytis nose. Very long, some mandarin and apricot flavours. Incredibly fine.

Jean Stodden, Ahr

29 06 2016

012ee143f68dfcb4310d2f24b0a21fc99ec8f6997eLook closely at this photograph and you’ll see the slate bedrock coming up underneath the wall built to terrace the 90 degree sloped vineyard above. That’s how close the slate is to the surface here in Stodden’s vineyards above the small town of Rech in the Ahr.


Alexander Stodden drove us here in his very smart (and fast!) car and the Ahr looks such a pretty river, I’d definitely come here for a holiday. In fact you can get the train here from Bonn, exit the platform and you’ll find yourself right outside the back of Stodden’s cellar (which is currently being extended). His vineyards are up the hill on the other side of the tracks looking over the valley floor and natural amphitheatre of vines which provides a microclimate that can reach temperatures of 50 degrees in the summer!

This is a very special estate with fabulous Pinot Noirs. If you are a Burgundy fan then you must try them. Here were some of my favourites:

2013 Spatburgunder JS

10% new oak gives this a scent of sweet vanilla. Very moreish, balanced and harmonious.

2005 as above

Still looks and smells youthful with a sweet meat and spice nose, good acidity and energy. Ageing very well.

2013 Recher Herrenberg Spatburgunder

Concentrated and velvety. Very pretty, aromatic, warming. Very good indeed.

2007 as above

Lovely clarity, pure drinkable fruit. Hardly budged, ageing very gracefully. Drinking very well.

2013 Neuenahrer Sonnenberg Spatburgunder GG (Grosses Gewachs)

This is grown 10kms away on virtually pure rock. There is real terroir on the nose here, much more structure and drier tannins. Very burgundian. Not cheap but so good.

2013 Recher Herrenberg Spatburgunder GG

Smells like a very pretty Gevrey or Chambolle. This has terroir but also real lift in the mouth. Fabulous, long, expressive. Very fine.


Dr Loosen, Mosel

29 06 2016


I am ashamed to say it was my first proper visit to the Mosel. As I said in a previous post, the last time I had an opportunity to go it was just before my MW exam and I thought I’d better revise. Ever since (only 21 years!!) I’ve yearned to go and see these vertiginous slopes for myself. I wasn’t disappointed. To use my daughter’s phrase: OMG – how do they work these vines? I would be scared to step foot in any of them. Not only are they incredibly steep but the slate underfoot forms a dangerous, slippery scree. 01d008c7c0fce5b104c7a4f48de51a9d7baa287c4cHealth & Safety is obviously not allowed anywhere near here as there are no fences or barriers to keep you from falling off. I’m going to have to come back at harvest time and see just how they do it. Spraying for disease is done by helicopter (so if someone says they’re organic, take it with a pinch of salt as all the various owners’ parcels are muddled up).0120166b01159e767b2cf2066bb4fc3e70783acce4

We had an excellent tasting in the cellar with Matt Giedratis followed by a delicious dinner with Thomas Loosen (Ernie was in Taiwan) and some fun blind tasting (eg a 1976 Meursault Charmes, Leroy – really ripe, toffee).

Overall you can’t go wrong with these wines. At the less expensive end they are very good value and at the top end the Erdener Treppchen Auslese was so expertly balanced. Here were my favourites from those tasted:

2015 Red Slate Estate Riesling

Blue slate is more common in the Mosel but the slate is red around Erden and Urzig. Vinified in big old casks of 3000 litres this has good character on both the nose and the palate. Well made, crisp and clean.

2014 Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Dry

On blue slate which is supposed to be give a bit more of a peach or apricot note. Yes I could see this and super balance.

2013 Bernkasteler Lay Riesling Dry GG (Grosses Gewachs)

Dry wines must be made with 100% healthy grapes so a lot of selection is needed. This has a very mineral nose, slightly closed. Good silky weight. Lovely ripeness and more power.

2013 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Dry GG Alte Reben (old vines)

Also closed, this has a spicy hint, a tiny spritz and is delicate, lacy but hidden for now.

2012 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Dry Reserve

This has more character and power. Steely. Length is better too. You could age this 20 years and so they use a heavy dark green bottle to allow no light ingress and a slightly wider diameter cork (26mm instead of 24mm).

Then we moved to the ‘Fruity’ style (by which they mean with residual sugar):

2015 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett

A spicy savouriness on the nose – you can see where the petrol characters will develop. Touch of sherbet. Very refreshing. 7.5%abv and around 45g/l RS and 8-8.5g/l acidity.

2015 Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Spatlese

I thought there was some botrytis on the nose, but I’m told botrytis is really only used for Auslese and up. This was picked about two weeks later and has a lovely mandarin character.

2011 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese

50-60% botrytis. Beautiful wine, so well balanced. Green and yellow honey and flowers. Lovely acidity. Very good.

2013 Riesling Beerenauslese

6.5%abv. Very sweet but I didn’t find it as concentrated or fine. Perhaps the botrytis here masks the terroir a little.

2013 Riesling Eiswein (not from Mosel but from Washington State!)

6.5%abv. Gold capsule. Different reference of flavours completely, toasty and very sweet of course. It’s not easy to produce Eiswein in Germany these days with global warming. The temperature has to get down to -7C. You’ve got to hand it to Ernie, he’s a very good businessman – if you can no longer make it in Germany, make it somewhere else! This also comes in a tiny 187ml bottle in a slim gift carton.

Villa Wolf, Pfalz

29 06 2016

This estate dates back to the 18th century but has regenerated under the direction of Ernie Loosen since 1996. We met Sumi Gebauer, a lovely and very talented lady who is managing the estate with her partner Patrick Mollendorf. Here the climate is a bit warmer than the Mosel with 1800 sunshine hours and lemon and almond trees. The Haardt mountains protect the vineyards from bad weather rather like the Cote does in Burgundy and the best vineyards are on the slopes down to the road (see map below).

map forster pechsteinThese are good drinking wines with modern, clean flavours that provide excellent value. My favourites of those tasted were:

2015 Pinot Blanc

Peachy, soft, a hint of minerality. The ripeness makes it taste slightly sweet. Easy drinking

2015 Pinot Gris

More restrained on the nose but more weight and character on the palate with a silky smooth texture which is very attractive.

2015 Riesling Wachenheimer

Some tropical notes on the nose, grapefruit, passionfruit. Good.

2014 as above from single Konigs vineyard

Citrus aroma and definitely more concentration on the palate and a longer finish.

2014 Riesling Wachenheimer Belz

Grown on limestone, this is more taut and needs a bit more time. Has a more linear feel to it and is finer overall. More weight – almost has a Pinot Gris style to it.

2014 Riesling Pechstein (see map)

This vineyard has black basalt soils and this was my favourite of the tasting. Intense, savoury nose. Very tight on the finish. Very ripe and good concentration. Apparently this vineyard is a Grosses Gewachs but as they are not VdP members they cannot put GG on the label, so it should represent good value.

Weingut Karl H Johner, Baden

29 06 2016

Having studied at Geisenheim, Karl Heinz and Irene started their wine careers in England at Pilton Manor. This must have stood them in good stead (the challenge of ripening grapes in such a cool climate must have been a steep learning curve!) as they really know how to make wine. They also have an estate in Wairarapa, New Zealand and we tasted some cracking Gladstone Pinot Noir.


017931ab88112a21aa30d9206f089118b829763323First of all we drove up to the top of Mondhalde mountain – in fact an old volcano – to look over the vines to the east and across to Alsace. Then we drove up Steinbock hill where they are trialling some Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1990.


The Johners are not VDP members and this could be to do with their very entrepreneurial spirit. For example on one of their vineyards in New Zealand they filled the inter-rows with a channel of limestone to improve the acidity in the wine. ‘Learning by doing’ is Karl H’s philosophy – and it works. I came away thinking I must widen my perspectives…


Wines I particularly liked included:

2015 Grauer Burgunder

On lees for 7 months in old oak barrels gives this nice weight with a slightly Alsation style and a mineral, warm finish. Very ripe and good, especially given it had been bottled that day.

2013 Spatburgunder Kaiserstuhl

Burgundian style here with very good concentration from the smaller berries this vintage. Savoury and warming.

2011 SJ (Selection Johner) Spatburgunder

Really delicious with lovely concentration, great texture, still youthful. Great wine.

2011 SJ Spatburgunder Eichberg

Oldest Pinot vines on a very elegant soil. Creamy texture, again youthful – more than a 2011 Burgundy would be?

1996, 1992, 1989 Spatburgunder015d649db3d580fd34cf4d7e1f04f2a4206f95466b015aac7ff518bce285bd2395a7c9f26e6c9fdaee4e

Lots of black sediment on the 1996, very ripe. The 1992 had a deeper colour but was starting to taste a little watery. The 1989 was even darker with a spicy, Camp Coffee nose like you get on old Burgundy. Amazing really…

2011 Gewurztraminer, Steinbuck

Delicious, with mandarins on the palate. Low acidity but very good.

Weingut Schnaitmann, Wurttemberg

29 06 2016


Rainer Schnaitmann is a real dynamo with an exercise bike hooked up to the electrics in the winery and tales of paragliding from the top of the hill and down over the vines towards the town of Stuttgart below. We drove up the hill into Rainer’s vines which are farmed organically and tasted a few wines in the vines (I love doing that!). Rainer started with 3 hectares and now has 25. Back in the winery someone had spent a long time lighting what looked like hundreds of candles and music was being played to the wines in tank and barrel (I think it was Bach but they get all sorts including jazz – Rainer says he got the idea from this from Kevin Judd at Cloudy Bay who used to play heavy rock so loudly that the wines vibrated!). Tasting from vat and barrel in the candlelit cellar was very atmospheric but not conducive to taking notes… Of academic interest was an ‘orange’ wine – a Silvaner from barrel with four months skin contact. It was very dry and reminded me of a fino but without the flor – weird.IMG_0022

During dinner in a local restaurant we again tasted so many wines it was hard to keep track. Rainer lives a fast-paced life but I do particularly remember liking a 2013 Spatburgunder Simonroth. There are lots of different grape varieties here including Grauerburgunder (Pinot Gris) which is growing in popularity, Muskateller, Lemberger (Blaufrankisch), Trollinger and others. This is not the best known region but Rainer says there are good soils here and this is definitely a domaine to watch.

Weingut Rudolf Furst, Franken

28 06 2016

IMG_0001Furst, Burgstadt am Main, Franken

The very cheery Sebastian welcomed us to his hillside winery and showed us the vineyards on the slope behind. You don’t really walk much in the vineyards in Germany I’ve found, because the slopes are so steep you’d be too nervous of tripping over on the way down or getting very out of breath walking up! Situated in the western part of Franconia with 20 hectares mostly on red sandstone soils, this is a classic spot to grow Pinot Noir. New vine plantings are on Dijon clones and taste even more reminiscent of Burgundy than the slightly-smoky-bacon notes of the old German clones. Extremely fine Pinot Noir to be found here.

2015 Silvaner

Furst’s Silvaner is grown 100km away on one of the areas of limestone in Germany and this does give it a mineral, saline character. It is lightly peachy with a white pepper note, then a mown hay aroma and mouthwatering citrus acidity. A good food wine this can be enjoyed in the same way as a Gruner Veltliner from Austria.

2015 Riesling Centgrafenberg GG (Grosses Gewachs – like Grand Cru)

Very concentrated yet restrained, this had three hours skin contact and has a steeliness yet silky texture. Will be bottled in July. The 2012, also tasted, has developed honeydew melon and ripe pear notes and was very nice. The 2005 in the old Bocksbeutel flask had a beautifully developed Riesling nose with characteristic petrol notes and fabulous richness on the palate.

2014 Klingenberger Spatburgunder

This 100% slope is a very hot vineyard site where they have to work very early in the morning. This was a real discovery and reminded me of Chambolle Musigny in its fragrant nose and in its concentration. It has that fine delicacy of fine Burgundy. The 2015 tasted from tank in the cellar was slightly reduced and difficult to see but sure to be equally as good.

2014 Centgrafenberg Spatburgunder GG

A step up in concentration and structure with black cherry fruit. Also very burgundian. Silky, mouthfilling fruit, rich and opulent with bright acidity. Very good! The 2015 from tank was rich and concentrated.

2014 Schlossberg Spatburgunder GG

Deeper colour, more texture, really silky and mouthwatering. Lovely concentration and so long. The 2015 is excellent too.

2014 Hundsruck Spatburgunder GG

If I had to compare it to a Burgundy, this is more Vougeot. From the steepest slope in Burgstadt which is very stony with high iron content. Really long and fine. These Pinots will be the next ‘big thing’! The 2015 from tank had barbecue aromas, more tannin but with a silky sweet palate. Fabulous.


Germany – a revelation!

28 06 2016

IMG_001320 odd years ago as a Master of Wine student, German wines were all about varying levels of sweetness from Kabinett to Trockenbeerenauslese and Eiswein. I found Germany a difficult area to study and I remember deciding not to go on a wine trip there because it was just before my exam. I have regretted that decision ever since – until last week! I was fortunate enough to be invited on a ‘Masters of Riesling & Pinot Noir’ trip organised by one of our suppliers with a 1200km whistle-stop tour to a producer in each of the main wine producing regions and it was a real eye-opener.

Global warming wasn’t talked about back then but it certainly is now. Harvest dates have advanced by up to four weeks, potential alcohol levels have increased while acidity has decreased. Now the talk is of dry wines more than sweet and red grape varieties, particularly Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder) planted in warmer, southerly regions, are rivalling (seriously) those of Burgundy. I returned asking myself when all this change had happened and how had it passed me by? As a lover of Pinot Noir, how come I had not tasted some of these absolutely gorgeous wines?!

This change in climate and therefore in the styles of wine produced has understandably created some confusion. The old German wine laws weren’t designed to cope with this. The ‘by invitation only’ VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) Association of around 200 members has created a Grosses Gewachs or Grand Cru system for dry (Trocken) white wines from top vineyard sites. The concept is laudable but the fact that it is not enshrined in law makes it confusing and very political. Fall out with the VDP and you might not be allowed in. So some producers have, cheekily some would say, registered Grosses Gewachs with their name as a trademark.

I’ll be adding tasting notes for each of the domaines so keep checking back for more…