Rheinhessen rules

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Rheinhessen rules

Postby Peter Ruhrberg » Tue Aug 01, 2006 12:40 pm

24 top dry Rieslings from 2004 were tasted blind, to determine once and forall who makes the best dry Riesling. The unambiguous result: Rheinhessen. The tasting took place in the Keller cellar (Keller Keller in German...), and was designed to make that point, if you like, to a famous wine writer, who had so far not been known to hold this view, at least in public. THe rest of the taster were highly competent professionals & amateurs who needed less convincing (and incompetent me - who needed no convincing either). Still, the unanimity of opinion was striking, and it was pretty much a clean sweep. The line up can hardly be accused of missing many important contenders (all hopes of Alsace have to be on St. Hune...). The obvoius regions outside Germany: Alsace & Austria were well rpesesented.

Allow me to just give you my results without detailed notes. I did not take useful notes, but concentrated on judging quality (as I perceive it).

Top 5 - great Rieslings:
Keller G-Max (RH)
Keller Kirchspiel (RH)
Keller Hubacker (RH)
Wittmann Morstein (RH)
Keller Morstein (upgraded to top on retasting) (RH)

near top superb Rieslings:
Dönnhoff Herrmannshöhle (Nahe)
Prager Wachstum Bodenstein (Wachau)
Wittmann Aulerde (RH)
Wittmann Kirchspiel (RH)
Christmann Idig (Pfalz)

very good Rieslings:
Gunderloch Rothenberg (RH)
Boxler Brandt (Alsace)
Leitz Schlossberg (Rheingau)
Dirler Spiegel (Alsace)

good or less good Rieslings:
Wittmann Westhoven 'S' (quite good but a bit simple) (RH)
Diel Goldloch (Butter & Apple notes) (Nahe)
Jamek Klaus (some bitterness & tiredness) (Wachau)
Hirtzberger Singerriedl (seems problematic to me, bitterness, too much extraction?) (Wachau)
FX Pichler Kellerberg (smoky, bitter, a bit drab) (Wachau)
Rebholz Kastanienbusch (beans & peppers, grrr) (Pfalz)
Mann Schlossberg (sugary - acid stands beside the sweetness) (Alsace)
Weinbach Schlossberg (vanilla & wood notes grrr) (Alsace)

More thoughts: 2004 seems to have been a tough year for the Wachau. It confirms the impressin from a tasting last fall, that they struggled with the vintage. Botrytis seems to have been a problem, turning the wines towards bitterness. Singerriedl is usually one of my top wines, but not in 04. I doubt it can overcome its toughness. Prager's Wachstum Bodenstein though proves that great riesling could be made in 04 in the Wachau. Alsace is another matter. I don't thing they have much of an excuse for not producing better rieslings. They keep confirming my preconceptions...

Whatever the limitations of such exercises are, I think one cannot ignore the fact the the chalky soils of a corner of Rheinhessen (Kirchspiel & Morstein are adjacent vineyards at Westhoven) under the hands of two gifted young and ambituous wine makers, currently produce some of the greatest dry Rieslings on the planet. Try them while you can still afford it ;)

Peter
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Rahsaan » Tue Aug 01, 2006 7:20 pm

one cannot ignore the fact the the chalky soils of a corner of Rheinhessen (Kirchspiel & Morstein are adjacent vineyards at Westhoven


Don't forget all of that sun, makes them better suited for dry wines than the Mosel, no?
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Dan Smothergill » Tue Aug 01, 2006 8:24 pm

Anyone know where Rheinhessen Rieslings, particularly Keller, is available on-line in the US?
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Peter Ruhrberg » Wed Aug 02, 2006 4:25 am

Lack of sunshine wasn't exactly the problem in recent years in germany. There is a very good article from "world of fine wine" on Kellers web site http://www.keller-wein.de/ discussing this matter.

I don't know who (if anyone) brings Keller wines to the US. Kate Whitemore used to import some in the 90s. Best to ask The Kellers through the contact e-mail on their web site.

Peter

P.S.: Just remebered: I did buy some Keller wine at DeeVine last year.
P.P.S.: checked DeeVine again: they carry mostly< high end sweet wines from Keller. The do have Kirchspiel GG 2004 though!
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby JeanF » Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:16 am

Hi Peter,

The only instance in which Rheinhessen can rule is if you don't include any Rheingau or Franken :)

More seriously, I find G-Max ok, but I prefer the precision of Georg Breuer (ok, I didn't taste anything younger than 2001) or Koehler-Ruprecht (in a very opulent slightly oxidative style).

And of course, if I am given the choice, I will drink a 2000er Iphofer Julius-Echter-Berg Riesling Spätlese Trocken S - but that is a different story.

See you later today!

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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Peter Ruhrberg » Fri Aug 04, 2006 6:10 am

Franken was missing, you are right. That is because Franken is lagging behind in dry Riesling these days. I'm only half kidding... We had Leitz from Rheingau, and frankly, I do not think Breuer is in any way clearly superior to Leitz. Older G-Max vintages have not impressed my as much either. You know that I have been a Keller sceptic in the late 90s when they were getting showered with praise be the Gault Millau, Gerstl, etc... I did not taste Keller in 00/01. Not sure about 02, but with 03 I felt that something was happening. The wines were not only suprisingly well delineated and elegant for the vintage, but tasted deeper and more natural than earlier renditions. Only Dönnhoff HH was perhaps better in 03 for my taste. We had Ruck JEB 03 for comparison, and it was a soldid wine, but not quite up to that level. In 04 I see Dönnhoff HH slightly behind, because it is very sleek and thus a bit outgunned in blind tastings, but it sure is superb. But Keller simply nailed it in 04 for my taste. I never had a Köhler Ruprecht that I would prefer to e.g. the 04 G-Max. Sorry. As for 05, I think Keller is even surpassing 04 (as is Dönnhoff). The old guard of German dry wine is well advised to up their game...

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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Tim York » Fri Aug 04, 2006 4:34 pm

Peter/Jean,

Can you advise where I can get some of these, particularly the Keller. Presumably the estate is sold out!
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby JeanF » Sat Aug 05, 2006 9:53 am

Peter: I never tasted Leitz - however 1987 Breuer Nonnenberg is stunning and so is the 1992 Schlossberg. Up there with the Clos Saint-Hune stuff. Regarding Franken, I guess you are right - it's only my romatic side which still love these spicy wines. BTW, I started doing in Franken what I do since quite a while in the Wachau: buy Kabinett to get a true spätese. The SpÄtlese these days are hitting 13.5 which is simply put madness for Riesling.

Tim: sorry, didn't taste the Keller recently. I only had through Tom (do you know him?) a series of Keller 2003 and they were very impressive.
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Rahsaan » Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:57 am

There is a very good article from "world of fine wine" on Kellers web site http://www.keller-wein.de/ discussing this matter.


Yes, interesting article, and interesting that Keller won't reveal the sources for one of his wines because grapes have been stolen in the past.

Is that common? By other winemakers who put it in their wine I suppose? I've wondered about the possibility for theft and/or sabotage, but I guess the dynamics of each region are so different. Cote Rotie seemed to have lots of expensive grapes so close together, but I guess the proximity was such that it would be hard to harvest lots of someone else's grapes without anyone knowing.

Plus, are the ambitious winemakers really into that kind of theft/thing?
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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Peter Ruhrberg » Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:45 pm

I never asked about the grape theft when I visited Kellers (twice this year). Next time I will. I don't think this is very common. One wonder though if some jealous wine maker wanted to figure out whether he can make as good a wine as Keller if given the same material... I do know another reason for keeping the vineyard source a secrect. As soon as neigboring vintner find out about it, the priced for land in that vineyard are going to rise, and Kellers are looking for ways to expand their holdings in the best sites. It is worth noting that the Kirchspiel and Morstein holdings were both recently acquired, and with their rising fame, expansion gets more difficult.

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Re: Rheinhessen rules

Postby Peter Ruhrberg » Tue Aug 08, 2006 12:49 pm

Tim York wrote:Peter/Jean,

Can you advise where I can get some of these, particularly the Keller. Presumably the estate is sold out!


I buy them in subscription at http://www.pinard-de-picard.de/ but for G-Max and Morstein one has to be very quick. It's all too late now...
(I know the owner - I have no business connection though)

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