This really was like a walk through paradise. At the VDP Grosse Gewächse Tour I had the pleasure to attend, I was able to taste some of the most acclaimed Rieslings from Nahe Rheinhessen and Pfalz. Ok technically seen, Rheingau and Mosel which are also big compartments of Riesling Paradise were left out, but I have to admit that it would have been too many wines in the end, and I felt lucky enough with 42 top-estates that were represented.
So somehow it was also quite a bit of work. In the end I tasted through 75 wines in 3 hours and I didn’t know that white wines could dry your palate out until then (GG are barrel aged and therefore can also be a little astringent, especially when they’re so young). And even though I spat out (otherwise my ability to judge would have been biased heavily), I felt a little exhausted at the end. Unfortunately, although I had a quite good pace, I didn’t make it to the reds, and therefore I missed some of Germanys best Pinots like those from the Ahr for example. What a pity! But as I said, I felt lucky with my Rieslings, so let’s report about them!
Riesling is a grape which has the ability to transport terroir into the wineglass. So my goal at this tasting was more trying to discern the differences between regions and vineyards, rather than making a point ranking of 75 wines (which sounds idiotic anyway). In the end however, I realized that some regions have done better than others in 2006, which is of course linked to the weather situation some estates had to deal with during harvest. But this is only the more general view. Specifically seen, each region had its highlights which I’d like to point out.
The First section of Paradise I walked through was the Nahe region. Their Rieslings have been heavily acclaimed by critics these last months and it represents in a certain way the rising wine region of the moment. I can only confirm that. Most f the wines presented themselves very refined, with nice aromas, some a little more masculine with herbaceous and tobacco-like tones, some with a nice powerful kick and a beautiful length. There was something for every taste. Personally I really liked the Monziger Halenberg and Frühlingspläzchen of Emrich-Schönleber. Several layers of aromas, complexity, balance, energetic on the palate and great finish. I also liked the beautifully balanced Pittersberg from Kruger-Rumpf with a nice fruity extract caressing your palate. Of course producers like Schlossgut Diel, Dönnhof and Schäfer-Fröhlich also had very convincing wines, but as I said before I only wanted to point out a few.
In the Pfalz the estates are all awaiting a bombastic 2007 vintage. Meanwhile, despite a very difficult harvesting, the 2006 weren’t bad either. I liked the more feminine and elegant style of Fitz-Ritters GG Kanzel and Michelsberg (Bad Dürkheim), with finely perfumed noses and persistent minerality. The Mardelskopf from Pfeffingen-Fuhrmann-Eymael is a Pfalz Riesling with a very own personality which combines fruit notes with a peppery finish. Bürklin-Wolf as usual showed some well done Kalkofen, Ungeheuer and Pechstein, the last one being more emphasized on the complexity of the fruit aromas, but less powerful than many other GG at the tasting. I really liked Bassermann-Jordan for having a very balanced and elegant collection, and von Buhl for having more energy-loaded Rieslings. Paradiesgarten and Reiterpfad were 2 beautiful wines with Paradiesgarten showing a little more power and Reiterpfad revealing a superb aromatic length. As for their Pechstein, it appeared in a very different style than Bürklins’ with an emphasis on a powerful extract. Christmann of Gimmeldingen had the most explosive GG-collection of the Pfalz. A beautiful mix of Fruit, Minerality and Power, with especially the Königsbacher Idig to be pointed out which had a great flint stone nose and an energy-loaded palate. All in all Pfalz had a lot of nice bottles and a greater variety of styles but in my opinion appeared less radiant than Nahe and Rheinhessen in 2006.
But before I jump to Rheinhessen there is also a white wine from the Southern Pfalz I have to mention. Not a Riesling but a Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), the Schlangenpfiff from Weingut Münzberg in Landau. I am not a connoisseur of Pinot Blanc but this wine really impressed me with a dense and perfumed nose of Flintstone and herbs and a very clear fruit on the palate and a nice finish. Very sexy!
But let’s head to Rheinhessen now.
A region which has brought up sensationally good wines these last years and somehow never finishes impressing. One Estate particularly stood out there for me: Kühling-Gillot. They presented 3 superb Riesling. 2 of them, Pettenthal and Ölberg stem from the Roter Hang, a monumental steep vineyard on the Rhine with a red slate soil giving the wine a very racy herbaceous taste. Pettenthal is vibrant and explosive, a very masculine type of Riesling with herbs, tobacco, a complex body with several layers, dried fruits, minerality and a very long showdown. Ölberg is in a similar style, but still a little denser. These wines just blew me off my shoes. Great stuff! Also St.Antony had very nice GG from the Roter Hang, but in a slightly different style, more feminine with a nice clarity, less vehement and more filigree.
So these were the wines I wanted to point out. There was of course no wine among them which was not good; somehow it was like comparing a fleet of Ferraris and trying to pick the most beautiful. Not an easy task, believe me -and of course one which is a matter of personal taste. At the end of the day though, I have to ask myself which region I would prefer if I had to buy wines, or more radically, which bottle would I pick, if I could only buy one? And to answer that question, I think I’d pick one of Küling-Gillots GG, probably Pettenthal. I was just so impressed with the quality of the wines from an estate I hardly heard of before and this is just in line with the stunning development of the Roter Hang vineyards. All of the wines from this hill have a great terroir, and this is really a region I’d like to keep my eye on these next years.
So believe me, I’m very much looking forward for my next walk though paradise.