Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category
This happened to me the other day. The wine in question was a bottle of Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Spätlese Riesling 2011.
Dönnhoff is regarded by many as one of (if not the) finest producers of Riesling in the world.
The estate is set in the heart of the Nahe wine region. The Nahe is a relatively small German wine growing area and takes its name from the Nahe River that flows through the region. The region’s best vineyards are usually found on steep slopes towering down over the Nahe river.
This brings me to the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle – the jewel in Dönnhoff’s crown! The Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle vineyard is a little over 8 hectares in size and is positioned on the north side of the Nahe River.
The soil is quite complex and the upper part (where the very best grapes are grown) is made up of volcanic and slate soils. The slope has a calf-burning steepness of 30-45% and only Riesling is planted – my kind of vineyard!
The wines – like this one from Dönnhoff - are known for having intense mineral and spicy notes with immense concentration of fruit. This is thanks to the soil structure and also the position of the steep slopes overlooking the Nahe river, which reflects the sunlight onto the vines.
I don’t mind admitting I have a real soft spot for this vineyard. Not only did I spend a magical few months working on it during my time at the Dönnhoff estate a couple of years back but also served the Niederhäuser Hermannhöhle Riesling from Jakob Scheider at my wedding! So, yeah, I’m a convert!
I won’t bore you with any more minutiae about this vineyard but if you love Riesling (dry or off-dry) then I urge you to explore the wines produced from grapes grown in this vineyard. You will find one of the purest and most memorable expressions of the Riesling grape in the world.
I’m very excited to announce that on Friday 21st March I will be launching my own pop-up restaurant for one night. I have teamed up with old school friend turned chef, Freddie Southwell, to put on a show-stopping night for lovers of food and wine.
As well as running his own catering company, Wild Seasoning, Freddie has spent time in Nepal passing on his passion and knowledge of Nepalese food to foodies via cookery classes, market visits and traditional village tours. At our pop-up, he will be offering a selection of Nepalese style dishes cooked in a modern contemporary way – his vision is to redesign famous Nepali dishes whilst sticking to the core principles of the Himalayan food culture.
I’ll be putting the drinks offering together and looking after front of house. Of course, with the heat, spice and aromatics of the Nepalese cuisine, there is no better match than Riesling. My Noble Revolution Rieslings will be more than up to the task and I believe this is a moment for The Reactionary to take centre stage. (If you haven’t tried them yet, send me an email by clicking here and I’ll send you a bottle!).
There will also be a selection of craft beers, cocktails, red wines and digestives which I will prepare to suit Freddie’s menu. There will also be a fantastic selection of soft drinks available from Fever-tree.
So here’s what will be coming out of the kitchen.
Spiced new potato sandheko with a mint yoghurt
- Daal pate with pickled vegetables on crispy chapatti
- Mutton momos with yellow tomato achaar
- Peanut sandheko spoons
- Chicken sekuwa wings with coriander achaar
Nepali spiced steamed fish-cakes, carrot, mooli & coriander salad served with a lemon & red onion achaar
Nepalese Chilli pork three ways – Chilli pan-roasted pork loin, chilli braised pork cheek & Chilli oil confit pork belly served with Apple & fennel achaar & squash tarkari puree
Chilli pan-fried paneer cheese with a tomato & onion takhari (veggie option)
Steamed Basmati rice infused with Jimbu topped with crispy onion, garlic & daal
Yoghurt ice cream with caramelised pineapple, salted almond chilli praline, mango puree, lime jelly
There are just a few tickets left – you can purchase them here. If you can’t make it this time round, email me on email@example.com and I’ll put you on the waiting list for the next evening we do.
Thanks, as ever, for your support.
As regular readers of this blog know, Riesling is my passion. Riesling’s thrilling balance of acidity, complex citrusy flavours and ability to respond to vineyard character makes it one of the world’s greatest grapes.
German Riesling, in particular, holds a special place for me, as it was in Germany – in the village of Rüdesheim in the Rheingau to be exact – where I first stumbled upon this magical grape variety.
Yet, to my dismay, German Riesling has historically had a tough time in the UK due to its association with “cheap and sweet” low quality bulk wine and an overcomplicated labeling system.
In fact, one of the reasons that I launched The Riesling Revolutionary was to help improve its image in the UK and show people that the Germans are actually producing some world class, DRY white wines.
However, as time went on, I felt that my efforts were being undercut somewhat by the fact that many German producers were continuing to produce wines with gothic looking labels and confusing terminology.
The quality of the wine was never an issue for me. It was the way it was being presented to the consumer.
But rather than standing idly by, I thought I would get hasty and take matters into my own hands.
So, Noble Revolution Wines was born.
My mission was to create a range of wines that not only possessed everything I loved about great German Riesling – crisp acidity, textbook minerality and a sense of place. But, they also had to be attractive and approachable for UK wine drinkers.
If uncertainty surrounding sweetness was an issue, I would make sure that my wine labels clearly stated that the wines are DRY.
If people were often put off by gothic looking script and technical jargon, I would make my labels ultra MODERN looking, exclusively in English and jargon free.
If people associated the tall, slim traditional German wine bottle with the Hock and Liebfraumilch of yesteryear, I would bottle my Rieslings in a BURGUNDY shaped bottle.
One of my first decisions after launching Noble Revolution Wines was to team up with my now business partner and former Senior Vice President at The Coca Cola Company, Herbert Hoffmann. With over 20 years working for the world’s most iconic drinks brand, I knew that Herbert’s wealth of experience and expertise would be invaluable when taking our wines to market.
Together, we set out in search of a winemaker who could help us make our dream a reality. We found that person in Jürgen Meng. Jürgen’s winery is based in the village of Mülheim in the heart of Germany’s Pfalz wine region, the largest growing region in the world for Riesling. The Pfalz’s reputation for producing juicy, powerful Rieslings and Jürgen’s passion and energy made him the perfect partner for Noble Revolution Wines.
So, we set him the challenge of producing for us a range of dry Rieslings that not only tasted great but also reflected the character of the region and the vineyards where the grapes were grown. In the meantime, we went away to find a designer who could create the artwork for our labels.
We could not have been happier with the results. Jürgen kept his end of the bargain in a big way by producing two superb tasting, dry Rieslings from the 2012 vintage. Also, the design team from Identity, led by head designer Mark Whittington, created labels that were distinctive, trendy and had a sense of intrigue.
Further posts will follow in the coming weeks about the wines – named ‘The Trendsetter’ and ‘The Reactionary’ – and more information will also be available at www.noblerevolution.com which will be live shortly.
But if, in the meantime, you have any questions or would like to know where you can find the wines, just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, a big shout out to all those people who have helped me with this venture over the past few months. You know who you are and I am immensely grateful for your input and support.
The novelist and critic, Kingsley Amis, once wrote that “a German wine label is one of the things life’s too short for”. And for good reason. German producers are required by law to provide very detailed information on their wine labels ranging from quality levels to control numbers. Whilst you would think that this information would help inform the consumer in his or her choice of wine, it actually often has the opposite effect. A combination of words in the German language, terms relating to a seemingly impenetrable classification system and information overload leaves many consumers scratching their heads and reaching for the closest bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
But, in fact, a German wine label actually contains lots of very useful information. The key, of course, is knowing how to decode it. So, what I have tried to do is pick apart the label below to hopefully give you greater confidence when faced with a shelf of otherwise irresistible German Rieslings!
1. Name of producer
Let’s kick things off with an easy win. It seems blindingly obvious but every German wine label will contain the name of the producer or bottler. The producer’s name will often (but not always) be preceded by the word “Weingut” which simply means “winery” – in this case the producer is Weingut Dr Hermann. The address of the producer will also appear on the label.
2. The vintage
Again, another easy win here. This bottle is a 2010 vintage. Vintages in Germany tend to vary from region to region but generally speaking 2007 and 2009 were particularly good across the board. 2010 was a difficult vintage with lower yields but quality was still high among top producers.
3. The grape variety
Unlike a lot of Old World wine producing countries such as France, Italy and Spain, German producers will usually always state the grape variety on their labels. You will see that this bottle quite clearly says it’s a Riesling. This means that you shouldn’t have any problems tracking down the varietal you are looking for as it will be plastered across the label! Contrast this to the French system which (with the exception of Alsace) labels its wines by geographical region – for example, a bottle from the Northern Rhone may be labelled ‘Crozes Hermitage’ (the geographical location) rather than ‘Syrah’ (the grape from which it is made).
4. The growing regions
There are 13 wine growing regions in Germany, namely: Ahr, Baden, Franken, Hessische Bergstraße, Mittelrhein, Mosel, Nahe, Pfalz, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen and Württemberg. Generally speaking, Riesling is the dominant grape variety when it comes to these regions’ premium wines, with the exception of Ahr and Baden, which are known in particular for their Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir).
There are a handful of regions in particular which are worth putting to memory and which you are likely to see with reasonable regularity outside of Germany – Mosel, Nahe, Rheingau, Baden and Pfalz immediately spring to mind. You will see that this bottle is from the Mosel region. But I should point out that there are some very exciting wines being produced in the other regions, many of which are seriously underrated.
5. Style of the wine
Ok, here we hit more difficult territory. What most people want to know is whether the wine will be dry, off-dry, or sweet. The label will not always tell you this but by learning these simple terms you give yourself an excellent chance of working this out.
Trocken means dry; halbtrocken and feinherb mean off-dry; Classic and Selection indicate a dry wine; Erste Gewächs and Grosses Gewächs mean First Growth or Great Growth (i.e. Premier Cru) respectively – these Cru wines will always be dry.
To be on the safe side, you should therefore assume that if you don’t see the words trocken, Classic, Selection, Erste Gewächs or Grosses Gewächs then there is likely to be some residual sugar in the wine.
This wine label does not contain any of the words listed above so we should assume that the wine will be off-dry or sweet (even though it does not say it is halbtrocken or feinherb).
6. The quality level of the wine
If there is one piece of information that leads to more confusion and uncertainty than any other it is the German quality classification system. But it is key to determining the wine’s style so unfortunately you have no choice but to take the pain on this one.
The first thing to understand is that there are 4 quality levels. These are, in ascending order: Tafelwein (table wine – equivalent to vin de table); Landwein (land wine – equivalent to vins de pays), Qualitätswein (quality wine from a specified region) and Prädikatswein (wine with distinction). Less than 5% of wine produced in Germany is classified as Tafelwein and Landwein.
Within the top category – Prädikatswein – there are 6 categories. If you can recognise which category a Prädikatswein belongs to it will help you massively in determining the wine’s style.
The 6 categories ascend according to the level of ripeness of the grapes at the time they are picked – they are: Kabinett, Spätlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese (or TBA) and Eiswein. You should note that Kabinett and Spätlese wines will often be dry but this will not always be the case (so look for the word trocken). Auslese will invariably be off-dry but watch out for a few very rare exceptions where they can be dry. Beerenauslese, Eiswein and TBA will range from the sweet to the outrageously sweet in the case of Eiswein and TBA.
This wine says it is a Spätlese which means it could be either dry or off-dry. Given the absence of the word trocken or any of the other terms at 5. above indicating a dry wine, we should assume that this wine will be off-dry.
7. The town and vineyard
It will usually be the case (especially with Prädikatswein) that the name of the village and vineyard is contained on the label. The name of the village will often end with the prefix -er and then be followed by the vineyard name.
This wine is labelled Erdener Treppchen which tells us that it is from the village of Erden and the specific vineyard is Treppchen.
8. The quality control number
This seemingly random stream of digits actually indicates that the wine has passed the chemical and sensory tests required of all German quality wines. Feel free to happily disregard.
So by breaking down the constituent parts of the label we can establish that this is a bottle of Riesling from the 2010 vintage produced by Weingut Dr Hermann. It was produced in the Mosel region of Germany and more specifically in Treppchen vineyard in the village of Erden. It is classified in the highest quality category (Prädikatswein) and is most likely to be an off-dry wine.
With these tools now at your disposal I have every faith in your ability to successfully decode the label the next time you are faced with a bottle of Schlossgut Diel Dorsheimer Pittermännchen Riesling Spätlese or Weingut Künstler Riesling Hochheim Hölle Erstes Gewächs!
Never shy to get out there and preach the Riesling gospel, I teamed up with Wines of Germany to shoot a couple of videos to get people in the mood for mass Riesling consumption!
This first video gives a brief introduction to German Riesling and I also talk a little about why I am such a big fan:
I also made the trip to one of my favourite restaurants in London, The Glasshouse in Kew, which is one of the restaurants participating in 31 Days of German Riesling. The Glasshouse has a cracking list of German wines (including some great Rieslings) and the head sommelier, Sara Bacchiori (@tasteinwine), was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions about German Riesling. So here you are:
Both of these videos are now posted on the 31 Days of German Riesling homepage which you can find by clicking here so why don’t you head over there and check out the website.
That’s it for now but be sure to check out some of the retailers and restaurants participating in 31 Days at www.31daysofgermanriesling.co.uk as they are making a superb effort to raise the profile of this much underrated grape variety! Cheers!
In this video, I review the Dr L Riesling 2011 produced by the Loosen winery in the Mosel in Germany.
If you want to try an off-dry German Riesling that is fresh, lively, affordable and widely available, this is the Riesling for you. You can find the Dr L Riesling in many of our supermarkets in the UK and it is usually priced around the £7 to £8 mark.
At only 8.5% abv, it would make for a lovely aperitif on a warm summer’s day, or alternatively a great match for a fatty meat like pork belly or a meaty seafood dish like scallops and bacon or lobster ravioli.
Thanks to Richard @richard_R2K for the camera work
Video review for Winedirect.co.uk – Wines from Weingut Thanisch
After having recently spent an immensely enjoyable month working in the vineyards of Germany, I was delighted when Winedirect.co.uk asked me to review a couple of stunning Rieslings and a Dornfelder from Weingut Thanisch in the Mosel region of Germany. The following wines were reviewed in this video:
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Alte Reben R 2010
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Auslese 2010
- Weingut Ludwig Thanisch - Dornfelder 2010
After a really successful campaign in the US 31 Days of German Riesling was launched just a few days ago for the first time here in the UK.
The idea behind the campaign is for selected restaurants and retailers throughout the country to team up and promote Riesling wines for the month of July.
If you ask most sommeliers or wine professionals for their favourite white grape variety, they will usually answer: Riesling! But in the UK, most wine drinkers still associate Riesling with cheap and sweet German wine from the 1980s.
So, 31 Days of German Riesling is a great opportunity to get the word out there about Riesling and explain to people that the Germans are producing some really world class dry Rieslings which have character and originality.
You can check out which of your local retailers and restaurants are involved in 31 Days of German Riesling here.
There will be more to follow from me as the month continues as I will be doing various things to drive the Revolution forward. But, in the meantime, I know with your support we can convert some of those Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc drinkers to the charms of German Riesling!
As I mention in Part 1 and Part 2, I recently made the decision to leave my job as a lawyer in the City to follow my passion for wine. The first stop on my wine adventure was a month’s work experience at legendary German winery, Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff.
Now that I have returned to UK soil, I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the four weeks that I spent at Weingut Dönnhoff and share with you some of my highlights.
New vineyard. After spending an exhausting first week bottling wines from the 2011 vintage, much of my second week was spent outside working in the vineyards. The final two weeks were a combination of the two but a real highlight was helping to plant young rootstocks in a new vineyard plot in the Norheimer Dellchen. One of the really smart things that Helmut Dönnhoff has done over the last 20 years is to acquire parcels in numerous vineyards throughout the region. By cherry-picking the best sites as they become available, he has been able to maintain very high quality not only in his top single vineyard wines but also in his more generic estate Rieslings.
Lunch breaks. The way that we took our lunch breaks was a breath of fresh air for me. Each day we would all assemble in the communal galley at 12.30 to have lunch together. Lively conversation would flow – often about wine and football (which suited me down to the ground) – and there was also usually a bottle of something to hand so that we could wet our beaks on the good stuff before heading back to work. A definite improvement on my time as a lawyer, where I routinely spent my lunch breaks alone at my desk!
Driving the Unimog. What a rush! Google search “Unimog” and you’ll get the idea.
My housemates. I was fortunate to have the company of three other lads in the accommodation block where I was staying – one from Germany and two from Poland. The German, Sebastian, 20, is currently carrying out a year-long work placement at Dönnhoff as part of his wine studies. The two lads from Poland, Mateusz and Mateusz, both 23, are in Germany for the year just to earn some cash. They are genuinely three of the hardest working people I have ever met and their humour and goodwill kept me in high spirits throughout my stay.
Visit to the Mosel. It was brilliant to have the chance to make my first trip to the Mosel, the most famous of all German wine regions. As we made our way from village to village, it was amazing at last to see so many of its magnificent vineyards after having spent so many years quaffing the region’s wines! The most striking feature was without doubt the steepness of the slopes. Previously, I had thought that the vineyards in the Nahe were steep but the Mosel takes it to a whole different level – some of the vineyards reach 80% gradient in places!
VDP Weinbörse. On my penultimate day in Germany I travelled to the city of Mainz for the annual tasting of VDP members. The VDP is an organisation to which most (but not all) of Germany’s top wine producers are members. Like any wine fair, you need a well laid out plan of action before you go into battle otherwise you won’t stand a chance. My focus was on the Rheingau, Mosel and Baden regions, as well as a cursory stroll through the Nahe section to say hello to Team Dönnhoff. After a good six hours slurping and spitting, I walked away exhausted but content in the knowledge that 2011 is generally speaking a magnificent vintage for Germany across the board.
Plugging English wine. Having drank so many impressive Germany wines, I could not head back to London without first spreading the word about the rapidly improving English wine scene. Our wineries continue to improve year-on-year – especially in the sparkling category – and I could not resist leaving boss, Helmut, a bottle of sparkling from East Sussex winery, Breaky Bottom – the Sparkling Brut 2008 (100% Seyval Blanc) to be exact.
It is amazing how quickly time flies when you are working hard and having fun but this experience was invaluable and I cannot thank Helmut and Cornelius Dönnhoff enough for this opportunity.
One thing’s for sure – it has certainly given the Revolution fresh impetus. Roll on 31 Days of German Riesling!
REGION: Mosel, Germany
VINEYARD AREA: 7 Ha
YIELD: 5700 cases (Riesling 2011)
VARIETALS: 98% Riesling, 2% Weissburgunder
Weingut Dr Hermann is located in the village of Erden in the Mosel region of Germany and is managed by Rudi Hermann and his son, Christian.
The present estate was created in 1967 when the renowned Mosel estate, Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben in Ürzig, was divided. Although Weingut Dr Hermann is a relatively small estate – it owns around 7 hectares – it has managed over the years to secure sites in some of the Mosel’s most prestigious vineyards. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why Weingut Dr Hermann is producing such impressive Rieslings.
These vineyards (which include the famous Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Treppchen and Erdener Prälat vineyards) are fiercely steep (50-70% gradient) and take on an almost divine presence as they tower over the villages of Ürzig and Erden.
As Christian explains below, the soil from these vineyards consist predominantly of red and blue schist, which is a type of metamorphic rock. The wines benefit from this soil in two ways in particular – firstly the rocks absorb the heat of the sun which, in turn, warms the vineyard and helps the vines achieve a ripe and developed fruit; secondly, the large amount of schist making up the soil gives the wines a unique mineral character and, in the case of the Ürziger Würzgarten vineyard, a hint of spiciness (Würzgarten means “spice garden” in German).
I first came across the Weingut Dr Hermann wines at
the end of 2011 when I reviewed a number of them for my first video blog. I was very impressed by them and thought that they were an excellent example of the mineral-driven style of Mosel Rieslings – you can see my video review here.
So let’s hear what Christian has to say about Riesling, what the future holds for Weingut Dr Hermann and who else to look out for in the Mosel:
TTR: How would you describe the Riesling grape in 3 words?
CH: Fruit, Elegance, Mineral
TTR: What makes your region so well suited to growing Riesling?
CH: The steep slopes of red and blue schist form an ideal terroir – the Mosel valley is a warm island between two cool mountain regions. The turn of warm days and cool nights provides for an extremely long ripening season, which allows the Riesling grapes to develop complex aromas and to keep refreshing acidity. The different soils in Treppchen (blue schist), Würzgarten (red schist) and Prälat (mixture of both) add specific aromas to each vineyard.
TTR: Old World Riesling vs. New World Riesling – friends or foes?
CH: Friends – of course! Tasting the differences between old and new world Rieslings makes our “original” wines – which have been cultivated for more than 500 years in vineyards that have existed for 2000 years – as well as the new world wines, even more interesting.
TTR: Which winemakers (past or present) have had the greatest influence on you?
CH: A few old winegrowers our region who have kept the tradition of producing Riesling wines with respect to nature, giving the grapes and the wine time to develop to finally show the strengths of the different vineyard sites.
TTR: Which new producers are you excited by the most at the moment, and why?
CH: Among many young talents in our region are: Vollenweider, Adam, Weiser-Künstler.
TTR: If you’re not drinking Riesling, what wine do you usually like to drink?
CH: “Burgundian Wines” Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir – these are also fine wines made from a single grape variety.
TTR: What are the biggest challenges currently facing you as a winemaker?
CH: Given the differences of each year, to take the right decisions in vineyards and cellar at the right time in each single year.
TTR: Where do you see your winery in 20 years time?
CH: Still in Erden and in the top group of Mosel-Riesling producers.
TTR: How can Riesling improve its reputation on the world wine stage?
CH: The global reputation of Riesling has already improved enormously in the last 15 years. The strength of our Rieslings is that they are fruity wines from first class vineyards. We, as German wine growers, will have to make people all over the world familiar with the top wines from the classic vineyard sites. Someone who has tasted the best will always keep in mind Riesling as noble white grape variety.