Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category
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 in June 2011 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.
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
As you may have seen from my post earlier this month (which you can read here), 31 Days of German Riesling has come to the UK for the first time following its success in the US.
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!
After a really successful campaign in the US (you can read about it here), 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!
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
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.
As I mention in Part 1, 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 is a month’s work experience at legendary German winery, Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff. Here is my write-up of my second week in the job:
After a tough but thoroughly enjoyable first week bottling wines from the 2011 vintage, I returned from the Easter break well rested and hoping to spend some time in the vineyards.
Following a short team meeting, I was given the nod to join the vineyard crew for the day which came as excellent news. The only downside, with the prospect of an eight hour day ahead of me, was that the weather was looking extremely ominous. Catching the eye of oneof the team, I gestured to the sky. His response was simply to shrug and say “April macht was er will” (April does what it wants). Not quite the reassurance that I was looking for but, reminding myself that I had not come to Germany to work on my tan, I grabbed my rain jacket and saddled up for the day’s work.
Before I joined the others up on the slopes, one of the lads gave me a quick guided tour in the van of the vineyards owned by Weingut Dönnhoff to help me get my bearings. Dönnhoff owns plots in a number of vineyards in the Nahe region and the majority of these are situated around the villages of Niederhausen and Oberhausen. The best sites are fiercely steep and south facing so that the grapes can soak up the maximum amount of sunlight as possible.
The vineyard where I spent much of the week was the Niederhausen Hermannshöhle, regarded by many as one of Germany’s finest vineyards. The first thing that struck me as I worked up and down the rows of vines was how steep it is. The slopes have a cramp-inducing 40% steepness in places and this certainly does not make the day’s physical labour any easier. I daresay I will have no excuses for not looking good in a pair of shorts when I return to the UK in May!
Although the grapes are usually harvested in September and October, a lot of time and energy is invested at this time of year in making sure that the grapes grow healthily and achieve the required levels of ripeness without any problems. Some of the tasks in which I was involved included training the vines around a wire high off the ground (to avoid damage from Spring frosts), fertilising young rootstocks (to promote healthy growth) and spraying the vines (to keep pests at bay).
At the risk of taking on the appearance of a mountain goat, I was relieved on the Friday to be working on one of the flatter vineyards towards the town of Bad Kreuznach. The morning’s work was much of the same – “vineyard management” – but for lunch we all went to a local Wirtshaus (or pub to you or I). After a cursory glance at the menu, it appeared that the general consensus was that the schnitzel platter was the thing to go for. Not wanting to break rank and ever the fan of a good schnitzel, I got in on the act.
To my delight, a few minutes later no fewer than three schnitzels arrived in front of me together with chips and a token side salad – just the ticket after a week in the vineyards. Although I managed to polish them off, it was definitely a case of my eyes being bigger than my stomach. Feeling like I was about to burst at the seams, one of the lads mentioned that I would be spending the afternoon scaling the seemingly vertical face of the Hermannshöhle. Thankfully he was only joking but the look of fear in my eyes must have been evident for all to see!
On Saturday morning I woke up to a beautiful sunny day. I decided to walk through the vineyards to the neighbouring village, Niederhausen, home to Weingut Jakob Schneider. The previous week I had tried a bottle from Jakob Schneider and was very impressed so I was looking forward to doing a tasting of his wines. I was not disappointed. I was shown warm hospitality and the wines a delight, something that is becoming somewhat of a recurring theme during my time in Germany.
I have no clue what next week has in store but hopefully next weekend I will be able to visit some of the other top wineries in the region. Crossing my fingers that this beautiful weather is here to stay!
Here is the text from an article which I wrote for drinks industry trade magazine, Harpers, about my time working at Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff in the Nahe region of Germany. It was published on 10th April, 2012.
Alex Down, 28, blogger on The Riesling Revolutionary and self-confessed German wine fanatic, recently made the decision to leave his job as a lawyer in the City to follow his passion for wine. The first stop on his wine adventure is a month’s work experience at legendary German winery, Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff. Below he recounts his first week in the job:
My journey to the vineyards of Germany began at the crack of dawn on the Sunday before Easter. Such was my excitement that I barely noticed the hour as I bounced through the revolving doors at Stansted on course for my 6.50am flight to Frankfurt Hahn. Arriving at Hahn (the Frankfurt can henceforth be dispatched as it is about as close to Frankfurt as London is to Dover), I boarded the splendidly named Mosel-Rhine-Bus and off we went through the idyllic countryside towards my home for the next four weeks – Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff in the village of Oberhausen in the Nahe wine region.
Arriving at the winery, I was greeted by Cornelius Dönnhoff, heir to the Dönnhoff throne and the current head winemaker. After the customary guided tour, Cornelius showed me to the room where I would be staying. An en suite bathroom and a balcony overlooking the famous Niederhausen Hermannshöhle vineyard – had I died and gone to heaven? It certainly felt like it but in an attempt to keep my excitement to manageable levels I decided to forego the temptation to crack open a bottle on the first night.
The following morning I reported for duty in the courtyard at 8am sharp. After exchanging brief pleasantries with my co-workers, I was informed that we would be spending the day bottling the 2011 Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). In a nutshell, this is how the bottling process works: empty bottles are fed onto a conveyor belt which go into the bottling machine; the empty bottles are sterilised and then filled with the wine before moving down the belt where they are corked, capped and labelled; at this stage the wines are the finished product and the sole remaining task is for them to be stacked or packed.
This is where I came in. Once the bottles had emerged from the labelling section of the machine, it was my job to grab them and pack them (in six-bottle cases). As we began the day’s work, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Here I was, free from the shackles of the City and working in one of Germany’s finest wineries. By lunchtime, I was still in good cheer but definitely feeling the strain. By 5pm I was in tatters. Now, I know what you are thinking – sticking a few bottles in a box doesn’t sound too bad. But to put it in perspective, on the first day we bottled around 8000 bottles (which accounts for approximately 1335 cases)!
And things did not ease up over the next couple of days as more bottling was in order. It was certainly backbreaking stuff but it was made all the more manageable by the team and their ability to seamlessly interchange jobs with one another when someone needed to take a well-deserved breather.
By Thursday afternoon we had bottled the 2011 Weissburgunder, Grauburgunder and Tonschiefer (Dry Slate) Riesling. Although by the end of this process I was totally kaput, I nevertheless felt a great sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that I had played a part (albeit very small) in the lifespan of these brilliant wines.
That evening, all of the crew (vineyard and cellar) gathered round the table in the communal galley for wine tasting, hog roast and friendly conversation. The selection of wines was a celebration of the diversity of German wine styles – everything from a Dönnhoff Weissburgunder from the Nahe to a dry Riesling from Baden to a sweet Ruländer Spätlese from the Pfalz to a Müller-Thurgau produced by one of the crew members from his own tiny vineyard plot in the Nahe. But the wine of the night for me was the 1998 Jacob Schneider Niederhäusen Klamm Riesling Auslese – a classy wine from a much underrated producer which has aged with grace.
Could there have been a more fitting and enjoyable way to close out a hard week? Not to my mind. As for next week, I have been told that I will spend some time in the vineyards – very exciting. But, first, time to put my feet up with a couple of chocolate eggs and relax over the Easter weekend.