Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Baden Wines
Last October, Riesling lover and German wine enthusiast Jancis Robinson OBE, MW wrote an impassioned article in the Financial Times entitled '2019 – Germany's Breakthrough Vintage?'. She went on to cite Riesling as "...the greatest white-wine grape in the world", enthusing about its longevity, compatibility with food, relatively low-alcohol and ability to express the terroir on which it is grown. The main thrust of the piece was that warmer ripening seasons are delivering well-balanced, characterful wines that are very precise and expressive and that whilst many 2018 wines are terrific, the 2019s are even 'classier'.
A new listing from accomplished winemaker Jürgen Hofmann is his Grauer Burgunder (Pinot Gris) from the foot of the renowned Hundertgulden vineyard with its chalky soils in the north of the Rheinhessen. With notes of melon and banana and a zesty palate with plenty of bite on the finish (referenced by a line drawing of teeth on the label), it is a versatile wine for drinking with or without food. His Weisser Burgunder has delicate pear aromas and an ethereal palate of white stone fruit with an elegant, dry finish. A super 'Saint Johann' Steinberg Chardonnay is more obviously oak-influenced with a richer texture and a wealth of orchard fruit that will delight lovers of white Burgundy. Completing a commendable line-up is his juicy red village Spätburgunder that has a brick pink hue, soft red fruit scents and flavours, fresh acidity and an elegant finish.
The Pfalz - which lies to the north of Alsace between the Rhine and the slopes of the Haardt mountains - is Germany's driest and second largest wine region and a source of increasingly well-made and attractively-priced wines. Based in the picturesque village of Rhodt unter Rietburg, Stefan Meyer gained valuable winemaking experience in Austria and California before taking over his family's 16 hectares of vines in 2011. He is a progressive advocate of 'minimal intervention', producing wines of great expression and varietal character. His 'Aus Rhodt' Chardonnay is vinified in vat and barrel and has delicate 'struck match' scents and a persistent orchard fruit palate with a long, elegant finish. A sibling Pinot Noir – from small-berried 'Dijon' clones – is equally appealing with dark berry scents and a palate of Kirsch offset by supple tannins. Completing a commendable range is a 'Rhodter Klosterpfad' Syrah (a rarity in Germany with fewer than 100 hectares under vine). With a briary black fruit bouquet and beautifully delineated core of plums and damsons underscored by supple tannins, it drinks well from release and can cellar for a decade.
Brothers Markus and Andreas Klumpp's organic vine-holdings currently extend over 25 hectares in the Kraichgau district in Baden where, in 1983, their parents opened a tiny 'garage winery' as a distraction from their desk-bound day jobs. Today, their emphasis is upon careful fruit selection and low impact winemaking to encapture fruit and freshness in well-balanced, harmonious wines. Their Auxerrois has a bright bouquet of yellow stone fruit and smooth palate of fresh apples offset by notes of nuts and minerals. A Pinot Noir – from the Weiherberg vineyard – has dark autumnal berry scents and flavours offset by a wonderful tension and delicate structure of tannins. Completing our listings is their impressive 'Cuvée Number 1' – a blend of 50% Blaufränkisch, 20% Saint Laurent, 20% Pinot Noir and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. With ripe red fruit scents and a juicy dark cherry and plum palate, it is already drinking well and will soften with 3-5 years bottle age.