Notes from a tasting with the wine tasting club AuZone in July. It was to be a “tournament” between three German producers, which were to be Weingut Josef Leitz (Rheingau), Weingut A. Christmann (Pfalz) and Weingut Hermann Dönhoff (Nahe).
As a small warm-up, we were served the last few drops of two simpler QbA trocken wines that A.S. had already opened.
Dönnhoff Riesling trocken 2008
In the nose fruity aromas of wine gum and peach. On the palate dry, quite fruity, slightly more powerful than the Leitz wine. (85-86 p?) Wein-Plus gave it 88 p and “until 2012+”.
Leitz ”Eins Zwei Dry” Riesling trocken 2008
In the nose, aromas of honey, some Riesling perfume and peach. Relatively dry (but not completely) on the palate, fruity, medium-bodied, good acidity, a tendency to clumsiness in the finish. (84-86 p?) Wein-Plus gave it (not 100% sure about the wine’s identity) 82 p and “2009+”.
Both definitely well-made with very pleasant aromas and probably typical for their producer and region. If this had been the content of a bottle of Kabinett trocken with a vineyard designation, I would probably not have protested. On the other hand, the Großes Gewächs wines (below) are much more concentrated and more structured for cellaring. But, unfortunately, German producers have started to charge increasing amounts for this type of Rieslings.
The main flight (only three wines due to few participants) was served blind, as is customary in AuZone, after we had been given an introduction to the respective style of the three producers. We knew that there would be one good wine from each producer, but we knew nothing about vintages or anything else.
1. Leitz Rüdesheim Rottland Riesling Alte Reben 2007
In the nose mineral aromas, somewhat developed, yellow apple and honey. On the palate, slightly more than medium-bodied, very present acidity and impression of mineral, slightly developed, a little spice. The most elegant of the three (in particular in the nose), but also the most slender in built and the one with the least “Auslese-like” aromas. Can definitely handle further cellaring. 91-92 p. Wein-Plus scored 88 p and “until 2010” (??? – completely incomprehensible).
My guess was Leitz vintage 2004 due to high acidity and a more developed nose compared to the other two.
2. Christmann Königsbach Idig Riesling Großes Gewächs 2007
In the nose honey, wine gum, a hint of botrytis?, typical “Auslese-style” aromas. On the palate quite full-bodied for a dry Riesling, almost a little oily, spicy, acidity in the background, a hint of bitterness. Impressive concentration and in principle a style I like, but the bitterness (which wasn’t really noticeable when later served with food) reduces the score somewhat and means that it makes a slightly more clumsy impression than the other two. 90-92 p. Wein-Plus awarded it 92+ and recommended drinking “end of 2009 to 2014+”.
My guess was Dönnhoff due to very good concentration, and vintage 2006 due to the slight bitter notes and the hint of botrytis.
3. Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Großes Gewächs 2007
In the nose honey, wine gum, some mineral aromas, also “Auslese-like” but not quite the very obvious impression of overripe grapes that #2 gives. On the palate more than medium-bodied, gives an impression of being not quite dry, honeyed, very fruity, the acidity somewhat in the background but clearly present. A good concentration with the elegance retained. 92-93 p. Wein-Plus gave it 94+ and recommends it “from the end of 2009 until 2013+”.
My guess was Christmann vintage 2007, since it felt young.
Nice to see that the wine rated the highest by me (and us collectively) was from an already established favourite producer of mine – Dönnhoff – although this was not my guess. I guess I should have listened to A.S. mentioning in his introduction that Christmann should have the highest probability of bitter notes among these three. It was also a bit amusing that we voted a biodynamical producer’s wine as least good (at 90-92 p from it was definitely not bad!), when a contributing reason was that it had less minerality than the other two. 🙂 Possibly, one or more of the heavenly bodies were aligned in an unfavourable fashion with respect to the location of the home of A.S.? And I was somewhat surprised that they were all 2007s.
When I compare my notes with those of Wein-Plus I’m struck by the fact that they have rated both Leitz wines clearly below Dönnhoff och Christmann, and lower than I did. (By the way, Wein-Plus is to my knowledge the leading German online wine guide, and competes with the printed guides from Gault Millau and Eichelmann. I have earlier noted that scores from Wein-Plus and Gault Millau can diverge a fair bit, not the least in the dry Riesling segment.) The Leitz wines are more slender than the more southerly cousins of this lineup, but also very elegant, and I think that this style suits well-made Rheingau Riesling, not the least those from Rüdesheim vineyards. Wines in style tends to age well, so the ”drink it now” recommendation applied to Leitz doesn’t make sense to me. Could it have been applied by default for wines below 90 points rather than adapted to the style of the individual wine? Admittedly, my experience of Leitz is much more limited than that of e.g. Georg Breuer, Künstler, and SWG/Kloster Eberbach, but the style falls within what I expect from well-made wines from this part of Rheingau. That it appeared developed for its age is probably a matter of style (mineral elegance chosen over youthful fruitiness); judging by its other characters I don’t think it is a sign that it will age (rather than mature) prematurely.
I had also brought an additional sweet wine, that was also served blind.
Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Riesling Auslese 1999
Golden yellow colour. In the nose obviously developed aromas, some petrol, yellow apple and winter apples, some marzipan. After some time in the glass it showed more perfume and honeyed notes. On the palate it appears semi-sweet with a full-bodied, fruity profile, good acidity, and tastes of yellow apples with marzipan. 90-91 p. Bought from Weinart in Rheingau at € 27 in 2007.
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.