This dozen-strong Riesling-tastic selection (and one Pinot Noir) comes from a slightly esoteric tasting of some intense 2013 vintage wines, even if my notes did get over-eagerly filed away for a little ageing before seeing the light of day again...
Recapping on 2013 conditions in Germany then, budding was “very late” thanks to a cool spring followed by challenging weather during flowering, then a “mild summer” finally set in although picking was also delayed due to tiresome rain in September. Apparently the net result was “fantastic quality but low yields,” according to UK importer ABS Wine Agencies (where the bottle shot comes from). This probably partly explains the wines' lofty prices, plus the fact that these estates are very sought-after with a serious following in Germany, where they can't get enough of them let alone Riesling-hungry export markets.
I wouldn't normally bother detailing the full-monty techno-geek details for each of the wines, but residual sugar (RS) and total acidity (TA) content in particular is quite important to understanding the way the Grosses Gewächs (GG – something like the French Grand Cru) classification works. Besides the more obvious and fundamental ground rules, i.e. drawing up and ranking of these top vineyards was a long process based on several different factors, including agreement among the wine authorities and leading winegrowers (members of the VDP association) on which sites have consistently nurtured Germany's very best Rieslings for many many years. And apart from their origins in these small cherished and often very sheer vineyard plots, GG wines are all dry and have to comply with the 'rules' for this trocken style: the sugar level must not exceed the total acidity +2 g/l RS up to maximum 9 g/l. For instance, the first Riesling below made by Fürst with 5.8 RS wouldn't be considered particularly dry under 'normal' circumstances, but, believe me, with an acidity level of 8.5, it tastes pretty damn dry. And talking of Fürst, in the Franken / Franconia region in southern Germany (the north-western part of Bavaria), Pinot Noir has also been incorporated into the GG ranking there – see first producer below for comments.
All wines here are Grosses Gewächs and 2013 vintage unless stated otherwise. Prices are approx UK retail.
Fürst – Bürgstadt, Franken
Riesling Centgrafenberg (12.5% abv, 5.8 g/l residual sugar, 8.5 g/l total acidity) – Floral vs lime fruit and already quite 'petrolly', has the slightest hint of sweetness vs mega steely acidity, intense and racy vs delicate 'chalky' texture, lots of lovely Riesling fruit flavour. £37
Pinot Noir Centgrafenberg 2012 (13.5%, 0.1 RS, 5.1 TA) – Nice perfumed 'sweet/savoury' Pinot nose, a little spicy oak on the palate with bitter chocolate twist vs silkier texture and lingering developing smoky flavours. £59
They make another couple of even dearer GG Pinots, which I found too oak-heavy.
Gunderloch – Nackenheim, Rheinhessen
Nackenheim Riesling Pettenthal (12.5%, 6 RS, 7 TA) – Yeast-lees notes, mouthwatering and delicate Riesling with linear steely acidity vs enticing lingering and intricate flavours. Barely off-dry. £37
Nackenheim Riesling Rothenberg (13%, 3.6 RS, 6.8 TA) – Lees-y start leading on to quite rich vs very steely palate, juicy aromatic lime fruit vs yeasty tones, long and fine finish; classy Riesling. £45
Dönnhoff – Oberhausen, Nahe
Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg Felsentürmchen Riesling (13.5%, 4.8 RS, 7.4 TA) – More fragrant floral and lime nose, pretty intense and concentrated, juicy steely and fresh length with lees-y aromatic notes and delicious Riesling flavours. £40
Norheimer Dellchen Riesling (13.5%, 6.5 RS, 8 TA) – Similar perhaps although more ripe lime and exotic fruit, a tad richer and sweeter obviously vs super steely and intense, a little weight as well vs 'chalky' and 'mineral' finish. Wow. £40
Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling (13.5%, 6.5 RS, 8.2 TA) – Oilier with more dried fruit tones almost, tastes 'older' and more developed vs that racy acid backdrop, again has lots of lovely Riesling character and intense long finish. £44
Josef Leitz – Rüdesheim, Rheingau
Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling – Very different aromas, floral and 'gummy', very intense acidity vs lots of extract, turning more citrus on the final palate vs lightly oily vs super crisp and mouthwatering finish. £33
Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling – Richer oilier and limier, rounded vs intense fresh and 'mineral' mouth-feel, nice ripe lime fruit vs a 'fatter' side vs steely bite, showing better balance at this stage though. Fairly wow. £35
Dr. Loosen – Bernkastel, Mosel
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling (12.5% abv) – Delicate and 'mineral' vs floral and oily, light lime notes with 'chalky' extract, delicious Riesling character with zip and elegant length; a little more forward than some of the others. £25
Bernkasteler Lay Riesling – More restrained and yeast-lees-y to start, 'chalky' texture ending up quite juicy with fuller oilier profile vs very steely and crisp, more intense and very long mouthwatering finish. Wow. £25
Graacher Himmelreich Riesling – Very 'gummy' and zippy at first, nice extract with steely vs oily mix, a little 'bubble-gummy' when I tried it (tank sample) with lees-y bite, more rounded vs tight and crisp on the finish. £25
Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling – Not much on the nose at first, fairly rich and oily with spiced lime tones, lees-y and intense, very concentrated vs very steely and long. Wow, serious Riesling. £30
Erdener Prälat Riesling Alte Reben (old vines) – Rich and concentrated with ripe lime oil aromas / flavours, very intense acidity with 'chalky' texture and almost savoury/salty tang, gets a tad weightier vs super intense and fresh finish. Very wow, serious stuff although it's double the price of the others... £65.