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Germany - Top Producers of the Rheinland

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Photo: One of Weingut Meyer-Näkel’s vineyards in Ahr © Provided by DKBooks One of Weingut Meyer-Näkel’s vineyards in Ahr

Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl

© Provided by DKBooks

One of Weingut Meyer-Näkel’s vineyards in Ahr

Photo: Weingut Christmann © Provided by DKBooks Weingut Christmann

Weingut Christmann

Top Producers of the Rheinland

Weingut Deutzerhof - Ahr

location: Mayschoss
telephone number: 02643 7264
website: www.weingut-deutzerhof.de
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1995
recommended wines: Grand Duc Spätburgunder, Altenahrer Eck Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs Trocken

The Deutzerhof vineyards are dominated by Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) but also contain Dornfelder, Portugieser, Chardonnay, and Riesling. Co-owner Wolfgang Hehle makes characterful wines from all of them. The top two, Altenahrer Eck and Grand Duc, derive their quality from low yields and old vines rather than from tricks in the winery, and no more than one-third new oak is used. Though most of Hehle’s wines are dry, he sometimes makes high-quality Riesling Auslese and Eiswein.

Weingut Meyer-Näkel - Ahr

location: Hardtbergstr 20, Dernau
telephone number: 02643 1628
website: www.meyer-naekel.de
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: 2001, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1994
recommended wines: Frühburgunder Goldkapsel, Spätburgunder S

Werner Näkel has set the pace in the Ahr, proving that good-quality Pinot Noir can be produced in this region. His simplest cuvées are the Trocken and Trocken G, followed by the Blauschiefer, named after the blue slate soils on which it is grown. Then there are Goldkapsel (gold capsule) wines, and Goldkapsel S. Finally, there are three single-vineyard Pinots. The wines are tightly structured and quite oaky, and, unlike most Ahr wines, they are built to last.

Weingut Ratzenberger - Mittelrhein

location: Blücherstr 167, Bacharach
telephone number: 06743 1337
website: www.weingut-ratzenberger.de
wine styles: white, sparkling, dessert
best vintages: 2001, 1996, 1993
recommended wines: Bacharacher Wolfshöhle Riesling, Bacharacher Kloster Fürstental Riesling Eiswein

Jochen Ratzenberger has demonstrated that the Mittelrhein is fully capable of producing lean, elegant, yet long-lived Rieslings, with fragrant aromas of pears and minerals. The basic bottling is called Caspar R, a wine with high acidity balanced by residual sugar. This estate has also been making good traditional-method Riesling Sekt since 1997.

Schlossgut Diel - Nahe

location: Burg Layen
telephone number: 06721 96950
website: www.schlossgut-diel.com
wine styles: white, sparkling
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1993
recommended wines: Weisser Burgunder Barrique, Dorsheimer Goldloch Riesling Spätlese

Armin diel is well known in Germany as a leading wine and restaurant critic as well as a wine producer. His vineyards are in the northern Nahe, and are planted not only with Riesling but with Burgundian varieties, too. The wines are made to a high standard across the board. The Dorsheimer Goldloch is often the best Riesling, and the barrique-aged Weisser Burgunder can be excellent.

Weingut Hermann Dönnhoff - Nahe

location: Bahnhofstr 11, Oberhausen
telephone number: 06755 263
website: www.doennhoff.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1993
recommended wines: Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese, Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Eiswein

Ever since Helmut Dönnhoff took over the family property in 1971, he has steadily aimed for greatness. His excellent vineyards in Niederhausen, Oberhausen, Norheim, and Schlossböckelheim are mostly on volcanic soils. Yields are low, the harvest late, and the winemaking traditional. What marks all his wines is their purity and limpidity. The Rieslings are rich but balanced and never heavy. Dönnhoff is rightly celebrated for brilliant Eisweine that have few peers in all of the country.

Weingut Freiherr Heyl zu Herrnsheim - Rheinhessen

location: Langgasse 3, Nierstein
telephone number: 06133 57080
website: www.heyl-zu-herrnsheim.de
wine styles: white, dessert
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996
recommended wines: Rotschiefer Silvaner Trocken, Niersteiner Brudersberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Niersteiner Brudersberg Riesling TBA

Under its former owner, this estate pioneered the production of dry wines and organic viticulture in the Rheinland. In 1994 the property was bought by the Ahr family, which has maintained the estate philosophy and further improved quality. Most of the vineyards are on remarkable red soils near the river, and a range of bottlings called Rotschiefer (“red slate”) are the product of these slopes. The top Rieslings come from Niersteiner Brudersberg and Pettental and have the bracing earthiness characteristic of the best Rheinhessen sites.

Weingut Gunderloch - Rheinhessen

location: Carl-Gunderloch Platz 1, Nackenheim
telephone number: 06135 2341
website: www.gunderloch.de
wine styles: white, dessert
best vintages: 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1993
recommended wines: Jean-Baptiste Riesling Kabinett, Nackenheimer Rothenberg Auslese

Half the Gunderloch vines lie within the superb red-soiled Nackenheimer Rothenberg vineyard, equal in quality to the better-known Nierstein sites. The winemaking is utterly traditional, with very low yields, no cultivated yeasts, and unusually long aging in cask before bottling. The result is a collection of some of Rheinhessen’s most complex Rieslings, both dry and ultra-sweet. This estate has also created an off-dry wine called Jean-Baptiste for restaurants and export markets.

Weingut Keller - Rheinhessen

location: Bahnhofstr 1, Flörsheim-Dalsheim
telephone number: 06243 456
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998
recommended wines: Dalsheimer Hubacker Riesling Trocken Max, Dalsheimer Bürgel Spätburgunder Felix, Riesling TBA

This rising star emerged, rather surprisingly, in one of the least-esteemed stretches of southern Rheinhessen. The Kellers painstakingly identified their best sites (Dalsheimer Hubacker for Riesling, Dalsheimer Bürgel for Pinot Noir), and then made the most of them by severely reducing yields. The dry Rieslings are exceptional, as are the rich, multi-layered BAs and TBAs from Riesling and Rieslaner.

Red wine: On the up?

website: www.august-kesseler.de

Germany has a long tradition of red wine production, but the national taste in reds has traditionally been for light and even sweet wines—to the dismay of international wine lovers. In the 1990s, the best growers realized that the secret of good, rich, complex red wine lay in the vineyards—the right clones in the right places, low yields, selective harvesting—and in the winery, where wines were given longer maceration. Although Pinot Noir (first brought by monks from Burgundy, and known here as either Früh- or Spätburgunder) is still Germany’s key red variety, some interesting wines are also made from native grapes such as Schwarzriesling (Pinot Meunier) and Lemberger, as well as international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In southern Germany and the Ahr there are serious reds that are now beginning to attract attention. Red wine specialists include Weingute Meyer-Näkel, August Kesseler, and Rudolf Fürst.

Weingut Wittmann - Rheinhessen

location: Mainzer Str 19, Westhofen
telephone number: 06244 905036
website: www.wittmannweingut.com
winery open to public: by appt
wine styles: white, dessert
best vintages: 2001, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1993
recommended wines: Weisser Burgunder S, Westhofener Morstein Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Westhofener Morstein Riesling BA

The Wittmann Cellars are crammed with the family’s modern art collection, some of which is reproduced on the wine labels. This is a forward-looking organic estate, and all the dry wines are crisp and sharply defined. Low yields are the secret of the quality here, as well as skillful and constantly evolving winemaking techniques. In addition to spicy Grosses Gewächs Rieslings, there are imposing dry wines from Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) and Chardonnay. The outstanding bottlings in any vintage are designated “S,” which stands for Selection. The Westhofener Morstein site is the source of some superlative sweet wines.

Weingut Christmann - Pfalz

location: Peter-Koch Str 43, Gimmeldingen
telephone number: 06326 6039
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1997, 1996
recommended wines: Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling TBA, Königsbacher Idig Spätburgunder Grosses Gewächs

After Steffen Christmann took over the family estate in 1994, quality soared. An enthusiastic supporter of the new classification, he has won the right to Grosses Gewächs status for sites in Ruppertsberg, Deidesheim, Königsbach, and his native Gimmeldingen. The quality of his dry Rieslings is matched by that of his opulent sweet wines from botrytized fruit. Christmann is also getting to grips with Pinot Noir (Spåtburgunder), but his yields need to be tiny to achieve the concentration required for his heavily oaked wines.

Weingut Dr. Bürklin-Wolf - Pfalz

location: Weinstr 65, Wachenheim
telephone number: 06322 95330
website: www.buerklin-wolf.de
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1993
recommended wines: Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Grosses Gewächs

In 1875 Luise Wolf married Dr. Albert Bürklin, thereby creating what was to become Germany’s largest private estate. As with the Pfalz’s other great producers, quality slipped in the 1980s when things were left in the hands of a general manager—who valued productivity and high yields above quality, and allowed the estate to coast on its reputation. But the current owner, Bettina Bürklin, and her husband, Christian von Guradze, have been determined to restore its reputation. Dr. Bürklin-Wolf’s portfolio of vineyards includes just about every good site in the Mittelhaardt, and viticulture is essentially organic. Although some Pinot Noir and Dornfelder are produced, the estate’s reputation rests on its sumptuous dry Rieslings: Bürklin-Wolf has lost interest in the sumptuous sweet wines for which it used to be well known.

Weingut Geheimer Rat Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan - Pfalz

location: Kirchgasse 10, Deidesheim
telephone number: 06326 6006
website: www.bassermann-jordan.de
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1994
recommended wines: Pechstein Forst Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Reiterpfad Ruppertsberg Riesling TBA

This major estate oozes history: within its maze of cellars are niches filled with Roman amphorae and other antiquities discovered within the region. By the 1980s, wine standards had declined, but in the late 1990s a new winemaker, Ulrich Mell, turned things around, and today Bassermann-Jordan is back in the top rank. Mostly dry Rieslings are made from outstanding sites in Ruppertsberg, Deidesheim, and Forst. In exceptional vintages fabulous TBAs are also produced, with rich flavors of stewed peaches and figs.

Weingut Josef Biffar - Pfalz

location: Niederkirchener Str 13, Deidesheim
telephone number: 06369 67629
website: www.biffar.com
wine styles: white
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1994
recommended wines: Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Wachenheimer Gerümpel Grosses Gewächs

Although the Biffars came to Deidesheim from Lyon in 1723, their estate only achieved celebrity status in the 1990s, thanks to a new winemaker. Their vineyards lie among the top villages of the Mittelhaardt, with Deidesheimer Grainhübel and Wachenheimer Gerümpel as their leading sites. Over two-thirds of the wines are dry, but the Auslesen can be delicious too. The dry Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) is also worth looking for.

Weingut Knipser - Pfalz

location: Hauptstr 47, Laumersheim
telephone number: 06328 742
website: www.weingut-knipser.de
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1997, 1996
recommended wines: Weissburgunder Spätlese Trocken, Laumersheimer Kirschgarten Spätburgunder Spätlese Trocken

Werner Knipser likes to dabble: he has produced unusual wines from the obscure Gelber Orleans variety, which he has revived at his northern Pfalz estate, as well as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. However, the local dry mesoclimate also allows the production of red wines with plenty of stuffing: Pinot Noirs have vigor and spice, but wines produced from Bordeaux varieties and from Syrah are inconsistent. In a region dominated by Riesling, however, this estate, with its emphasis on innovation, has found many avid supporters.

Weingut Koehler-Ruprecht - Pfalz

location: Weinstr 84, Kallstadt
telephone number: 06322 829
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1994
recommended wines: Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Philippi Spätburgunder R

Bernd Philippi is an international wine consultant, but in his native Kallstadt he produces powerful and long-lived Rieslings under the Koehler-Ruprecht label. He also produces an entirely different range under the Philippi label: barrel-fermented wines from Riesling, Chardonnay, and the Pinot family. These are wines with a personal stamp, not bound by rules and regulations, but they lack the consistency of his Rieslings.

Weingut Müller-Catoir - Pfalz

location: Mandelring 25, Neustadt
telephone number: 06321 2815
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1994
recommended wines: Riesling Spätlese Trocken, Haardter Bürgergarten Muskateller Trocken

This estate of Huguenot origin was brought to the highest level by its brilliant winemaker, Hans-Günther Schwarz. The achievement is all the more astonishing because the estate does not own exceptional vineyards. Riesling is dominant, but there are significant parcels of Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Scheurebe, Muskateller, Gewürztraminer, and Rieslaner too. At a time when much German oenology was aimed at minimizing risk by cleaning up musts and wines, Schwarz argued in favor of using natural yeasts and for minimal intervention. He also insisted on late and selective harvesting. The resulting wines combine intensity of flavor with exoticism. The brilliant Rieslings are sometimes surpassed by the house specialty of Rieslaner, a crossing with higher acidity than Riesling, yielding sweet wines with an invigorating raciness.

Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz - Pfalz

location: Weinstr 54, Siebeldingen
telephone number: 06345 3439
website: www.oekonomierat-rebholz.de
wine styles: red, white
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1994
recommended wines: Siebeldinger Im Sonnenschein: Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Weisser Burgunder Grosses Gewächs; Spätburgunder R

Hansjörg Rebholz runs the finest estate of the southern Pfalz. All the wines here are dry, and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are aged in barrique. The Rieslings can be austere when young, but have formidable intensity and longevity. The top Riesling sites are Birkweiler Kastanienbusch (more classic) and Siebeldinger Im Sonnenschein (more exotic). The Weissburgunder, fermented in older barriques, can be delicious, and so is the flowery Muskateller.

Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl - Pfalz

location: Weinstr 16, Deidesheim
telephone number: 06326 965010
website: www.reichsrat-von-buhl.de
wine styles: red, white, dessert
best vintages: 2002, 2001, 1999, 1998, 1996, 1994
recommended wines: Forster Pechstein Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Forster Kirchenstück Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Forster Ungeheuer Riesling TBA

This large estate, with sites in most of the Pfalz’s top vineyards, is owned by Freiherr Georg Enoch von und zu Gutenberg, a musician with little interest in wine. So he leased his estate to a Japanese company that has invested substantially in the property. In 1994, after decades of lackluster performance, it hired a brilliant new winemaker, Frank John. He halved yields and began harvesting as late as possible. The dry Rieslings from the Forst vineyards are magnificent, and so are the sweet wines in suitable vintages. He also takes red-wine production quite seriously, and in 2001 the top Pinot Noir was rich enough to be aged in new oak.

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