Tasting Reviews

Contemporary German Wine with Andrew Hedley

My journey of love with German wines began in the 1970s, not long after the 1971 German Wine Laws were introduced, and we had the superlative 1971, 1975 and 1976 vintages come on stream. Essentially these laws put into practice the theory that the riper the grapes were at harvest, the better the quality. It was an easy way to introduce a simple measure of ‘quality’ and also a degree of egalitarianism. So QbA and Qmp wines were expressions of quality, with grades of Kabinett, Spatlese, Auslese, Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese (and not forgetting that freak of nature – Eiswein).

But anyone with an inkling of wine sense realised that the important aspect of site and terroir was omitted in these laws. Wine enthusiasts knew, by reputation that certain vineyards around various villages were superior to their neighbours. The ‘Doctor’, ‘Sonnenuhr’ and ‘Goldtropfchen’ were special sites in the Mosel, as were ‘Schloss Johannisberg’ and ‘Steinmorgen’ were in the Rheingau, ‘Hipping’ and ‘Sacktrager’ in the Rheinhessen, and ‘Jesuitengarten’ and ‘Herrenberg’ in the Rheinpfalz. Then came the massive reorganisation of the vineyards to enormous grosslagen which saw tiny parcels get swallowed up and renamed. It all worked against the recognition of sites.

The Re-birth of Dry
However, as this became the new norm, there were signs of discontent. The German wine industry can’t be encapsulated by levels of Oechsle and Brix. There were regions which made only dry wines, then there were producers who preferred to make trocken wines especially to go with food. From these grew the movement to champion dry wines as the best style to showcase the best terroirs, as was traditional. The Verband Deutscher Pradikatsweinguter (VDP) had already been in existence since 1910 – to promote quality and unchaptalised, natural wine. In 1984, the VDP with its 200+ members began rating the best terroirs, resulting in an official Classification in 2012.

This is where Andrew Hedley who operates his ‘Oh So Pretty’ importing business (as well as being chief winemaker at Framingham, in Marlborough) comes in. Andrew is not only a Riesling fanatic, but a German wine fanatic. He travels to Germany regularly, and is arguably the most up-to-date person in this country when it comes to understanding the current situation in Germany, and the trends occurring.

At this presentation and tasting, Andrew discussed the four classification tiers used by the VDP. At the bottom of the pyramid were the VDP.Gutswein "Good from the Ground Up”. More everyday wine, comparable to ‘regional’ wine in Burgundy. The classic Pradikat terms Kabinett, Spatlese etc can be used. Then next up were the VDP.Ortswein "Sourced from Superior Soils”. With Burgundy as the analogy, these are ‘village’ wines. A dry VDP.Ortswein is labelled Qualitatswein trocken, without any use of Pradikat. Naturally sweet VDP.Ortswein can use the Pradikat terms. The tier above that is VDP.Erste Lage "First Class”, comparable to a Premier Cru in Burgundy, Dry VDP.Erste Lagen wines must be labelled "Qualitatswein trocken”. The very highest level is VDP.Grosse Lage "Great Wines from Great Vineyards” and are comparable to Grand Cru Burgundy. Wines meeting the criteria for dry are designated "Grosses Gewaches” (GG) and must be labelled "trocken”.

A Tasting of Contemporary German Wine
Andrew chose 11 wines to demonstrate the different classifications of contemporary German wine. The wines were presented, one as a pre-taster, then in pairs, identity known. The tasting was held at Wine Sentience with Stephen Wong MW and his staff assisting in pouring. Here are my notes on the wines in the order of tasting.

Introduction Wine – The Classical Fruit-Sweet Style

A. Clusserath Trittenheiner Apotheke Riesling Kabinett 2016
Bright, very clear, pale straw, near colourless. The nose is very tight and firm, quite penetrating with minerals, limes and white florals, show with beautiful purity, but also with some SO2. Some honied notes emerge. Medium-dry, the palate is refined and tightly bound, with razor-sharp acidity, the fruit forming a taut core, showing limes, florals and minerals. Zesty acidity carries the palate, this is sleek and racy with good length. Give it a little time for the SO2 to go. From a site on the right bank of the Mosel opposite the village of Trittenheim. 17.5+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $31.00

The VDP Classification Wines
Flight One: VDP.Gutswein and VDP.Ortswein – Riesling
The more specific the source of the fruit and wine, the higher the quality usually.

Wittmann Riesling Trocken 2016
Bright straw-yellow with pale golden hue. The nose is very soft but densely packed with a firm core of yellow stonefruits and plenty of minerality. This unfolds in depth, but in an effusive manner. Dryish to taste, this has plenty of up-front yellow stonefruit flavours with suggestions of yellow florals. The palate is more mineral in expression (lees/skin contact?), and quite rounded with an underlying phenolic grip. This has body and presence, with richness and breadth, but good acidity. Estate fruit from Wittmann’s holdings in the Rheinhessen. 16.5/20 Sep 2018 RRP $30.00

Wittmann Westhofener Riesling Trocken 2016
Brilliant, light golden-straw yellow colour, The aromatics are beautifully elegant, tightly bound and intense with lifted white and yellow florals, honey and mineral complexities. The Richness is balanced, and though intense, this speaks of finesse. Medium-dry to taste, the palate is luscious, but the poised acidity ensures clarity and purity, with fine cut. There is an electric quality here. Florals, minerals, earth and yellow stonefruits, this is all about poise and precision. A superlative Riesling. Fruit from the Brunnenhauschen and Morstein Grosse Lagen sites around Westhofen. 18.5/20 Sep 2018 RRP $42.50

Flight Two: VDP.Gutswein and VDP.Ortswein – Pinot Noir
Comparing two Pinot Noirs, as with the Rieslings in Flight One, that the more specific the provenance, the better the wine.

R. Furst ‘Tradition’ Spatburgunder Trocken 2015
Pale red colour with slight garnet hues on the edge. This has fresh strawberry fruit along with cooler spectrum herbal notes, unfolding some stalk elements. Some nutty oak? The palate is elegant with light strawberry fruit. The flavours are up-front and straightforward, clean and crisp with noticeable acidity. The extraction is light, and the wine fades a tad on the finish. Serviceable and food friendly. Pinot Noir fruit from Burgstadt in Churfranken, west Franconia. Made from younger vines and earlier picked grapes. One year in barrel. 16.0/20 Sep 2018 RRP $37.50

R. Furst Burgstadter Spatburgunder Trocken 2015
Deepish ruby-red colour a little lighter on the edge. The nose is softly full and rounded, the fruit a little shy in expression. Ripe dark red berries along with some herbal elements and nutty oak. This is plush and juicy on palate with softly full dark-red berry fruit, unfolding strawberries and cherries. The fruit builds in depth and is supported by supple tannin extraction. Oak emerges to add detail. The acidity is soft, but there is underlying power. This is elegant and detailed. Fruit from Rudolf Furst’s better sites around Burgstadt. 20% new oak. 17.5+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $51.50

Flight Three: VDP.Ortswein – Mosel Slate
Comparing different soil types from Ortswein from the Mosel.

Clemens Busch ‘vom Grauen Schiefer’ Pundericher Riesling Trocken 2015
Light, golden straw-yellow colour. The nose is full and openly accessible with ethereal slate aromas, minerals and earth, along with floral elements and a layering of SO2. Dryish to taste, the palate is rich and plush with slate, earth and mineral flavours. This has a softness of texture, but shows good acid tension and cut to counter the richness. The SO2 shows and is a little distracting. Shows classical grey slate accessibility. Fruit from younger vines all over the ‘Marienburg’ site. 17.0+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $37.00

Clemens Busch ‘vom Blauen Schiefer’ Pundericher Riesling Trocken 2015
Bright straw-yellow with golden hues. The nose is tight and firmly bound, nearly slender in expression, showing taut mineral aromas rather that florals or fruits. Dryish to taste, the palate is very elegant, tightly bound and slender, but exudes finesse. Lovely taut minerality, with wet stones, along with crisp and firm acidity. This has depth and density, the acidity cutting and racy. An expression of the hardness of blue slate. From younger vines from pockets of blue slate on the ‘Marienburg’ vineyard. 18.0-/20 Sep 2018 RRP $45.00

Flight Four: VDP.Erste Lage and Pradikat Named Wine
A comparison of two wines from sites ostensibly at Erste Lage level, the A. Christmann named as such, and the Koehler-Ruprecht preferring to use the Pradikat Trocken nomenclature instead of Erste Lage, both wines from the Pfalz.

A. Christmann Konigsbacher Olberg Riesling Trocken Erste Lage 2015
Light golden yellow with some depth. This has a firm and dense nose with stonefruits and savoury elements and hints of toast and bacon! Some spices unfold. Dry on palate, the fruit is rich with lush and spicy notes of minerals, stonefruits and earth. A little sweet and sour interest. The mouthfeel is plush, with soft acidity. A very individual wine, which could polarise tasters and drinkers. From the Olberg premier cru site at Konigsbach. 17.5+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $50.00

Koehler-Ruprecht Kallstadter Saumagen Riesling Spatlese Trocken 2015
Light golden-hued straw-yellow colour. The aromatics are very soft, refined and expressed very evenly, unfolding white and yellow stonefruits and florals along with honied nuances. Dryish to taste, the palate has rich stonefruit and floral flavours, unfolding tropical fruits with exoticism. A delicacy pervades the palate with the stylish richness balanced by delicate and refined acidity. Plenty of interest and style with this. Koehler-Rupecht do not use the VPP classification now as they believe the vineyard name, and words Spatlese and Trocken have the cachet. ‘Saumagen’ means ‘pig’s stomach’. 18.5/20 Sep 2018 RRP $51.00

Flight Five: VDP.Grosse Lage – Grosse Gewaches and Fruit Sweet Comparison
Fruit from the same site, one a Grosse Gewachs wine, the other made into a Spatlese style, by Okonomierat Rebholz in the Sudpfalz.

Okonomierat Rebholz ‘Ganz Horn’ im Sonnenschien Riesling Grosse Gewachs 2016
Light golden straw colour. The aromatics are bright, elegantly proportion, and intense with aromas of florals and tropical fruits, along with minerals and honey. This has excellent clarity and precision of expression. Dry to taste, the palate has powerful and intense flavours of white and yellow stonefruits, florals, tropical fruits and minerals. This has wonderful clarity and depth, and the mouthfeel is enlivened by zesty acidity. This has clear-cut flavour definition. From a tiny area of Buntsanstein soil from the ‘Ganz Horn’ (Goose’s Horn’) Grosse Lage. 18.5+/20 Sep 2018 RRP $90.00

Okonomierat Rebholz ‘Ganz Horn’ im Sonnenschien Riesling Spatlese 2016
Bright straw-yellow colour, with light golden hues. The nose is soft in expression with broad and voluminous aromas of ripe tropical fruits, florals, honey and minerals. This has intensity, but is rounded and quite approachable. Medium-sweet to taste, the palate is soft and rich with gentle tropical fruit flavours along with honied elements and nuances of minerals. The fruit has presence and intensity, with gentle acidity lending roundness and softness. Soft textures guide the wine, and the acidity is fresh for tension. The fruit expression is rich, but effusive. Fruit from the ‘Ganz Horn’ Gross Lage made in the classical Spatlese style, so Grosse Gewachs not on the label. Sep 2018 18.5/20 RRP $65.00

A Word on ‘Oh So Pretty’ and ‘Wine Sentience Hub'
‘Oh So Pretty’ is Andrew Hedley’s sideline business. (He is the chief winemaker at Framingham Wines in Marlborough.) The ‘Oh So Pretty’ portfolio is incredibly diverse, yet focussed on interest and quality. The mainstay must be the German wines, but there are Italian, French, Austrian, Hungarian, Georgian and more. The styles range from ‘conventional’ minimalist intervention to natural and adventurous styles. If you are not on Andrew’s database for ‘Oh So Pretty’, I recommend that you contact him to do so at Email: ohsopretty@outlook.co.nz or by cellphone on 021 333-654.

The Wine Sentience Hub is a facility designed by Stephen Wong MW and his team at Wine Sentience to offer wine professionals especially those visiting Wellington to have a space to work in. It is a fully licenced location to hold meetings, run tastings or getting work done. The hub has spaces for social events as well as quiet places for focussed work. There are Riedel glassware available for use, as well as Coravin preservation and temperature controlled storage for wines. Antipodes water is on hand. Users have access to high-speed internet and printing services. The Wine Sentience Hub is located at L1, 104 Vivian Street, Wellington, and opened on 1 August 2018. Check out www.winesentience.com/the-hub for more information and rates.
Copyright © 2011 Raymond Chan Wine Reviews
Website by DataFlex | Design by Skinny