Rheinhessen is a mighty beast. Churning out a massive amount of Germany’s supermarket shelf-filler, a rare diamond shines out of the region only rarely. Whereas Dreissigacker, Wechsler and co. already experience a great amount of publicity, recently another winery has taken me by surprise: Becker-Landgraf of Gau-Odernheim.
J2 – Julia and Johannes produce an attractive portfolio of wines that impress from the first sip. From the entry-level Gutswein (estate wines) right up to the fabulous single-site bottles, the wines combine a modern approach to winemaking with a healthy lug of unmistakeable Rheinhessen touch: genuinely impressive wines with universal appeal.
One such wine is the entry-level Weißburgunder-Chardonnay – a wonderful Pinot Cuvee that really makes the most of both varietals whilst being able to expertly represent the region as a whole.
An alluring golden yellow in the glass, the wine immediately reminds of ripe yellow pears on the nose. Alongside a few hints at green herbs and freshly-cut grass, a rewarding sense of joghurt is present behind a touch of stone fruit and a hint of something more tropical: banana, mango and passionfruit.
On the attack is a brief flirt of citrus: perhaps grapefruit more than anything else but it moves straight onto pear, apple and yellow plum before eventually settling on a creamy, chalky structure with an addictive sweet undertone. Dry finish with a slight white pepper decoration.
Very good. Priced at around 8€, fantastic value for money.
Buy in the UK
When you think of the Rheingau, you think of Riesling and when you think of VDP Rheingau, you think of only Riesling. The idea that a member of this elite club might produce experimental wines is out of the question. However, the young team at Hattenheim’s Balthasar Ress continue to push the boundaries on German viticulture. Whereas the winery’s core range does exist around single-vineyard Riesling and Pinot Noir (also typical for the region), they also have a number of not-so-standard wines including this orange.
Orange wine is a relatively new category of wine in Germany. Whereas it is historically of huge importance, most white wine in Germany is not produced in this way and the trend is only just starting to gain momentum. The grapes are initially macerated whole for a number of weeks or months. This leads to wine with an entirely different colour and taste: the bitter elements of grape skin that are usually removed from white wine production remain in the wine, as do many other grape components. A minimal amount of work takes place in the winery and the liquids are bottled unfiltered.
Made using Pinot Blanc, this Rheingauer Landwein is a good example of easy-drinking Orange. Whereas many of the wines, particularly those from Armenia and Georgia are….let’s call it an acquired taste, this wine is enjoyable for the everyday wine drinker too. Reliant more on the winery’s fresh style than the archaic, traditional taste of Orange wine, this Pinot Blanc is more than just approachable: it’s actually both enlightening and enjoyable.
Bright, shiny orange with a cloudy appearance.
Quite a lot to start with but the wine quickly falls into place. Orange zest and grapefruit juice but also a thick sense of ripe orchard fruit. Quince and yellow apple as well as a cider note. Spice in the way of fresh pepper but also green herbs.
First on the scene is pink grapefruit and this passes through orange peel and finally onto cloudy cider: cooking apples and quince really come through on the body and a touch of apple vinegar too. Clean though, compact and remarkably easy to drink: no stone notes that don’t pair with the vibrant and ripe, stored fruit. Thanks to the sharper elements on the finish: salt, a touch of wood and the continued feel of apple vinegar, you are briefly reminded of Calvados. Excellent wood finish that is neither too strong nor lacking a backbone.
I’ve only just gotten into orange wines and this is, whilst perhaps not the most complex I’ve tried, certainly the easiest to drink. It’s both appealing but its simple: actually something that I find fits with Rheingau wine in general. I’m not 100% sure how this wine will age but I’m sure it’ll develop more with time – the wine tastes great three days later and it was opened 12 hours prior to drinking, not chilled.
A great way to get into orange wine and fairly priced too (21€/750ml bottle)
Deep in the Mosel Valley lies the commune of Leiwen and in that place lies the winery of Carl Loewen – a member of the regionally prestigious Bernkasteler Ring of top Mosel wineries. The company can trace its roots back to beginning of the 19th Century and has a handful of fantastic vineyards in its portfolio.
Like most Mosel wineries, it specialises in Riesling – the varietal dominates the range but, alongside these wines, another regional specialty exists: Pinot Blanc. Pinot Blanc suits cold-climate brilliantly – the grey slate soils of the Leiwener Klostergarten vineyard in which this wine grows, together with the South-West facing slope is ideal for the creation of Pinot Blanc or, as it’s known in Germany, Weißer Burgunder.
White gold, green hue.
Lots of fresh green apple and pear, also a hint of gooseberry and a fair amount of lime. A mineral note in the way of wet slate comes through as well.
On the attack is lime and bright green apples: think Granny Smith. This goes onto a body dominated by orchard fruits: apples, pear but also quince. The body is smooth and creamy and the finish brings with it the minerals of slate plus an extra helping of black pepper.
The cold-climate element of this wine is very apparent – the finish is rocky and fresh rather than long and smooth – this makes for good drinkability and a refreshing glass of wine. The attack might feel a little tart but it is balanced out by the lighter, fruity body.
The Nahe Valley runs parallel to the Mosel valley, a few Kilometres to the North. The Rieslings of the region are what consumers love but there is another varietal that does particularly well here – one that I find makes excellent cold-climate wine, particularly in Germany: Pinot Blanc.
In the Mosel, Ahr and indeed Nahe valleys, Pinot Blanc might not be easy to find but in the Riesling dominated Mosel and Nahe valleys, it still accounts for a not-insignificant percentage of vineyard space (about 3% Mosel and 5% Nahe) and whilst it might not be very big at all in the Ahr, a handful of producers make a Pinot Blanc as well. There’s a good reason for this: likewise in Eastern Germany’s two production regions (Saale Unstrut and Sachsen), Pinot Blanc does especially well in colder, valley climates. All three regions of the Western regions are characterised by slatey soils and, like Riesling, this suits Pinot Blanc beautifully.
Johann Baptist Schäfer is a winery in the Nahe valley operated in the fourth generation by the Schäfer family. Alongside a large selection of Riesling wines, the winery also produces varietal wines based on Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Scheurebe.
Lots of lovely fruit on the nose: peach, pineapple, apple, red berries and banana.
In the attack was lemon and pineapple and this went on to to a thick yellow fruit body of peach, banana, melon but also a lovely, warming buttery feel that lead onto a smooth, reserved mineral finish which left a long almost vanilla-infused taste on the tongue long after finishing.
The mixture of acidity on the attack, creaminess on the body and a smooth, long finish makes the wine feel very warm and thick. This was a particularly well done Pinot Blanc which featured none of the drawbacks of cold-climate Pinot: some wines are fruity and then thin or have an overwhelming mineral bite: this one didn’t.
Germany's Nahe is one of the true secrets in German wine. Whereas most might have heard of Dönnhoff, the region's other wineries are little-known outside of Germany. Schäfer-Fröhlich, Emrich Schönleber and PrinzSalm are also top-class wineries and yet number two after Dönnhoff, in my eyes at least, is Schlossgut Diel.
Alongside a whole host of Riesling wines from some of the regions best terroirs, Diel is also well-known for its Sekt (Quality sparkling wine) and its entry-level series 'Diel de Diel'.
This 'Diel de Diel' white wine is based on Pinot Gris (Grauer Burgunder, Grauburgunder, Pinot Grigio), Riesling and Pinot Blanc (Weißer Burgunder, Weißburgunder, Pinot Bianco). With 12.5% ABV., it serves as a fresh, summer-style wine intended to be enjoyed young and, presumably, outside.
Perfect then for a winter evening then with -2°C outside.
White, satin gold with a lime green hue and a hint of carbonation.
Fresh summer blossom, white peach, lime juice and apple.
A very discreet attack of white peach and lime was the first on the scene and the Riesling took over the body with its slightly-larger feel in the mouth of green apple and citrus peel. Some minerals finish off the wine with slate, iron and fresh herbs completing the experience. The finish was longer than expected and clean and composed.
With the tiny amount of CO2 and all that blossom in the nose, the wine was fresh, fine and discreet. Its thinness is its character and, unlike many other discreet wines, it pulls it off through its elegance and the fact that the wine is well-rounded. The fruit is held-back but still sharp and the minerals are subtle and yet still full of flavour - they are paired wonderfully in this fabulous summer, balcony wine.
The Pfalz is home to some of Germany’s finest wineries: Von Buhl, Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Messmer, Knipser and many more. One winery that undoubtedly belongs to this category is Von Winning. Renamed in 2009, the winery owns parcels of land in several of the Pfalz’s finest Riesling vineyards.
Alongside Riesling, the winery also grows Pinot Noir and sources a selection of other varietals from nearby growers which it produces and retails under its own name. Alongside the Pinot grapes, the winery also produces a handful of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay wines – not untypical for the Pfalz but unusual as a VDP winery. Von Winning is one a handful of wineries that, whilst protecting the olde-worlde of German wine is also very forward-moving.
This Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder, Weißer Burgunder, Pinot Bianco) is made using grapes grown in and artound Deidesheim – the home of the Von Winning (prev. Dr. Deinhard). A good quarter of the wine is fermented in oak casks with the remaining coming from stainless steel vats.
Pale white gold
A fine sense of delicate citrus starts off the nose: mainly lemon peel. This quickly moves on to profound notes of orchard fruits: yellow pears, apples and even quince. A faint sense of stone fruit is to detect: white peach and apricot. A fine oaky-brass aroma is in there too.
Rather fresh and fruity on the attack – pears and apples, the body is smooth and creamy and contains a hint of peach. The finish is clean and full of character: whilst it’d be a lie to suggest that the oak note was prominent, it was very important to the whole persona, as was a metallic sense – the minerals were very discreet and yet shaped the wine leaving it elegant and feeling very fine – it also felt a little older than it was: blind, I would’ve said 2011 or, if well kept, even 2010.
A very fine and delicate wine: whereas the fruit was in no way subtle, the minerals that completed it show the expertise of the winemaker in this case: balance and control is the motto all the way through and it is pulled-off well in this unfairly underrated varietal in German winemaking.
Sekt b. A - Sachsen, Germany
This Winzersekt (vintner’s sparkling wine) is from Germany’s northernmost wine-producing region. Made very untypically using the Pinot Blanc grape it incorporates a unique Saxony-edge to the wine – in my opinion, the best wines to derive from Eastern Germany are the Pinot Blancs. Rather than follow the other German vintners in creating Sekt almost exclusively from Riesling or copying other northern production regions with a traditional Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay cuvee, the winemakers went into this wine with the aim of creating something special and uniquely Saxon. As one of only two VDP vintners in Saxony, Schloß Proschwitz is one of the biggest names in East-German wine.
Yellow, with a rather expressive colour untypical of Sekt and Pinot Blanc. Excellent and well-defined Carbon Dioxide structure with very small bubbles.
A great deal of lemon on the nose, strong minerals and spices also loaded the wine. Some more exotic, sweeter fruits were to detect but lemon was definitely in the driving seat.
A thick attack with lemon and some peach followed by a smooth middle with discreet floral and sweet-fruit notes, the wine was well-composed right up until towards to finish. This was sharp, quick and pleasant.
A great, simple bubbly with a uniquely-defined Pinot Blanc characteristic. Fairly strong in taste, it isn’t as smooth as those using the more typical sparkling grapes although this gave a thick sense of character to the wine which is ultimately more importantly when exploring the more exotic production regions of Europe.
Dörflinger Müllheimer Reggenhag Weißer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2010 (Markgräflerland, Baden, Germany)
Visiting the Markgräflerland is always a treat and the lovely town of Müllheim is a must-stop for any wine tourist thanks to its many wineries and restaurants.
Weingut Hermann Dörflinger is a very small winery located in Müllheim that produces traditionally Badische wines made from typically grown varietals (Pinots and the German Classics). The winery also produces one or two of the more exotic varietals that Baden is gaining attention for and I strongly recommend giving them a go should you find yourself in the region.
Straw yellow with a faint off-green colour. Very discreet.
Alongside vegetative notes and those of a traditional handful of fresh Badische soil, this wine had a refreshing citrus aroma made up of lime and pink grapefruit. Mellow-honey was also to detect with a defining pepper nose.
Strong character, low(ish) acidity although all of the sweet notes of lime is delivered in the citrus. Faint sense of something like apricots with an almost eucalyptus slide down the throat. Fragrant and sweet red berries (cranberries, raspberries) are also on the tip of the tongue but take a while to come through and don't really influence the general taste of the wine. High residual sugar level, creamy caramel and honey but a fine dry wine. Almost nutty character on the finish with a modest amount of tannin.
Good Kabinett Pinot Blanc/Bianco, possibility for storage (but not too long) Harmonius companionship between acid and sugar to create a well-balanced dry white. Perfect for the summer and would fit very well to roast chicken, marinated turkey steaks (on the BBQ) and even the slightly more powerful whitefish of the ocean (haddock, halibut and bass).
8.4/10 points (around 7€ a bottle, contact the winery to order - here)
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
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-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry