The Antinori brand is an important one in Tuscany and yet the winemaking family operates wineries in other regions of Italy and the world too, from Chile to Franciacorta and from Piedmont to Apulia.
The Prunotto winery in Alba, Piemonte has been part of the Antinori dynasty since 1989 and creates several typical Piedmont red wines. With several Barolos in its portfolio, it also creates a handful of wines based on the Barbera varietal - one of North-West Italy's most important varietals.
Plum red in the glass with a pink hue, the wine is very aromatic in terms of red berries on the nose: wild strawberry, blackcurrant, black cherry and raspberry. There is a wonderful spice mixture of black pepper, cloves and a touch of juniper, pine nut and smoke. On the attack is the predictable Piedmont acidity that does its job in holding the wine together. From the berry attack through the spicy body and onto the very dry finish, the wine remains in constant harmony with the acidity and a touch of wood in the background.
A very well made Barbera from an underrated and sometimes purposely misunderstood winery.
Prunotto in the UK
Prunotto in the US
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan is a Riesling winery and its wines are some of the finest in the Pfalz. With its two sister wineries: Von Buhl and Von Winning, they form the Deidesheim Teriffic-Trio: three very different wineries with very different styles all made using grapes from pretty much the same vineyards in the same communes.
Let me present of one Germany's most famous winery's craziest products though: Pithium 2012.
Here you'll find Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Gewürztraminer and it is aged in clay amphoras rather than wooden barrels or stell vats. This lends the wine a unique cloudy, orange appearance which, depsite irritating at first, is quite attractive.
Pithium is one of those rare exclusives lurking in the backrooms of classic Pfalz wineries. Not advertised on the winery's webpage and remarkably hard to locate, this is one of the freak-show wines emerging from the shadows in the darkest corner of a winery's vat room.
Ageing wine in clay might seem new and it is in Germany and Austria's modern wine production however it was the practised approach to making wine in the countries where wine was first made and, in some of them, still is: Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and the like. With a long maceration with the grape skins, the wine acheives a fuller set of aromas and, having not been filtered before bottling and with as little wine-cellar work as required, these remain in the wine for the drinker to discover. Interestingly the grapes are sourced from the Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad, a fantastic Riesling site in the Pfalz.
In the nose is a mixture of floral elements, Belgian Witbier, Brioche and coriander. There is a touch of vanilla but it's kept at bay with by the other notes in the glass.
The wine is a fair amount stronger on the tongue however: a thick acidic approach with cloudy, unsweetened lemon juice, a thick sense of clementine and grapefruit peel. There are definitely notes of fresh hops in the wine and these bring in a sense of white peach (although only the skin aromas) and a touch of banana. The acidity reminds of Belgian Gueze (an acidic style beer from Brussels) and fits remarkably well with the rest of the wine. Long and spicy on the finish, this wine is extremely well executed and offers immediate rewarding drinking - even for those who rarely drink such specialist products.
Whilst it can be very hard to find, this is one of those approachable natural-style wines rather than those that really do have an acquired taste for orange and white-grape-macerated wines. This is the kind of wine that would impress someone who drinks a lot of exotic Belgian beers - similar notes, executed in a similar way.
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan in the US
Dr. Bassermann-Jordan in the UK
I’ve covered almost the entire Schloss Johannisberg portfolio when it comes to dry wines over the years. Gelblack, Weisslack, Rotlack and even the prestigious Silberlack GG. What I’d never managed to try were the sweet wines: Rosalack and Rosa-Goldlack. Thankfully this changed a few weeks back and I was able to check out the 2012 Rosalack Auslese.
A few words to Schloss Johannisberg: the Rheingau estate is one of the world’s most prestigious wineries and is widely accepted as the oldest Riesling-winery in Germany. Its Schloss Johannisberg vineyard is a Grosse Lage (Grand Cru site) and the wines that emerge from it often act as the flagship products of the entire region. Whereas a handful of other Rheingau estates have catered for modern, changing tastes over the years, Johannisberg has been able to stay true to its traditional approach to winemaking alongside perhaps only three or four other German wineries: all of those in the Mosel.
The Schloss Johannisberg vineyard is a completely south-facing slope with the highest amount of sun hours and sun energy in the Rheingau. Protected by woodland in the North from cold winds, the vineyard’s quartz-laden soils are able to soak up the sun and moisture and store it making this a prime location to grow Riesling. The Rhine runs along the southernmost perimeter of the vineyard.
Lemon yellow with a shiny gold tint.
Once you get past the woody, rocky aroma that lies on top of the wine for a few minutes after opening, a world of citrus fruit is waiting to be discovered. Lime cordial was the first thing I was reminded of – sugary lime syrup. There was also lemon peel, grapefruit and a whole host of exotic spices to discover: cinnamon, coriander and cloves – a bit Christmassy I suppose.
The attack was quick strong and very citrus-driven. The lime didn’t come through as much as the lemon and a thick sense of sweet lemon juice and Clementine took the wine onto a smooth, sweet, balanced body of yellow fruit: quince, pear and even a touch of something exotic: mango. The acidity was there but was excellently balanced with the fruit. The finish was long and sweet and only contained a very faint hint of wood – this contained the spice elements from the nose and played, thankfully, only a background role.
As avid readers will already know, I’m an impatient man – this isn’t a wine to be opened now and, being completely honest, I wouldn’t normally be able to afford such luxuries – (nearly 40€ for a 375ml bottle). There is a great deal of aging to happen here which will relax the fruit, moderate the acidity even more and push those spices even further into the background. There are signs that this will, in eight-ten years, be one of the best sweet wines from the Rheingau. It’s brilliant now but will be even better then. Such finesse and balancing of fruit and acidity is rare in such a young wine and hopefully, in 2025, I might be able to try it again!
Unlike the Mosel, the most famous wines to emerge from the neighbouring Nahe valley are mostly dry. Dönnhoff’s Hermannshöhle GG is one of the most widely available and most sought after Großes Gewächs from the region and yet only one of a few. Schloßgut Diel is also owner of Riesling vines in some of the Nahe’s finest vineyards. Its flagship single-site wine is most probably Goldloch and yet it also produces a handful of other dry wines produced using grapes from Große Lagen. One such site is the Dorsheimer Burgberg.
The clay-rich soil with quartz, slate and pebble components are just part of the reason that this is site is so well tailored to the production of fantastic Riesling. Surrounded by steep cliffs and trees, the micro-climatic conditions of the south-facing slope catch and retain heat aided by the stones in the soil, this heat can be retained offering stable temperatures. The same geographic factors also catch cold air in the winter including mist making the production of Eiswein possible.
Bright gold in the glass.
Very clearly defined: green and yellow fruit. There is a lot in there: banana, pineapple, green apple, gooseberry, apricot, kiwi and white peach. There is a whisper of wood in the background.
Shockingly clear on the palate with an incredible clarity and freshness: the fruit is almost layered with the attack driven by green apples and gooseberry and leading onto a buttery body of the yellow fruit mentioned above. The finish isn’t abrupt but a creamy journey into a touch of wood making a vanilla feeling appear in the wine. The finish is clean – not crisp, just incredibly well-managed by the fruit.
The wine is designed to be enjoyed in a decade or so but there is no reason you shouldn’t open it right now. The clarity and structure is some of the best I have ever found in a dry wine and this is once again proof that Riesling isn’t a one-trick pony. The stone fruit was Sauvignon-Blanc beating and the creamy, buttery texture on the palate felt like aged Chardonnay.
Excellent. There is so much more to Riesling than Mosel.
Cortona DOC is one of Tuscany’s lesser known production regions. Although many of the region’s largest and most-famous producers do produce wines made here, it doesn’t celebrate the same international appeal as Chianti, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bolgheri, Maremma or the like.
Whereas a whole host of varietals are permitted here, notably also imported varietals from France, a great deal of the wines are single varietal. Syrah is a popular choice here and, alongside the typical Cuvee wines made using a variety of grapes, a number of winemakers release a 100% Syrah wine.
One such producer of Cortona DOC Syrah is Marchese Antinori – one of the largest names in both Tuscan and Italian wine. Its Montalcino-based subsidiary: La Braccesca, famed for its Montalcino wines, makes this Syrah produced from grapes grown in the Arezzo region closeby, near to the Tuscan/Umbrian border.
Ruby red with a purple, clear hue.
On the nose is a great deal of black forest fruit but also a decent helping of fresh raspberry. Coupled with a hint of vanilla, thanks to the oak handling, this makes you think of raspberry-ripple ice cream. There is a background oak note but it is both very decent and purely a background thing.
The attack is one of Cassis but this quickly moves on to blackcurrant, red plums and the raspberry promised in the nose. It is all very harmonious with a light acidity that eventually turns into mild tannins, a sprinkling of vanilla, a hit of oak and then fine chocolate and espresso.
A pleasant and very simple, smooth wine. It offers a different side to Syrah and, whilst it is a powerhouse on the body, the finish is nice and calm leaving the wine remarkably easy to drink: smooth, long and yet clean on the palate.
Whereas German wine classification is very similar to that of the French region of Burgundy when it comes to top, VDP-member produce, one Rheingau winery also makes a high-quality Riesling based on the ideals of Bordeaux: the best fruit is selected from the winery’s vineyards regardless of which individual site it came from. This wine has a bit of a cult following. Through its reliance on high-quality fruit rather than being linked to one high-quality site, the wine is much larger than any single-estate wine might manage.
In fact the very name of the wine “Riesling Spätlese Trocken” is frowned upon by the VDP elite. Whereas it is perfectly just to name this wine so (it isn’t derived from one single site or commune officially making it a VDP Gutswein), the VDP is doing its best to rid dry wines of Prädikat declarations and wants to label all dry wines (regardless of fruit quality) Qualitätswein Trocken.
The nose is full of sweet and sharp yellow fruit: lemon, apples, apricot, banana, pineapple and more. There is a unique feel of eucalyptus and green tea in there as well.
The attack is characterised by sharp lemon juice but quickly goes on to lots of fruit: apple then pear then stone fruit in the way of both nectarine and apricot. The finish is rather large: lots of minerals including quartz, granite and some wet wood.
This is a great wine: I’ve always been a big fan of Geheimrat J but after the thinner, more-composed elements of single-estate wines, it is a welcome reintroduction to the theoretical power of Riesling. Amazing with even the hottest of Asian foods, this wine earns its cult following.
I’ve gotten into German Kabinett recently. Whilst I’ve spent the best part of five years telling people that Germany is about more than just sweet Riesling with little alcohol, sometimes these wines are those that characterise a region. Whilst the Mosel valley is famed for such wines, they do occasionally appear in other parts of Germany as well: the Rheingau for example.
In the Rheingau one winery is making more waves than any other: Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim. With one of the widest portfolios in all of the Region, this VDP winery is both modern and traditional at the same time: its wines are both quintessentially Rheingau and yet have a unique modern appeal: an approach that very few Rheingau producers have actually incorporated.
This Riesling is no exception to that rule – sourced from the monopole holdings of the VDP ERSTE LAGE® Schloss Reichartshausen vineyard, the wine grows on soils characterised by chalky soils that grow close to the banks of the Rhine ensuring cooler climatic conditions.
Very pale peachy-yellow.
Lots of fresh fruit on the nose in the way of stone fruit, citrus and apples – the citrus peel was gentle and discreet and allowed both apples and peaches to come thorough nicely. A herbal and floral note was to pick out, so too was freshly cut grass.
On the rather sweet and smooth attack was lime and lemon juice but nothing sharp and overly strong. This gave way to a fantastic sense of cloudy, freshly-pressed apple juice. A peppery note finished the wine and brought with it a thick feeling of fresh mint and sage.
A very nice and smooth Kabinett, this wine makes use of the Rheingau feeling (those spices and herbs on the finish) and is still remarkable fruity, floral and light. The residual sugar, which can often feel poorly worked in with such wines, was very well integrated and the whole thing felt rather refreshing: somehow the finish remained both smooth and short making you temporarily forget that this wine has so much sugar in it.
Von Winning have sprung to success since the renaming of the winery a few years ago. This Deidesheim VDP winery is famed for its production of both Riesling and the entry-level varietal-specific wines it produces.
Its single-vineyard Rieslings are often handled with new wood in the cellar leading to an absolute unique style of wine. A few copycats have followed suit and still the Von Winning wines are the best in the category – Riesling and fresh oak is a very unique mix and, being completely honest, an acquired taste.
Deidesheimer Kalkofen is a walled vineyard which is planted with Riesling vines which are up to 60 years old. The soil shows traces of once being a coral reef and, like in all of Deidesheim, has a huge impact on the taste of the basis wine.
The wine gives off a woody note from start to finish and yet it doesn’t feel imposing. Alongside these heavy notes of freshly-sawn wood come citrus notes: particularly lime and grapefruit but also a touch of stone fruit: peach perhaps. Gooseberry and a variety of other green fruits are also in there. The wine also feels a bit smoky.
The attack is fresh and carries notes of lime, lemon peel, green apple and grapefruit. The body is actually fairly open for a GG of this age and contains lots of juicy yellow fruit: nectarine, banana, peach and a few other bits and pieces. The finish is of smoke and wood and it still either feels a little too young or completely off-balance – I’m guessing this is due to the age though.
The wine is unique, like all of Von Winning’s single-vineyard Grand Cru Riesling wines. However the worry is that: whilst the wood will demise over time making the wine more approachable, how much of the luscious fruit will it take with it? I suspect this wine will enter its prime drinking phase in the next 3-5 years. After that, I can imagine both wood and fruit will vanish leaving just acidity and that petrol note so commonly associated with Riesling behind. That wood is an interesting take but it does take away a lot of what makes Riesling so good – it actually felt more like a Chardonnay.
89+ Points (but don’t leave it too late)
Riesling with residual sugar is what the Mosel and indeed Germany is best known for. Alongside those cheap, sickly-sweet wines found in supermarkets the world over, there are a number of wineries which produce very high-quality bottles which range from 7% to more than 11% ABV and from a dash of residual sugar right up to syrupy concoctions enough to make your teeth bleed.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt is a Mosel winery with vines in some of the region’s best sites: particularly in the Saar valley. One of their monopole sites (only they have vines there) is Josephshöfer in the Middle Mosel. Characterised with very steep inclines and a Devonian slate-dominated soil, this tiny parcel of land (about four hectares) is the site of a former monastery and located directly between the legendary Wehlener Sonnenuhr and Graacher Domprobst vineyards.
Wines with residual sugar carry their Prädikat and the VDP Grosse Lage declaration meaning that it is a prime site for the cultivation of vines. Dry wines from here are forced to drop their Prädikat and carry the titles “Qualitätswein Trocken” and VDP Grosses Gewächs.
Straw yellow with a faint hint of green.
Lots of yellow fruit: yellow plum, apricot but also yellow apples and pears. Tropical notes of pineapple were also to detect and so too was a note of slate coupled with fresh mint and eucalyptus.
The acidity on the attack is rather refreshing and brings with it apples, pears but also some lemon peel. The body is sweet, sweet and oily and finishes with the slatey minerals, a hint of pepper and fresh aromatic herbs. The sweet fruit lies on the tongue long after swallowing but is composed and delicate rather than overpowering and out-of-place.
I like this kind of wine: it’s not something you can drink regularly but it is both fresh and fruity – the mineral notes play a background role whereas I find them more prominent in drier wines. The fresh eucalyptus was a highlight for me: I particularly like this note in the wine. I must say that I’ve have better Kabinett wines from the Mosel valley but, at just over 10€, seldom are they so well-priced.
Contact O.W. Loeb & Company in the UK for information regarding the availability of this wine.
The Ahr Valley is one of Germany’s smallest production areas and one of the Northernmost too – interestingly it isn’t so well-known for the production of white wine but rather the red stuff. Thanks to a unique micro-climate helped by the steep valley sides and the slate soils which are able to store warmth: the Ahr is home to some of the best Pinot Noir Germany has to offer with a fuller flavour than is possible in many other areas.
One of the region’s largest producers is its vintners’ cooperative: Dagernova which also markets its wines under the ‘Ahr Winzer’ brand. Alongside a whole host of varietal wines in every variation imaginable, the winery also makes a series of premium reds such as this one, based on Pinot Noir.
Pomegranate red with a pinky, clear hue.
Cassis and cranberry were the first things to note but eventually an earthy, woody sense poked through as well: this brought a vegetative feel to the whole nose.
The Cassis on the attack was closed and rather woody. It didn’t really open up and, when the other berries came through (blackcurrant, strawberry), it vanished: never to return. The body was slightly sour, juicy but also very earthy. The finish was crisp and reminded of soil, pine-wood and stone.
This was one of those typical German reds of the olden days: little wood on the finish meant that the unmistakable note of just-ripe Pinot Noir was allowed to escape and kind of bring the whole wine out of balance. There was nothing unpleasant and the whole affair was round and complete, just unrefined and a bit messy. A brilliant food wine nonetheless: game dishes such as roast boar or venison fit wonderfully with this kind of wine.
-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