The jewel in the crown of the Nahe Valley is undoubtedly the Hermannshöhle vineyard close to the commune of Niederhausen. It is arguably the Nahe’s best site and, with it’s South-facing, steep vineyards, it soaks up some of the highest numbers of sun hours in the production region. On the headland of a meander, the microclimatic conditions are ideal for both the storage of heat and relative protection from winds and frosts.
The black-grey slate slopes, combined with limestone and volcanic soils are also excellent for the cultivation of vines, particularly Riesling. The Riesling grown here achieves full ripeness with almost-unrivalled complexity and depth, not just in the Nahe region but Germany in general.
The site is operated by a number of wineries, one of which is the Dönnhoff estate in Oberhausen (Nahe). Dönnhoff produces a number of Riesling wines from the site including prestigious sweet wines all the way to its legendary premium dry Grosses Gewächs (Grand Cru).
Classically satin gold with a slightly green hue.
Extremely fresh and ripe with green apple, gooseberry, lime juice, grapefruit peel but also a fair amount of vegetation (fresh sage, mint and evergreen forest) right up until a slate-driven, almost smoky note at the end.
Attack of sweetened and lemon juice with a hint of lime cordial and grapefruit peel: all fresh and yet not overly sharp. This leads onto a thick yellow body with green apple, quince and Abate pears. There were some exotic nuances and these paved the way to an expertly worked-in slate finish with a touch of wet rock, and fresh, aromatic herbs. The smoke on the nose came through slightly but was gone in an instant and finished off the whole thing wonderfully.
The rounded and fullness of the wine is astonishing. Fresh as the day it was filled into bottles however with all the sharp edges rounded off and blending into one another. Thanks to this, the age of the wine is expressed with grace rather than tiredness and it helps to pull the whole thing together. Hermannshöhle and the expert winemakers at Dönnhoff make this wine one of Germany’s most important ambassadors – it doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to Riesling.
Enjoyed with the guys over at weinding (click here to check out their site)
The Nahe is probably best known for its Riesling and yet a number of wineries also use the valley’s slate soils to grow Pinot vines. The combination of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grown on slate is quite interesting: you get the fuller Burgundy notes of Pinot but with a freshness and mineral structure found in cold-climate slate wines. Pinot Blanc expresses this perhaps best but Pinot Noir is also very good at making the most of slate soils – Pinot Noir is, like Riesling, one of the best varietals for showing off the soil it grows on and, when it is handled like a white wine (e.g. little to no skin contact), it can really be very good in presenting a region as a whole.
Tesch is a well-known producer in the Nahe valley and, like most other Nahe producers, the Rieslings are the wines that most people are looking for. However, alongside a range of other products, they also make this fabulous Blanc de Noir named ‘Deep Blue’ after the ocean that used to exist there 20 million years ago.
Pale salmon – more rosé gold than pink.
Very fresh in the nose with a fair amount going on: most noticeable are the red berries: cherries and raspberry that eventually lead onto a thick strawberries and cream aroma. There is a hint of wet rock in the background and fresh herbs too.
The attack is very smooth. Lots of berries dictate the start: raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and perhaps even a touch of sweetened plum. The body moves onto Rhubarb with a unique vanilla and cream touch: custard perhaps – even ice cream. The finish is crisp however and brings in those slate notes – they are slightly dampened by the power of the fruit, which is probably just as well, otherwise they might feel a touch out of place.
Certainly a wine worth trying and one that fits excellently with fresh whitefish – not acid-driven as is often the case in both Nahe and Blanc de Noir wines, the body is big and warming whereas the overall feel is fresh and relaxed: the entire point in Blanc de Noir.
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.
(Picture: 2013 Vintage)
When it comes to fantastic and simple entry-level Riesling, Dönnhoff has always been my first port-of-call. Their Riesling Gutswein is fantastic stuff and sums up the Nahe region better than any other similarly-priced wine from anyone else.
Whilst their single-estate stuff is what they’re known for, this simple, dry Riesling is one of my favourite wines and one I buy again and again. I loved both the 2012 and 2013 and was sure than 2014 would follow up with the same level of quality. Besides it still being a tad too young to drink, the potential is there making Dönnhoff’s Riesling Gutswein Trocken one of the most consistently high-quality wines I know of.
Rather floral thanks to it being freshly filled, the wine emits lovely notes of lemon peel and grapefruit juice. There are some peppery elements to the aroma and freshly cut grass too.
Alongside the lemon peel and grapefruit juice, a very sugary, floral feel is found all through the wine. This makes you think of pear drop candy. The body is full of lovely apricot and fresh green apples and the finish has a bite of wet rock and black pepper.
In a few months this wine is likely to impress on a whole different level. It really offers a sneaky peak at the Nahe 2014 vintage which, despite its problems, looks set to be a cracker. If you have a few bottles of this, wait six months or so before drinking.
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.
I reviewed the 2012 Riesling Gutswein from Dönnhoff a few months ago (you can read what I wrote here). For those unfamiliar with the winery, it is famed for its wonderful Rieslings grown on a handful of vineyards. The Einzellage (single-vineyard) and corresponding Großes Gewächs (Grand Cru) wines from Dönnhoff are sought after all over the world.
You’ll be pleased to hear that, whilst many of the wines I review here are only available in Germany and extremely limited amounts abroad, Dönnhoff and its fantastic whites are relatively common finds in European, North American and Australasian specialist stores. This simple Gutswein is made using grapes grown all over the Nahe region – Germany’s third best-known production region for (almost solely) Riesling.
Light in colour with a yellow touch and even a hint of grass green.
Really clean – whereas a prominent sense of fresh citrus peel is to detect, the minerals of fresh grass and granite are immediately noticeable and characterise the nose..
A very refreshing wine with a full body of lemon and lime peel with a hint of pink grapefruit completed with clean-cut minerals. Iron and granite finish off the wine excellently, leaving a clean and fresh taste in the mouth for a few seconds after swallowing.
Many say that Dönnhoff defines the 'typical German Riesling' - it is a complete experience and, even this simple estate wine offers awesome drinking, a fantastic insight into the wines of the Nahe and is a fair representative of just how fantastic affordable German white wine can be. Priced at a little over a tenner, the value for money factor is astonishing, especially when you consider how much similar quality French wine costs.
Emrich Schönleber is one of the Nahe’s biggest names. Alongside a handful of other producers, Schönleber belongs to the prestigious VDP club and, as such has the possibility of producing Premier Cru and Grand Cru German wines.
Alongside doing this, it makes a number of Gutsweine – wines designed to be enjoyed every day at decent value. This 2012 Riesling was made of grapes grown all over the Nahe – one of Germany’s most underrated production areas. Similar in terms of climate to the Mosel and with very similar geographic and geological situation, its wine are often just as refined, however less known and therefore less expensive.
Bright, bold straw yellow
Lots of lovely ripe apples and pears on the notes, there are also some faint citrus notes. There appears a large mineral element behind the fruit: brassy quartz and some lovely fresh herbs.
Very mineral-laden – particularly on the stone elements and metallic edge, the wine is rather citrus-driven although the major part of the body is ripe apple: green apples and a few yellow pears. Fresh herbs (parsley and coriander to name but a few) finish the wine to give it a decent, spicy and clean finish.
A great Nahe wine. Perhaps not as refined as some of the more prestigious stuff but a very good Gutswein and Riesling nonetheless. Excellent on its own or with roast poultry or seawater whitefish.
VDP Gutswein | Qualitätswein | Nahe, Germany | A.P. Nr. 7753010 02 13
Dönnhoff is a big name for lovers of Riesling worldwide and their wines are well-known for high quality and excellent value for money. Alongside a handful of single-estate wines, the producer also creates a range of entry-level, single-varietal stuff. This is one of them: a simple dry Riesling made using grapes from it’s acclaimed single-estate vineyards. The grapes are grown on a selection of soils, all of which are typical of the lesser-known Nahe region as a whole.
The Nahe itself is a river valley, a tributary of the mighty Rhine, just like the Mosel and Ahr valleys a few miles downstream. Blessed with steep valley sides, micro-climatic conditions and a moderate yearly temperature (partly due to the high level of warmth-saving slate in the soils), fantastically crisp and ripe wines can be made here. Nahe is, alongside the Mosel and the Rheingau, the other major production region for exquisite-quality Riesling.
Bright yellow although fairly clear with a hint of lime green
Very vibrant citrus was the first thing to notice about the wine: sharp limes and sweet lemon were immediately apparent and so were notes of fresh white peach and honey melon. Freshly cut grass added a scent of elegance and freshness which completed the nose.
With a beautiful entrée of sharp lime cordial and sweet lemon syrup, the body was one of yellow fruit (mainly nectarines and peaches but also a touch of something a bit more exotic). A mild floral feel lead into a burst of refreshing acidity which was sharp but clean and consistent with the rest of the wine. Excellently finished with a brisk metallic bite, the wine left the palate undisturbed: a very clean finish without any unbalanced lingering sugar.
A fantastic Gutswein: one of the best I’ve ever had – a level of quality unusual for entry-level Riesling. The cleanliness and on-the-spot development of the wine in the mouth is a finely-crafted product.
90 Points (for a simple Gutswein!)
This wine is widely available in the UK, USA, Australia and New-Zealand (as well as Germany, Austria and Switzerland) but if you're having trouble getting hold of it, let me know.
Grape: Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier - Price: 5.99€ - Barcode: 4014932881190 - Bottle: 750ml Screwtop
I’m a sucker for two things, attractive packaging and Blanc de Noir. This wine, in my local REWE supermarket satisfied both of these things and that’s how it found its way from the rack into my bright red shopping basket.
Blanc de Noir is something special. A red wine that, thanks to the removal of grape skins, is treated, fermented and stored like a white wine. The Germans have been doing it for years. So have the French: Champagne is usually made of three grapes, two of which are red but thanks to the white treatment of the red grapes Pinot Noir (Grauburgunder) and Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling), Champagne is a lovely sparkling white wine.
This one cost me 6 euros and is from a slightly larger producer in Nahe, a wine region based around the Nahe River, a tributary of the most important German wine river: the Rhine.
This wine has a very interesting colour. Although the wine appears rather peachy and Champagne-like in colour, it has a unique off-red hue that makes it, from some angles, look a little like rosé.
An interesting nose is the defining characteristic of this wine. With heavy notes of peach and tropical fruits, this wine is very fragrant. Leave it in the glass for a few minutes and huge notes of green apple and spicy pear arrive, quickly overpowering the original notes of fruit.
The overall taste is very heavily dominated by apples and pears but there is an elegant sense of nectarine, peach or apricot in the background. You get a very faint sense of red fruits come through. Things like strawberry and raspberry are on the tip of your tongue but these vanish once the wine is swallowed.
With a warming factor that probably derives from the red grapes used, this wine is very pleasing and, although not crisp in the finish, rounded. It feels silky and thicker on the tongue, not like other white wines from the region. Although the region-specific acids are available, you might think that this was a wine that came from a slightly warmer production region.
-Sud de France
-Pinot Blanc (Weißburgunder)
-Pinot Gris (Grauburgunder)
-Pinot Meunier (Schwarzriesling)
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
-Medium / off-dry
-Brut Zero/ Brut Nature
-Medium / off-dry