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
It’s all good and well putting Riesling in new oak but Sauvignon Blanc is an entirely different kettle of fish. I know that the Americans have been doing it for decades but, in Europe, it’s fairly rare.
Talking of rare, Sauvignon Blanc is rare in Germany. It’s becoming more popular and the German climate really makes the most of the green notes in Sauvignon Blanc – perhaps slightly fuller in body than those of the Loire valley but with the same, important, vegetative structure, mostly avoiding the peach and nectarine overdose you get in Marlborough.
Deidesheim’s Von Winning have a unique signature in German viticulture: they age their prestige wines in new oak giving them a very unique feel. Many don’t like it, some even suggest that it makes the wines undrinkable but I think it’s a nice touch: there are enough wineries in Germany making clear-cut, straight-edge Riesling, why shouldn’t Von Winning do it differently?
But we’re not talking about Riesling and cold-climate Sauvignon can be notoriously hard to pair with wood. Bearing in mind that this is probably Von Winning’s flagship product, this unlikely pairing is noticeable in this wine. Don’t get me wrong, the wine is great and very unique, it’s just a tad….confusing.
Gooseberry is quick on the scene and it hints at white peach although never goes all the way. There are some green apples and even a touch of green bell pepper on the fruit side but this is abruptly killed off by the new wood: hardwood, eucalyptus and fire smoke.
Reserved in the way of fruit, the peach turns into petals and the gooseberry is much lighter than the nose suggests. The new oak isn’t as dominant on the body as it is in the nose and brings with it smoke, vegetative elements of fresh herbs and, combined with a buttery slipperiness when the wood comes in, it feels creamy and calm rather than bold and brash. The finish is crisp and the wood lingers on the tongue.
The wine is remarkably unique. The Fumé wines of California work entirely differently and make use of the fuller fruit and ripeness. The colder touch fits nicely to the wood but the entire composition is an acquired taste. If you like Von Winning’s approach to winemaking and you like German Sauvignon Blanc, this wine is ideal for you – a true Einzelgänger, sticking a middle finger up to the rulebook…and that with a VDP eagle on the neck’s foil.
For most of us, it isn’t the fantastic and great wines of this world that are of particular interest. The chance to taste a top-end Burgundy is a treat, but a rare one: the affordable, everyday wines are the ones that matter and when they offer the potential to surprise with great quality at a fair price, that’s what the majority of drinkers are looking for.
Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is one of the Pfalz region’s best producers and their Grand Cru (Großes Gewächs) wines are some of the best in Germany. Their Kirchenstück Riesling is of world-class quality and one of Palatinate’s most sought-after wines. However, the attention to detail at Dr. Bürklin-Wolf goes right down to the Gutsweine – wines produced using vines owned by the producer all over the region – no single-vineyard stuff and not even sourced from one single commune. Whereas these wines might not showcase the individual site and terroir of one vineyard, they act as ambassadors for the region and are the wines that most people will drink.
Dr. Bürklin Wolf’s Estate Riesling is already fantastic, one of Germany’s best VDP Gutsweine (estate wines) and this Pinot Noir is just as good. I’ve said it a thousand times: most Pinot Noir in Germany is forgettable at best: unripe, sour, earthy and translucent; it offers good holiday drinking but, when you take a few bottles home, you realise that it was the heat-of-the-moment that forced you to enjoy the wine. This one and a small number of others are exceptions to the rule. German Pinot Noir can be brilliant and whilst this is almost guaranteed with the single-site wines for 30€ and upwards, it can be rare if you don’t know where to look if your budget isn’t quite that high.
Cherry red with a Barbie-pink hue.
The wine is rather expressive on the nose with plenty of red fruit: Cassis, black cherry and cranberry take on the major roles but are joined by a particularly pleasant red plum aroma. The earthy touch commonly associated with German Pinot is there but plays a largely background role. There is a touch of wood too, nothing dominant but extremely helpful in presenting the fruit.
The attack is a sweet berry mixture lead by the Cassis and cranberry but it also includes black fruit in the way of blackcurrant, black cherry and even blueberries. The body is nice and ripe: notes of red apple move onto a cleverly-created wooden finish with bite despite being mild and reserved. This shows off some nice cedar wood character with a touch of smoke.
Again, it’s the attention to detail that makes this wine so impressive. Rather than just make a Pfalz Pinot Noir, you can tell that a highly-skilled winemaker chose to craft this wine as if it were a more prestigious and expensive wine. The Pfalz-terroir is there and so too is the sense of German Spätburgunder but the exquisite use of Barrique is so balanced and neither prominent nor jobless in presenting the wine – just right. Priced at 13€ the value-for-money factor is excellent and, even if the wine were 10€ more expensive, it’d be a fair buy.
I too was impressed with the 2013 Riesling Brut from Reichsrat von Buhl (read my review here). After years of producing just another Winzersekt the 2013 Riesling Brut was the first large-scale proof that, after years of being otherwise mediocre, Riesling also works well in sparkling wine. With the bone-dry signature of new winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann, the Von Buhl series (in particular the still Rieslings) has come back out of the shadows and, alongside Dr. Bürklin-Wolf and Von Winning, is back at the forefront of Pfälzer Wein.
The 2013 Rosé Brut was released a few months after the Riesling Brut to much anticipation. Now sold-out, orders were limited to six bottles per customer – my handler was only able to sell me four bottles before he ran out as well, unable to replenish stocks.
The wine is made entirely of Pinot Noir (or Spätburgunder in German). Aged for no less that 15 months on the yeast, the grapes are sourced from prime vineyards in the Pfalz region.
An elegant salmon pink with rose-gold gleam and a fine mousse.
Very fruity and yet incredibly discreet – nothing perfumed, nothing too bright and yet remarkably fresh: raspberry, strawberry and a hint of grapefruit with a toasty (although reserved) note.
The attack is both refreshing and yet not sharp: the sweeter side of grapefruit, raspberry and the strawberry in the nose are the first to appear and make up the body with the tarty appeal of rhubarb – no bitterness. The finesh is nice and toasty but in no way compromises either the freshness of the wine or the discreet appeal of the sweet red fruit. A touch of vanilla is perhaps there but plays a very background role.
A very well-made sparkling rosé and one of the best value-for-money bottles available in the pink bubbly sector altogether. Miles better than nearly all of the Champagne wines that retail for twice the 25€ price tag, the appeal is that it is so fresh. Whilst you might associate German Pinot Noir with earthy, Cassis-driven wines; this is clean, modern and very elegant.
If you can get hold of a bottle, you will not regret it. If you already have some in the cellar, it drinks beautifully now and will do for a long time yet.
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)
Knipser is one of the biggest and most important names in the Pfalz. Alongside a whole host of varietal specific white wines, the winery is famed for its red wines: particularly those based on Pinot Noir, locally known as Spätburgunder. Over the years though, the company has experimented with a handful of exotic varietals: Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for example.
This fresh red is based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a handful of Cabernet hybrids which make it very different to how German rosé is commonly produced. Its youth makes it very fresh – this is perfect food wine and also ideal for drinking outside in summer or late spring.
Pale, pastel-pink like cooked Salmon.
The nose feels rather zingy – alongside the typical red berries (Cassis, raspberry and strawberry) are citrus notes and those of fresh herbs.
The attack is floral and rather fruity – quite sharp actually but this is probably due to the wine having only just been filled into bottles. The body is of red fruit: strawberry, Cassis and creamy raspberry bonbons. A certain amount of pear also comes though and the finish is crisp and slightly metallic.
A very fruity wine but decently done. The dryness and crispness of the finish means that it has classic appeal despite its fruity body. The finish is the defining characteristic of this very modern wine that reminds of well-made French rosé.
The new VDP classification might seem complicated and is certainly disputed but in some cases, it just works. Whilst it has only been in place since the middle of the last decade, one winery has been doing it for the best part of three: Dr. Bürklin-Wolf in the Pfalz. Their top two tiers of wines aren’t named GG but G.C. (Grand Cru – the international equivalent of Grosse Lage) and P.C (Premier Cru) instead of Erste Lage. Like other VDP wineries, they also create Village (Ortsweine) and Estate (Gutsweine) wines.
The producer is one of the biggest names in the Pfalz when it comes to Riesling alone: with vines in some of the region’s most prestigious and highly-valued vineyards, Dr. Bürklin-Wolf is not just a major player in the Pfalz but in the entire German wine world. This Grand Cru wine is sourced purely from Riesling vines in the Pechstein vineyard in the commune of Forst. The South-East-facing vineyard is characterised by the black topsoil derived from volcanic rock.
Pale, bright gold.
Fresh lime, green apple, peach, banana and smoky wood.
On the attack, thick lime juice and lemon peel but also waxed green apples and then a body of exotic, sweet fruit: banana, kiwi, pineapple and then a nice, rounded, mellow finish of pepper, wood and a hint of smoke.
Bürklin-Wolf’s are some of the strongest Rieslings from the Pfalz and, whilst the power was to detect on the attack and in the body, the finish was long and almost delicate rounding off the wine making it very easy to drink. The aging was evident and yet not half as developed as I would have expected. The body with all its sweet fruit makes the wine feel less dry and uniquely oily: less fluid somehow but it’s a lovely touch and makes the otherwise determining acidity take a background role. One of the most underrated vintages, in this wine, Dr. Bürklin-Wolf managed to create a fantastic wine.
This will keep for another ten years at least if you still have a few bottles lying around.
US: Buy Dr. Bürklin-Wolf wines here.
UK: A small selection of Dr. Bürklin-Wolf wines are available here.
Weingut Knipser Johannishof can be found in the commune of Laumersheim in the Pfalz and is undoubtedly one of the entire region’s most exclusive and famous addresses. Famed for its fabulous single estate Riesling and Pinot Noir wines, Knipser is one of Germany’s most highly-acclaimed red wine makers.
Alongside the traditional varietals, the VDP winery also experiments with varietals more commonly associated with French wine. Alongside this Sauvignon Blanc, they also make Chardonnay, Syrah and a Cuvee using Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc: Cuvee X.
Sauvignon Blanc is becoming popular in Germany – changing climatic conditions and consumer habits are leading ever more traditional wineries into the production of this fragrant varietal. Sauvignon Blanc might be found in some of the world’s warmest production regions but the cold-climate wines often emit elegance with more focus on minerals rather than huge stone fruit.
Satin, white gold.
On the nose is lemon, lime and a fair amount of peach and nectarine. Fresh grass and a quartzite note are also to detect.
The attack is rather sharp with lemon, lime and a tiny amount of CO2. The body is shaped by nectarine but also fresh lemon and the finish is peppery with a herbal note.
A well made wine that reminds that Sauvignon Blanc can be decent. Unlike the tendency many other wineries have to release this wine with a fair amount of sugar in Spätlese form, this wine is elegant and rather reserved: it doesn’t shout stone fruit like some Southern French wines. In fact, it feels more like New Zealand wine: a balanced composition between fruit and mineral. For that reason it makes a great food wine: seafood, white fish and grilled poultry.
There are a few things in life I can’t say no to. I’m a Riesling man through-and-through but I fall weak at the knees to oak-aged Chardonnay – particularly big Californian wines or something smooth from Australia. On the look-out for a decent Chardonnay from either of these countries or even something fabulous from Burgundy I was unsuccessful: the German retail scene doesn’t do a lot of Burgundy (I suppose because the entry-level I can afford is qualitatively very similar to home-grown wines). However, the salesman in my wine shop of choice on that day asked if I’d like to try something German that had spent time in Barrique.
And what a wine it was: not cheap (18€ almost) but everything I was looking for. Made by Pfälzer winery Meßmer, this Chardonnay made using grapes grown only on the VDP Grosse Lage (unfortunately only for Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir) Burrweiler Schloßgarten is aged in Barrique barrels before bottling for release adding a unique complexity whilst unusually not removing any of the fruit content.
Germany’s Pfalz is probably best known for high-quality Riesling, fortunately however it is one of the most diverse production regions with a whole host of specialties and varietals. Weingut Meßmer is one of the Pfalz’s finest wineries when it comes down to the Pinot varietals: alongside a handful of Chardonnay and other exotic wines, their core line exists of the three Burgundy grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. The Schloßgarten vineyard is characterised by a high level of limestone in the soil: perfect for the cultivation of Chardonnay.
Bright white gold.
Lots of fresh fruit on the nose: lime, peach, banana, pear and eventually a thick sense of oak and vanilla.
The initial attack is one of racy citrus: lots of lime cordial and a hint of lemon peel but also a great deal more fruit which shows up in the form of yellow fruit: peach, apricot, banana, pineapple and so much more. This gives way to a smooth vanilla and oak sensation that rounds everything off. The smoothness is unparallel – it feels buttery and extinguishes the fruit capably keeping the whole thing in balance.
A fantastic wine regardless of its origin: often enough people (including myself) say things like “a good wine when you consider it comes from Germany”, this Chardonnay doesn’t need that introduction: this is a Chardonnay with world-class character: it completes on a level playing field with Californian, Australian and French wines that easily cost twice as much (if not more).
There’s a catch though, they’re not making it anymore – apparently they want to continue putting white grapes in Barrique but wish to do this with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc rather than Chardonnay. Such a shame...
The Pfalz is one of Germany’s finest production regions for Riesling. Alongside the Mosel, Rheingau and Nahe Valleys, the Pfalz is home to some of the best wines that emerge from Germany and, like those other regions, its wines also have a unique style: they’re usually big, powerful and sometimes rather acidic.
One of the most famous producers in the region is Reichsrat Von Buhl and, although the company has taken a slightly different turn for the latest vintage (and future vintages to come), it’s Großes Gewächs wines from Grand Cru vineyards have always been a highlight in the German wine world.
One of their Grosse Lagen is Reiterpfad in Ruppertsberg, close to the winery’s base in Deidesheim. The chalky soils together with the slopes surrounding assist in keeping the vines warm in the all-important late summer ripening period.
As shiny as, but slightly darker than gold: the colour a ripened and aged Riesling should have.
Upon opening the wine gave off very little other than a sharp sense of alcohol and a touch of petrol. A few hours later the picture was very different. Sharp lime on the nose together with a whole bunch of orchard fruits: apple, pear and quince along with a unique metallic smell that many old Rieslings have.
The attack was fresh and characterised by lime juice. The body was thick with yellow fruit: quince and pear but also honey and caramel. The finish was slightly woody and reminded of high-quality sherry.
The whole wine was, despite the sharp attack, very, very smooth. The yellow fruit was astonishingly profound and shaped the whole thing. The aged aspect of the wine brought in some real elegance that rounded it off leaving a mid-length but smooth, sweet finish.
-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