By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 29 May 2021
It seems bizarre that not so long ago German dry wines were considered an after-thought by some producers, compared to their prized sweeter styles.
How things have changed in the last two decades. Dry wines from every region across Germany are now stealing the show, most particularly in Mosel which was far better known in the past for its sweeter Spatlese and Auslese styles.
Undoubtedly the warming climate has played its part in enabling growers to achieve a wonderful balance of ripeness and acidity in dry ‘trocken’ wines, which in the past were often tart and austere.
However, as the German wine classification system had been designed around sweetness levels, something had to be done to highlight and promote dry wines from Germany’s top vineyards.
VDP (Verband Deutscher Pradikatsweinguter), a private organisation of 200 members of the top German wine estates, set about classifying its members’ vineyards and assigned them a status.
‘GG’ (Grosse Gewachse) is the name they gave specifically to dry wines made from classic varieties, according to stringent regulations, from top Grand Cru (Grosse Lage) single vineyard sites.
To demonstrate the quality and diversity of GGs, German wine specialist Howard Ripley put on a tasting of six dry Riesling GGs showing different styles produced across the regions from top-ranking producers.
What I loved about this tasting was that it showed Riesling in its most pure and transparent form. Here you have this fabulous classic grape with no oak and no makeup – these are just scintillatingly pristine dry examples from Germany’s top vineyards.
Pfalz: RIESLING UNGEHEUER GG 2016 Weingut Georg Mosbacher ***STAR BUY***
Jurgen Duringer & Sabine Mosbacher make superb wines from their base in northern Pfalz near Bad Durkheim. Ungeheuer, meaning enormous, is a 29 hectare vineyard of which the Mosbachers own 1.3ha. South/southeast facing at 120-170m elevation with 60% sloping up towards the forest with coloured sandstone, limestone and basalt soil.
Taste: Lovely floral nose, bright yellow fruit, delicate green notes with herby undertone – a fine delicate linear Riesling with distinct chalky stoniness and slightly salty finish. Great finesse for Pfalz: 13%
Rheinhessen: RIESLING OLBERG GG 2017 Weingut Kuhling-Gillot ***STAR BUY***
I have been impressed with several cuvees from Olivier & Caroline Spanier, one of many exciting new growers in Rheinhessen; they were early converts to biodynamic viticulture. Olberg vineyard (11.32 ha) has weathered porous red clay and slate soils – south facing at 80-170m. It is the warmest vineyard on this steep (65-120% gradient) strip overlooking the Rhine. The Spaniers own just one hectare of old Riesling vines here.
Taste: Melon floral notes with saline hints, very tight minerality, wet wool hints with a long juicy citric palate, moderate alcohol – quite steely and tight – mouthwateringly delicious: 12%
Rheinhessen: RIESLING AULERDE GG 2017 Weingut Wittmann
Biodynamic since 2004, Philipp Wittmann owns a run of vineyards along a ridge near Westhafen. Most easterly (and warmest) is Aulerde, sheltered from winds on a gentle slope south of Monzernheim. It is an 8.4 hectare south facing vineyard at moderate altitude 90-100m, a historic site first recorded in 1380. The vineyard looks flat and unexciting – but what lies underground is important: heavy clay marl with limestone on gravel, clay & sand.
Taste: Pearskin aromas, lovely pure Riesling with a salty edge; attractive rounded ripe fruit on mid-palate, quite intense, finishing with medium length: 12.5%
Rheinhessen: RIESLING STEINACKER 2016 Weingut Knewitz ***STAR BUY***
This is not actually a ‘GG’ – but it should be. The Knewitz family (Bjorn, Corina & Tobias) have applied to become VDP members and are likely to be accepted with such a great reputation as impressive Rheinhessen newcomers. Steinacker (45 hectares) means stony field, a northeast-facing cool-sited vineyard at 160-235m with limestone with high iron content soils. Knewitz own 2 hectares in this vineyard. An estate to watch.
Taste: Yellow fruits, fresh herb notes, lovely flinty juicy palate, lean, pure and a lingering length. My favourite of the tasting; loved its sleekness, energy, sappy fruits and precision. Good price, snap it up before word gets out: 13%
Nahe: RIESLING FELSENBERG GG 2017 Weingut Schafer-Frohlich
I am a huge fan of Tim Frohlich (the youngest-ever Gault Millau German winemaker of the Year back in 2010). He is a visionary making elegant pure Rieslings; obsessive about minerality and always using spontaneous ferment. Southwest-facing Felsenberg is a long stretch of 9.6 hectares of steep vineyards above Nahe river with altitude 120-200m with weathered porphyry soil. Large rocks above the vineyard shelter it from cold winds and it benefits from the river’s warmth. In Felsenberg, Frohlich owns 2 hectares.
Taste: Reductive nose with lime zest and herby undertones, steely tart dry palate, snappy acidity, crunchy lemon pip and grapefruit flavours, fresh, vibrant, salty; it needs time in bottle to enhance texture and complexity: 12.5%
Mosel: RIESLING JUFFER-SONNENUHR GG 2013 Weingut Schloss Lieser
Thomas Haag is renowned for his fastidious work raising the profile of this estate. Juffer-Sonnenuhr is a steep south/southwest facing site (altitude 110-190m) with Devonian blue slate; a large vineyard with 33.4 hectares, of which Haag owns 8.5 hectares. The key here is its old vines giving wonderful concentration even in tricky 2013, when 60% of the crop was damaged by spring hail.
Taste: Lovely honeyed developed bouquet, brisk acidity, juicy clean, quite sour fruits, underlying power, long intense length, delicious now, could age further: 13%
All wines available from www.howardripley.com
Join Rose’s ‘Discover Moldova’ virtual wine tasting with guest host Dr Caroline Gilby MW on Friday 11 June www.rosemurraybrown.com