Donnhoff’s Niederhauser Hermanshohle Spatlese Impresses Even in a ‘Lesser’ Vintage…

With a reputation going back to the 19th century, this vineyard site was even one of the most highly taxed back in 1901, with its quality accruing a 1500 silver groschen tax compared to neighbouring vineyards on a 15 silver groschen rate. Thought to be named after the Roman god Hermes, the protector of travellers and messengers, and the Hohle or cave on the slope, this 8.55 hectare vineyard is based on grey slate and sand stone soils on a 30-45 degree gradient at 130 to 175m altitude.

When the 2012 Rieslings were released, they were considered by producers and the trade as slightly boring, uneventful, safe wines. Very little acid verve, unique character or electricity. But tasting this wine 6 years later reveals quite a self assured expression with some early development but plenty of delicious complexity. If you have them in your cellar, there’s no rush but they should be fairly interesting to drink now.

Niederhauser Hermanshohle Riesling Spatlese 2012, Nahe, Germany, 8.5 Abv.

Medium straw yellow, on the nose the lift and complexity shows allure and intrigue. Massive density and intensity, there are complex notes of white flowers, gardenia, kerosene rag, lemon marmalade, white peach and waxy yellow lemon peel. As a Spatlese, the wine shows richness and textural palate weight but not overt sweetness. There are delicious notes of soft honied peaches, lemon confit, apple purée, creamy resinous lemon rind and smokey honey on toast. An attractive wine drinking well now but will probably peak in 2 to 3 years time, and drink well over another 5 to 8+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Another Exciting Experimental Elgin Release from Carsten Migliarina…

There are a lot of great cool climate wines being produced in the Cape, many of them originating in Elgin. But unusually, this new release is not a Chardonnay, Semillon or a Sauvignon Blanc, but a superb cool, crunchy, mineral Riesling.


Seitensprung means an “affair” or “side step” and Carsten’s idea is to make one experimental wine from a different grape variety every year. This would allow Carsten full artistic experimental freedom and no accumulative pressure or expectations, with the wines only being bottled if quality meets his high standards.


This is a one-off Riesling, itself unusual in South Africa and lovers of the variety will hopefully see some of Carsten’s German heritage in this exciting new wine.

Migliarina Wines Riesling Seitensprung 2016, W.O. Elgin, 12 Abv.

Like all Carsten’s wines, this is another serious effort. So grown up and old worldly in style. Not sure how he pulls it off time and time again, but this is so taught and mineral-laden with gravel, wet river pebbles, wet chalk, dried herbs and dry summer stable straw. The palate is a mirror image of the nose, seamlessly balanced and vibrantly fresh showing crunchy green apple, dried straw spice, pithy green pear, and incredibly rasping dry lemon complemented by crystalline purity and framed by profound liquid minerality. This is a very classy Riesling unlike anything I’ve tasted recently in South Africa, built more in a structured German Nahe or Rhinegau Trocken style. Superb wine. Glückwunsch Carsten!

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW) 

Riesling Does Not Get Much Better Than This ~ Tasting the Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 2016 with Cornelius Donnhoff…

One of Germany’s most beautiful river valleys and geologically speaking, the most varied and interesting. The small tranquil River Nahe joins the Rhine at Bingen and all along the valley walls, surrounding the little villages, vineyards adorn the countryside. The vineyards of the Nahe were first classified in 1901 and there are now 4,202 hectares of vines with a ratio of 75% white and 25% red, forming 2.3% of annual German wine production.


The Spring of 2016 started quite gently with pleasant temperatures and stable weather. However the rains arrived in May and continued to plague the vineyards, with the annual rainfall being equalled by late June already, and all at the critical flowering stage. Diligent canopy management was required until the rains finally stopped in July, ushering in a period of more tranquil conditions. The remainder of the summer was dry and bountiful, stretching all the way to the first day of picking on the 4th of October 2016.


Tasting with Cornelius Donnhoff today, he confirmed that they consider their 2016 Rieslings to be of outstanding quality and very comparable in quality with their block buster 2015 whites, across all styles.


Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 2016, Nahe, 8.5 Abv.

From one of the Nahe’s most incredible vineyards, the 2016 Hermannshohle reflects the rewards for great terroir and another wonderful vintage, showing concentration and fine, intense suave acids. The wine is still in nappies but is already showing the real class of a “Grand Cru” quality vineyard. The nose is vibrant and expressive, showing citrus bon bons, white peaches, citrus blossom, and waxy tangerine peel spice. There are pretty wet slate notes to complement the pristine, crystalline fruits. The palate is rich, luxurious, and long, with incredible drive and intensity and a concentration of green apple pastille, crunchy white peaches, talc, musk, citrus oil and grey slate minerality. Such opulence, refinement and balance. Class personified. Young Riesling Spatlese from the Nahe, or anywhere, does not get much better than this!

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)



 

Rediscovering the Greatness of Alsace Riesling ~ Tasting the Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling 2008…

Alsace is a strange wine category in the UK. Generic promotional marketing activity has mainly been focused around the food and wine connection, thus primarily targeting the on-trade or restaurant sector. But like with German wines, dry or sweet, the regional message never seems to be communicated in a clear and digestible consumer format.


I love Alsace wines. Along with the Loire and Jura, it’s probably still the cheapest, most value for money, under appreciated, premium region in France. For goodness sake, there are 51 Grand Cru appellations to choose from after all! So today I revelled in the opportunity to hook up with Charlotte Hugel to taste their new releases. 


Some how I missed the first vintage of the incredible Schoelhammer Riesling 2007. Luckily today I got to drink the superb 2008 follow up vintage. But the Schoelhammer plot, from the Schoenenbourg Grand Cru, which overlooks Riquewihr, has always been one of Hugel’s favourite single vineyard sites and as such, was often vinified separately to the other Riesling parcels.


In 2008, climatic conditions were a carbon-copy of the excellent 2007 vintage. Budburst at the end of April was quite late, but May was warm and sunny so flowering began on 15th June and took more than a fortnight to complete. July and August were particularly cool with hardly any rise in temperature, but in mid-September the Indian Summer arrived. As a result, the grapes ripened slowly but fully, perfectly healthy and with excellent acidity. 

Schoelhammer covers a mere 6 300 square metres (67 800 square feet), 30 rows of vines dedicated to Riesling and organically farmed. Its triassic clay-marl terroir is farmed organically so as to best reveal the complexity of its rich sub-soil. Only 2534 bottles 750ml were produced with a 12.35 Abv., a 7,85 g/l TA, from vines with an average age of 23 years old, yielding 31 Hl/Ha.


Tasting Note: Famille Hugel Schoelhammer Riesling 2008 – This wine has a very pale, youthful colour despite being almost 10 years old. The nose is liquid minerality personified. Limestone, wet pebbles, and crushed grey slate marry with intense notes of dry lemon citrus, lemon grass, white pepper, spring flowers, and yellow grapefruit. There is such amazing intensity of lemon / lime cordial and green apple pastille fruits. What a profound wine with such power, intensity, breadth and length. Wow. This wine’s finesse and sophistication really leaves you breathless. 

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tasting Profound Dry Australian Riesling at its Very Best ~ Clos Clare Riesling 2015, Watervale, 12.5 Abv.

Who can remember the late 1990s or early 2000s when Riesling meant fruity QbA classifications like Kabinett, Spatlese etc from Germany and sales were perpetually waning as the market cemented its love affair with dry (fruity) Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc?


I remember visiting Weingut Donnhoff in the Nahe in 2002 and tasting all the fruity wines as well as one or two trocken (dry) styles. When I asked Helmut why he did not export the dry styles to the UK, he replied that only Germany wanted them and the UK only drank the fruity styles. I then proceeded to place the first large order of dry wines Donnhoff had ever exported to the UK. 


More importantly, what allowed this to transpire, was the sudden interest and demand among new, educated consumers, inspired by dry Australian Riesling styles from Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley and Margaret River primarily. Germany stood up, took note, and have never looked back. Anecdotally, I’d say dry styles and dry Grosses Gewachs out sell the fruity styles in the premium categories. So Germany owe Australia a free lunch.


Few dry Aussie Rieslings typify this revolution in quality more than Tom and Sam Barry’s Clos Clare Winery in Watervale. Adjoining the famous Pewsey Vale “Florita” vineyard, these 45 year old dry grown vines were harvested on the 17th of February in 2015, chilled for 24 hours, and then whole bunch pressed before fermentation. Having recently tasted a vertical back to 2000, I can honestly say that dry Aussie Riesling doesn’t get any better. 


Tasting Note: This young Riesling has the pristine clarity of a crisp Spring morning. Pale straw and lime yellow. The nose is ultra cool and pure with subtle notes of lime cordial, crunchy white peaches, fresh lemon grass, limestone minerality and dusty mandarine citrus. So pure and seductive. The palate is every bit as vibrant, laden with lime peel, lemon Bon Bon boiled sweets, wet chalk, green apple peel and subtle mixed dried Thyme herbs and lime pastille length. Crystalline and mineral, this fresh zippy Riesling sucks you into its tractor beam and does not release you until the bottle is finished. A classic, fresh, bone dry Clare Valley version that shows dry Aussie Riesling at its very best. Keep or drink over 10 years. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)