German wine is primarily produced in the west of Germany, along the river Rhine and its tributaries, with the oldest plantations going back to the Roman era. Approximately 60 percent of the German wine production is situated in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, where 6 of the 13 regions (Anbaugebiete) are situated. Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world. White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total production. Among enthusiasts, Germany's reputation is primarily based on wines made from the Riesling grape variety, which at its best is used for aromatic, fruity and elegant white wines that range from very crisp and dry to well-balanced, sweet and of enormous aromatic concentration.
- Item #: i_328015Bottle Size: 750ML“A PERFECT VINTAGE OF THE BEST WINE VALUE IN THE ENTIRE DAMN WORLD, any color, any grape, any country, any price-point. This year for the first time it also contains fruit from a new acquisition, a hectare in the (Niederhauser) Klamm (see also Jakob Schneider; the site is a mélange of Rotliegend and weathered porphyry, and has both steep and flat sections.)” - Terry Theise
JANCIS ROBINSON - 16 POINTS The QbA bottling, described as 'fruchtig'. TA 8 g/l, RS 29 g/l. Richer and riper on the nose than the Höllenpfad Riesling trocken. Medium sweet but balanced. Creamy in the mouth thanks to the fruit ripeness but still deliciously fresh. Reasonably persistent too. JULIA HARDING, MW (JH)
JOHN GILMAN, VIEW FROM THE CELLAR - 89 POINTS The 2018 Estate Riesling Feinherb had also been bottled at the start of the week, ahead of my Thursday afternoon visit, but it was showing quite well indeed (despite having to follow-up all of those GG fireworks). This wine comes in at 10.5 percent alcohol, has acids of 8.5 grams and sports around twenty-five grams of sugar this year. The bouquet is very pretty, offering up scents of white cherries, apple, salty minerality and spring flowers. On the palate the wine is medium-full, crisp and juicy, with very good backend mineral tug, bright acids and lovely focus and grip on the absolutely delicious finish. Another bargain! 2019-2040. 89.
"This is from two main vineyards Oberhauser Felsenberg (volcanic) and Kieselberg (slate) as well as declassified fruit from the Grand Cru sites and Klamm, a new acquisition, a hectare in the (Niederhäuser) Klamm which we know from Jakob – it’s a mélange of slate and weathered porphyry, and has both steep and flat sections.. The idea here is to make a village wine, basically, though it’s sold and marketed as a Gutswein or Estate bottled basic wine. The Estate wine combines the two major soils that dominate the holdings for the estate, giving the drinker a look into what Donnhoff is all about. The basic wine is a calling card and thus Cornelius wants to make statement" - Importer
- Item #: i_328019Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE 92 POINTS - "From a one-hectare plot with younger vines on porphyry soils, the 2018 Niederhäuser Klamm Riesling Kabinett is open, bright and fresh on the nose, with ripe fruit but also remarkable smokiness, elegance and polished character. Lush and round but crystalline and fresh on the palate, this is a charmingly elegant and fruity Kabinett with frisky salinity on the finish and nice mineral grip. Very attractive and fresh. Tasted in July 2019."
- Item #: i_311010Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE 93+ POINTS The 2018 Oberhauser Brücke Riesling Spatlese is very intense and aromatic on the dense and voluptuous nose. Lush and creamy on the palate, this is a generous and dense, lush and persistent Brucke Spatlese with remarkable freshness and piquancy. It's pretty straight and piquant, with remarkable finesse and mineral tension. Tasted in July 2019. Stephan Reinhardt.
Before we go into Donnhoff's 2017s and 2018s, let me report about a record the estate made at the auction in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, in late September. The one and only magnum of the 2015 Hermannshöhle Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Freitag—a wine that I scored 100 points three years ago—came under the hammer and fetched 22,491 euros (incl. fees and taxes). The one and only Dade Thieriot from Dee Vine Wines in California was the last man standing. He bought the wine not for a collector and not even for himself but for his four-year-old daughter who likes Riesling—"sweet Rieslings in particular," as Dade told me a few days later. So, huge congratulations to Marie-Katharina for what Helmut Donnhoff calls "a monument of German Riesling culture" and "possibly the finest wine we have ever produced at our estate." Four bottles of the standard size were auctioned for a total of 13,744.5 euros and 16 of the 375-milliliter bottles fetched a sum of 20,391.84 euros.
So now, are there any other wines on the horizon to beat that one day? You never know, but I'd guess rather not. However, again there are marvelous wines to buy from Donnhoff from both vintages, 2018 and 2017.
2017 was deeply marked by frost in April that hit the plants terribly after the early budbreak. "We are located in a narrow valley and always threatened by spring frost," says Helmut Donnhoff, who tasted both vintages with me on an extremely hot summer day in July this year (2019). "We already thought the 2017 vintage would completely fail." Torches rescued the famous Brucke vineyard where Donnhoff produces (in certain years) perhaps Germany's finest Eiswein, but other vineyards suffered a lot. "The summer was very nice and helpful for the plants, but in the end, we had losses between 25% and 50% compared to a normal year, especially in our lesser plots that we pick for our estate wine. The crus were less hit, though." Donnhoff, who celebrated his 70th birthday a day after the now famous auction, has enough experience with difficult vintages and heavy losses. "You have to work hard the whole year, but you don't gain that much in the end. The more so since you have to pay the same amount of pickers, who had to go through each parcel several times in 2017 due to an uneven ripeness. We couldn't pick everything together and had to pick very carefully," Donnhoff remembers. "However, there is a big advantage, since the remaining grapes get everything that the vine and its roots are delivering. ... There was not much botrytis, which was fine anyway: Wine lovers ask us for dry wines more than for sweet wines today. ... However, the average yield was 30% to 35% less, so we couldn't supply all our clients. Some markets even didn't get anything."
As often in nature, a small vintage is followed by a generous one, and this was the case in 2018. "Extreme rainfalls in May and June made it very clear already early in the year that 2018 would be a vintage where we would need all our vats or even more," says Donnhoff. "Even during the very warm and dry summer especially, the old vines didn't show any hints of drought stress. Wherever we had a look, all our grapes were just marvelous, no matter in which vineyard. And the yield was even higher than we expected. The harvest weather was also beautiful, and all the grapes were in perfect condition, as if they were painted. Cornelius did great canopy management," Donnhoff senior praises his son. All in all, "2018 is a very, very good vintage. We got the same concentration and intensity like 2017, but in 2018, this is based on super clear and healthy grapes, whereas the density and structure of the 2017s was due to the heavy reduction during spring frost." However, both vintages are not characterized by botrytis and are marked by their amazing clarity, and I couldn't say which of the two fazes me more. Perhaps in 2018, the Spatlesen are a bit finer and clearer than in 2017, and without any doubt, the 2018 Hermannshohle Spatlese is the best buy this year from Cornelius and Helmut Donnhoff, whereas the 2018 Brucke Beerenauslese is the greatest wine, and the 2018 Hermannshohle GG is the finest dry Riesling—not only here but also in the entire Nahe valley. SR.
- Item #: i_324099Bottle Size: 750mlJOHN GILMAN, VIEW FROM THE CELLAR - 93 POINTS The Leistenberg has the oldest vines of all the Donnhoff parcels and they have really excelled in 2018. This beautiful Kabinett offers up a complex bouquet of white cherries, apple, salty slate, bee pollen and a lovely mix of spring flowers and fruit blossoms. On the palate the wine is medium-full, pure and filigreed, with its beautiful fruit tones stretched taught over its minerality, with bright, zesty acids and lovely lift and grip on the long and complex finish. Just beautiful. 2022-2060. 93.
- Item #: i_372021Bottle Size: 750ml
WINE ADVOCATE 90+ POINTS Picked significantly earlier as in 2013 and before, the 2014 Traiser Bastei Riesling GG displays a very clear, fresh and mineral, as well as elegant bouquet. Creamy textured, juicy and elegant on the palate, with a well integrated acidity, this medium-bodied Riesling reveals a ripe acidity and good mineral piquancy, as well as a velvet texture. Still young, this wine might gain more transparency over the years.
- Item #: i_311866Bottle Size: 750mlJAMES SUCKLING - 91 POINTS A dry Nahe riesling that manages to be immediately attractive, but also has the herbal, smoky and mineral character that makes this region special. The spot-on balance makes this an uncomplicated food wine. Drink now. Screw cap. Stuart Pigott.
JANCIS ROBINSON - 15.5 POINTS Almost perfumed aromas of ripe fruit with a slightly exotic leaning are well supported by a gentle scent of green herbs. The taste buds are treated to a delicate flavour of grapefruit, lime and a subtle salty tang, lively acidity and just a smidgeon of residual sugar take the sting out of trocken. Pleasant, straightforward dry Riesling. (MS)
- Item #: i_372079Bottle Size: 750mlJOHN GILMAN - VIEW FROM THE CELLAR - 99 POINTS - "The 2017 Felseneck Grosses Gewächs is yet another utterly brilliant young wine. The nose soars from the glass in a youthfully complex blend of tart orange, pink grapefruit, blood orange, spring flowers, a beautiful base of salty slate minerality, a touch of petrol and a gentle topnote of wild yeasts. On the palate the wine is full, pure and again electric with ripe acidity this year, with a rock solid core, laser-like focus and great cut and grip on the complex, long and utterly seamless finish. This is pure magic. 2027-2085."
JAMES SUCKLING 98 POINTS - "Deep and dark in the nose, but blessed with ravishing, tart stone-fruit character on the palate that is almost perfectly balanced by the intense mineral acidity. Enormously long and surprisingly charming finish for a Schafer-Frohlich wine. Huge aging potential. Drink or hold."
MOSEL FINE WINES 97 POINTS - "This 2017er Bockenauer Felseneck GG delivers a gloriously reductive nose of grapef ruit zest, grilled pineapple, minty herbs, nettle, yuzu, lime tree and orchard fruits, all wrapped into residual scents of spontaneous fermentation, bacon, smoke and spices. The wine is beautifully focused on the palate, where ripe fruits are perfectly framed by minty herbs, grapefruit zest and ginger -driven spices. The finish is stunningly long, salty and herbal. There is still a hint of tartness in need of integration. With airing, the wine gains in density and shows huge presenc e and even a touch of power, without ever being hot. This is a magical dry Riesling in the making! 2027-2047"
JANCIS ROBINSON 19 POINTS - "The Felseneck and I have changed, so subtly that hardly anybody has noticed. The Felseneck does not appear quite so extreme anymore in its expression of funky sulphur aromas. In exchange my sensory perception has become more tolerant for the wilder side of herbaceous vigour. A rocky minerality carves its way into the palate, fruit covered by stone dust, a cool herbal breeze takes charge of the finish. The big polariser!"
- Item #: i_399964Bottle Size: 375ml**Please note, this is a half sized bottleWINE ADVOCATE - 94+ POINTS
Made from perfectly golden-yellow grapes, the 2015 Felseneck Riesling Auslese is rich, clear and precise on the nose--lovely, flinty and subtly concentrated. Piquant and racy on the palate, this is an Auslese with great purity and clear fruit intensity.
JOHN GILMAN - VIEW FROM THE CELLAR - 95 POINTS
The 2015 Felseneck Auslese that I tasted saw no botrytis, but was made from a fifty-fifty blend of golden berries and shriveled, Passerillage bunches. The bouquet is stunning, soaring from the glass in a blaze of fresh pineapple, white cherries, a delicate touch of fresh mint, bee pollen, wild yeasts, a lovely base of slate and a pungent topnote of lime blossoms. On the palate the wine is medium-full, pure and utterly seamless, with racy acids, great focus and grip and a very, very long, filigreed and complex finish. A great bottle of Auslese. 2020-2065. 95.
- Item #: i_349987Bottle Size: 750mlANTONIO GALLONI -VINOUSMEDIA - 91 POINTS Sourced from both Burg Layen and Dorsheim, this delivers generous scents and juiciness of apple, muskmelon and fresh fig, mingled with almond and garlanded in apple blossom and honeysuckle. Subtly creamy in texture, lusciously fruited, with supportive if obvious sweetness, and delightfully buoyant. It finishes with billowing inner-mouth floral perfume and a welcome burst of brightness, delivering refreshment and next-sip compulsion. I would not be surprised to witness this gaining further complexity with a few years in bottle. -- David Schildknecht
- Item #: i_362360Bottle Size: 750mlWINE ADVOCATE - 92 POINTS The 2018 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling trocken is generously deep, ripe and open, with spicy mineral, floral, discreet licorice, ripe seed and yellow-fleshed fruit aromas. On the palate, this is a rich yet pure and elegant, gripping and salty-piquant Riesling, with some greenish flavors and tannin features on the finish.
2018 was another "thrilling" year. "The expectations after 2017 were very high, also from an economic point of view," says Jakob. "The summer was very dry, and we had to get water out of the Nahe just to rescue our younger vines." The grapes were perfectly healthy but very small, as were the berries when they were harvested. "However, during the pressing, we were surprised by how much juice ran from the press. The skins were very thin, so not that super aromatic. But during the fermentation, they liquidated easily and gave enormous fruit aromas and juicy, elegant musts, although the sugar levels was pretty high." The lower acidity levels were balanced by low pH levels and a good share of potassium. Due to the lower acidities, he practiced less maceration than normal, destemmed by hand and added whole berries to the fermenting musts. Some of the first wines were still acidified. Then he discovered that "during the fermentation, the total acidity even increased due to what we call Bernsteinsäure, which occurs in very ripe vintages." The yields tripled those of 2017 (90 hectoliters per hectare) and Jakob is really happy with all his varieties, also his old-vines Sylvaner. He also allowed more spontaneous fermentations than normal and is happy with the results. "The wines are well balanced, very clear and clean. They are playful and show a smoky reduction that I like, since it is intermingled with ripe fruit, site character, juice and body." Since there was no botrytis, Schneider selected just one BA but no TBA in 2018.
- Item #: i_324315Bottle Size: 750mlJOHN GILMAN - VIEW FROM THE CELLAR - 92 POINTS - The 2017 Monzinger Kabinett is a lovely wine and a clear indication that the dry wines here are not the only outstanding examples of the vintage. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a lovely blend of peach, sweet grapefruit, gentle herbal tones, citrus zest, salty minerality and a topnote of wild yeasts. On the palate the wine is medium-full, crisp and nicely filigreed, with a lovey nexus of fruit, minerality and zesty acidity coming together on the long, bouncy and complex finish. Fine juice. 2018-2040. 92.