Marie’s Blog: The Great Rieslings of Hermann Dönnhoff
August 22nd, 2011
Standing in the beautiful vineyard of Hermannshöhle in Germany’s Nahe region, I felt like I found the “Holy Grail of Riesling.” I had been given a very rare opportunity to spend a day together with Cornelius and his father Helmut Dönnhoff, the current co-owners of the famous wine estate Hermann Dönnhoff.
The Dönnhoff family has been working with wine in Nahe since 1750 and are today producing some of the most sought-after and highly praised Rieslings in the world. Located in Oberhausen an der Nahe, Weingut Dönnhoff spans over 25 hectares of vineyards of mainly volcanic and slate soils. Eighty percent Riesling and 20 percent Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris of 15-60 years of age are planted here amongst some of the most stunning scenery on the Nahe river. The philosophy here is that it is not only the terroir, but also the long history of the earth itself and the commitment of the people who work it, that makes exceptional wines. Dönnhoff produces structured and precise dry, as well as luscious sweet wines, from several top sites in Nahe including Hermannshöhle, Dellchen, Felsenberg, Leistenberg, Brücke, and Kirschheck – all with their own distinct terroir, personality and centuries-long history.
We tasted their entire range of wines from the much-anticipated 2010 vintage. A special treat was the tasting of a never before seen very dry Gewürztraminer! Only 300 liters have been produced in 2010, but I have a feeling that we will see more of this very different wine in the future.
2010 has been a vintage of extremes, to say the least. The grapes ripened in a way never seen before and a “think outside the box” approach, combined with great courage, and most importantly passion, were required to bring out the true potential of this vintage. Grapes matured to an extreme level of phenolic ripeness, but at the same time the acidity remained at unusually high levels without dropping at a later stage, which is usually the case – a phenomenon never seen before to these extremes. As a result, 2010 produced amazing wines with a fine balance between ripeness and freshness.
Here are my tasting notes on some of the 2010s.
2010 Tonschiefer Riesling Trocken (mainly Oberhausen Leistenberg vineyard, clay/ slate): Deep, cool, elegant and complex nose, with loads of minerals, white peach, pepper, spring flowers: lilies, tulips and violets. Smooth, delicate and harmonious. (Deeper and more “demanding” than the normal estate Riesling.) Flavors of grapefruit, green apple and lime in wonderful harmony. A wine of great balance. Lovely long finish. 92 points.
2010 Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling GG: What a nose! White flowers, almonds, orange peel and citrus and strawberries. Again, white peach and a hint of cantaloupe melon. On the palate the wine is massive with a fine acidity, giving great balance. Dense and hugely complex, yet soft. The epitome of a great dry Riesling! A wine of great harmony; impressive and outstanding. 96 points.
2010 Norheimer Dellchen GG Riesling (subsoil is volcanic plus topsoil of clay slate): A fine nose dominated by rich, intense yellow fruit. Orange and lemon peel, lime and grapefruit. Peaches. Almond paste with exotic spices. An almost earthy mineral touch. Smooth, full and rich and almost sweet on the palate. Very dense and long with outstanding balance. Elegant, feminine, deep and very charming, but not as vibrant as the Felsenberg. 92-93 points.
2010 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling GG (clay slate): Dramatic rich, ripe nose with loads of candied orange zest. Love the minerals and red peach here. Incredibly big palate with red apples, melon, lime, mandarin and Japanese pear. Hugely complex but not yet harmonious. Great finish. This wine needs time to show its full potential. 94 points.
2010 Gewürztraminer Trocken (red sandstone) 300l, first vintage (“test”) 35 y old wines: Pure Gewürztraminer nose with pink grapefruit and litchi, blood orange. Lovely smoky touch. Fresh, precise and focused. So vibrant and restrained on the palate and so pure and fresh. Great acidity and wonderful finesse. 88 points.
2010 Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese (mainly slate): Elegant white/yellow floral nose. White peach, strawberries. Very feminine and charming . Wonderful, cool yet sweet fruit. A lovely balance; vibrant and harmonious on the palate. I can taste all those lovely peaches and pears. The acidity and sweetness play well together to create a symphony of delicious flavors. 94+ points.
2010 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese: Sicilian juicy lemons, pineapple, orange and orange blossom on the nose. Dense and well structured on the palate. Loads of ripe apricot and oranges. A much richer wine than the other I have tasted. More ripe and dramatic. Very intense but balanced. Love the way the acidity plays alongside with the ripeness. 94 points.
2010 Oberhauser Brücke Auslese: A dense and white flowery nose with a touch and of honey (botrytis). Pure, lean and vibrant. Feminine and cool yet sweet on the palate. Racy yet elegant and very lively. Fantastic lingering ripe acidity to balance the sweetness. Dense, deep and ultra long. What a seductive wine! 95 points.
2010 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Auslese: Serious deep nose of warm ripe citrus fruits and hay. A touch of strawberries and raspberries. On the palate, red apples, pineapple, apricot, and some lemons. Very deep and juicy with a huge structure. Very long and much more opulent than the other Auslese wines. A more structured style with immense ageing potential. 96 points.
2010 Oberhauser Brücke Eiswein (25th of December 2011) -10C/200C Oechsle at harvest time, 200l produced: Oh my God! What an incredibly spicy and intense nose. Very complex with white peach, candied orange peel, grapes, roasted pineapple, red apple, white pepper, Muscat, nutmeg. On the palate the wine shows mind-blowing richness. Extremely pure, clean, focused and precise, very sweet and with very fine acidity. Caramel with citrus jam. The wine is incredibly structured and immensely complex. A truly great wine! 98 points.
Marie von Ahm is a Dane living in Barcelona and the founder of VonAhm Ltd, a wine consultancy.Comments