Marie's Article: VDP GG Sneak Preview in Wiesbaden

August 30th, 2011

A couple days have past since the much anticipated annual tasting of the latest vintage GG/Grosses Gewächse wines just before they are released to the market. I am sitting here reading though my more than 200 tasting notes, more than 200 liquid memories, some better than others, but all protagonists of the 2010 vintage.

This tasting is organized by the VDP (Verband Deutsche Prädikatsweingüter) and is a showpiece of German efficiency! I cannot think of any other tasting this well organized. Lighting, temperature, glasses; everything is perfect and the whole thing runs like clockwork. I always look forward to attending this event.

Here are my thoughts on the wines and the vintage.

2010 was a vintage of contrasts as well as big surprises. Several tastings in cellars across Germany late last year, as well as most harvest reports from producers, all indicated very ripe wines but with extreme acidity levels – a combination very rarely seen before. I had therefore been preparing myself for two days of hurting teeth and stomachache, but to my surprise it all turned out to be very different. Many wines seemed lacking in acidity to balance the immense ripeness of the vintage. Most producers have been de-acidifying the wines, or “adjusting” as they prefer to call it. This is a common and legal practice in Germany, but a technique that has been used less and less in the past 10 to 15 years. Climate change has resulted in lower acidity levels and higher ripeness making de-acidification unnecessary in most years.

However, the problem was that most producers only looked at the technical analyses of the wines, which indicated extremely high acidity levels not seen for many years. Therefore many winemakers got scared and decided to de-acidify heavily in order to make the wines more approachable. Tasting the wines now, I wonder if the right thing to do would have been trusting that the wines eventually will find their own balance. This is exactly what happened to the wines produced by people having faith in nature. The reason many producers de-acidified is that consumers have gotten used to softer, riper, less acidic wines over the past 10 years due to the style of the vintages produced. 

By speaking with various producers over the past few days I see that the biggest challenge was understanding that not only was the acidity extreme, but also the phenolic ripeness. In other words, nature had its own way of balancing the wines, making de-acidification less needed than the actual degree of acidity technically required. 

The few producers who had the guts to let the wines find balance on their own, or only de-acidified moderately, have managed to produce some of the best dry wines I ever tasted. Wines of great vibrancy, purity, dynamic, and with ageing potential. 

However, there were of course also many wines where the natural high acidity seemed aggressive and unbalanced, at least at the present moment.

Here are a few comments on some of the main regions.

Mosel-Saar-Ruwer: Elegant, vibrant, light and finesse-driven wines. Wines that are very true to their terroir and the particular styles of the producers. Some recent vintages from this region, famous for its off-dry and sweet wines, often seem too hard and unharmonious. This is not the case in 2010. Most wines showed a wonderful ripe fruit supported by high but ripe acidity. Because of the healthy and clean botrytis-free crop provided by nature, it was possible to harvest very late, producing ripe, rich and pure wines.

Rheinhessen: Rich, full-bodied wines with great structure and an almost exotic, yet pure and fresh fruit. Rheinhessen has in past years produced wines that were almost too opulent and dense for my palate, because of ripeness easily being reached here. However, this year the wines seem perfectly balanced with equally high acidity levels. The result is aristocratic, dense, voluminous wines, with structure and freshness. 

Nahe: To me, some of the best wines of the vintage come from Nahe; wines that showcase a level of purity, complexity and balance I have rarely seen before. The wines from one producer to another, and from one vineyard to the next, show their individuality more than in any other region and vintage. The wines are vibrant and dynamic and seem like they are able to dance between lovely ripeness and fresh acidity.

Here are my tasting notes of some of the wines I liked the most.

2010 Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt Josephshöfer Riesling GG: What an enticing nose! Pure, deep and velvety. Aromas of orange pulp, peel and blossom. Complimented by red peach, green mango and honeydew melon. Nicely textured on the palate with great mineral core and structure. 92 points.

2010 Van Volxem Scharzhofberger Riesling GG: Cool, firm, green, salty, mineral nose with white peach and mandarin. Finesse driven and extremely tense on the palate. Vibrant and dynamic with lively fruit and a texture that keeps lingering on the palate for ages… Great! 93 points.

2010 Heymann-Löwenstein Uhlen “Blaufüsser Lay” Riesling: Violets, lilies, apples, pear, oranges…a never-ending and very complex nose. Layers of fruit and mineral notes harmoniously play together to create an incredibly well-textured wine. Amazing length. Mind-blowing! 96 points. 

2010 Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling GG: Pure, fresh, focused fruit and amazing depth of aromas. Peach, orange, pear and a dense steely mineral core. Very profoundly structured. Rich and layered on the palate but kept perfectly in place by a firm acidity. Amazing wine with outstanding potential! 96 points.

2010 Schäfer-Fröhlich Felseneck Riesling GG: Expressive nose of white flowers, fresh almond, dried orange peel, peach stone, freshly cut green grass and a dense minerality. A complexity so profound that it is almost impossible to grasp the potential of this wine. So harmonious for such a young wine. This one of the most sensual and tempting young Rieslings I ever tasted. So complete, hugely structured and elegant at the same time! What an emotional experience!  97+ points.

2010 Emrich-Schönleber Halenberg Riesling GG: Dense, cool spicy mineral nose; green but pleasant notes of birch trees and white pepper. Ripe lemon, grapefruit and green mango on the palate. Rich and complex at the same time. Very spicy in a good way. Immense structure and complexity. The finish is very long and promising. 94 points.

2010 Wittmann Morstein Riesling GG: A dense and very upfront nose with loads of ripe citrus fruit, pineapples and candied orange peel. Well structured on the palate, with wonderful complexity and great depth. A rich and exotic wine that keeps opening up in the glass. 94 points.

2010 Reichsrat von Buhl Kirchenstück Riesling GG: A profound spicy nose with mineral notes at first. When opening up, the wine shows wonderful fruit: fresh pear, melon and green apple. The mineral character, however, remains. On the palate the wine is very gracious, focused, well balanced and deep. At the moment this wine is very restrained, but will evolve and show its enormous potential with time. 95+ points. 

2010 Dr. Bürklin Wolf Ungeheuer Riesling GG: Very floral and charming nose. Strawberries and skin of red apple. Pure, complex and very focused aromas. On the palate the wine is nothing less than impressive… This wine seduces with its sweetness, flowery nose, purity and lovely fruit. Impossible to resist; even now, this will only get better. 95 points. 

2010 A. Christmann Idig Riesling GG: Enticing nose of peach, mandarin, melon and strawberry. Wonderfully charming on the palate with great ripeness and complexity. Almost too intense! Very dense and vibrant fruit. The finish is very long and shows great ageing potential. 92 points.

2010 Ökonomierat Rebholz “Ganz Horn” im Sonnenschein Riesling GG: Incredible nose! Harmonious, deep and very enticing. Loads of ripe citrus fruit, floral notes and a minerally, well balanced structure. Complex on the palate with a beautiful harmony of flavors. A long finish with some wonderful notes of bitter orange peel. 93 points.


Marie von Ahm is a Dane living in Barcelona and the founder of VonAhm Ltd, a wine consultancy.


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