So this has been a daunting prospect, but with just over a week until the Wine Trip AGM – it’s a short agenda – I am finally posting my report of the May 2019 Trip to Germany. Germany had been unanimous choice for the year. We had assembled our biggest team yet, a mighty ten man ensemble. Last years magnificent seven of – Fiscali, Magnum, Wardy, Raw, Leechy, myself and Vestier (yes we know you want a new name but it has not been ratified yet) being joined by Boycey, Dusty and The Good Doctor. There was much to live up to following the first handful of trips:
May 2018 – “The King of Spain”
May 2017 – Tuscany “Do you mind if I kiss you””
May 2016 – Rhone Epic – En parallel
May 2015 – Piedmont – “Foxes behind ears”
May 2014 – Burgundy – A very special trip
As has become tradition we all (well eight of the ten) met up at London Oxford (yes you read that right) on the Thursday morning to make the short flight to Frankfurt Hahn – which is actually not very near Frankfurt, well near in an Easyjet / Ryanair sort of way but this flight, fortunately, had little in common with those.
In-flight refreshments commenced with a very fresh but reassuringly yeasty bottle of Bollinger La Grande Annee 1997, Wardy not really “doing” “Fizz” was on the Puligny-Montrachet Villages 2016 from Alain Chavy, he’s an interesting producer as he is most well know for being the only other producer of Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clavoillon alongside Domaine Leflaive. The village 2016 was generous and good.
In the Champagne camp we were about to experience a special pair – Brut Rose NV by Jacques Selosse (disgorged 24-11-09) and Brut Initial NV also Jacques Selosse (disgorged 23-07-15). This is a level of detail I wish I had managed to keep up but alas not. both went well with the bacon rolls (there I’ve said it!). The rose was decadently mellow with a degraded red fruit and good balance. The initial was a great example of its type. A great balance between richness and freshness, not OTT but extravagant. The flight passed by in a flash of efficiency. We landed, met the Doctor – got our luggage and bottles (most importantly) before heading off to meet our driver – Kurt – his name was rather apt, describing his length of “bantz” as I believe the “youth” call it. Oh well.
We then made the journey to WWE. Dr.H.Thanisch, Erben Thanisch in Bernkasteler Kues, sometimes referred to as the St.Emilion of Germany – such is it typicity and picturesque nature. We were greeted, as ever, by Sofia Thanish (who has run the estate since 1996 – the 12th family member and 5th woman), her husband Hans and daughter Christina who has been in the family business over a year now. You can find a bit more here about this – Estate. After a chat on the balcony we went into the drawing room for a tasting led by Christina. This started with a focus on the 2017 vintage, the vintage we were generally to taste the most of over the days ahead.
The tasting demonstrated very clearly that purity and drive are the watch words of this estate. An producer with a very great past and exciting future. They only produce Riesling. The vast majority in the traditional pradikat ranges – Kabinett, through Spatlese to Auslese and above but they have also embraced the newer sector of the Germany wine scene – the “GGs” or Grosses Gewachs – where the best sites make dry wines that have their quality designated through GG on the label. There are truly excellent wines in both “camps” across so many producers but at least you get a steer on the potential quality of a dry wine now.
Bernkastler Graben GG 2017, Thanisch – Poised and fine with good freshness, a long future.
Riesling Estate Kabinett 2017, Thanisch – A wine I love, almost totally dry nose, good, limey.
Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Feinherb 2017, Thanisch – “Feinherb” is one of those expressions I have a discussion about at this estate every year and with other producers but I am still not sure I actually understand it! Essentially it is a barrel selection based on a difference from the standard Kabinett. This was classically refined and a tad more defined than the “standard” Kabinett.
Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett 2017, Thanisch – 9gs of sugar, lime shows too, classic. The Badstube is a large vineyard with many owners (Prum also).
Bernkasteler Badstube Auslese 2017, Thanisch – A reassuring whiff of sulpur, so very young, there is a taut element but also a slightly underlying hint of tropical fruit. Enjoyable now but so much to come.
Estate Riesling Kabinett 2018, Thanisch – at 12% alcohol this is a smidge off dry, the 2018 vintage was less classical than 2017 with a warmer and slightly less normal growing season. I think it is very likely that it’ll drink earlier as a vintage but when it comes to Mosel Riesling all things are relative.
Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Feinherb 2018, Thanisch – Generous given the youth, rounder and delicious.
Berncasteler Doctor Kabinett 2018, Thanisch – And so to the “Doctor” this very small vineyard is arguably Germany’s greatest vineyard – Thanisch own more than anyone. The land prices are “insane” for any tiny bits that change hands or are leased. It was registered as a site with the “C” not a “K” and has retained that (hence the blog title). It is only just over 3ha (technically to be a GG you need to be 5ha but this another example of the Doctor being an exception) and is of course designated at the highest level. A gorgeous Kabinett with decades ahead if you can be patient.
Berncasteler Doctor Auslese 2018, Thanisch – Very special, almost some latent lychee there all wrapped up in a tight jacket of correctness.
Berncasteler Doctor Beerenauslese 2018, Thanisch – Now what a treat – only 100 half bottles and 30 bottles of this were made. Honey notes and emerging richness but such exquisite drive and energy, incredible.
From here it was lunch with some of the team have got the structure of the wines and classification down to a “T” others not so much…
Downstairs in the dining room we were then treated to a lovely range of wines all served blind. We all made a vary degree of fools of ourselves here. Tasting these wines blind is slightly like the matrix because until to understand one of the dimensions you have no idea where you are – sweetness levels, vintage character and age just confusing you at every turn and then there are the intricacies of the sites…
Estate Riesling Kabinett 2012, Thanisch – from a screwcap bottle, the age has added some depth but not at the expense of freshness which is great. This is one of the areas Germany and the Mosel in particular truly excel – value, drinkability and true interest all combined.
Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett 2014, Thanisch – This was so good I assumed it must be from the Doctor vineyard. Splendid, unpretentious but so enjoyable.
Berncasteler Doctor Auktion Spatlese 2002, Thanisch – I thought this would be younger and a warmer vintage I think I guessed 2009 (others did better!). I won’t launch into an explanation of the Auktion (auction) system here but suffice to say it is a very specific selection. An extremely generous wine from a vintage I have always loved but hardly ever spot.
Berncasteler Doctor Auktion Spatlese 1997, Thanisch – Some mint and just at that turning point where the sweetness/richness turns into a slightly drier intensity. I always think of 1997 as a flattering vintage and so this proves.
Berncasteler Doctor Auktion Spatlese 1999, Thanisch – I was only two years out (saying 2001 – a great vintage). This really is a very fine picture of exactly why these were amongst (if not the) most prized wines in the world 50 years ago and why they are such a profoundly good thing to buy now.
What a great start and with very great thanks to Sofia, Christina and Hans (who had survived a lunch of “full Wardy-ness”).
From here Kurt took us up the Mosel to J.J.Prum in the small town/village of Wehlener. Some previous experiences can be read about here – J.J.Prum and some more in depth intel is available on this link – Prum info. We were greeted by Mihailo Martinovic (Austrian rather than German before you ask) who does a great job at the estate and loves all wines with, as is so often the case, a passion for Burgundy as well as the Mosel. I just knew he would have the measure of the louder members of the group or those for whom attention span can prove a challenge in the post lunch slot. It is great to taste at Prum – you sit in a time capsule of a room looking out at the very vineyard with which the estate is most associated – Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Mihailo had us off and running. No dry wines here this is one of the most unapologetically traditional (in a good sense) wineries in Germany (or anywhere really).
This was another well thought out tasting. As with Thanisch I sometimes struggle with tasting notes essentially because I just enjoy the wines so much that I write very simply and certainly find critical comments don’t come easily.
Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 2017, Joh. Jos. Prum – A Prum Kabinett in a classic year from a good (underrated) vineyard is never much of an ask. Poised and pure. An insane drinking window – Now to 2040 and well beyond if you have the discipline.
Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett 2016, Joh. Jos. Prum – A site we knew from Thanisch and a softer wine (that’s 2016 vs 2017) complex and ready but never a rush.
Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett 2012, Joh. Jos. Prum – This is in a lovely spot, and will hold here for some time, a little development but still great drive, love the 2012s.
Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese 2015, Joh. Jos. Prum – More unctuous. I think that Spatlese can be the level of ripeness/sweetness that people fear the most BUT I happen to think that in some ways they are the most flexible and most stellar value. A wine like this goes with almost everything. Hedonistic.
Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese 2010, Joh. Jos. Prum – An uber classical year, so taut but with a generous nature, a little like the 2017 seven years down the track. Nigh on indestructible.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett 2014. Joh. Jos. Prum – So on to the site the estate is most known for and what a site. A poised drier feel – vintage – there is a salty element as well as a subdued richness – some stinging nettles too.
Each of the team had different favourites as we were going though here, I think some sort of consensus formed around 2010 as a vintage with 2017 to follow on.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2016. Joh. Jos. Prum – So poised but so very primary, superb.
Graacher Himmelreich Auslese 2013, Joh. Jos. Prum – Leaner (in it’s class) for sure but you know the story about great estates and perceived lesser vintages. Refined.
Graacher Himmelreich Auslese 2010, Joh. Jos. Prum – A little white asparagus on the nose (no idea why I say that, never written it before!), saline and generosity but in check. Delightful.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2009. Joh. Jos. Prum – Opulent and primary at the same time, insane drinking window as stated earlier.
Graacher Himmelreich Auslese GK 2003, Joh. Jos. Prum – Herbal and almost minty, I have bored lots of people with how good Prum 2003s are – sorry if you are one of those – but given the conditions the wines have no right to be so good.
Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1997. Joh. Jos. Prum – As shown by the Thanisch 1997 at lunch this is a flattering vintage and so this proved…hedonistically good.
It had been a splendid tasting – Wardy probably enjoying white wine more than ever before. Mihailo was a star – a sense of humour whilst imparting a massive amount of information. What a great time.
Due to the lower alcohols the team was certainly in a considerably more coherent state than in many previous years. We boarded the bus and made the 25 minute drive to Weinromantikhotel Richtershof hotel. We were well looked after here, a nice team and a good breakfast the following day (but there was wine and fun to be had first).
“Right chaps, drop your bags and be in the bar in 45 mnutes – more champagne”. We started the Champagne with Prologue Brut NV from Champagne J.M.Labruyere It is really starting to hit its stride now. Then followed a very special bottle and totally new to me – Grand Cru Extra Brut, Lieure Dits – Mareuil Sur Ay from Jacques Selosse my notes just helpfully tell me that I “loved it”…while I am here a recommendation on the Champagne front. If you haven’t read “Bursting Bubbles” about the grower Champagnes then do.
Right, time for dinner at Rittersturz – Rendezvous mit Genuss – it was a fun evening because of the company and the fact that we had gone heavy handed with our own magnums of red. The venue was good but they were understaffed and under pressure due to a recent illness. Once we have located a corkscrew and a few decanters we all had fun. The food was good, bistrot not Michelin but that works.
We kicked this off with more Riesling – Riesling Feinherb 2017, Thanisch – Kindly donated by Sofia and pepping up the team palates. There after, whilst on the fish course we tried – Brauneberg Kammer Riesling Trocken GG 2016, Weingut Paulinshof – which lacked the excitement of Thanisch and Prum and wasn’t Trocken (dry) to my mind but it was interesting. We launched into a trio of Italian magnums we had brought with us:
Barolo Tartufaia 2010 from Giulia Negri – We visited Giulia when in Piedmont back in 2015. She is a rising star of the Piedmont scene. This wine is a blend of fruit from the Serradenari and Brunate vineyards and the 2010 has a future but was drinking well. A little truffle appearing.
Rosso del Bepi 2005 from Quintarelli – This is a fascinating bottling. Made as an Amarone by the kings of that wine style. Then when it comes to the release time they assess the wine and the market and occasionally release the Amarone (in all but name) as a “Rosso”. A little similar to de Vogue (visited on the first trip – May 2014) declassifying Musigny Blanc to Bourgogne Blanc, though it is not for vine age reasons here. The wine has a great combination of sweet flavours (from the drying of the grapes) and savoury from the longer ageing. In different circumstances a wine to open a magnum of on Friday evening and drink through the weekend (just don’t have too many people round!)
Sassicaia 2003 – I thought this was absolutely brilliant (we visited on the 2017 trip). It had absolutely everything you want from this style of wine. Youth and maturity, elegance and decadence.
The trio were a lovely illustration of the diversity of Italian wines, and generous gifts to the group. The good Doctor did manage to refocus us, in splendid style, with another magnum, this time Schloss Halbturn Pinot Noir 2008, Baron Waldbott-Bassenheim – red fruits with that enlivening undercurrent of tangerine skin, a lovely feel to it. I think, even at the end of a longish day, we were all pleased it was a magnum.
Kurt decided he needed to sleep or possibly that the German coach drivers union were on speed dial so we jumped aboard the bus and made it back to hotel – not far enough for any sleeping but sadly music played less of part this year as bluetooth seemed not to be an option in the “wonderbus”. Once back at the hotel there wasn’t even a pregnant pause…Raw dashed off to get the Port and magnum the cigars…The team at the hotel found us a very comfortable loft/bar spot with sofas and we had a smoke with the Warre’s Crusted Port (bottled 1974) – crusted port has sort of died as a “thing”. It is basically good ruby i.e. multi-vintage but bottled as a vintage would be, young and unfiltered (hence the “crusted” bit). This was lovely, bold fruit but mellowed. Likely to have contained 1971 and 1972 I imagine. There were also some digestives – Forest Raspberry my book says – but I certainly didn’t write notes. What a day! Bedtime.
We woke a little sluggishly but as mentioned above it was a good breakfast. We set off for the 1hr 30 drive in good time to make Weingut Dönnhoff for 10am but a road closure and lack of willingness to use 21st Century technology saw us be a little (45mins) late, never a problem in southern Europe but not ideal on a first visit of the day in Northern Europe. The team at Donnhoff were brilliant though and as the Doctor has co-ordinated the day it all just shifted a little later – no drama.
We were now in Nahe region and that means, in general, a slightly drier approach, so less Kabinett etc and more GGs…
Pinot Brut 2013, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – I hadn’t appreciated before this trip and specifically before this day how ambitious and seriously the Germans take sparkling, my ignorance for sure. This woke the taste buds, only 1000bts are made and it has a very low dosage.
Tonschiefer Riesling Trocken 2018, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Literally bottled two weeks previous, taut and fine. A nice opening salvo.
Kehlenberg Riesling Trocken 2018, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Spiced and moreish, big fan of this. An Erste Lage – 1er Cru.
Hollenpford Riesling Trocken 2015, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Another 1er cru, bolder and with good spice and texture, a good wine. Lovely now but no rush whatsoever.
Krotenpfuhl Riesling GG 2017, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Right, off to the races (come on think about it!), “Grand Cru”. Zesty, tight and so very refined, pin point focus.
Felsenberg Riesling GG 2016, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Saline and spice (apologies for repetition), great length, just opening out to show a layer or two more.
Hermannshohle Riesling GG 2011, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – A joy, Asparagus, Saline, flesh, very fine and at a stage I love. Very popular all round.
Estate Riesling 2018 “Feinherb” (still not totally clear!), Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Citrus and classical easy access Riesling.
Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2018, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Feels like it could be a Spatlese, zesty but with a lift and a softening ripeness.
Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese 2010, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – Simply delicious, 2010 again hitting the spot. Refined and one of those wines that you makes you think “if you don’t like this, you don’t like wine”.
Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Auslese 1999, Weingut Hermann Donnhoff – A monopole of the family and a hell of a wine. Rich where so much of the other were all about refinement and spice.
It had been a brilliant tasting where yet again we had indulged, learnt and enjoyed everything. Whilst it had been Helmut’s daughter-in-law who had looked after us so well it was very kind of him to come out and say hello. Wardy’s patience was on the wane a little and memorable moment occurred when he decided while going through his coppers that he would play receptionist – “Guten Morgen Donnhoff”…the phone was politely but firmly removed…time to leave.
Thank you Donnhoff (and sorry…)
We now had a short transfer to the father and daughter – Armin and Caroline – team at Schlossgut Diel also in the Nahe but with a slightly different focus. We also had the lift of Vestier, aka “Krugmeister”, joining the party to make us the full 10. Nothing strange in this fine chap arriving for a Friday lunch, even in another country. We were also joined by Hilke Nagle from the Vdp.
We were greeted with a glass of Riesling Sekt Reserve Extra Brut 2012, Schlossgut Diel – which was nicely dry and focused and a good intro to the Sparkling project here. Armin and Caroline were also kindly giving us lunch so we had a little time and the tasting was done around the dinner table before food and before our contributions.
Goldloch Riesling Brut Nature 2008, Schlossgut Diel – The 1st vintage of this wine, not made each year, was 1999. Only about 1600bts are made. It has a toasty character with a slightly lactic feel, a food fizz to my mind. Serious.
Cuvee Mo Brut Nature 2009, Schlossgut Diel – This is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc, again quite foody, substantial, even bold.
Burg Layen Riesling 2017, Ortswein, Schlossgut Diel – An Ortswein, a good one, nice balance and then some spice coming through.
Schlossberg Riesling 2017, Erste Lage, Schlossgut Diel – Erste lage, energetic spritz, combined with that Nahe spice. Getting some “shoulders”.
Goldloch Riesling GG 2017, Schlossgut Diel – A great site, GG, broader, delicious, a step up on what had already been good, depth and length.
Burg BergRiesling GG 2012, Schlossgut Diel – Has one of those noses that suggests richness allied to sweetness, dry palate and developing so well, will continue to do so.
Pittermannchen Riesling Kabinett 2018, Schlossgut Diel – Refined nose, delicious and poised, good texture.
Goldloch Riesling Spatlese 2008, Schlossgut Diel – A gorgeously decadent nose and feel – mature.
Pittermannchen Riesling Kabinett Auslese GK 2018, Schlossgut Diel – Very primary, juicy and raisened, unctuous, such a baby of a wine.
Pinot Gris / Pinot Blanc Cuvee Victor 2015, Schlossgut Diel – 1987 was the first vintage of this wine, named after Caroline’s brother, quite saturated and full, good depth. Mature and rich.
Pinot Noir Cuvee Caroline 2016, Schlossgut Diel – A serious Pinot, spice, delicious, has a deep full feel, a little iodine, rich and darkly fruited with a savoury side too. Built for the long haul.
A really very good and generous tasting. I always wonder how families work together, often so well, in wine. Here there is a lovely dynamic between Armin and Caroline – I get the impression they challenge each other well! Fun!
And so to lunch which was a very jolly affair round a large table. We had come fully loaded and Armin seemed pleased, he is a big collector in his own right.
Clos de la Roche Grand Cru 2006 Magnum, Domaine Dujac – was decadently great whilst obviously on the youthful side. The fruit is that lovely fully mature style. Dujac always makes me smile.
Latour 1985 Magnum – This had a slightly dusty feel, very Latour before you notice it then a little hard not to be distracted, very generous, what a shame.
Darsheimer Goldloch Riesling Auslese 1998, Schlossgut Diel – Our final Diel, a real lift of sweetness but saying that it did just start to show that stage where the sweetness drops a little and becomes more rich that sweet.
A splendid visit ended with a tour of the cellars from Caroline – we were sorry to go but we had a ferry to catch.
As we made the transition from the Nahe to the Rheingau to visit Weingut Robert Weil it had already been a great day. The sun was out and the 5 minute crossing was a good breath of air…all 10 made it to the other side.
We were greeted and made to feel very welcome. This winery is very different from many others in Germany, combining a long history, now in the hands of Wilhelm Weil, with the part ownership by Suntory. You get the traditional feel of the former with the investment and precision offered by the later. A tour of the facilities was more like a top Bordeaux Chateaux than a small domaine but then this isn’t small.
Post tour we sat outside for a tasting in a lovely late afternoon sun.
Rheingau Riesling Trocken 2018, Weingut Robert Weil – Good drive, nice focus very moreish as it should be.
Kiedricher Riesling Trocken 2018, Weingut Robert Weil – A little more spice, very tiniest hint of sweetness, delicious, perfect aperitif to my mind.
Kiedrich Turmberg Riesling Trocken 2017, Weingut Robert Weil – Very impressed with this, has a great weight and some hints of more tropical fruit whilst being dry.
Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Trocken GG 2017, Weingut Robert Weil – Very fine nose, has real breadth, then re-focuses with saline.
Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Trocken GG 2012, Weingut Robert Weil – These GGs with a bit of age (4-8 years) had been impressing us all day long. No exception here, gaining that richness.
Riesling Tradition 2018, Weingut Robert Weil – Very floral, almost too much for me, a little spritz. Pretty.
Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese 2004, Weingut Robert Weil – A little dash of mint (fresh), deliciously drinkable, no food needed!
Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Eiswein 2016, Weingut Robert Weil – Now this is a real rarity made in totally illogically small quantities. Such incredible natural sweetness. When do you drink it? I have no idea but you must experience it.
Thank you Weingut Weil.
Just a short drive stood between us and the Hotel and dinner at Kronenschlösschen – something of an institution in these parts. The team looked after us very well there. A couple of room shares had to be negotiated but these were done without any issue such were the room sizes. Magnum, who was over-nighting at the Doctor’s (he lives locally) was fast onto/into the wine list, I did a quick table plan and all was ready. The call to arms was the terrace at 7pm for some bubbles (but French bubbles this time).
Krug Grand Cuvee Edition No.164 En magnum – was the fizz selected, or I should say brought along. No tasting notes needed. However much you might drink or taste in a day a glass (or two) of top Champagne before dinner is always right. We had pre-ordered a five course dinner – selecting the wines was “work” enough!
So to continue the theme we thought Riesling and in magnums. The day had seen a first ferry on our tour and we definitely broke our magnum consumption record – 10 people does help! Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Trocken 2008 from Weingut Robert Weil (Magnum) and Berg Schlossberg 2005 from George Breuer (Magnum)were great together with the Breuer possibly just winning through but both had their fans. This sort of age in magnum is great.
We then moved to older wines, much older, Rheingau Kabinett 1969 from Schloss Vollrads and Raventhaler Gehrn Spatlese 1971 – The former being light as a feather with marmalade aromas – fully mature. The later was smokier with orange rind and tea notes.
The old wines hadn’t been to all tastes so we moved to a vintage that had been popular the day before albeit in the Mosel – 1997. Kiedrich Grafenberg Riesling Spatlese 1997 from Weingut Robert Weil and Graf von Kanitz Spatlese 1997 – I liked both, they were fully open but I thought the Weil “won” the clash quite easily, an exciting wine.
And then, away from Riesling and to Burgundy. The pairing being Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Cailleret 2013 from Domaine Marc Colin and Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos St.Jean 2011 from Domaine M.Neillon – Now the former producer is linked/related to PYCM who we visited back in May 2014 and the vineyard is a good one, the later is a vineyard I know a bit from working with the wines of Francois Carillon. The 2013 showed none of the potential difficulties of the vintage (it is variable but ultimately there are likely to be some great wines and the opposite). The later, Neillon wine, is a star, saline and oh so moreish – a good pairing.
More variety now and a Spatburgunder 1999 from Dr Heger in Magnum – this, it has to be said, was one of the finds of the trip to such an extent that we had two magnums – we did briefly try a bottle of Assmannshauser Hollenberg Spatburgunder Auslese 1999 from Weingut Krone (Spatburgunder and Auslese combined not being at all confusing) in an attempt to get a Spatburgunder that was as good but we gave up. The Dr Heger was an absolute gem, mature but vibrant, soft but with drive, herbal, spiced but focused, punching well above any pre-conceptions of what Spatburgunder can be. As a contrast we also had Pontet-Canet 2003 (Magnum) which showed well and was a true contrast in every way, bold, quite full and savoury. Fascinating. At this stage, if memory serves me right, we toasted The Doctor for all his considerable input he would not be able to join the next day despite the fact he had helped organise that too. Never has a Wine Tour Virgin contributed more.
Sweeter things were arriving so in a good bit to linking we had an Auslese – Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 1990 from Dr Loosen – from a site we had tasted extensively at Prum the previous day. This was as extrovert as you expect from 1990, a good bottle. Landgraflich Hessisches Riesling Beerenauslese 1989 from Weingut Johannisberger Klaus – is a wine I know nothing about, I am not entirely sure I get the point of ageing Beerenauslese I love the purity of youth and the drive. For the second night in succession we put away a bottle of the Warre’s Crusted Port (bottled 1974). Then just as things were winding down we were approached at our table by a chap with the name Martin Bircher, whilst German he had the most “perfect” Glaswegian accent, it was a slightly out of body experience to be honest… anyway he gave us a bottle of his Bercher Burkheimer Feuerberg Haslen Weissburgunder, Weingut Bircher – I wish I’d made notes, I remember it was good but little more than that. The Doctor and Magnum then made their way to “The Surgery”, the rest of us couldn’t quite resist the call of one last bottle, though we had to drink it in reception as the restaurant understandably had to close! So staying on a Pinot theme it was – Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvee “Ostrea” 2009 from Domaine Trapet who we had visited back in 2014. I made a note (which sort of impresses me) that it had good fruit and more grip than I might have expected from a 2009. What a dinner…bedtime!
The next morning came around somewhat faster than ideal but another good breakfast was put away and the crew were ready to go. It is always one of the biggest days of the year. We had a potentially rather troublesome rendezvous to negotiate as we needed to pick up Magnum from the roadside en route to the Pfalz. We managed it. One could sense that Leechy was getting a little more tense as that afternoon Leinster were to defend their European Rugby title against Saracens (nothing big has happened to them recently).
Weingut Christmann was our destination and it was to be quite a Wine Trip moment. Magnum knew the wines but the rest of us didn’t and the Doctor had made the intro. So we met Steffen and Sophie Christmann, another father and daughter team, and the rest as they say is history. I say this because I’ve been back twice since and the result is we (C&B) now very proudly represent the estate in the UK, details of which are here – Christmann offer – the offer goes over a lot to the trip story too.
Anyway, none of this had happened then, we started with a tour of the estate’s winemaking set up with Sophie, fully involved in the estate and with the Pinot Noirs as a particular project.
The estate focuses on Riesling (the traditional strength) and then Pinot Noir with a few other varieties making up the final percentage.
We then re-met Steffen for a tasting in the tasting room to go through a whole range of the wines and this is where I got even more excited. It is difficult to identify what it is that grabs you but its a feeling rather than a taste. I could also tell the team were excited about the wines.
Pfalz Riesling 2018, A.Christmann – Cleanly dry, energy and a very good introduction to the range.
Ruppertsberg Riesling 2018, A.Christmann – A “Village” Riesling in name but much more in contents, one of the big qualitative appeals of this estate is that they declassify a lot so almost every level punches well above it’s weight.
Gimmeldinger Kapellenberg Riesling 2015, A.Christmann – The 2015s are a generous and richer vintage, this is superb already but will age well.
Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling 2014, A.Christmann – I have – very good indeed – underlined in my notes…a good sign of course. The 2014 vintage strikes me as very typical, may be average might be the word but it can be taken as negative and averages are shifting here as in most regions despite what Mr Trump might think of global warming. A cracker.
Reiterpfad-Hofstuck GG 2017, A.Christmann – So GG time. This has the “Pfalz trick” up it’s sleeve, the wine has a nose that suggests generous fruit and even sweetness when in reality it is dry and complex, this just makes it all the more adaptable.
Reiterpfad GG 2013, A.Christmann – Ripe yellow fruits and great texture. A hell of a wine, I love this how it is now.
Meerspinne GG 2015, A.Christmann – Just so delicious, can really see the 2015 character above, a wine of borderline excess. Very good indeed. There is definitely age-ability but it is almost pleading to be drunk.
Mandelgarten “GG” 2005, A.Christmann – Now we move into a different sphere, opulence and complexity whilst generous, quite something. Would be a great wine to serve blind.
IDIG Riesling GG 2014, A.Christmann – This isn’t news to those in the know but this is one spectacular vineyard, Riesling or Pinot Noir. Almost a monopole of the estate. There are two other small owners but one blends it with other wines in the village (insane!) and the other (I don’t know the name) has so little that they only sell it in the village. This is epic wine. I have written this wine up a few times and it is such a chameleon. Brilliant.
IDIG Riesling GG 2012, A.Christmann – May be the vintage to drink now of those you might be able to find. But do not serve it too cool. Not much to add to the above other than to say that for complexity and enjoyment it stands up to pretty much anything.
And on to the Pinot Noirs aka Spatburgunder.
Gimmeldingen Spatburgunder 2015, A.Christmann – Quite lean in a good focused way but this grew and grew, length was epic, an easy wine to miss-judge. Lots to come but great now.
Gimmeldinger Biengarten Spatburgunder 2015, A.Christmann – This is a gem, a little more intensity than the wine directly above and with so much drive, so true to its location and so very moreish. Just lovely.
IDIG Spatburgunder 2001, A.Christmann – Love trying any 2001 (my son’s vintage). There is full maturity here as it is a shade degraded but it is not tired and it is not lacking any freshness, tells a very exciting tale for the future.
From this great tasting and it really was great, I was already plotting which is rare as one tasting is no basis for anything. We had a few photos and then it was time to have a look at the IDIG vineyard en route to lunch, which Steffen had agreed to join us for the start of (sensibly he made an early exit). We bid Sophie a very grateful goodbye and Dusty jumped in the old-school Land Rover Discovery with Steffen the rest of us in with Kurt. We made a quick trip round IDIG which made it obvious why it is such a great site then we headed to lunch at Deidesheimer Hof. Now this is quite a venue – various German Chancellors having entertained various statesmen and stateswomen down the years (google it).
This lunch has become something of a trip institution and we had wines to order as well as wines to consume -but all this only after securing Kurt’s transportation for later.
We started, as if we needed more acidity, with a trio of Champagnes – Salon 2004, Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 2006 and Dom Perignon P2 2000. Lots of lovely contrasts and a few common threads. The Salon 2004 was enjoyed by the group at a similar stage last year though not in quite the salubrious surroundings of this year. It is focused and very fine, Comtes 2006 is an easier drop to appreciate right now but may be has a little less drive, very good mind you. The P2 is a every bit as much a wine as a Champagne, richer and really quite full.
The food stared to roll so on we went to Riesling with two of the great dry white estates (along with Christmann, Wittman etc) – Kastanienbusett Riesling GG 2015 from Weingut Okonoterat Rebholz and Kirchestuck Riesling GG 2016 from Dr Burklin-Wolf. Both were delicious the former may be a little more generous right now and the latter having a little more focus but it really is tight margins at this level.
From Riesling to Pinot Noir as the dishes got a little richer. IDIG Spatburgunder 2013 from A.Christmann in Magnum did nothing to put us off the Christmann wines, the opposite in fact, red fruit with even a hint of Strawberry and then a more serious texture but totally approachable. It was very good of Steffen to bring this. He had to get back to the winery for mid-afternoon so left at this stage, we bid him a very fond farewell. The other Pinot was Clos-Saint-Denis Grand Cru 2011 from G.Lignier which we somehow consumed three bottles of. It spoke far more of the Grand Cru soil it was from than the 2011 vintage which can be classical but would never be referred to as generous for the reds.
At about this stage we were also sad to see Boycey and Magnum depart to the airport. The team carried on as a magnificent seven with some Cabernet on the cards next – Dominus 1997 and Beychevelle 2000 from magnum. I really liked the 1997, resolved and mellow – perfect now. The Beychevelle was far more savoury, very good but more iron and meatier, drier but then it should be so, very 2000. Now to the peak of the trip, in amusement if nothing else, Merlot 2015 Pays d’Oc (175cl), Sainbury’s taste the difference we had managed to caress this away from the flight lounge and had it ready for deployment to the Wardy palate as and when – the tasting note is brief – outclassed would be a fair and understandable way to put it.
Back on track we had Trotanoy 1996 taking us back to the Trotanoy we had enjoyed at Rekondo last year. As puddings started to come out we ventured back to the sweeter side of Germany’s range.
Forster Kirchesteh Auslese 1995 from Von Buhl (50cl), was frankly disappointing in honesty a little too textured and organgey – a case of dubious storage rather than the wine I think. Partner Hahnheiser Riesling TBA 2003 also from Von Buhl and also in (50cl) was, by contrast very good, rich but very focused and fine!
There was a cry for something more mainstream from a few of the team and two last bottles were ordered in the now deserted restaurant and we couldn’t, yet, hear Kurt revving his engine outside. Mouton-Rothschild 1996 – was bold yet together, an extrovert but at the same time “true” Pauillac – thoroughly delicious. Yquem 1988 – did exactly what it should and as the Mouton had. Full, to my taste “bang on” now though obviously largely indestructible “forever”. Ripe full and comfortingly proper.
With this we made tracks – the rugby was about to start and Leechy was getting his i-pad ready. We actually managed to watch the first half as we rolled into Heidelberg en route to dropping our bags at Holländer Hof hotel before running back out (we lost Vestier and Wardy who seemed more keen on testing out the hotel Wi-fi) and into a cab to a pub that would show the second half. Guinness then made a first Wine Trip appearance – the rugby did not end as Leechy desired but we quickly tried to raise the mood with a few snacks and another pint.
The trip often, understandably, gets a little fragmented at this stage but we were remarkably (may be by comparison with each other more that anyone else) coherent so we didn’t linger at the gastro pub we had booked for dinner instead Fiscali and I went hunting and managed to locate a very friendly Irish/German waiter who found us a table at the Weisser Bock hotel/restaurant. The list was safe rather than exciting but that worked fine.
Especially given the day it had been this was a great effort…
My handwriting by this late stage was a little patchy. We enjoyed the wines and went, sort of back to the beginning of the trip with – Berncasteler Doctor GG Riesling Trocken 2014 from Weingut Wegeler not a patch on Thanisch but good nevertheless. The Bhirner Winklebrun Chardonnay 2015 served as a contrast and we then reverted to the Rieslings with Geisenheim Rothberg Spatlese 1997, Weingut Wegeler, of which we had two bottles, serving us rather well – that easy, flattering 1997 thing again. For red we had a duo of La Tour Carnet 2008 (two bottles) and Schlossberg Spatburgunder GG 2010, from our new friend Dr Heger. The Tour Carnet is a good drop – delivering proper Bordeaux at a price where people want to open bottles. The Dr Heger was good, very good but not at the level of the 1999 – what is it about meeting your heroes – vinous or otherwise. Muskateller Trockenbeerenauslese (vintage unknown) also from Dr Heger was a wine about which I wrote the resoundingly helpful note of “very sweet”. I will leave it there.
One last stop at the beer hall near our hotel for a jar of beer and the job was done!
The following morning was a quiet one as we made our way to Baden-Baden for the flight back – despite being a smaller team we were upgraded and flew home in spacious luxury. A bit of gentle chat but no alcohol.
There are many thank yous to make – to all the producers who saw us – to the team for their company, to Fiscali for the wings – back at C&B I must thank Tanya for her support, patience and organisational calm. The very same goes for Natasha at Team Fiscali. Finally, Tree for her background info packs!
Onwards to 2020…where to?