German Riesling: Historic estates and rising stars
A key principle links the producers in our German portfolio: the close connection between the precise vineyard site and the character of the wines. The four producers below represent the excellence that can be found in some of Germany’s most historic vineyards, and in some of the country’s most compelling rising stars.
Maximin Grünhaus’ historic vineyards date back to Roman times, but even today boast a modern history of six generations from the von Schubert family, who have overseen the estate since the late 19th Century. Schloss Vollrads is the site of the first recorded Kabinett, made in 1716, and has history documenting wine sales as far back as 1211. Alongside their unrivalled heritage, these two estates produce crystalline, precise and intense expressions of Riesling that truly reflect the unique sites from which they are sourced.
Meanwhile Axel Pauly and Jochen Dreissigacker have been at the forefront of a reinterpretation of the country’s viticultural tradition, their wines successfully reviving the enthusiasm for top quality German Riesling. These two dynamic winemakers are helping to maintain some winemaking traditions, while pushing boundaries. Jochen Dreissigacker converted his Rheinhessen vineyards to organic viticulture, calling it the “the artisan path to purity”, and, from 2019, he also started following biodynamic principles in order to create the optimal conditions for the grapes to thrive – an approach that he describes as “a long-term investment in nature and wines”. Axel Pauly took over his family estate in the heart of the Mosel, following vintages in New Zealand, California and other parts of Germany. He uses crop thinning, leaf plucking and careful selection to ensure perfect levels of ripeness and balance of the grapes in the vineyard.
Located on steep, south-facing slopes two kilometres from where the river Ruwer meets the Mosel, the estate of Maximin Grünhaus has a history of viticulture that dates back to Roman times. A former monastic property and a Riesling specialist, the estate is now overseen by sixth-generation family member Maximin Von Schubert. Winemaker Stefan Kraml has been with the estate since 2004. The use of wild yeasts and fermentation in small stainless-steel tanks and classic large oak casks results in wines of inimitable delicacy, yet remarkable expression.
Maximin Grünhaus, `Monopol` Gutswein Mosel Riesling 2018
The ‘Monopol’ Gutswein Riesling is produced from younger vines, predominantly from the Herrenberg vineyard and supplemented by a dash of Abtsberg fruit. The two prestigious vineyards belong entirely to the von Schubert family and are classified as VDP. Grosse Lage (Grand Cru). Fresh lemon, floral notes and yellow plum aromas characterise the nose and 8.1 g/l of residual sugar is well-balanced by the crisp acidity. There is also a beautiful minerality resembling the Devonian slate soils where the fruit is grown.
Maximin Grünhaus, `Abtsberg` Grosses Gewächs Mosel Riesling 2018
The Abtsberg is the most famous and steepest vineyard of the estate, achieving a gradient of up to 75%, which requires laborious hand-harvesting. The dry Grosses Gewächs best expresses the character of the Riesling from this 14 hectares plot. Its pronounced fruit core, combined with delicacy of texture, salty minerality and refreshing acidity promise that this wine will age magnificently.
17 Points, Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com, October 2019
Spicy lemon and lime fruit plus a certain stony minerality. Intense orange flavours on the palate, super-crisp but with some fruit sweetness to balance it out. It tastes not quite bone dry though it is technically trocken (dry) since it is a GG. Laser-like acidity cuts a straight line through all the lovely fruit, leaving a spicy, fruity aftertaste. Juicy and lively.
Known as one of the oldest wine estates in the world, Schloss Vollrads has been making wine in the Rheingau since the 13th century. The 81 hectares of Riesling vineyards are located between the reflective Rhine in the south and the Taunus mountain range in the north, offering shelter to the vines from cooling winds. Over 300 years on, Schloss Vollrads still produces richly aromatic wines with great purity, currently with Dr. Rowald Hepp at the winemaking helm. In his quest for quality, yields have been reduced by up to 40% below the legal requirement and the sulphur dioxide levels are much lower than in most German wines.
Schloss Vollrads, `Winkel` Rheingau Riesling Kabinett Trocken 2019
Since the world’s first Kabinett was produced at Schloss Vollrads, in 1716, it is no wonder that the crystalline `Winkel` Riesling still is the estate’s signature wine. No oak ageing or malolactic fermentation took place to preserve the fruit purity and freshness of this dry wine. While the bouquet is fruity with notes of apple, peach and apricot, the palate is round and mellow with steely layers of complexity and crisp acidity.
Schloss Vollrads, `Schlossberg` Grosses Gewächs Rheingau Riesling 2018
The more exclusive dry Grosses Gewächs `Schlossberg` Riesling from the eponymous vineyard, exclusively owned by Schloss Vollrads, is produced from old vines deeply rooted in a mixture of quartzite, agrillaceous shale and gravel. The resulting wine has a dense body, hints of beeswax and hay, well integrated oak and a fantastic stony minerality.
93 Points, Stephan Reinhardt, The Wine Advocate, January 2020
The Schloss Vollrads 2018 Schlossberg GG is a powerful, intense, mouth-filling, lush and creamy-textured wine with fine tannins and a very long, intense and persistent finish. The good phenolic structure promises very good aging potential. An impressive Vollrads Riesling.
We return to the heart of the Mosel Valley and Axel Pauly, one of the most dynamic figures in Germany’s progressive young winemaker scene. Most of the nine hectares of Pauly vines grow on the grey and blue slate soils in the village of Lieser, with the exception of a small parcel in neighbouring Bernkastel. In the vineyard, Axel uses crop thinning, leaf plucking and grape selection at harvest to ensure flavour ripeness and concentration. His ever-greater focus on expressing land and site is enhanced by Axel’s approach in the winery, where wild yeasts are used until they begin to struggle towards the end of fermentation, at which stage Axel introduces cultured yeasts.
Axel Pauly, `Tres Naris` Mosel Riesling Trocken 2019
At first glance, the label features the Mosel hills. Turn the label on its side and they become the noses of Axel, his father and his grandfather, a hint to Pauly’s family winemaking tradition. Sourced from vines aged between 20-40 years old, the grapes underwent skin contact for 30 hours prior to a slow, cool, temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks. After spending five months on fine lees, this is an approachable yet profound Riesling, with fragrant star anise notes and a fizzy sharpness that "makes you feel glad to be alive" in James Suckling’s words.
Axel Pauly, `Lieserer Niederberg-Helden` Mosel Riesling Kabinett 2019
The fruit for this lively single-vineyard Kabinett Riesling comes from the top site of Niederberg-Helden, a south-west facing slope of up to 80 degrees in steepness in some parts. 'Helden’ stands for ‘heroes' in German and is the word Axel’s grandfather used to describe the vintners working on the steep-sided valley of the Mosel.
93 Points, James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com, September 2020
Plenty of red apples, lemons and fresh herbs give this barely off-dry and light Mosel Kabinett a lot of charm. But this is also a very racy wine with some real drive. Very clean finish. Drink or hold.
Germany’s largest wine region, Rheinhessen takes pride in its more than 400 named single-vineyard sites and its dynamic new-wave winemakers. Jochen Dreissigacker’s wines are at the forefront of this 'Rheinhessen revival', winning high praise and points wherever they are sold. His 21 hectares of vineyards in the village of Bechtheim, 55% of which are Riesling, are organic certified since the 2010 vintage. Jochen also follows biodynamic principles, an approach that he describes as “a long-term investment in nature and wines”. In the cellar, Jochen’s winemaking techniques are as natural and traditional as possible, using only wild yeasts and harvesting only fully ripe grapes that don’t require the addition of 'süss-reserve' after vinification.
Dreissigacker, Organic Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2019
The dry Organic Riesling is ripe, clean, scented and zesty, with an impressive flavour profile and offering outstanding value. While pleasant and easy-to-drink, this wine doesn’t lack the mineral undertones and the light spice notes specific that add depth to this classic Rheinhessen Riesling.
Dreissigacker, `Bechtheimer` Rheinhessen Riesling Trocken 2017
The fruit for the ‘Bechtheimer’ Riesling is sourced from a selection of Jochen’s vineyards within the village of Bechtheim. The best sites include Hasensprung, Geyersberg and Rosengarten. The long hours of sunshine all year round and the loess and marl soils, result in a rich wine of great class and elegance, with good concentration and a lingering finish.
17 Points, Michael Schmidt, JancisRobinson.com, April 2018
Bechtheim Riesling impresses right from the start with an expressive fragrance of fruit basket and fumy minerality. On the palate the combination of crunchy apple, stone fruit and salty substance cannot be faulted for impact either.