Germany, WINE

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Germany's rich, illustrious wine history can stand proudly next to the rest of the world's great regions, but its recent history has been somewhat more checkered. For centuries, the country's nobly sweet Riesling wines were considered the finest on Earth. But by the late 20th and early 21st centuries, this style had long fallen out of favor with the general public, both in Germany and abroad. The dry, or trocken, style now encompasses the majority of German wine production, but the best contemporary winemakers have held fast to tradition and held themselves and their peers to strict quality standards.

The late-ripening Riesling grape is perfectly suited to the sweet style and perfectly suited to Germany's best vineyards, the most northerly in the wine growing world. First, only Pinot Noir can match Riesling's ability to convey such a pure sense of time and place from such highly specific plots of land. Second, the profile of luxurious sugar and fruit allied to bracing acidity is simply inimitable. Many regions have tried. All have failed. The sweet wines, or Prädiktat wines, are legally defined according to must weight and actual alcohol content. Kabinett is the first tier on the pyramid, typically bright and fresh in style with exuberant fruit and racy acid. Spätlese wines are riper in natural sugars and potential alcohol, fuller in body and residual sugar, and longer lived in the cellar. The Auslese tier takes wine to another realm of expression and complexity with intensely ripe fruits married to ultra-fine, filigreed acid. The super-premium tiers of Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese, and Eiswein are to the point of defying description. Exceedingly rare and exorbitantly expensive, they are among the wine world's unicorns, and enjoying one is the treat of a lifetime, indeed.

In terms of terroir, Germany's wine identity is defined by the five-mile-long wall of vines in the middle Mosel River Valley. The best plots of vines cling to steep inclines (up to 60% in some places) on beds of weathered slate soils, said to impart the region's trademark "petrol" character to the wines' bouquets. Along the river's snaking course, the best sites enjoy southerly exposures to take full advantage of the day's rays, even late into the season. Many of Germany's greatest wine estates are based in the villages on the Mosel, but its tributaries, Saar and Ruwer, boast their own fair share of iconic vineyards and producers, with the wines generally more elegant and austere than those from the river's main course.

Where the Mosel meets the mighty Rhine river, there begins the rest of Germany's wine mosaic. The Nahe is another of the river's tributaries. Southeast of Mosel, it's more of a patchwork of vineyard sites, on both the main Nahe branch and along some of its tributaries. The wines are generally riper and more unctuous than the Mosel's, but great growers are finding new levels of refinement each year. At an eastward bend in the river, the historically majestic Rheingau's prized, south-facing vineyards produce wines of elegant subtlety and austerity. Where the Rhine turns south again, the Rheinhessen's easterly wall of red slate, known as the Roter Hang produces wines of luxurious sweetness and spicy minerality. Further down the river, the Pfalz is perhaps Germany's most exciting wine region today, as it sits in the lee of the Vosges mountains, far from any major river, making it Germany's driest, sunniest micro-climate. The resulting Rieslings display a honeyed decadence and body with riveting acidity, characteristic Riesling but wholly Pfalz at heart.

Away from this stretch of the Rhein, Germany's lesser-known regions quietly excel with often obscure native varietals and a few transplants. With Germany's most northerly vines, the tiny Ahr river valley grows some of the country's best Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder, on steep blue and black slate slopes. A few top producers are now making wines to rival the heavyweights from elsewhere, with a meaty, ripe density and firm texture. In addtion to Spätburgunder, Germany's best indigenous red varietals also see great success in Baden, in the country's Bavarian south. Trollinger and Lemberger thrive particularly well around Württemburg. Franken, on the other hand, has a world-class reputation built on a white grape, and it isn't Riesling. The densely compact Silvaner does best here on the limestone soils, and the top wines are as ageworthy as most great Rieslings.

Germany's wine reputation may rise and fall with the fortunes of one varietal, as it should. But that one varietal is unlike any other, and with time the country's upstart mavericks will continue to make waves with the other staple grapes here, as well. Through highs and lows, the heart and soul of Germany's wine scene have stayed strong, and they're only getting stronger.

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94 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): ...The wine has a very clear and smoky bouquet of perfectly ripe, healthy Riesling berries and yellow-fleshed stone fruits. Round, lush and piquant, this is a very elegant and stimulating Spätlese with lingering, mouthwatering salinity. The wine is… ...
WA 94
JS 94
JG 93
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Schaefer/Willi Riesling Spatlese Graacher Domprobst A.P. #10 2016  (#329521)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

94 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): ...The wine has a very clear and smoky bouquet of perfectly ripe, healthy Riesling berries and yellow-fleshed stone fruits. Round, lush and piquant, this is a very elegant and stimulating Spätlese with…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
WA 94
JS 94
JG 93
$34.95
$45.00
Save $10.05 (22%)45.00
Save $10.05 (22%)
94 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The two Rausch Spätlesen from 2015 are extremely special from the Zillikens this year. The 'regular' bottling is flat out stunning, soaring from the glass in a vibrant mélange of pineapple, a touch of white cherry, bee pollen, saline slate tones and a… ...
JG 94
MFW 94
WS 93
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Zilliken Riesling Spatlese Saarburger Rausch 2015  (#333306)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

94 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The two Rausch Spätlesen from 2015 are extremely special from the Zillikens this year. The 'regular' bottling is flat out stunning, soaring from the glass in a vibrant mélange of pineapple, a touch of…

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 4 available
JG 94
MFW 94
WS 93
$21.95
$30.00
Save $8.05 (27%)30.00
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98 points Joel B. Payne (Vinous): Rich golden yellow. Exuberant aromas of caramelized peach, quince preserves and oyster shell on a bed of honeyed botrytis. Incredibly dense on the palate, with its creamy richness perfectly paired with an almost salty tangy quality, this is a breathtaking Riesling.… ...
V 98
JG 98
WA 95
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Keller Riesling Westhofen Morstein Trockenbeerenauslese GK 2013  (#324421)

Riesling from Rheinhessen, Germany

98 points Joel B. Payne (Vinous): Rich golden yellow. Exuberant aromas of caramelized peach, quince preserves and oyster shell on a bed of honeyed botrytis. Incredibly dense on the palate, with its creamy richness perfectly paired with an almost…

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 1 available
$695.00
$1044.00
Save $349.00 (33%)1044.00
Save $349.00 (33%)
94 points James Suckling: A delicate Auslese with a lovely delicacy and freshness. Very filigree for a wine of this richness and rather dry for a wine of this sweetness. The result of this fascinating combination is a beautiful wine for spicy foods or conversation. The cool and clean finish is of… ...
JS 94
JG 93
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Schaefer/Willi Riesling Auslese Graacher Himmelreich Gold Cap #4 2016  (#330186)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

94 points James Suckling: A delicate Auslese with a lovely delicacy and freshness. Very filigree for a wine of this richness and rather dry for a wine of this sweetness. The result of this fascinating combination is a beautiful wine for spicy foods…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 7 available
96 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): The 2016 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese (Gold Capsule), AP #9 17, shows a stony-flinty, very precise and concentrated grapefruit and lemon bouquet. The wine is lush and generous and is based on 50% botrytis, which gives roundness and… ...
WA 96
WE 95
WS 94
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Haag/Fritz Riesling GK Auslese Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr #9 2016  (#333304)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

96 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): The 2016 Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Auslese (Gold Capsule), AP #9 17, shows a stony-flinty, very precise and concentrated grapefruit and lemon bouquet. The wine is lush and generous and is…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 6 available
WA 96
WE 95
WS 94
93 points James Suckling: As cool and pure as a mountain stream. Did somebody say 'sweetness?' You hardly taste it, and the finish is almost completely dry. Anytime during the next 20 years is a good time. (6/7/17) ...
JS 93
JG 92
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Schaefer/Willi Riesling Spatlese Graacher Himmelreich 2016  (#330187)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

93 points James Suckling: As cool and pure as a mountain stream. Did somebody say 'sweetness?' You hardly taste it, and the finish is almost completely dry. Anytime during the next 20 years is a good time. (6/7/17)

750ml Bottle | In stock, 10 available
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the fine color of this wine catches your eye the first time you look at it. The red fruit aromas are decidedly stern, bringing to mind dried strawberry and currant, as well as an undertone of flinty river rocks and a slight tannic streak on the palate. The wine's tension… ...
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von Buhl Spatburgunder Rose Trocken Pfalz 2017  (#332493)

Rosé from Pfalz, Germany

Made from 100% Pinot Noir, the fine color of this wine catches your eye the first time you look at it. The red fruit aromas are decidedly stern, bringing to mind dried strawberry and currant, as well as an undertone of flinty river rocks and a slight…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
94 points Wine Spectator: Expressive and opulent, yet with vibrant acidity. Flavors of nectarine, kumquat fruit and toasted herbs mingle at the core. Best from 2020 through 2032. 250 cases made. (3/31/18) ...
WS 94
FWR 94
JS 94
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okonomierat Rebholz Riesling Pfalz Im Sonnenschein Ganz Horn GG 2016  (#330802)

Riesling from Pfalz, Germany

94 points Wine Spectator: Expressive and opulent, yet with vibrant acidity. Flavors of nectarine, kumquat fruit and toasted herbs mingle at the core. Best from 2020 through 2032. 250 cases made. (3/31/18)

750ml Bottle | In stock, 11 available
WS 94
FWR 94
JS 94
$69.95
$100.00
Save $30.05 (30%)100.00
Save $30.05 (30%)
96 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...The bouquet is pure, still fairly primary and utterly classical in depth and proportion, delivering a superb constellation of white cherries, delicious apple, a touch of the yellow plum to come in time, a gorgeous signature of slate minerality and a… ...
JG 96
WA 96
WS 95
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Prum/JJ Riesling Auslese Wehlener Sonnenuhr GK 2016  (#330467)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

96 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...The bouquet is pure, still fairly primary and utterly classical in depth and proportion, delivering a superb constellation of white cherries, delicious apple, a touch of the yellow plum to come in time…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
JG 96
WA 96
WS 95
$109.95
$150.00
Save $40.05 (27%)150.00
Save $40.05 (27%)
94 points Decanter: Pure and lifted redcurrant and cranberry mingle with slight smoke on the nose. This has gorgeous freshness and pure red fruit notes that convince with brightness and freshness. There is a slight but pleasant grip and while this is very pretty, there is serious structure and… ...
DE 94
WA 91-92
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Salwey Spatburgunder Baden Oberrotweiler Henkenberg GG 2014  (#330806)

Pinot Noir from Baden, Germany

94 points Decanter: Pure and lifted redcurrant and cranberry mingle with slight smoke on the nose. This has gorgeous freshness and pure red fruit notes that convince with brightness and freshness. There is a slight but pleasant grip and while this is…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 5 available
93 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...a lovely example of the vintage, offering up a very pretty bouquet of white cherries, apple, wild yeasts, a touch of sea salts, bee pollen, apple blossoms and a superb base of minerality. On the palate the wine is medium-full, pure and dancing, with a… ...
JG 93
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Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Norheimer Kirschheck 2017  (#332816)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

93 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...a lovely example of the vintage, offering up a very pretty bouquet of white cherries, apple, wild yeasts, a touch of sea salts, bee pollen, apple blossoms and a superb base of minerality. On the palate…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
$32.95
$40.00
Save $7.05 (18%)40.00
Save $7.05 (18%)
91 points Wine Spectator: An opulent spätlese, with a lush, mouthcoating texture framing its peach, sweet corn, vanilla pastry and lemon notes. It's firm in structure, with the acidity emerging on the finish. Tasty now, this will be a beauty in a decade. Drink now through 2020. 1,000 cases made. (4… ...
WS 91
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Schloss Schonborn Riesling Spatlese Graflich Eigenbau 2004  (#328873)

Riesling from Rheingau, Germany

91 points Wine Spectator: An opulent spätlese, with a lush, mouthcoating texture framing its peach, sweet corn, vanilla pastry and lemon notes. It's firm in structure, with the acidity emerging on the finish. Tasty now, this will be a beauty in a…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 4 available
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