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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95+ points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The 2017 Brücke Spätlese is an absolute classic in the making and one of the best version of this Prädikat level from the vineyard since the stellar pair from the 2001 and 2002 vintages. The nose wafts from the glass in a complex constellation of apple,… ...

JS 95
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Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Oberhauser Brucke 2017  (#332817)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 11 available
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93 points Wine & Spirits: Werner Näkel, whose work with pinot noir brought Germany s Ahr region to prominence, is now joined in the winery by his daughters, Dörte and Meike. Their basic Spätburgunder in 2015 excels in its grace and energy: The flavors come across as breezy--tart, tangy fruit scented… ...

W&S 93
WE 92
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Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder Ahr 2015  (#327672)

Pinot Noir from Ahr, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 5 available
$29.95
$39.00
Save $9.05 (23%)39.00
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Staff Notes: This 100% Pinot Noir rosé wine exhibits a strikingly vibrant, light ruby color and astounding complexity for a rosé. The bouquet of ripe Bing cherry and white pepper is somewhat reserved now, but will undoubtedly come into its own with proper cellaring of up to 3 years. The palate is… ...

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Meyer-Nakel Spatburgunder Rose Ahr 2017  (#332624)

Rosé from Ahr, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available

94+ points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...The wine comes in at around 12.5% alcohol and offers up a refined and very classy bouquet of grapefruit, white cherries, wild yeasts, dried flowers, a lovely base of minerality, petrol and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied,… ...

JG 94
WA 94
WS 94
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Schafer-Frohlich Riesling Nahe Felsenberg Grosses Gewachs 2015  (#328695)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12 available
JG 94
WA 94
WS 94
NEW ITEM
$69.95
$110.00
Save $40.05 (36%)110.00
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94 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The 2017 Grosses Gewächs bottling from the Felsenberg is another absolutely superb wine in the making. The bouquet is deep, pure and youthfully complex, delivering a constellation of pink grapefruit, wild yeasts, a superb base of volcanic soil tones,… ...

JG 94
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Donnhoff Riesling Felsenberg Felsenturmchen Grosses Gewachs 2017  (#332812)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 9 available
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94 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The 2017 Hermannshöhle Spätlese from the Dönnhoffs is also excellent this year, but it was a bit more reserved in personality at the time of my tasting and perhaps does not have quite the same precision as the Brücke this year? The bouquet offers up a… ...

JG 94
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Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Niederhauser Hermannshohle 2017  (#332818)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 12+ available
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91 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): The 2015 Brauneberger Riesling Kabinett is still pretty reductive, but round, fresh and fruity, with a stimulating piquancy and salinity. A classic Mosel Kabinett with 8.5% alcohol and just the perfect amount of fruit sweetness. Drink 2018-2035. (Apr 2017… ...

TP 91
WA 91
WE 90
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Haag/Fritz Riesling Kabinett Brauneberger 2015  (#327941)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 2 available
TP 91
WA 91
WE 90
$24.95
$32.00
Save $7.05 (22%)32.00
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Not yet reviewed; 2015 vintage rated 95+ points by John Gilman (View: ...The bouquet offers up a youthfully complex constellation of tart orange, grapefruit, wild yeasts, a beautifully complex base of slate minerality, the vintage s signature botanicals and a topnote of lime peel. On the palate the… ...

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Zilliken Riesling Saarburger Rausch Grosses Gewachs 2016  (#331081)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available

92+ points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...plenty of filigree and lovely complexity and balance...10% alc... 43g/l r.s... The bouquet is lovely, wafting from the glass in a blend of tart orange, pink grapefruit, plenty of smokiness, wild yeasts, lovely minerality, a touch of mossiness and a… ...

JG 92
WA 90
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Emrich-Schonleber Riesling Monzingen Kabinett 2015  (#329909)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 4 available

96 points Stuart Pigott (JamesSuckling.com): Dönnhoff's first dry Riesling from their monopole Brücke (bridge) site in many years with a much more limited production than the other GGs. Tart blackcurrant and grapefruit notes dominate the nose suggesting that this is going to be quite a cool and tart… ...

JS 96
JG 95
WA 94
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Donnhoff Riesling Oberhauser Brucke GG (Auction AP# 30) 2015  (#329077)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 3 available
JS 96
JG 95
WA 94

97 points James Suckling: The 2016 Hermannshöhle GG from Dönnhoff is once again one of the top dry rieslings of the vintage in Germany thanks to its stunning combination of concentration and finesse. The super-mineral finish tugs at your lapels trying to pull you with it into the distance. Don't… ...

JS 97
WA 96
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Donnhoff Riesling Niederhauser Hermannshohle Grosses Gewachs 2016  (#330123)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 12+ available
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$68.95
$85.00
Save $16.05 (19%)85.00
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97 points Stephan Reinhardt (Wine Advocate): The 2016 Riesling Zeltinger Himmelreich Auslese ** (Green Capsule) is terribly fine, pure and fresh but also perfectly ripe and rich on the nose without losing precision. Round and highly elegant on the palate, with tropical fruit flavors and just the… ...

WA 97
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Molitor/Markus Riesling Auslese** Zeltinger Himmelreich Green Cap 2016  (#701905)

Riesling from Mosel, Germany

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 8 available
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