2013, 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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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

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 1 available
Save $349.00 (33%)1044.00
Save $349.00 (33%)

94+ points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): ...wafting from the glass in a deep, complex and very classy aromatic mix of apple, grapefruit, iris blossoms, wild yeasts, a beautiful base of slate, incipient notes of petrol and citrus peel. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and very suave… ...

JG 94
WA 94
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Donnhoff Riesling Norheimer Dellchen Grosses Gewachs 2013  (#332310)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12 available

96+ points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The 2013 Dönnhoff Brücke Spätlese is pure magic in the making. The brilliantly complex nose soars from the glass in a blaze of pears, white cherries, pink grapefruit, clementines, stunningly complex minerality, perhaps a whisper of petrol, bee pollen… ...

JG 96
WA 93
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Donnhoff Riesling Spatlese Oberhauser Brucke 2013  (#332311)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 1 available

95 points Joel B. Payne (Vinous): Rich golden-yellow. Enticing aromas of pineapple, acacia honey and lime waft over a bed of brown spice botrytis. The sweet peach preserve fruit and salty minerality are very well balanced: more elegant than rich and tantalizingly light on the palate. Both delicate… ...

V 95
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Keller Riesling Westhofen Brunnenhauschen BA Abtserde E 2013  (#324422)

Riesling from Rheinhessen, Germany

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 11 available
Save $146.12 (37%)396.00
Save $146.12 (37%)

A blend of three different vineyards. The vines are at least 20 years old. Intense fruit. A superb example of what the modern Rheinhessen can do: rich intense fruit, less floral and more stone fruit, nectarine or peach, with a hearty earthiness that gives the wine both power and complexity. Entirely… ...

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Winter Riesling Dittelsheim Rheinhessen 2013  (#326681)

Riesling from Rheinhessen, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 4 available
Save $9.62 (39%)24.50
Save $9.62 (39%)

WHWC Staff Notes: ...reminiscent of a top wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains, with explosively exuberant black raspberry and black cherry aromas and underlying notes of nutmeg, toffee, and mint... you don't often get this sort of acidic vibrancy along with such a velvety density of fruit. Secondary… ...

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Becker-Landgraf Spatburgunder Gau-Odernheimer Muschelkalk J2 2013  (#330477)

Pinot Noir from Rheinhessen, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 10 available
Save $5.05 (14%)35.00
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WHWC Staff Notes: Rainer Schnaitmann's young-vine Spätburgunder is a forward, fleshy style with up-front aromas of cherries, wild strawberries, cassis, and candied lavender. The palate shows some restraint of the fruit, but prominent flavors of raspberry and strawberry persist along the backbone of… ...

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Schnaitmann Spatburgunder Wurttemberg Young Vines 2013  (#329525)

Pinot Noir from Württemberg, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 7 available
Save $13.05 (27%)48.00
Save $13.05 (27%)

Some of the fruit for this Estate Pinot Noir is from the estate's top Grosses Gewächs vineyards. The chalky limestone yields supple flavors of black cherry fruit, baked rhubarb, and blueberry on the palate. There's a velvety finesse, which yields to aromatic violets and lavender, freshly picked… ...

WA 87
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Becker Family Estate Spatburgunder Pfalz 2013  (#329554)

Pinot Noir from Pfalz, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 4 available

93 points John Gilman (View From the Cellar): The 2013 Türmchen Grosses Gewächs... is really lovely this year, offering up a superb nose of spring flowers, apples, white cherries, complex minerality, gentle smokiness, wild yeasts, lilacs and a bit of fleur de sel up high. On the palate the wine is… ...

JG 93
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Donnhoff Riesling Schlossbockelheimer Felsenturmchen GG 2013  (#332308)

Riesling from Nahe, Germany

750ml Bottle | In stock, 5 available
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