Reviews of German Wines from Valckenberg

thick skinned black grapeP.J. Valckenberg is both the oldest family-owned wine merchant in Germany and a well-known US importer with an outstanding portfolio of German wines. The focus of Valckenberg’s import portfolio is top-level winemakers with a long tradition, sometimes several centuries long. Recently, the International Wine Review tasted a selection of imported, entry-level and premium wines from these winemakers.

Red Wines: Pinot Noir and Lemberger

The tasting included both red and white wines. German red wines are increasingly appearing in the international wine market. The combination of global warming and improved winemaking has led to quality improvements. As a result, the percentage of all wines that are red has increased from 10 to 35 percent since 1980. German reds may not be the fruit bombs one finds in warmer countries, but their leaner style offers elegance and finesse, characteristics increasingly in demand internationally.

We tasted both a Pinot Noir from Baden in the south of Germany and a Lemberger (also called Blaufränkisch) from Wuerttemberg. Baden is the most southerly and warmest German wine-growing area in Germany's southwestern corner, across the river Rhine from Alsace. Pinot Noir is the most widely grown grape variety in Baden.

The main production area of Wuerttemberg is along the Neckar river between Stuttgart and Heilbronn. Until now, wines from Württemberg have been hard to find in the US. During the past decades there has been a steady increase in the vineyard area planted with Lemberger, which thrives in a warm climate and wind-protected sites, not least because bud-burst is early and it ripens late.

Bernhard Huber and his wifeBernhard Huber

Bernard Huber (pictured here with his wife) is one of Germany’s ten best red winemakers as identified in the November 2009 issue of Der Feinschmecker, the leading German food and wine journal. He was also Gault Millau’s wine producer of the year in 2007.

Bernhard Huber 2007 Pinot Noir ObA Baden ($37) 89

The light ruby red 2007 Pinot Noir is a very well made entry level wine showing light aromas of cherry, smoke and wet earth. There’s good purity of raspberry and cherry fruit on a lean palate with a persistent finish. Alcohol 13.5%, residual sugar: 0.18% (1.8 g/l), acidity: 0.53% (5.3 g/l), 100% Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir).

Grafen Neipperg

The counts of Neipperg have cultivated vines for over 700 years in the wine-growing region of Württemberg. Karl Eugen, hereditary count of Neipperg, has been responsible for the wine estate since 1984.

Grafen Neipperg 2008 Lemberger ObA Wuerttemberg ($23) 88

The light ruby red 2008 Lemberger is a charming, entry-level wine showing bright red fruit aromas of cherry and blackberries. The light palate has a good concentration of red berry fruit and harmoniously balanced tannins. Long, fruity finish. This is a good food wine with a long, fruity finish. Alcohol: 13.0%, residual sugar: 0.3% (3 g/l), acidity: 0.54% (5.4 g/l), 100% Lemberger.

White Wines

We tasted wines made from both Silvaner, a high-yielding, low acid white-wine grape that is extensively cultivated in Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Franken and wines made from Riesling. The Silvaner we tasted is made from fruit grown in Franken, which is located in the northern part of Bavaria. Typically, Franken wine comes in the distinctive, dumpily-rounded Franken “Bocksbeutel” wine bottle. The bottle’s unusual shape dates back to at least the 16th century and may only be used for Franken wines.

The Rieslings we tasted come from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Nahe, Pfalz, and Rheingau. Riesling is grown throughout Germany’s wine regions, but it is most prominent in the areas covered by our tasting (and Rheinhessen).

The Mosel River is the sinuous spine of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region. Together with its two small tributaries, the Saar and the Ruwer, the Mosel composes one geographical entity, which is well known for its low-alcohol sweeter style wines. The Nahe wine region, south of the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region follows the path of the Nahe river in its northeasterly descent towards the Rhine river. It is one of the smaller German wine regions and is highly regarded for its excellent white wines, in particular Rieslings. After Rheinhessen, the Pflaz is the second largest German wine region, stretching from Rheinhessen in the north to Alsace in France in the south. Finally, the Rheingau lies along the Rhine valley west of Frankfurt am Main. Riesling is the dominating grape variety.

Castell-Castell 2008 Silvaner trocken ObA Franken ($16) 87

Silvaner is a variety that has a long tradition at Castell-Castell. Indeed, in 1659 Castell planted the first Silvaner vines in Germany. The 2008 Silvaner comes in a regular shaped bottle (i.e., not a Bocksbeutel). It is dry on the palate with a light straw hue. Aromas of melon and peach introduce a clean attack with slight effervescence and fresh, charming fruit with mineral notes on a straightforward palate. Finishes on a harmonious note. Alcohol: 11.5%, residual sugar: 0.7% (7.0 g/l), acidity: 0.57% (5.7 g/l), 100% Silvaner.

Bassermann-Jordan

Friedrich von Basserman-JordanThe Jordan family started making wine in the 18th century. Dr. jur. et Dr. rer. pol. h.c. Friedrich von Bassermann-Jordan [pictured to left] was the author of the seminal work on German winemaking, “Die Geschichte des Weinbaus” (1907). Bassermann-Jordan is Germany’s largest privately owned Wine Estate. The vines for the Riesling trocken are planted on the slopes of the Rhine valley in the Pfalz region. The slopes are south-east facing and contain a lot of sandstone in the soil.

Bassermann-Jordan 2008 Riesling trocken ObA Pfalz ($20) 87

This is a young, fresh dry Riesling summer picnic wine. Pale lemon straw in the glass, it is lightly aromatic with mineral notes on the nose. There’s a fresh, crisp attack with light effervescence and refreshing acidity on the palate with a lasting, pleasant finish. Alcohol: 12.0%, residual sugar: 0.51% (5.1 g/l), acidity: 0.83% (8.3 g/l), 100% Riesling.

Weingut Johannishof

is owned and operated by the Eser family which has a wine growing tradition dating from 1685. This is a Charta wine. The Charta Association was founded in 1983 by a group of leading producers in the Rheingau with the aim of promoting the dry style in German winemaking, in response to the sweet wave of the 1970s. The Charta Association has established strict regulations as to how these dry wines are to be made, including low yields, a minimum alcohol level of 12 percent and the use of 100 percent Riesling grapes. The grapes cannot have been affected by noble rot. These dry, high-quality Charta-approved wines are bottled in tall brown bottles embossed with a double Romanesque arch.

Weingut Johannishof 2008 Charta Riesling ObA Rheingau ($22) 91

The dry Johannishof 2008 Charta Riesling is a beautifully balanced wine that should have wide appeal to the American consumer. It’s medium straw color in the glass with pleasant aromas of ripe yellow peach and summer melon. It shows a very flavorful attack of summer fruit with good balancing acidity and a nice long finish. Very well done! And very highly recommended. Alcohol: 11.5%, residual sugar: 1.15% (11.5 g/l), acidity: 0.78% (7.8 g/l), 100% Riesling.

Schloss Wallhausen

is one of Germany's oldest wine estates. Prinz zu Salm, the estate owner and current president of the VdP (Association of Prädikat Wine Estates), can trace his family tree back to 932 and his vineyards to 1200. The Nahe vineyards are scattered among the fields and orchards of the Hunsrück hills and the Soonwald forest along the Nahe river, situated between the Rhine and Mosel valleys.

Salm-Salm 2008 Two Princes Riesling ObA Nahe ($15) 86

The 2008 Princes Riesling ia an affordable, easy drinking wine with a light sweetness. It’s light gold in the glass, showing flavors of tropical fruit with a crisp finish. Alcohol: 11.0%, residual sugar: 2.81% (28.1 g/l), acidity: 0.76% (7.6 g/l), 100% Riesling.

Baron Knypenhausen

Baron KnypenhausenThe Knyphausens have been wine growers since 1818. Their estate in Eberbach, however, dates from 1141, when it was founded by Cistercian monks from the Eberbach monastery. Today the estate is managed by its present owner, Gerko Baron zu Knyphausen, supported by his five sons.

Baron Knypenhausen 2008 Baron K’ Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Eltville ($17) 89

The 2008 Baron K’ Riesling ia an off-dry attractive wine showing very good concentration of fruit with a spicy finish. It’s medium yellow straw in the glass with light ripe apple and pear aromas. It has excellent balance with brisk acidity concentrated fresh apple flavors and a.crisp finish. This is a delicious wine that would both go well with food and sipped on its own. Alcohol: 9.5%, residual sugar: 2.65% (26.5 g/l), acidity: 0.72% (7.2 g/l), 100% Riesling.

C. von Schubert’sche Schlosskellerei

This estate, which is more commonly referred to as Maximin Grünhaus, was first documented in 966. The Schubert family purchased it in 1882. Since 1982, Dr. Carl von Schubert has managed the estate's vineyards. The wines of Maximin Grünhaus are reputedly some of the greatest of all Germany, and certainly dominate the Ruwer along with those from the Kartaeuserhof estate.

C. von Schubert’sche Schlosskellerei
2008 Maximin Gruenhaeuser Herrenberg Kabinett Mosel, ($29) 89

The 2008 Maximin Gruenhaeuser Herrenberg is a sweeter style, low-alcohol Kabinett wine from a a renowned German wine maker with a good mix of sweet fruit and brisk acidity. It’s medium straw color in the glass with abundant floral and mineral notes on the palate, coupled with green apple and melon. Finishes clean with light fruit notes. Alcohol: 8.5%, residual sugar: 4.13% (41.3 g/l), acidity: 0.84% (8.4 g/l ), 100% Riesling.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt

Reichsgraf von KesselstattReichsgraf von Kesselstatt celebrated its 650th anniversary in 1999. In the Mosel area, vines are planted on the magnificent slate slopes lining the valleys of the rivers Mosel, Saar and Ruwer. The steep rocky vineyard of Goldtröpfchen, pictured here, lies above the town of Piesport, is one of the most famous vineyards on the Mosel.

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt
2008 Piesporter Goldtroepfchen Riesling Kabinett Mosel ($28) 89

The 2008 Piesporter Goldtroepfchen Riesling is a sweeter style, low-alcohol Kabinett wine from one of the most famous vineyards on the Mosel. It has a medium straw hue with floral aromas of morning jasmine. There’s a full-flavored attack of lush pear and apple fruit with good acidity and an amazingly long finish. Alcohol: 8.0%, residual sugar: 4.9% (49 g/l), acidity: 0.79% (7.9 g/l), 100% Riesling.

Schloss Saarstein

The Saarstein estate is a prestigious monopole site on the Saar river, a tributary of the Mosel. The vineyards are steep and located directly along the river, allowing for morning fog to cool the grapes and allow for slow, healthy maturation. The grapes for this Kabinett wine grow in the heart of the site.

Schloss Saarstein 2008
Serrig Schloss Saarstein Riesling Kabinett Mosel ($16) 89 Points

The 2008 Serrig Schloss Saarstein Riesling is a delicious, refreshing, sweeter style low-alcohol Riesling Kabinett wine. It’s medium straw in the glass, showing aromas of white flowers, minerals, ripe pear, and a note of lime zest. There’s a very flavorful attack of beautifully balanced fruit and acidity. Finishes long with sweet apple notes. Excellent value! Alcohol: 7.5%, residual sugar: 5.13% (51.3 g/l), acidity: 0.94% (9.4 g/l), 100% Riesling.

Carl Graff Estate

The Carl Graff Estate was founded in 1860 and acquired by P.J. Valckenberg in 1969. The wine is from a single vineyard site, Himmelreich, situated around the village of Graach with very steep slopes ranging from 110 – 260m, a southwest exposure, and soil of pure slate.

Carl Graff Collection
2008 Graacher Himmelreich Spaetlese Riesling Mosel ($17) 89

The 2008 Graacher Himmelreich Spaetlese is a lovely classic, low-alcohol, sweet style Spaetlese. It’s light in color with spice and flowers on the nose. There’s a petillant attack of stone fruit with very good acidity and good depth of fruit on the palate. Pleasing and crisp finish with noticeable sweetness. Alcohol: 7.5%, residual sugar: 6.3% (63 g/l), acidity: 0.83% (8.3 g/l), 100% Riesling.

by Christian G.E. Schiller and Donald Winkler, January 2010