Category Archives: Germany

Schloss Johannisberg, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Silberlack Trocken GG 2018

($75):  Schloss Johannisberg, whose Riesling planting started in 1719, is thought to be the oldest Riesling producer in the world.  (The first documented wine harvest from the site itself was a roughly a thousand years earlier, in 817.)  The estate grows only Riesling, yet makes many different wines depending on where in the vineyard the grapes grow and when they are harvested.  Stefan Doktor, the estate director, explains that they make many different wines because of the diversity of soils and microclimates within the vineyard, which is located at the confluence of warmer air from the Rhine river and cooler air from the north.  He emphasizes that you need cold climate to make superb Riesling.  Cold nights especially — and the nights are cold at Schloss Johannisberg — slow ripening and allow flavors of the Riesling grape to develop.   The other advantage of this northern clime, according to Doktor, is long hours of daylight during the summer, from 5 AM until 10 PM, which helps the grapes achieve ripeness.  He adds that the quartz in the soil retains heat, which also aids ripening.  This wine, labeled Silberlack Trocken for the vineyard parcel, is bone dry with a measured residual sugar of 2.7 grams/liter.  To put that wine-geek number in perspective, tasters can typically start to detect sweetness at a level of about 5 grams/liter.  The GG stands for Grosses Gewachs, the equivalent of Grand Cru, indicating the stature of the growing site.  The grapes come from the coolest part of their vineyard, the southwest corner, which is always the last to be harvested.  The wine is positively gorgeous, racy, minerally and penetrating.  It’s all you could want.  The first sip makes you smile.  With impeccable balance, all the elements are in harmony and dance across the palate.  The tension between vibrant minerality and alluring peach-like fruitiness is splendid and seemingly never ending in the aftertaste of the wine.  Sip it by itself, or drink it with virtually anything.  You will be surprised how wonderful it is, even with a steak.
96 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020

Villa Huesgen, Mosel (Germany) Riesling “1735” 2016

($20, Quintessential):  The problem with Riesling is the “S” word — sweet.  I can’t remember the times people have told me they’d never order a Riesling because it’s sweet.  Well, some are and some aren’t.  Sadly, it’s hard to tell just from looking at the label because even some labeled “dry” aren’t.  This one is dry, with attractive simultaneous fruity and stony components.  Fresh and clean, it mineral-like austerity is not enamel-cleansing, which makes it a fine choice as an aperitif or with smoked salmon, for example, as a first course. 88 Michael Apstein Jan 2, 2018

Weingut Robert Weil, Kiedrich Gräfenberg (Rheingau, Germany) Riesling Auslese 2009

($85, Loosen Bros USA): This is a marvelous dessert wine. It’s sweet, but certainly not sugary or cloying. What amazes is the perfect, I mean perfect, balance of apricot skin tinged sweetness and riveting acidity. It’s so invigorating you hardly realize it’s sweet. It reveals itself gradually, sip by sip. I advise against pairing with a dessert — the flavors will fight. Instead savor with cheese or just by itself. 375 ml bottle.
96 Michael Apstein Jan 22, 2013

Weingut Robert Weil, Rheingau (Rheingau, Germany) Riesling Spätlese Kiedrich Gräfenberg 2010

($63, Loosen Bros, USA):  This is classic German Riesling, combining ripe peach-like notes with racy invigorating acidity.  Despite the ripe fruitiness indicated by the Spätlese indication (late harvest), its acidity makes it a lovely match for roast pork, sushi, and spiced Asian fare.  Of course, it’s a perfect aperitif as well. 93 Michael Apstein Oct 16, 2012

Weingut Baron Knyphausen, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Kabinett “Baron K” 2011

($18):  The trend over the years among top German producers has been to simplify the label by omitting the village and vineyard and just informing the consumer of the region.  Fortunately in this instance, Knyphausen has not simplified the wine.  It’s a classic Rheingau Riesling, lacey with captivating flavors of ripe white peaches and enough acidity to balance its fruitiness.  An easy choice as an aperitif, it goes well with spiced dishes or wasabi touched sushi. 90 Michael Apstein Oct 9, 2012

Weingut Johannishof, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Charta” 2011

($25, Valckenberg):  Weingut Johannishof, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Charter” 2011 ($25, Valckenberg): Johannishof, a top-notch producer in the Rheingau, bottles a splendid array of single vineyard wines that never disappoint.  This wine, in contrast, comes is a blend from several of their vineyards, not all of which are in the same villages.  Hence, just the geographic indicator of Rheingau.   But don’t be put off by a seemingly lesser appellation–this is an excellent example of the beauty of German Riesling.  The “Charta” (meaning, Charter) designation is meant to indicate a dry wine.  And it is, basically.  Flowery spiciness, delicate fruitiness and vigorous acidity play off against each other to make this an exciting wine.  It works equally well as a stand-alone aperitif, with grilled pork, or highly spiced cuisine. 90 Michael Apstein Sep 11, 2012

Weingut Johannishof, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Charta” 2011

($25, Valckenberg):  Weingut Johannishof, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Charter” 2011 ($25, Valckenberg): Johannishof, a top-notch producer in the Rheingau, bottles a splendid array of single vineyard wines that never disappoint.  This wine, in contrast, comes is a blend from several of their vineyards, not all of which are in the same villages.  Hence, just the geographic indicator of Rheingau.   But don’t be put off by a seemingly lesser appellation–this is an excellent example of the beauty of German Riesling.  The “Charta” (meaning, Charter) designation is meant to indicate a dry wine.  And it is, basically.  Flowery spiciness, delicate fruitiness and vigorous acidity play off against each other to make this an exciting wine.  It works equally well as a stand-alone aperitif, with grilled pork, or highly spiced cuisine. 90 Michael Apstein Sep 11, 2012

Schloss Saarstein, Mosel (Mosel Valley, Germany) Riesling, Spätlese 2011

($38, Valckenberg):  Schloss Saarstein, a vineyard owned exclusively (a monopole) by the producer of the same name, is one of Germany’s finest properties.  Located in the village of Serrig high above the steeply terraced Saar River, Schloss Saarstein consistently produces extraordinary wines.  Their 2011 Spätlese marries slate-like mineral flavors, flowery fruitiness with bracing acidity.  The interplay between the delicate peach-like fruit nuances, the steeliness that characterizes the wines from the Saar and the vibrancy inherent to Riesling grown on this site is truly amazing.  From my experience, Schloss Saarstein’s wines develop beautifully over a decade or more, so there’s no rush.  But, it’s also a fine choice for roast pork or grilled tuna steak tonight. 95 Michael Apstein Sep 11, 2012

Carl Graff, Graacher Himmelreich (Mosel Valley, Germany) Riesling Spätlese 2011

($17, Valckenberg):  The Himmelreich vineyard is one of the best ones in the village of Graach, in the Middle Mosel.  Graff’s 2011 Spätlese, the epitome of Middle Mosel Riesling, is lacy and delicate, yet persistent.  It delivers a fabulous combination of minerality and lemony citrus notes balanced by zesty acidity.  It’s a great bargain. 92 Michael Apstein Sep 11, 2012

J. J. Prüm, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Kabinett 2011

($24, Valckenberg):  J. J. Prüm, one of the very best producers in the Mosel, makes a consistently stunning array of vineyard designated wines, such as Wehlener Sonnenuhr or Graacher Himmelreich.  You can buy them year in and year out and never be disappointed.  This wine, labeled just Riesling without even a village name, is his entry-level wine.  And what an entrance!  It’s a fabulous introduction to the style of this iconic producer.   With this lacey wine, J. J. Prüm captures the tension between the floral delicacy, the minerality and the riveting acidity of Mosel Riesling.  Fruity enough to be enjoyed as an aperitif, it has the requisite vibrancy to accompany grilled swordfish bathed in a caper butter sauce. 90 Michael Apstein Aug 21, 2012

Weingut August Eser, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling “Classic” 2010

($23, AP Wine Imports):  The importer told me that the Classic moniker is an attempt by producers to replace the halbtrocken (half-dry) designation and indicate a drier style of Riesling.  To my mind, this plethora of descriptors just muddies the already murky waters of trying to tell a consumer whether it’s a dry or sweet Riesling.  Why not dispense with the meaningless designations and adopt the International Riesling Foundation sweetness scale for the back label?  Labeling aside, this is a quintessentially lacey German Riesling walking the tightrope of sweetness and piercing acidity.  A riveting minerality and the lip-smacking citrus notes balance the touch of sweetness beautifully.  Perhaps Eser’s choice of a green bottle, usually reserved for wines from the Mosel, as opposed to the Rheingau’s traditional brown bottle, is better than any moniker to indicate that this wine is less ripe and drier–more Mosel than Rheingau-like.  Sip it as a refreshing aperitif or serve it with spicy Spanish or Asian dishes. 91 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2012

Dr. Loosen, Mosel (Germany) Dry Riesling “Red Slate” 2010

($14, Loosen Bros. USA):  Happily, with Riesling surge’s in popularity in this country, we are seeing very high quality varietal wines–as opposed to vineyard designated ones–coming out of Germany, the place where Riesling excels.  Germany always sent us great vibrant Riesling from specific sites, such as Piesporter Goldtröpfchen.  But varietal Riesling from Germany was never much to recommend.  Now it is.  And you can start with this one.  It delivers far more complexity and interest than its simple label suggests.   Dry, as the label indicates, it’s mineraly with an appealing persistence.  Its firmness makes it better with food than as an aperitif. 88 Michael Apstein Dec 27, 2011

Dr. Loosen, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Kabinett Erdener Treppchen 2010

($20, Loosen Bros. USA):  Greet your holiday party guests with a glass of this Riesling and they will be thrilled.  The village of Erden, situated in the Middle Mosel, the most exalted portion of the river’s vineyards, produces beautifully structured and precise wines, such as this one from one of the Mosel’s leading producers, Dr. Loosen.  This Kabinett conveys a bracing minerality and a laser-like focus, complemented by the barest hint of sweetness that acts as an amplifier for all the flavors.  And, it does all this with only an 8%-stated alcohol.  It’s another powerful argument than you don’t need super ripe grapes to make gorgeous wine. 93 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2011

Dr. Loosen, Mosel (Germany) Ürziger Würzgarten Spätlese 2010

($26, Loosen Bros. USA): The absence of a grape name on the label means, by law, the wine is made from Riesling, Germany’s most revered grape.  And this is a quintessential Riesling from the steep banks of the Mosel River.  Vibrant and fruity, a hint of sweetness amplifies its mineral aspect and makes it ideal as a stand-alone aperitif or with spicy Asian fare.  Brisk acidity and hints of spice makes the sweetness refreshing, not cloying. 91 Michael Apstein Nov 29, 2011

Two Princes, Nahe (Germany) Riesling 2010

($14, Valckenberg):  Some German producers, responding to the criticism that their labels are too detailed and confusing, have simplified them. This label just tells us that it’s a Riesling from somewhere in the Nahe, a less well-known region that geographically lies just west of the Rheinhessen.  Characteristic of a Rhine wine compared to one from the Mosel, it is riper and a tad sweeter, with slightly earthier flavors.   Zingy acidity balances the elements and holds them all together, making this breezy wine a good choice as an aperitif or with spicy fare. 88 Michael Apstein Aug 23, 2011

Schloss Saarstein, Saar (Germany) Riesling Serrig Schloss Saarsteiner Kabinett 2010

($26, Valckenberg):  The vineyard, Schloss Saarstein, is located in the village of Serrig in the Saar Valley and is owned exclusively (a monopole) by Schloss Saarstein.  Hence, there is confusion since the producer and the vineyard have the same name.  However, let there be no confusion about the quality of the wine.  When tasting through a line-up of Rieslings, my comment when I came to this one was, “oh my, this is good!”  It’s ripe, almost a Spätlese quality, but has enlivening piercing acidity, giving it impeccable balance. The wine conveys minerality intertwined with hints of white flowers.  You can almost feel the slate-based soil.  One of the lovely aspects of this quality German wine is that you can savor it now or cellar it.  The acidity will keep it fresh for a decade or two while alluring mature flavors emerge. 93 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2011

Graff Collection, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Spätlese Graacher Himmelreich 2010

($17):  The wine merchant and importer, Valckenberg acquired the Carl Graff estate in 1969 and sold off the vineyards, but kept the rights to the name, eventually dropping the Carl.  Hence, this is a négociant wine and shows just how good they can be when the selection is rigorous.  It weighs in on the less rich side of Spätlese with a captivating delicacy and nuances of white peaches.  Tongue tickling zesty acidity makes you smile.  Its precise flavors persist into a long and graceful finish.  It’s a perfect aperitif and a great match for spicy Asian fare. 90 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2011

Maximin Grünhäuser, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Spätlese Abtsberg 2010

($37):  The Maximin Grünhaus estate, one of Germany’s finest, has been owned exclusively by the von Schubert family since 1882.  As a monopole, the usual German style of nomenclature–village followed by vineyard name–is not required.  It’s composed of two reasonably sized (35-45 acres) south facing vineyards, Abtsberg and Herrenberg and one tiny (2.5-acre) one, Bruderberg, on the slopes of the Ruwer River just before it joins the Mosel.  The 2010 Abtsberg Spatlese is simply stunning with richness bordering on Auslese level and riveting acidity than prolongs the peach-like nuances.  A delicate earthy minerality underscores the uniqueness of the site. 94 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2011

Weingut Johannishof, Johannisberg (Rheingau, Germany) Riesling Kabinett ‘V’ 2010

($24, Valckenberg):  Johannishof is one of the great producers in the Rheingau, where they own about 50 acres in prized vineyards, included Vogelsang.  For unknown reasons they opt to call this wine V instead of putting the vineyard name on the label.  (It’s similar to owning a piece of a great vineyard in Burgundy or Barolo and keeping it a secret).  But this graceful wine should not be kept secret.  Slightly riper, befitting a wine from the Rheingau, it conveys hints of yellow peaches rather than white flowers.  Mouthwatering acidity refreshes the palate and makes it a lovely choice for Asian fare. 92 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2011

Von Kesselstatt, Piesport (Mosel, Germany) Riesling Kabinett Goldtropfschen 2010

($25, Valckenberg):  It’s hard to miss with the wines from Von Kesselstatt, one of the leading producers in the Mosel.   What’s amazing is how undervalued these wines remain.  Goldtropfschen is one of, if not the most, acclaimed vineyards in Piesport, probably the Mosel’s most famous town.  The wine is the epitome of the Mosel with a lacey white peach-like fruitiness buttressed by racy acidity and haunting minerality.  Have a glass—or two—before dinner and then with summer fare. It sings. 92 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2011

Weingut Robert Weil, Rheingau (Germany) Riesling Trocken Kiedricher Gräfenberg 2009

($75, Loosen Brothers):  Robert Weil’s name on a label is a guarantee of quality, since the winery is among Germany’s best.  Trocken, or bone-dry wines, are not my favorite style of German Riesling, but this one wowed even a skeptic like myself.  It has a piercing precision and minerality that pours over the palate.  Verve in the finish just amplifies the overall taste. 93 Michael Apstein May 3, 2011

Loosen Brothers, Mosel (Germany) Riesling “Dr. L” 2009

($11, Loosen Brothers USA):  Dr. Loosen is a great German Riesling producer.  This wine is their basic rendition, made from grapes grown at various points along the Mosel River.  Wonderfully floral, the touch of sweetness is offset nicely by bracing acidity, which keeps it lively and prevents it from being cloying.  It conveys the delicate lacey quality that makes wines from the Mosel distinct and delightful.  It is equally at home as an aperitif as on the dinner table. 88. 88 Michael Apstein Apr 26, 2011

Bernhard Huber, Baden (Germany) Spatburgunder “Alte Reben” 2007

($80, Valckenberg):  Consumers rarely think to turn to Germany for Pinot Noir (Spatburgunder), which makes this one all the more surprising.  The color’s a bit light, but the flavors of dried cherries and savory notes are not, a result, no doubt, of the old vines (alte reben).  Despite its depth and ripeness, those looking for intense juicy California style Pinot Noir will be disappointing.  But those who love Pinot Noir for its delicacy and intrigue should try this one. 90 Michael Apstein Oct 19, 2010

Weingut Josef Leitz, Rudesheimer Berg Schlossberg (Rheingau, Germany) Riesling Trocken Alte Reben 2009

($43, Michael Skurnik):  Count me among those who love the detail of the German wine label.  They may be long, but like this one, it tells you what you want to know before you pull the cork.  The shortcut, of course, which works in this instance, is to just remember the producer.  It’s hard to find a wine from Josef Leitz that can’t be recommended.  Onto the label.  To begin, Rudesheim is the town and Berg Schlossberg the vineyard in the Rheingau.  Alte Reben means old vines, which helps explain its great complexity, and Trocken indicates it’s a dry style.  Not bracingly dry, there’s a whisper of sweetness that amplifies its flavors of peaches and spice. It has surprising—almost startling—concentration given its delicacy.  Long and refined, its vibrant acidity keeps you coming back for more. 94 Michael Apstein Aug 10, 2010