Wiesbaden is a wine lover’s dream
It was a wine lover’s dream. Imagine you are sitting in brightly lit hall at a table covered in a white cloth, adorned with six pristine Zwiesel Kristallglas (German crystal glasses — Ed.), a large bottle of sparkling water, a spittoon and a full bread basket.
You peruse a book of 425 wines, divided into flights of six. You write the number of the ones you wish to taste on a slip of paper and hold it in the air. An attractive server in a grey t-shirt and an ankle-length brown apron whisks away your sheet and returns in seconds with a crate of six wines.
The server pours your samples. You swirl, sniff, taste, spit and write your notes. Then back to the list to select your next flight.
You repeat the process many times over three days, if you can stay the course.
This oenological nirvana happens at the annual sneak preview tasting of new VDP Grosses Gewächs 2018 vintage in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Grosses Gewächs refers to the highest classification level for dry wines from member wineries of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP) and the Bernkasteler Ring. Think of this in terms of France’s Grand Cru appellation for wines that taste like dry Spätlese and dry Auslese. Basically, the term translates as great growths.
I was one of 205 fortunate wine scribes and sommeliers at the event in August. I managed to sample 211 wines over the two days I participated.
I spent my first day tasting Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) from Württemburg, Ahr, Rheinhessen, Pfalz and Baden, and my second sampling Riesling from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Rheingau, Mittelrhein, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Pfalz, Baden and Franken.
I also really enjoyed a 2018 Weisser Burgunder (the German name for Pinot Blanc) produced by Bernard Pawis in Freyberg, Saale-Unstrut — a region in former East Germany. I scored it 90 points. Six Baden Chardonnay— a mix of 2017 and 2018 vintages — were also on offer, five of which I gave 89 points. At 91 points, my top Baden Chardonnay was Wöhrle Kronenbült Gottsacker Chardonnay. (Unfortunately, I don’t know the vintage.)
My takeaway from this amazing tasting experience is that 2018 was a remarkably fine vintage in Germany.
Growers in the Ahr region (where I think the best Spätburgunder comes from) can count on one hand the number of rainy days during the 2018 growing season.
My top-scoring Ahr producers at the event were J.J. Adenauer, Meyer-Näkel and Jean Stodden. From Baden, Bernard Huber rules with Weingut Bercher, Weingut Salvey comes a close second. From the Rheingau, I liked Georg Müller Stiftung.
2018 produced an extraordinarily fine Riesling vintage, particularly in the Mosel, Rheingau, Mittelrhein Nahe regions, with ripe and tasty wines from Rheinhessen and the Pfalz as well. Growers said the grapes came into the cellars in “picture perfect” conditions.
There were too many great Riesling producers to name, but my top-scoring Mosel producers were Heymann-Lowenstein, Clemens Busch, S.A Prum, Dr. Loosen, Fritz Haag, Geheimrat J. Wegeler and Schloss Vollrads. From the Nahe Kruger Rumpf and Schossgut Diel. From the Pfalz, Knipster, Philipp Kuhn and Rings, and From Baden, Weingut Seeger.
It is a pity that only a limited selection of German wines reach the shores of our government-controlled provinces. But if you ever find yourself in Wiesbaden…