Vine Path Blog 7/19: The Changing Face of German Wine
When people think of German wine they usually think of the cheap sweet Rieslings they encountered in the past. The idea of drinking a Riesling can makes some people shudder (and I’ve seen it!) but this is not only an overreaction it’s a grave mistake. Ask any wine professional what they like to drink and they’ll most likely tell you that Riesling is one of their favorites. How did we get here? How did the world get so divided on Riesling and come to shun the wines of Germany? For whatever the reason, the time is now to air the dirty laundry, open our minds, and say what needs to be said: German wine today is some of the most exciting and delicious wine being made anywhere and that includes the Riesling! This month we’re playing activist for German wines and we hope to change your perspective on what this country’s wine culture is all about.
First let’s start by introducing you to one of the most legendary producers of wines on earth, one of the great historic estates of Europe, and the reigning king of Riesling, Weingut Keller. As the famous wine writer and scholar Jancis Robinson once said, “if I had to choose one wine to show how great dry German Riesling can be I would choose a Keller Riesling. Those wines are the German Montrachets”. A better endorsement one couldn’t dream of. Since the 18th century the Keller family has been toiling away in the Rheinhessen, historically the most maligned wine regions in Germany. For hundreds of year the Keller’s represented the potential of wine here despite the less than stellar wines getting churned out around them. But like Clos Rougeard in Saumur Champigny, Keller’s level of quality inspired a renaissance in the region and the family estate became a kind of Mecca for German winemakers and Riesling aficionados alike. We’ve included their Estate Riesling and Gruner Silvaner in this collection to demonstrate just how amazing German dry white wines can be. The style of the Riesling screams Keller, bracingly high acidity, a billowing and explosive bouquet, complexity and vivacity in the fruit, and length for days. The Gruner Silvaner (more commonly known as Silvaner or Sylvaner) is another German white wine of note, grown all over the nation though generally misunderstood. The wine shares with the Riesling the Keller-style high acid, tension, and energy, though it carries with it its own unique qualities as a grape. Richly textured, intensely floral and earthy, full and powerful, this is a perfect example of how German wine is more than just Riesling, it’s a whole world of unique varietals.
The other misconception around German wine is that it’s all white. Let’s put this one to rest once and for all with wines from Andi Knauss and Enderle and Moll. Weingut Knauss operates in the Wurttemberg region of southwestern Germany where Andi, now on his 15th year as head of the operation, manages over 100 little plots planted to dozens of varieties around the region. Like Keller, Knauss is committed to organics and non interventionist winemaking, prefering to make wine of place over wine of style or ego. Rot Trocken, which we’ve included in this collection, is a blend from plots around the region of Trollinger, Blaufränkisch, and Portugieser, all red varieties native to this part of Europe and perfectly suited to the area’s cooler climate. The wine is distinctly German in all regards. The favors are juicy and ripe with big blue and black fruit tones without being jammy or flabby. Instead the wine is taught and refined with refreshing acidity, herbaceous aromas, and notable minerality. A wine of this style and quality can only be found in German. Upon tasting this one, I dare you to compare it to anything else you’ve had!
We wrap up this month’s collection with a wine from the cult winery Enderle and Moll. We’re huge advocates for the wines of Enderle and Moll, and we’ve been carrying this particular wine for a few years now, though that’s bound to change considering how small the production is and how hyped up their wines are these days. For the first time ever this year we we’re almost unable to get our hands on Basis, their entry level Pinot Noir. In Germany, Pinot Noir may be the considered the national red. Here it’s known and Spatburgunder and for the past decade or so the quality has been rising with the best examples rivaling the top wines of Burgundy. Enderle and Moll are in many ways at the forefront of this revolution in quality. In a tiny room Sven Enderle and Florian Moll produce wines from only a handful of hectares of old vineyards in Baden, Germany. Basis is produced from the youngest vines in their holdings, though they’re still over 30 years old, and it’s produced in a totally hands off fashion. Incredibly, all of their Pinot Noirs are aged in barrels sourced from the great Domaine Dujac in Burgundy and are always 1 to 5 years old by the time they arrive at Enderle and Moll. Every time I drink Basis I’m reminded of how promising and exciting German red wines are and we love showing this wine off since it always turns heads.
We hope that after drinking theses bottles you come to love German wine the way we do and we hope that the next time you’re looking to pick out a bottle you’ll think to take a gander at the Germany section wherever you are. Pro-tip, if you see a German wine by the glass at the restaurant, it’s probably there for a reason. It’s probably there because someone at that place believed in it and advocated for it and that wine ended up displacing a wine that would otherwise be easier to sell. That wine is probably amazing.