I was very priviledged to be among a select group of wineys taken to Germany by ABS (leading importer of top German estates) to taste with some of the winemakers they represent in Britain. You learn a lot being able to focus on winemaking at this elevated level. For example, Jonannes Hasselback told me that he didn't know if his wine was fermented by airborne yeasts in the vineyard or by ambient yeast in the winery so he made a wine in the vineyard as an experiment!
Guntrum's owner, Konstantin met us gallantly at 9am with cold fizz on a blazing day. Superb wines; he follows the VDP classification of vineyard Village / Premier Cru / Grand Cru. "Ripeness should be a given."
Ernie Loosen took us high into the Mosel vineyards and cooked a delicious meal for us at his home, with wines tasted blind with each course (something those interested in wine should do much more of in my opinion).
Of course German Riesling is an ideal - flavour fully transparent, clearly defined, particular, expressive. Seemingly not made but a natural expression of wherever it's from! It's arguable that trocken (dry) wine could be more "site-expressive" than classic fruity wines, but trying trocken very young is sobering. The smiles appear when the bit of sweeness of a Kabinett is allowed.
My big surprise last week was how sure a touch some of those we visited had with Pinot Noir - Spätburgunder in Germany, where more Pinot Noir is grown that in New Zealand! The number of clumsy Pinots annually inflicted on the world attests to its unforgiving, surly reputation as the variety hardest for winemakers to get right. With Pinot it seems there is nowhere to hide. Every decision in the vineyard and winery has to be correct - when to act, when to leave be - for the chance to produce delightful, wonderful wine.
Patrick Johner kindly came to meet the group at Nierstein. He and his father make wine in Baden and New Zealand. Wisely, he showed us some wines with a little bottle age and here I tried an almost heart-stoppingly beautiful Pinot Noir - flawless, and possibly my favourite wine from this trip. To view their website, click Karl H. Jonher.
It goes without saying that everyone we visited aspires to make great wine and sometimes they succeed which is why they gain their reputation. Other years they make the best wine their skill allows. When wine hits the bullseye it is a real achievement, reflecting the year's careful diligence, attentive work plus some magic in the grapes and the vineyard. This wine leaves the recipient engulfed and grateful, and in my case very keen for others to enjoy it too.
I'm pleased to say that we have ordered the first batch of our wish list wines inspired by these five blazing days in Germany and you can look forward to seeing them on the sheves and in the fridges soon alongside the Kunstlers, Pfeffingen and Werners we normally stock. In fact, if you call in to our new Ripon store, you'll find, at the latest count, 19 beautiful Rieslings in the German Riesling fridge.