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July 14, 2022 6 min read

Day 3

Sore heads and flood lands

Day 3 began with a few sore heads from the night before, luckily the beds in the Dr Loosen guest house are extremely comfortable and a freshly cooked breakfast went down a treat. We said goodbye to Ernst and Matt and headed off on yet another 2 hour drive to Ahr to see Jean Stodden, this was a visit of particular interest to all of us, as this whole area was hit by devastating floods in 2021. It is really important we help the people in this region in any way we can, be that visiting or eating there or simply buying some wine. After climbing up the hill and looking down at the tiny river below, it is simply astonishing to think this covered the valley floor, rose nearly 8 metres and took out every bridge in sight. Ahr is a region characterised by its rocky cliffs and slate soils, which make very resilient and concentrated vineyards with Spatburgunder being the dominant grape. 

Jean Stodden Winery

Alexander Stodden is now running the vineyard set up by his Grandfather in 1900, but like most of the previous vineyards they have been growing grapes in this area since 1578. This was a tasting done a little bit differently than the others as usually you would try the current release and compare with a few back vintages, the problem was their current release had mostly been washed away by the floods, Stodden's cellar was completely submerged in water and they lost around 35% of the 2020 vintage, what they could save was unable to be called GG or vineyard specific so they made some very limited edition blends made in special bottles to represent the floods. 

The Pegal 735 (735 being the height of the river in cm) has a nice freshness, soft fruit and a touch of sweet spice, the Rescued by H.O. (H.O. being the consultant brought in to help test the wines) is a vibrant wine with red currants and dark cherry. The Alexander die Grossen (a play on words for Grosses Gewachs) is a blend of all the GG vineyards so is a heavier style Spatburgunder with grippier tannins and a long finish, it only spent 9 months in oak rather than the usual 12 due to the floods. Finally, we finished with the 2018 Hardberg and Herrenberg GG to really see what these wines could produce and were not disappointed; they really are fantastic, with savoury cherry, deep rich flavours and a great mouthfeel. 

Off to Nahe to visit Donnhoff

After lunch we were off again. Can you guess how long we drove for? We were headed for the Nahe, one of Germany's most beautiful river valleys, and the fantastic winery of Donnhoff. The first stop before the winery, which is situated in the town of Oberhausen, was a lookout up the hills overlooking the valley. Upon arrival we were presented with a delightful off-dry Riesling, the Leistenberg kabinett, which given the warm weather it went down an absolute treat, some refreshing ice-creams were also presented, turns out that they also paired perfectly with the wine, who knew. Looking down the valley you could see the how critical the river systems are to all German wine regions, no less here where interestingly, the river was the old border between Bavaria and Prussia many years ago. Making our way into the winery we see the tasting sheet has dozens of wines on it, a bit worried we're relieved that we would only be trying 10 wines today, although this stretched out to 13 by the end of the tasting.

Without going into detail of every wine tasted, I can say that the lighter style dry wines such as Tonschiefer 2021 have lemon with a touch of waxy notes, the richer wines from Hollenpfad have nice flinty minerality and the Felsenberg wines have a steeliness to them with much more apricot and sweet spice on the back palate. I do have extensive notes from this tasting so any visiter to our Battersea store is welcome to chat all things Donnhoff with me. 

Moving on to the sweet wines is really where this winery shines through, they are sweet luscious wines but with lots of acidity to balance them out. Those extra wines I mentioned earlier just so happened to be older vintages of 2004 Brucke, 1994 Listenberg GG and the 2001 Niederhauser Hermannshole Auslese Goldkapsel which was an incredible wine, very luscious and thick with honey and white flower, nutty and complex with a long finish. Our dinner was over the river at a local restaurant, given it was so hot the river looked so very inviting for a swim. We were once again treated to a rare bottle, this time a bottle of the Sparkling that is so limited edition that even the winemakers wife isn't allowed to drink it, hence why she was only too happy to open it for us, we then moved on and had a few of the famed Riesling magnums, which if you haven't seen before are a thing of beauty.

 

Day 4

Louis Guntrum and the final push, 

Day 4 and we're on the home stretch, starting with a short 45 minute drive this morning as we head into the Rheinhessen, one of the largest wine growing regions in Germany and responsible for about 30% of all production. We start with Louis Guntrum, who can trace their origins back to 1648, and sit right on the banks of the Rhine river, which I can tell you is a lovely spot for a glass of fizz before starting a tasting. Konstantin Guntrum was on hand to take us through his wines which started with a tangy Weissburgunder with loads of melon, a sharp austere Grauburgunder with ripe lime and lemon and a surprisingly elegant Gewurtztraminer which was more green apple. Getting to the more serious wines, we paired up current releases with older vintages to give a rounded understanding of how the wine is young and just how much it opens up after a few years of ageing. 

The Niersteiner has rich acidity when young and more vanillin and subtle oak when aged a few years (2021 v 2016); the Oelberg has ripe apricot and a touch of smoke with flinty minerality, and a lovely spice palate long finish and hints of kerosene when aged (2019 v 2016). We then had an intermission of the 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve, which is very Burgundian in style with Christmas cake spice, ripe currents and crunchy cherry; then we moved onto the sweet wines. The Bergkirche kabinett offers nice subtle sweetness and ripe freshness, the Orbel spatlese with its riper richer body of tinned apricots was sport on, and then finally the star for me, the Bergkirche Auslese which has juicy structure, good balance and is an incredible all-round wine. After this we each grabbed our favourite bottle and headed on the terrace overlooking the river for a light lunch before our final visit.  

Gunderlock Winery

Our final visit of the trip was to Gunderloch, who are relative newcomers having only started winemaking in 1890. Johannes Gunderloch met us and took us through his vineyards, where he explained about the current drought affecting the area and if they didn't get good soaking rain soon there could be real trouble in the region and further afield across Europe. Whilst we were going through the vineyard we were lucky enough to see one of the machines they have to utilise whilst working these steep slopes. Quite simply, but entirely engineered it was a tractor tied to a cable on a truck being winched up and down the rows to be able to spray; simply incredible to watch. This part of the Rhine is known for its sandstone soils which gives the wines a real flinty and smokey character, and there is no better example of this than Gunderloch wine. The Nierstein Riesling is mineral driven, with passionfruit and guava on the nose and a really clean palate. With the Pettenthal GG you get that savoury smoke palate with hints of green tea and citrus and the Rothenberg GG is where the kerosene starts to come through, much more so in the 2016 that we tried afterwards, which still retains a zesty lime freshness. 

The last few wines of the trip really were a treat, the Rothenberg Auslese with its well-balanced sweetness and acidity and a superb 2017 Rothenberg Spatlese (which our guide not so subtlety asked to try) which has a wonderful smokey reduction paired with dark forest honey, cinnamon and sweet spice; simply divine. After a quick wiz around the winery, which is an impressive mix of very old cellars for fermentation to brand new insulated storage sheds, it was time to say our goodbyes not only to the winery but to Germany. 

Homeward bound

After a couple of refreshing steins at the airport, and the as expected hour and a half delayed flight, and one lost bag (not mine luckily), it was finally time to say goodbye to my new German wine friends and go our separate ways. I would like to take this opportunity to thank ABS agencies for arranging such a fantastic trip which has increased my love and understanding of German wines and hopefully means I can do the same for our customers. 

Prost!


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