Author Archives: Stuart

Cool Climate is Dead in Old Europe

I just attended the wonderful and stimulating FLXcursion global Riesling conference in the Finger Lakes (FLX) region of Upstate New York where I also presented a seminar on Tuesday, 23rd July. I got a lot of requests that I should post at least my introductory comments, so here they are. Please look at today’s European weather report before dismissing my argument. Sadly, I am not yet able to post the four tables that accompanied this text, but I have included all the vital stats in the text so it ought to function.

Welcome to the Wrong Side of the Tracks seminar at the FLXcursion conference about Riesling in warm and warming regions around Planet Wine in the 21st century. I suggest we all belong to the reality-based community and that means there’s no place here today for nostalgia or wishful thinking. The title of this seminar is appropriate, because it’s seriously shocking. I know I’ve got a reputation for liking to shock people, and it’s true I enjoy doing that, but this is all shocking solely because of the massive change that recently occurred in many Riesling regions.

We all know the climate is warming, but I think most of us think it’s a slow process and for Riesling is mostly positive. I felt that way too until I took a long hard look at the recent weather stats and came to the conclusion that Cool Climate is Dead in Old Europe. Global warming just abolished cool climate viticulture there (though not in the New Europe of wine, by which I mean places like Poland, Denmark and England). This is particularly clear if you look at the Riesling regions of Europe. I must stress that what I’m talking about here is the weather in certain Europe regions during the last decade. How this new climatic pattern affects the aroma and flavor of the wines from these regions is another matter entirely, and with today’s tasting we’ll be seeking answers to the latter question.

This seminar has a global theme, so it is also about understanding what’s happening in Riesling regions far outside Europe with very different landscapes and the implications of warming climates there. If you taste those wines with an open mind, then I think you find many Rieslings from rather warm regions that show characteristics (for example, fresh fruit and floral aromas, crisp acidity and sleek body) we consider reliable markers for cool climate wines. Clearly, ins spite of the conditions there this type of wine possible, but in those regions too, the situation is changing fast.

Now on to the stats. Let’s start with how things were at the end of the 20th century. The first table shows the long-term average heat summations (on the Huglin Index) for a selection of winegrowing regions around the world, some important for Riesling, others not. This picture, plus a bit of warming, is what most wine industry people around the planet regard as the current situation, but even then we tend to make some serious mistakes. For example, Clare Valley in South Australia is frequently declared to be cool climate, but it has a heat summation of 2388, which is higher than Barossa at 2342! This common misjudgment results from the fact that Clare is the largest Riesling region in the Southern Hemisphere and because the fresh aromas and crispness of Clare Rieslings make us wrongly assume the region must be cool.

Now let’s turn to the 2018 vintage in Europe. The second table shows what happened in Geisenheim in the Rheingau (the location wine university and research station) last year. Note that the Rheingau is not the warmest winegrowing region in Germany by far. Southern Rheinhessen, the Pfalz, Southern Baden and Central Württemberg are all significantly warmer. In 2018 Geisenheim had a heat summation of 2277 compared with an average of just 1623 during the period 1961-1990. What a huge leap! A Huglin Index of 2277 is warmer than Eden Valley and almost as warm as the Clare Valley, the two premier Riesling regions of South Australia!

The third table shows how a rather similar situation is developing this year. Here is the weather report for June 2019 for Norheim in the Nahe Valley, one of the “classic” cool climate Riesling regions of Europe. I chose Norheim, because it’s the closest weather station to Weingut Dönnhoff and to Gut Hermannsberg where I work. Cornelius Dönnhoff (a member of my panel) tells me the Norheim weather station is positioned close to a cliff that may push the highs up by as much 1°C, so you may want to adjust these figures accordingly.

Globally, June 2019 was the warmest June ever recorded by a margin of 0.1°C. For Europe it was the warmest June ever recorded by a margin of 1.0°C, and in Norheim June 2019 was fully 3.9°C warmer than the average for the late 20th century. Even if you correct down the measured high of 39.6°C in Norheim, then,it still tops the month’s high of 37.1°C in Bordeaux and that of 37.8°C in Madrid. The 297 sunshine hours during June 2019 in Norheim are also extraordinary, since they are 42.4% more than the average for the late 20th century. July 2019 started cooler in the Nahe like most of Germany, but today’s high in Norheim is 32°C and the predicted highs for the next four days are 37°C, 38°C, 37°C and 34°C!

I’m sure that some of you are now saying to yourselves, “yes, but there are still some vintages in Europe that are much cooler,” because that’s what I also said to myself. However, we are wrong.

The fourth table shows the mean temperatures during April – October (the growing season) for the last six years and selected earlier vintages in Geisenheim. When I started getting interested in Riesling in the early 1980s I could still buy wines of the great 1976 vintage rather cheaply and I can still remember that very warm dry summer in England. Only much later did I learn that actually the summer of 1947 was the warmest of the 20th century. The mean growing season temperatures in Geisenheim for those exceptional vintages were 15.7°C in 1976 and 16.9°C in 1947, far above the average for the late 20th century of 14.5°C.

Now let’s turn to the figures for the last six years. Wine industry people inside and outside Germany generally regard 2013 as a cool vintage, because the wines have high acidity/low pH and taste sleek and taut. However, 2013’s mean growing season temperature in Geisenheim was 15.5°C, almost as high as that of 1976. Since then the figure for every year equaled or exceeded that for 1976. In 2018 the record of 1947 was smashed by a margin of 1.1°C ! I rest my case and pose the question, where do we go from here?

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Weinstein in Berlin: Part 1 – Obituary for a State of Mind

When I was a child in England I hated it when my parents, grandparents and other adults repeated expressions like „practice makes perfect“ or „all good things come to an end“ to me. That it happened frequently only increased my inner resistance to accepting these painful truths. Later, much later, I realized that this was egotistical of me and I flipped over in the other direction and started frequently repeating the American catch phrase, “it is what it is.” However, there are, of course, moments when it is still painful to accept that one or other of these things are unavoidable, and this is one of them.

On the 31st July 2019 the wine bar Weinstein in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg will close forever. Maybe it sounds childish to find that painful and probably it is rather childish of me, but I don’t care. The reason for my pain is that for almost a quarter of a century those rooms – they reminded me of a tapas bar in Spain when I first walked into them in 1995 – were not only my second Berlin living room in the obvious sense of those words, but the place that I met with winegrowers, journalistic colleagues and other wine business people visiting my home town to exchange thoughts and experiences.

It goes even further than that though, because over those years my conversations with them and the Weinstein team reshaped the entire way I saw the world. I know that’s a sweeping statement, but if I’d recorded just one of my conversations with Roy Metzdorf, Weinstein’s guiding spirit, and could play it to you now I’m convinced that you’d get what I mean. For me Weinstein wasn’t just a wine bar, rather it was a state of mind, and in today’s world that also means a state of resistance to the brutal forms of thinking that are currently rampant.

Roy sudden death of heart failure in March 2017 aged 54 was a huge shock for everyone who knew him,  (you can scroll down to read more about him). That his brother Marc couldn’t solve the business problems that slowly grew in scale during Roy’s last years despite long and dogged efforts, should be no surprise. The result of this is that many people including myself are about to lose what for felt like a fixed point which helped us navigate the turbulence of our own lives and of the wider world. What should I say? It is what it is and all good things come to an end.

What does that really mean? I’m not going to be analytical, also because that was something Roy’s training in electrical engineering made him much better at than I am or will ever be. Instead, I’m going to tell a Weinstein story. Not the one of my evening in Weinstein with star German TV presenter Thomas Gottschalk (who was very charming), or how I got to know the German singer Max Raabe (who was very drunk). To be frank, I always missed meeting the most interesting of Weinstein’s famous guests, notably British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and members of the German heavy metal group Ramstein. Instead, I’m going to tell you about someone who is only known to a few people in the New York and German wine scenes, Rienne (pictured above with me in Bistro Sommelier in Düsseldorf, Germany on the 8th July this year).

Paul Grieco is the larger than life Canadian sommerlier with a goatee beard who runs the Terroir wine bars in New York City (NYC), started the global Summer of Riesling festival and has often stirred up the city’s wine scene in a positive way. One day in early September 2012 I got an email from Paul saying that a young member of his staff a “somm”, that is sommelier in American English, called Rienne Martinez was coming to Germany to work the wine harvest and would arrive shortly in Berlin. Could I meet with her and help her make sense of German wines? “Show her how it really is!” Paul instructed me.

I was fascinated by her name and I had to pay Paul back for all his generosity, so of course I said yes. I was not in a good state at the time thanks to a grinding depression caused by the failed marriage I’d failed to extract myself from, so it felt good to get out alone and have something positive to do. I packed a bag full of interesting German wines that I felt reflected the dynamism of the nation’s wine industry and set off on my bicycle from my then home on Hackescher Markt.

As I waited in Weinsten my plans to leave Berlin for New York City later in the year went through my mind. I planned to stay for two months from the end of November, I’d already found a place to stay and booked the flights. My plan was to find a publisher and write my first English language book in many years.  It was only just before my departure date that I realized this trip could be my exit strategy, but I no idea that two months would turn into four years of a very different life to the almost two decades in Berlin before.

Rienne was so engaging and interested that it was a delight to take the vision of German wine she’d acquired in NYC and gently demolish it. The very first wine I’d brought for her, the full-bodied bone-dry Hasennest Müller-Thurgau Christian Stahl makes at Winzerhof Stahl in Auernhofen/Franken accomplished most of that process all by itself. It was (and still is) a quintessentially German wine far removed from the more or less sweet Rieslings that made up most of the good German wine then sold in America. Instead it had a bright passion fruit aroma, was crisp, mineral and exciting; all things that were (and still are) abnormal for the wines of the humble Müller-Thurgau grape. Rienne was stunned and I could sense her struggle to cope with the way the ground was moving beneath her feet as if an earthquake was happening.

“So most German wine isn’t the way I was taught it is?” she asked as I poured tasted the third wine for her. “That’s right,” I replied, “the sweet Rieslings you have got to know in NYC are just one of many styles. The majority of German wines are dry and made from other grapes than Riesling. And there are plenty of innovative winemakers like Christian Stahl, who I call the Quentin Tarantino of German wine!”

This kind of revelation was one of the most important things that happened at Weinstein and Roy’s presence really wasn’t necessary for it to happen, though he was often the catalyst and sometimes the shaper of such situations. Those things that Rienne realized that evening have now become much less astonishing to NYC somms than they were back then, and now it would probably be impossible to repeat this “trick”. But so much of what passes for truth in the wine scene is myth and that has only got worse in recent years due to the idealization of so-called “natural wines”. So, there’s still enormous potential for sudden revelation.

However, very soon there will be no Weinstein, no perfect stage for this to be played out upon. Then I will have no choice, but to focus on memories of such moments in Weinstein when I have to gently point out to a somm or someone else that the world isn’t how they think it is. At this point Roy would say that we never understand the world as well as we think that we do, and that it’s healthy to be reminded of that fact as often as possible. I couldn’t agree more.

14th July, 2019 – New York City

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Riesling Ambassador

Riesling is the key!

Photograph by Alexandra Stellwagen

Here is my new autobiographical text explaining what happened to me and my work during the last years. You will also find it if you click on the Riesling Ambassador button above.

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There are no more dramatic vineyards than those in the breathtakingly rugged Middle Nahe Valley in Germany where the vines cling to steep slopes wedged between jagged cliffs of volcanic rock. They are now one of my twin homes. However, before Monday, 5th March 2019, when I became the Riesling Ambassador for the Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) wine estate in Niederhausen on the Nahe, I was deeply committed to freelance journalism for 35 years.

No, it was more than that. I was a free spirit who wrote about wine and anything that was connected to the wines that interested me. This included subjects as diverse as geology, anthropology, military history and rock music. The border between the possible and impossible in winemaking fascinated me and I was frequently a bladerunner on that edge. My gonzo journalist’s life was sometimes exhilarating for other reasons, because I wasn’t afraid of controversy and several times I sailed straight into the heart of a storm. I sometimes got into trouble, but always managed to dodge the bullets fired in my direction. So why switch path?

The truth is that everything has down sides. In my case they begin with the fact that most of the daring things I wrote only appeared in German. That’s the reason most of you have not only never read any of them, you also didn’t realize they existed until this moment. This means that my trilogy about wine and globalization Schöne Neue Weinwelt (2003, Argon Verlag, Berlin), Wilder Wein and Wein Weit Weg (2006 and 2009 both Scherz Verlag, Frankfurt) never appeared in English and therefore failed to achieve their full potential. Regardless whether you consider these works successful together they add up to a revolution in wine journalism. The same basic problem applies to the more conventional Wein Spricht Deutsch (2007, Scherz Verlag, Frankfurt) which I wrote with Ursula Heinzelmann, Chandra Kurt, Manfred Lüer and Stephan Reinhardt, illustrated by Andreas Durst’s photos.

The second downside is that in all those years I never had a single big commercial success. However, if you have plenty of small and some medium-sized successes over half a lifetime, then they stack up and you build quite a reputation. Once when I gave an interview to a journalist from one of Germany’s leading newspapers and she told me that I was, “a B class celebrity, but you dress a lot better than most A class celebrities!”

Lastly, thanks to the Internet and social media most kinds of journalism are shrinking and some of them are dying in front of our eyes. Most of my medium-sized successes were with printed books, but the last of them – Best White Wine on Earth (published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, New York) aka Planet Riesling (Tre Torri Verlag, Wiesbaden) – appeared in 2014/15. Since then printed wine books have became an endangered species and my attempt to switch to self-published e-books wasn’t commercially successful. In 2012 the third series of my German-language television series Weinwunder Germany (for BR, the BBC/PBS of Bavaria) was another medium-sized success, but it was also my last tv project. In the autumn of 2015 the frequency of my wine column in the Sunday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Germany’s equivalent of the New York Times) was halved and with it my income from that source.

Perhaps this sounds like I have a negative attitude. However, it was my rapidly shrinking bank balance that pushed me to begin a radical rethink in the spring of 2016. Then, suddenly, in September 2016, James Suckling asked me to become a member of the tasting team for JamesSuckling.com, one of the world’s few really successful Internet wine publications. I coped with the considerable stress of that position for two and a half years, but my health started suffering and my wife wasn’t happy about me being on the road most of the time. That set me rethinking once again.

I came to the conclusion I needed a job that connected me directly with concrete products incapable of digitalization. You can post a picture of a wine bottle and describe its smell taste in words, but you can’t post its smell and taste. I also wanted to have get both feet on the ground: one foot in Eppstein in the hills above the Rheingau wine region where my wife has lived for twenty years, the other in some special vineyards that needed a voice.

That I, an “outsider”, could become the voice of GHB’s remarkable collection of vineyards – all 30 hectares are classified Grosse Lage / “Grand Cru” by the VDP – isn’t as ridiculous as it looks at first glance. I’ve been following the wines from there since the spring of 1984, through my entire career as a wine journalist. I’ve known estate director Achim Kirchner since 1999 and winemaker Karsten Peter since 2002. It was therefore rather easy to integrate into the GHB team although I’m a very different creature to anyone else who works at estate. One door has closed and another has opened. Riesling was the key!

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GHB Diary 5/2019 – The 35th Anniversary of My New Life: Part 2

Today is my 59th birthday and to celebrate that here’s the story of the crucial moment in my life as a wine journalist. Leonard Humbrecht, how can I thank you properly?

What was that „pungent“ taste I found in the first Kupfergrube wines I encountered at Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) back in 1984? The word “encountered” seems appropriate, because for me it was a kind of sensual Close Encounter of the Third Kind; my first contact with an alien world of taste far removed from all the flavours of my youth. Sometimes it shocked me, other times I felt it me pulling in with erotic force, but its mystery always fascinated me. Blindly, I searched for the answer.

Today, I would say that a taste characteristic to the wines from a single specific vineyard is definitely an example of terroir. Back in the mid-1980s I was already familiar with the French word terroir, or the taste of the place, but I assumed it could only apply to certain French wines, that is terroir was the taste of certain French places. During the years before the fall of the Berlin Wall Germany was such a different place from the France and when you looked at wine in the two countries the contrast was stark. That only reinforced that assumption, which certainly wasn’t limited to me.

Serendipity means chance discovery, and for me that means it is always revelatory. In this case, it all began at a tasting of fancy French wines in London one evening during the mid-1980s, an event that began in an atmosphere of reverence towards the Grand Cru of Francetypical for the period. In spite of the fact that vintage and the degree of human commitment clearly influenced their quality, these wines were often treated as timeless and holy, existing on a different plane to all others. Of course, that attitude made some of these tasting extremely boring, but this one was different.

After a cautious start, the expert presenting the tasting began drifting ever farther from the beaten track, and by the end of the evening I was hanging on his every word. It was poetry compared with the usual predictable platitudes and I wish I could remember you who he was and which wines we tasted that evening. However, one moment etched itself deeply into my memory. Speaking of the final wine he said, “as the Roman Emperor Hadrian once wrote, wine introduces us to the volcanic mysteries of the soil.” That sounded so exciting, but what did it really mean? Just a few days ago I discovered that those words sound too good to be true, because they actually come from Marguerite Yourcenar’s 1951 novel Memoires d’ Hadrien: “wine introduces us to the volcanic mysteries of the soil, to its hidden richness.”

Shortly afterwards the organizer of that tasting, Liz Berry MW of wine merchant La Vigneronne helped set up a trip to Alsace for me. Back in January 1987 when I departed from London Alsace meant France and the recent introduction of a Grand Cru vineyard classification system there only seemed to confirm that. However, when I arrived at Domaine Marc Kreydenweiss and tasted the last vintages of the cool and very mineral dry Rieslings from the Kastelberg Grand Cru I realized that Alsace had one foot in French wine traditions and the other firmly in Germanic wine culture. Even those wine names tell that story!

The next day I visited Domaine Zind-Humbrecht in Turkheim and met Leonard Humbrecht, the charismatic and gentle giant who was the most important promoter of the Grand Cru system in Alsace. Leonard’s influence not only on his home region of France, but also on Germany and can hardly be underestimated, but this is largely forgotten, because it all happened back in the 1980s. In fact Leonard’s revolution began during the 1970s when he was one of a handful of growers who purchased the steep vineyards that most producers were abandoning in favour of gentle slopes that were easier to cultivate.

As we tasted his current releases in bottle and the 1986s from the barrel Leonard took great trouble to explain the typical aromas and flavours for each of his vineyard sites. We visited many of them so that I could better understand how the soil-type influenced the taste of the wine. I remember feeling enormously excited as Leonard revealed to me how terroir functioned in this wine culture outside the French main stream, also with Germanic varieties like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. The bulk of my work of the following 20 years grew out of these experiences and what I learned during those days is still essential for my work, also now at GHB.

On the last day we had lunch in a Winstub and Leonard poured some older wines each of which was so fascinating that I could have spent hours studying it. The last of these was the 1983 Riesling Grand Cru Rangen and I’ll never forget the moment of complete astonishment when I lifted that glass to my nose and smelt the wine for the first time. With its wild and intensely smoky character it was like nothing else I’d ever tasted from Alsace.

Then, Leonard told me the story of how the tasting team of the magazine Revue du Vin de France had been split down the middle by it: one half considered it untypical and therefore disappointing; the other was convinced it was remarkable and unique. He explained the reason for this special character was the Rangen’s volcanic bedrock. There it was in my glass in the most literal form, the volcanic mystery of the soil that Leonard Humbrecht had rediscovered, then kindly passed on to me.

In that moment, when the reality of terroir unbound by national and cultural borders became totally clear to me, a long journey of discovery began. It was one thing to grasp some general principals and quite another to make sense of the whole world of wine, not least because winemaking (for example, the decision on fermentation yeast type – adding no yeast is also a winemaking decision) always influences the taste of the wine in a major way. And so it was some time before, again by chance, I read in a wine book that the soil of the Kupfergrube vineyard was volcanic melaphry (from a strict geological perspective it is composed of andesite, an igneous rock with porphyritic structure). Suddenly that pungent character which had etched itself into my memory way back in 1984 made total sense to me: it’s the soil stupid!

#GHBismyDRC

#loveNahe

To be continued…

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GHB Diary 4/2019 – The 35th Anniversary of My New Life: Part 1

This is the first posting on my blog under my new masthead and this is Part 1 of the most important story I have to tell. / Es tut mir leid aber Sie müssen eine Weile auf die deutsche Übersetzung von Teil 1 der ersten Story auf meinem Blog unter dem neuen Logo warten. Ich arbeite dran!

As I walked into the Hindenburg Raum of the Staatliche Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schlossböckelheim/Nahe State Domaine, today Gut Hermannsberg (GHB), on the sunny morning of Wednesday, 26th April 1984 I was a 23 years old art student and had no idea that it would change my life several times over. Today is the 35th anniversary of that day and it seems like a good opportunity to start telling that story properly.

It was the fifth wine tasting during a weeklong tour of top Riesling producers in Germany by English gentleman and wine merchant Philip Eyres (1926 – 2012) of Henry Townsend Wines based just outside my home town of London. I was both surprised and extremely grateful when, a couple of months earlier, he’d asked me to join him, his wife Jennifer and their son for the whole of this buying trip. It was my first professional wine tasting trip and, in spite of all I’ve learned and experienced since then, when I visit producers somewhere on Planet Wine I am basically continuing to do what I started doing that week. My first article about wine had just been published in Decanter magazine in England, and I also owed that connection to Philip Eyres! At the time those developments were so exciting that I barely gave this situation a second thought and never asked myself why he did all those things for me.

Although the atmosphere on that trip was extremely friendly, during the wine tastings it was also serious as we focused on the wines in near-silence. However, for Philip Eyres the entire undertaking was deadly serious, and without me realizing it at the time that made it serious for me too. It was many years before that all this started becoming clear to me and I may still not have reached the end of that process of discovery.

I remember the scene that greeted us in the tasting room very well. On a table in the Hindenburg Room stood a long row of tall brown wine bottles. Estate Director Dr. Werner Hofäcker had prepared every single Riesling they’d produced in the 1983 vintage for us to taste. None of the other producer we visited did that for us! It showed both Dr. Hofäcker’s thoroughness and that Philip Eyres must have made a very good impression upon him during his previous visits. The fact that it was my very first encounter with the wines from this producer resulted in an element of surprise that turned out to be of crucial importance.

Right from the moment when I tasted first wine in the row it was clear to me these wines were very different to those we’d tasted during the previous two days in the Mosel Valley, but that didn’t prepare me for the shock of the third of fourth wine in the tasting. It was a 1983 vintage dry Riesling from the Kupfergrube vineyard site and it stopped me dead in my tracks. “What the hell is that?” I remember silently saying to myself as I stood there and struggled to make sense of the smell and taste I’d just experienced. It was unlike anything else I’d ever experienced in the world of wine, or anywhere else for that matter. It instantly redefined what wine could be. In retrospect, I would say it was my first compelling experience of “terroir”. Although I understood this was the French word for the taste of the place, I thought it only applied to French wine and cheese.

Unfortunately, I lost the notes I made that day soon after, but the notes from my second experience of these wines in London on the 22nd November 1984 show that already I’d started describing the aroma of the Kupfergrube wines as “pungent”. This adjective usually has negative connotations in English, because it suggests a stink of some kind. I meant it positively though and stuck with it, because nothing else seemed adequate to conveying how intense and radical those wines tasted to me. I’m still struggling to find better words for the Kupfergrube wines. How do you combine “warm and spicy” with “firm and linear” then add “driving and primeval” plus “grapefruit zest and smoke” – my contemporary descriptors for them – and compress all that into just a couple words?

Although I had almost no disposable income when we I returned home I invested what for me was a gigantic sum of money in purchasing almost two dozen bottles of the best 1983 German Rieslings I tasted on that trip. The largest part of my expenditure was for 10 bottles from the Nahe State Domaine and a couple more bottles of their 1983 wines were added to that over the following years. I still have one of those bottles in my cellar!

I must make clear that back then none of this was due to any “Pro-German” feelings on my part. It was all about my very particular experience of discovery and revelation, and such moments were not limited to German wines, as my first taste of the red 1981 Château Cheval Blanc from St. Emilion in Bordeaux almost exactly three years before proves. However, during the next years the wine tastings of that week came to look like a turning point. Slowly, I realized I could better trust the leading winemakers of Germany to tell me the truth than I could their French colleagues. And I found I could sell stories about German wines more easily than those about France, because almost nobody else was writing about the subject in English. Thanks to Philip Eyres and my moment of revelation in the Hindenburg Room I’d found the path I follow to this day.

#GHBismyDRC

To be continued…

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GHB Diary 3/2019: Lieber Nahe als Ferne / Love the Nahe

Niederhäuser WeinfrühlingDie Wettervorhersage für Sonntag, den 7. April ist 17° C mit Sonne und ich habe ein Vorschlag für den Tagesprogramm: Niederhäuser Weinfrühling an der Nahe  / The weather forecast for Sunday, 7th April is 17° C with sunshine. I suggest you visit the Niederhäuser Weinfrühling in the Nahe. For the English language story please scroll down.   

Seit ich Anfang März 2019 angefangen habe für Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) als Riesling Ambassador zu arbeiten, haben mir zahlreiche Menschen zwei bohrende Fragen gestellt. Erstens: Warum haben sie plötzlich den freischaffenden Weinjournalismus gegen die Arbeit für ein Weingut gewechselt? Zweitens: Warum ausgerechnet die Nahe? Die erste Frage verdient eine ausführliche Antwort und ich bitte um etwas Geduld. Die kurze Antwort darauf ist, dass ich wenig Zukunft in der Art von Journalismus, die ich die letzten zwanzig Jahre gepflegt habe, gesehen habe. Die zweite Frage können Sie selber beantworten, indem Sie am kommenden Sonntag, den 7. April den Niederhäuser Weinfrühling besuchen und diesen Teil der Nahe persönlich kennenlernen.

Meine persönliche Antwort auf die zweite Frage ist Liebe. Als ich 1984-86 anfing die Nahe zu besuchen, habe ich mich hoffnungslos in dieses Gebiet verliebt. Schnell habe ich einen Draht zu den damals bedeutenden Figuren an der Nahe, wie Hans and Dr. Peter Crusius von Weingut Crusius in Traisen, Armin Diel von Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen, Helmut Dönnhoff von Weingut Dönnhoff in Oberhausen und Dr. Werner Hofäcker, den Direktor der Staatlichen Weinbaudomäne in Niederhausen (heute GHB) gefunden. Sie haben mich immer wieder zurück an die Nahe gezogen und schrittweise habe ich entdeckt, was diese Gegend so besonders macht. Die Nahe hat nur 4.205 Hektar Weinberge, ist aber ein ziemlich komplexes Gebiet mit einer erstaunlichen klimatischen und geologischen Vielfalt. Diese Komplexität wäre vielleicht frustrierend, wenn es nicht zu solch einer großen Vielzahl von sagenhaften trockenen wie auch natürlichsüßen Weißweinen, Schaumweinen und auch Rotweinen führen würde. Zweifelsohne wird die Mehrheit der genialen Naheweinen aus der Riesling-Traube (28,6% der Gesamtrebfläche) gewonnen, aber Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) und Chardonnay spielen auch eine bedeutende Rolle an der Nahe.

Für mich ist GHB ein besonderer Teil dieser Welt des Weins und nicht nur weil 100% des 30 Hektar großen Weinbergsbesitzes des Hauses als VDP Grosse Lage klassifiziert sind. Das Gutshaus und seine Nebengebäude stehen zwischen GHBs 12,5 Hektar der Lage Kupfergrube und seiner 5,5 Hektar großen Monopollage Hermannsberg fast direkt oberhalb des Flusses. Drum herum liegen die Felsen und steilen bewaldeten Hänge in diesem wildromantischen Abschnitt des Tals. Aber sie müssen mir nicht glauben, kommen Sie einfach am nächsten Sonntag oder ein anderen Mal und schauen Sie sich das ganze von unserer Terrasse aus an. Dann sind Sie das Juwel in unserer Krone!

Das Beste an meiner neuen Rolle bei GHB ist die frappierende Weise, wie jeder der trockenen Rieslinge seine besondere Herkunft geschmacklich widerspiegelt. Das hat viel mit der harten Arbeit und Zielstrebigkeit von Winemaker Karsten Peter und dem Weinbergsverwalter Philipp Wolf zu tun, aber auch mit dem Wirken des ganzen Teams, unter Direktor Achim Kirchner und Jasper Reidel von der Besitzerfamilie. Wie Warren Winiarski, der Gründer von Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley/Kalifornien mir einmal gesagt hat: „Terroir ist taub bis jemand es entdeckt und einen Weg herausarbeitet über den es zum Ausdruck kommt.“ Jedes der führenden Weingüter der Nahe hat eine eigene Geschichte, wie ihnen das gelungen ist. Lernen sie das am kommenden Sonntag, den 7. April in Niederhausen und auf GHB kennen! (Fotos: Nathalie Schwartz)

#GHBistmeinDRC #7Terroirs #LieberNahealsFerne #Nahe #Riesling

Niederhäuser Weinfrühling

Since I started work for the Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) estate in Niederhausen/Nahe as Riesling Ambassador at the begining of March 2019 many people asked me two questions: Why switch from wine journalism to working for a wine producer? Why the Nahe? The first of these will require a lengthy answer at some point in the near future, but the quick version is that I don’t see a long-term future for the kind of wine journalism I dedicated myself to for the last twenty years. The second question is much easier to answer and you don’t even need to read the following to do so, just come to the Niederhäuser Weinfrühling next Sunday, 7th April in Niederhausen/Nahe and experience it for yourself.

My own answer to that second question is love. During my first trips to the Nahe in 1984 – 1986 I fell head over heels in love with this dramatic region and rapidly connected with several of the leading producers there. My contact with Hans and Dr. Peter Crusius of the Crusius estate in Traisen, Armin Diel of Schlossgut Diel in Burg Layen, Helmut Dönnhoff of the Dönnhoff estate in Oberhausen and Dr. Werner Hofäcker of the Staatliche Weinbaudomäne in Niederhausen (GHB today) pulled me back again and again to find out ever more about what makes the Nahe so special. The fact is that although it only has 4,205 hectares of vineyards it is geologically and climatically diverse is crucial. That might be frustrating if it wasn’t for the fact that it leads to an astonishing diversity of wonderful dry white, sweet, sparkling and red wines. Yes, the Riesling grape (28.6% of the total vineyard area) gives the majority of the great wines of the Nahe, but Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) and Chardonnay all play important roles.

For me, GHB is a special part of this world of wine, and not only because 100% of its 30 hectares of vineyards are classified as VDP Grosse Lagen. GHB’s 12.5 hectares in the Kupfergrube site on two side of most of them lie directly around the complex of estate buildings, and the 5.5 hectare monopole Hermannsberg site lied on the other, the river Nahe forming the forth side. Beyond those vineyards lie the volcanic cliffs, and forested sleeps that make this section of the river valley breathtakingly beautiful. But don’t take my word for it. Come along to GHB on Sunday and experience for yourself the view from our terrace. Then you’ll be the jewel in our crown!

The best thing about my new role for GHB is the arresting way each of the wines dramatically reflects its place of origin. That has a great deal to do with the hard yet thoughtful work of winemaker Karsten Peter and vineyard manager Philipp Wolf, supported by the entire GHB team under director Achim Kirchner and including Jasper Reidel of the owning family. As the great Californian winemaker Warren Winiarski of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley said to me many years ago, „Terroir is mute until someone recognizes it and enables it to express itself.” Each of the leading producers of the Nahe has their own story of how they did that. Come and experience this for yourself on Sunday, 7th April in Niederhausen and at GHB! (Photos: Nathalie Schwartz)

#GHBismyDRC #7Terroirs #LoveNahe #Nahe #Riesling

 

 

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“I dwell in possibility” – Nancy Irelan, FLX Rebel Winemaker with a Cause

Nancy Irelan

Since early March 2019, when I began work for the Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) wine estate in Niederhausen in the Nahe region of Germany, the focus of this blog has certainly shifted. Here’s proof that it is by no means limited to stories about GHB.

Recently winemaker Dr. Nancy Irelan of Red Tail Ridge estate winery in Seneca Lake/FLX (Finger Lakes) in Upstate New York was recently on the list of semi-finalists for one of the James Beard Awards – the “Oscars” of food and wine in America – but she didn’t make it to the finals, much less has she won the award itself. I’m sure that she doesn’t see it this way, but I think you could say that once again she has been damned with faint praised. You see, again and again during the dozen years since the winery released its first wine people have said nice things about her, but nobody ever publicly celebrated her special form of genius. Maybe it’s because she never did or said anything outrageous enough to abruptly drag the world wide web’s attention to her. Maybe it’s because she’s a strong-willed, highly intelligent and extremely articulate woman. Maybe’s it’s because she doesn’t neatly fit into any of the established roles for women winemakers. Strangely, I’m pretty sure that if she were a movie director then she’d have a better chance of wining an Oscar, than she has of wining a James Beard Award as a winemaker!

But let’s begin this story in 2004 when Nancy and her husband Mike Schnelle, then an accountant and now a self-taught grape grower, purchased a 34 acre parcel of wooded land on the west side of Seneca Lake.  At this point, the year of my first visit to the region, the reputation of the FLX was a pale shadow of what it is today. The first planting was 3 acres of various clones of Pinot Noir that went into the ground in the spring of 2005. However, a huge storm of the kind locals call a “gully washer” hit just a couple of days after it went in and the rain washed all the young vine stocks out of the ground. Mike was alone at the estate, because at this point Nancy was still Vice President for Victiculture & Oenonolgy RD for Gallo in California. He called her in a panic and she told him how he would have to try and find the vine stocks – they were all at the bottom of the hill – and replant them all by hand.  He did that and in 2006 they picked their first crop, just half a ton of Pinot Noir grapes. Nancy turned them into a Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine (to this day sparkling remains of Nancy’s strong suits), “it was yummy,” she says, “sadly it’s all gone now, but one bottle.” Winemaking is a double-edged sword and winemakers have to lick that blade repeatedly.

Fast-forward to October 2014 and my first visit to Red Tail Ridge. I was up in the FLX from NYC with my then girlfriend and she insisted we had to visit Nancy. She was right to overrule my skepticism and our first meeting was one of those connections with a winemaker that changed how I think about wine, although in a very non-dramatic way. At this distance in time it’s hard to say exactly what lead to that, beyond stating the simple fact that Nancy is a very thoughtful winemaker who bases her decisions on strong science, but who’s goal can be expressed in one old-fashioned word that she makes liberal use of: delicious! I say old-fashioned, because in the natural wine scene “authentic”, “naked” and “real” have taken over the role “harmonious”, “elegant” and “delicious” play in the regular world of wine. And the natural wine scene’s disdain for the regular world of wine has made those words look increasingly like expressions of out-dated reactionary concepts.

Nancy has strong beliefs, not least in the central importance of deliciousness to the wine industry, but she’s never rigid in her thinking. Taking several leaves out of the natural wine scene’s book she makes an excellent skin-fermented dry white wine called “Miscreant” and Pet Nats (short for Pétillant Naturel). However, she also makes elegant dry Rieslings with bright citrus and stone fruit aromas in a style no natural winemaker would accept. Their generosity has a lot to do with the warm site and the limestone soil (unusual for the FLX) there. In the 2016 vintage it also has to do with the warm year she seemed to effortlessly master. You could say much the same about her Chardonnay too, a rare star for this grape variety in the FLX. And those Pinot Noir vines have matured to the point where they give silky and subtle red wines that no Burgundy lover would consider radical or revolutionary. Nancy is a self-confidently liberal winemaker who rejects all forms of dogma and the idealization that so often accompanies it.

Rebel with a Cause grapes

I used to repeat in mantra-like way the statement, “Red Tail Ridge wines are unspectacularly excellent”, but then along came a red wine called Rebel with a Cause, a blend of Blaufränkisch (aka Lemberger and Kékfrankos in its native Hungary) with Lagrein and Teroldego. It is spectacular in many ways, beginning with that blend. The first of those grapes has a small tradition in the FLX, but the latter pair of Northeast Italian varieties have zero tradition anywhere in North America. The idea of pushing these three together is radical in the extreme and for this reason the name is a perfect fit. As luck would have it I was at Red Tail Ridge on the 3rd October 2016 during the fermentation of these grapes (pictured above with Nancy’s hands) and could follow the development of this wine almost from Zero Hour onwards.

Of course, radical winemaking ideas is one thing and a delicious wine is quite another. Thankfully this bizarre marriage born in Nancy’s fertile mind is a very happy one, though not without a stunning tension that make the 2016 Rebel with a Cause one of the most exciting new reds I’ve tasted anywhere on Planet Wine. And during the last three years I tasted about 25,000 wines from all the wine continents. Just how is it delicious? What grabs me most is the forest berries and wild herbs character and strong, but there’s also the strident yet balanced tannins and vibrant acidity which together give it so much structure. This isn’t a red for the faint-hearted who need a smooth as silk landing, nor is it for those who demand plenty of (reductive) funk in their wines as proof that they’re “natural”. Once again, some people will fail to take her seriously and that’s the reason that the image on the label of Nancy preaching from a pulpit in the vineyard is spot on.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

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GHB Diary 2/2019 – Revolutionary „7 Terroirs“ Wine from Gut Hermannsberg Launched at 2019 ProWein Trade Fair

Kupfergrube

The revolutionary white wine 7 Terroirs from Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) estate winery in Niederhausen/Nahe is launched on the 17th-19th March, 2019 at the ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf/Germany. The dry Riesling from the 2018 vintage redefines and reinvents the Estate Riesling category so crucial for Germany. Each of those wines is named after the estate winery that produced it and they are normally blends of wines from several different vineyard sites. Since the category was launched with the 1985 vintage they have introducing an entire generation of global wine drinkers to German Riesling by simplifying labels and offering attractive and harmonious flavours (usually in a dry style). With 7 Terroirs the next stage in their development begins. For a first taste go to ProWein hall 14, stand E46

Ein revolutionärer Wein namens „7 Terroirs“ von Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) in Niederhausen/Nahe feiert am 17.-19. März 2019 auf der ProWein in Düsseldorf Premiere. Der 2018er Riesling trocken definiert die wichtige Kategorie Gutsweine neu. Gutsweine sind meistens trockene, rebsortenreine Weine, die Cuvées aus verschiedenen Weinbergslagen sind. Es gibt sie in Deutschland seit dem Jahrgang 1985 und sie haben seitdem enorm geholfen gute deutsche Weine einem neuen Publikum zugänglich und attraktiv zu machen. Jetzt geht ihre Entwicklung in die nächste Phase und die Qualität wird dabei nochmals gesteigert. Erste Verkostung: ProWein Halle 14, Stand 46 

Many Estate Rieslings from leading German producers contain some wine from top vineyard sites, but which of them comes 100% from top vineyard sites? Until recently that wasn’t the idea behind the category, but that’s exactly what the 2018 7 Terroirs from GHB is! As the name says, it is a blend of dry Riesling from the 7 VDP Grosse Lage (or “Grand Cru”) vineyard sites in which GHB has holdings. In fact, 100% of the estate’s 30 hectares of vineyards holdings are in these top sites: Hermannsberg (Monopoly), Steinberg und Klamm in Niederhausen; Kupfergrube (12 hectares!) und Felsenberg in Schlossböckelheim; Bastei in Traisen; Rotenberg in Altenbamberg.

Viele Gutrieslinge von führenden deutschen Weingütern enthalten etwas Wein aus Spitzenlagen aber welcher stammt zu 100% aus Spitzenlagen? Bisher war das nicht die Idee hinter dieser Kategorie, aber genau das ist der 2018 „7 Terroirs“ Riesling trocken von GHB! Wie der Name schon sagt, handelt es sich um einen Cuvée aus den 7 VDP Große Lagen, (oder auch „Grand Crus“) wo GHB Weinberge besitzt. 100% des 30 Hektar großen Weinbergbesitzes des Hauses liegt in folgenden Lagen: Hermannsberg (Monopol), Steinberg und Klamm in Niederhausen; Kupfergrube (12 Hektar!) und Felsenberg in Schlossböckelheim; Bastei in Traisen; Rotenberg in Altenbamberg.

It is frequently claimed that certain wines have a mineral taste, but often consumers find it hard figuring out just what that special taste is. The steep vineyards of GHB all have stony soils that were weathered from volcanic melaphry and rhyolite, of from metamorphic slate. Since generations experts have talked about the special taste of the Riesling wines from these sites. 7 Terroirs is an excellent example of this, offering intense smoky minerality, racy acidity and juicy grapefruit character for a friendly price: just Euro 11,90 to private customers in Germany. The 100% wild-fermented (without cultured yeast added) wine will be bottled shortly and interest is already great.

Häufig wird behauptet, dass bestimmte Weine „mineralisch“ sind, doch allzu oft suchen die Konsumenten vergeblich nach dem sogenannten besonderen Geschmack. Die Hang- und Steillagenweinberge von GHB haben ausnahmslos steinige Böden, die aus verwittertem vulkanischen Melaphyr und Rhyolith, sowie metamorphischen Schiefergestein bestehen. Schon vor Generationen wurde der besondere Geschmack der Riesling-Weine aus diesen Lagen von Fachleuten gefeiert und genau das findet man im „7 Terroirs“ wieder. Der 100% spontanvergorene (ohne Zusatz gezüchteter Hefen) Wein hat eine sehr ausgeprägte rauchig-mineralische Note, viel Rasse und eine wunderbare Saftigkeit für den freundlichen Endverbraucherpreis von Euro 11,90. Die Abfüllung folgt im späten März aber das Interesse ist schon sehr groß.

Stuart Pigott

#GHBismyDRC / #GHBistmeinDRC

Email: Stuart.Pigott@t-online.de

 

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GHB Diary 1/2019 – The Lost World of the Rotenberg – Die verlorene Welt des Rotenbergs

Rotenberg

I just started as Riesling Ambassador for the Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) estate in Niederhausen/Nahe and, of course, I spent some time getting to know my new desk, where I wrote and translated a row of texts for the fast approaching ProWein trade fair in Düsseldorf. However, I also discovered lost world of wine.

Vor wenigen Tagen habe ich angefangen als Riesling Ambassador für Gut Hermannsberg (GHB) in Niederhausen/Nahe zu arbeiten. Ich habe natürlich einige Zeit an meinem neuen Schreibtisch verbracht, wo ich Texte für die bevorstehende ProWein-Messe geschrieben und übersetzt habe. Ich habe aber auch eine verlorene Welt für mich entdeckt.

It started during an extensive tasting of the current range of GHB wines, plus fast approaching additions to that range from the exceptional 2018 vintage. “Rotenberg,” said winemaker Karsten Peter softly as he poured me the first of the 2017 GGs, a dry Rieslings from the Rotenberg site. It was not the most breath-taking wine of the tasting, but it was extremely striking thanks to its smoked bacon character. Smoke is what I associate with the red Syrah grape and I never tasted a Riesling like this before! It was married to ripe peach aroma that the intense mineral character and strident acidity were beautifully balanced.

Das fing bei einer Verkostung der aktuellen Weine an, sowie auch die bald dazu kommenden Gewächse des herausragenden Jahrgangs 2018. “Rotenberg” sagte mir Winemaker Karsten Peter leise, als er mir der erste von den 2017er GGs des Hauses, einen trockenen Riesling aus der Lage Rotenberg. Es war nicht der atemberaubendste Wein der Verkostung aber er stach heraus mit seiner Räucherspecknote. Dieses Aroma assoziiere ich normalerweise mit Rotweinen der Traubensorte Syrah. So was habe ich bei einem Riesling noch nie erlebt! Und es war mit genug Pfirsichfrucht gepaart um die mineralische Note und betonte Säure wunderbar zu balancieren.

GHB has a reputation for charging rather serious prices for their top wines, at least within the moderately priced context of the Nahe region that is. However, the 2017 Rotenberg GG is just Euro 26 to private customers direct from the estate, or just over half of the Euro 48 that the breath-taking 2016 Kupfergrube GG costs. This is because the Rotenberg is nowhere near as famous as the legendary Kupfergrube, and this remarkable wine therefore sometimes get’s overlooked. I’d always liked the Rotenberg wines, but never really “got” them before. Now I really do, and the fact they’re underdogs also makes them appeal to me!

GHB hat der Ruf, recht hohe Preise für seine Spitzenweine zu verlangen – zumindest innerhalb des eher günstigen Kontexts der Nahe. Mit Euro 26 für Privatkunden ab Hof kostet der 2017er Rotenberg GG nur etwas mehr als die Hälfte des großartigen 2016er Kupfergrube GGs (Euro 48). Die Lage Rotenberg ist unbekannt in Vergleich mit der legendären Kupfergrube und deswegen wird sie manchmal übersehen. Ich habe die Rotenberg-Weine immer gemocht aber erst vor wenigen Tagen richtig geschnallt. Ihr Underdog-Status macht sie für mich auch anziehend!

Rotenberg

Then, Karsten Peter took me on a long vineyard tour that ended in the Rotenberg. Suddenly, Karsten’s jeep pulled up at the edge of the hill country into which the Alsenz Valley is deeply cut. With not quite 30 hectares of vineyards it is composed of a series of steep and rugged islands of vines surrounded by woodland and scrub, the later on the slopes where vineyards used to be. No doubt the season accentuated the wildness of the place and it reminded me of a painting by Bruegel. On a distant hill stood a castle. Of course, we’re in The Real Germany!

Dann nahm mich Karsten Peter mit auf eine lange Weinbergstour, dessen Endziel der Rotenberg war. Plötzlich hielt sein Jeep an der oberen Kante des engen Alsenztals in das wir hinab blickten. Nicht ganz 30 Hektar Weinbau gibt es noch hier. Es gibt eine Reihe von steilen und schroffen Rebinseln, umgegeben von Wald und Gestrüpp (letzteres auf den Hängen wo es mal Weinberge gegeben hat). Zweifelsohne hat die Jahreszeit die Wildheit dieser Landschaft betont. Es erinnerte mich an ein Landschaftsgemälde von Bruegel. Auf einem Berg in der Ferne stand eine Burg. Selbstverständlich! Wir sind doch im wahren unverbrauchten Deutschland!

Rhyolit/Rhyolith

We climbed out of the jeep and as I vainly tried to get a sharp photograph of him in the blustering wind Karsten showed me bedrock where it was exposed at the side of the road. It is composed of red volcanic rhyolite with a small amount of what local winemakers call Tonschiefer, or clay slate. It made me think of the surface of Mars! Together with this precipitous south-facing slope, it surely leads to that special personality of the wines. GHB has almost 3 hectares of Riesling planted in the Rotenberg and the ground has been cleared and prepared to plant another 1 hectare, because we believe in it. Considering I never had a bottle of Rotenberg Riesling in my extensive cellar I’d say it counts as a lost world of wine!

Wir stiegen aus dem Jeep und als ich vergeblich versuchte ein scharfes Bild von Karsten, trotz heftigem Wind zu knipsen, zeigte er mir den Fels, wo er an der Straßenkante freigelegt ist. Er besteht vorwiegend aus rötlichem vulkanischen Rhyolit mit etwas Tonschiefer. Es hat mich an die Marsoberfläche erinnert! Zusammen mit diesem nach Süden exponierten Steilsthang, führt es zu diesem besonderen Wesen des Weins. GHB besitzt fast 3 Hektar Reben hier und wird bald noch 1 Hektar dazu pflanzen, weil wir daran glauben. In Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass ich nie eine Flasche Rotheberg in meinem weitläufigen Weinkeller hatte, würde ich sagen, es ist eine wahre verlorene Welt des Weins!

#GHBismyDRC  

#GHBistmeinDRC

 

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Gut Hermannsberg celebrates its 10th Anniversary and I am their Riesling Ambassador

stuart_pigottHere is the text of the press release that Wine + Partners sent out on Monday, 25th February. Bitte nach unten scrollen für die deutschspachige Version.

35 years ago Stuart Pigott visited Gut Hermannsberg, then the Staatliche Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schloßböckelheim or Nahe State Domaine, for the first time. That moment is recorded in his diary entry for Thursday, 26th April 1984 where his order for several of the wines he tasted that day is also noted. “I’ll never forget my very first sip of Kupfergrube, I was totally amazed and fascinated,” recalls the British born journalist. Since then he has devoted himself to studying the Rieslings of Planet Wine, but those from the Nahe have always had a special place in his heart.

After many adventures in the big wide world of wine, the last of which was as Contributing Editor for James Suckling, one of the world’s most influential wine critics, Pigott returns to Germany to live out at least a part of his fascination for Riesling in the beautiful and dramatic Nahe Valley.

Stuart Pigott’s decision has a great deal to do with the fact that this year Gut Hermannsberg celebrates an important anniversary. 10 years ago the estate, founded in 1902 by the Prussian State, was purchased by Jens Reidel and Christine Dinse. As a result of many carefully planned investments, and through the sensitive leadership of winemaker Karsten Peter, Gut Hermannsberg has climbed back into the first league of German wine. Stuart Pigott followed this process in detail and he showered praise upon the wines Karsten Peter made from the last vintages (see www.JamesSuckling.com), particularly those from the great Hermannsberg, Kupfergrube and Bastei vineyard sites. In fact, all the estate’s 30 hectares of vineyards are classified VDP Grosse Lage, or “Grand Cru”.

Jens Reidel, Christine Dinse & Karsten Perer

Several months ago Jens Reidel’s son Jasper joined the team directing Gut Hermannsberg. Together with Achim Kirchner (sales) and Karsten Peter (production) the three are planning the future of this exceptional estate. “2019 is a particularly important year for us, because we have now completed a decade of groundwork at Gut Hermannsberg,” explain Jens Reidel and Christine Dinse, “we converted the vineyards to sustainable cultivation, reduced the yields and successively pushed up the quality. We also constructed a new copper-coloured press house and opened a stylish guesthouse. By the summer the tasting and sales area will also have been modernized. Then everything at Gut Hermannsberg will be ready for a glamorous anniversary celebration and an even brighter future.”

Stuart Pigott will play an important role in that process. His enormous experience with Riesling wines that reflect the geology of the vineyard, and his ability to communicate their qualities outside the conventions of modern winespeak, will be no less important for Gut Hermannsberg than his critical and analytical faculties or his global network of connections.

During their anniversary year in parallel to his journalistic work Stuart Pigott will be Gut Hermannsberg’s „Riesling Ambassador“. He will bring his skills as a wordsmith to texts describing the development of the estate and its remarkable wines during the last decade, and he will present the estate’s Riesling wines at a series of tastings for professionals in Germany and around the world.

Vor 35 Jahren besuchte Stuart Pigott zum ersten Mal Gut Hermannsberg, das damals noch Staatliche Weinbaudomäne Niederhausen-Schloßböckelheim hieß. So steht es in seinem Terminkalender vom April 1984 eingetragen, und gleich daneben die Bestellung, die er tätigte. “Als ich den ersten Schluck Kupfergrube auf der Zunge hatte, war ich sofort fasziniert und begeistert!” schwärmt der gebürtige Brite, der sich seit Jahrzehnten mit Riesling auseinandersetzt, und das Nahetal besonders ins Herz geschlossen hat.

Nach vielen Abenteuern in der Weinwelt, die ihn zuletzt an die Seite von James Suckling gebracht hatten, kehrt Pigott nun ganz nach Deutschland zurück und wird zumindest einen Teil seiner Begeisterung für Riesling an der Nahe ausleben. 

Denn die einstige Staatliche Domäne feiert ein Jubiläum: vor zehn Jahren wurde das 1902 gegründete Weingut durch Jens Reidel und Christine Dinse erworben. Dank vieler Investitionen und unter der umsichtigen und respektvollen Führung durch Karsten Peter hat das Paradegut Schritt für Schritt wieder den Anschluss an die absolute Spitze in Deutschland geschafft. Stuart Pigott war all die Jahre ein aufmerksamer Beobachter der Entwicklungen und freut sich ganz besonders über die tollen Qualitäten, die Karsten Peter aus dem Hermannsberg, der Kupfergrube oder der Bastei entwickelt. Sämtliche Weinberge des Gutes sind übrigens VDP.Grosse Lagen.

Jasper Reidel

Seit einigen Monaten ist Jasper Reidel, Sohn von Jens Reidel, aktiv in der Geschäftsführung tätig. Gemeinsam mit Achim Kirchner (Verkauf) und Karsten Peter (Produktion) planen die drei nun die weitere Zukunft des außergewöhnlichen Weingutes. „Das Jahr 2019 ist ein sehr wichtiges für uns; wir haben eine Dekade lang Aufbauarbeit in allen Bereichen geleistet. In den Reben haben wir nachhaltige Bewirtschaftung umgesetzt, die Erträge haben wir reduziert, die Qualität sukzessive gesteigert. Wir haben eine neue – kupferfarbene – Kelterhalle errichtet und ein Gästehaus eröffnet. Bis zum Sommer werden wir nun noch den Degustations- und Verkaufsbereich neu gestalten. Dann ist alles bereit für ein glänzendes Fest und eine noch glänzendere Zukunft!“ freuen sich Jens Reidel und Christine Dinse.

Stuart Pigott wird eine wichtige Rolle in der Vorbereitung dieser Zukunft spielen. Seine Erfahrung und sein Enthusiasmus für Riesling von geologisch-spannenden Herkünften, seine mitreißende Art, über große Weine zu schwärmen, seine Sprachgewandtheit und sein internationales Netzwerk, aber auch sein kritischer Blick machen ihn zum idealen Partner.

Neben seinen weiteren journalistischen Tätigkeiten wird Stuart Pigott für Gut Hermannsberg ab März 2019 in dem Jubiläumsjahr als „Riesling Ambassador“ tätig sein und überall dort unterstützen, wo er seine Kompetenz und seine Begeisterung in gleichem Maße einbringen kann: bei der akribischen Aufarbeitung von Texten und Dokumenten der letzten 10 Jahre, bei der Vorstellung und Erläuterung der Weine, bei Degustationen mit Fachpublikum aus aller Welt und bei Events mit Weinliebhabern.

Stuart Pigott Riesling Global

 

 

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