Formidable five - presenting the Wine Rambler favourite German Wines of 2012

Formidable five - presenting the Wine Rambler favourite German Wines of 2012

We could not leave the waning year behind without giving you the official shortlist you've all been nervously waiting for. Just to make sure you don't get the wrong impression: This is a highly subjective parade. It's ours alone, and it's in no way a comprehensive ranking. The following are simply those that impressed and delighted us most out of the minuscule drop of German Wine ocean that we happen to have sampled over the past year. It so happens that all of them were from past vintages, rather than fresh out of the 2011 barrels, but again, that is in no way a judgement on the qualities (or lack thereof) of the current vintage.


For starters, let's turn to a producer with special significance for us, ever since a memorable visit to his tasting room a few years ago. Markus Molitor may be better known for his huge range of excellent sweet Rieslings, but he also happens to be one of Germany's most dedicated growers of Pinot Noir.

That's right: On the steep slopes of the Mosel, Pinot is being made that could give most Burgundies a run for their money. If you won't take our word for it, let the 2004 from Brauneberger Klostergarten do the convincing: A cool wine with enough earthiness to keep the smoothness interesting (think velvet undergrowth) and a great balance between precision, elegance and substance that makes it glide over your tongue.


Without in any way disputing the greatness of Germany's glorious Spätlesen and Auslesen, we have spent another year trying to correct the fallacy that German Wine is by definition sweet wine, and promoting the dry whites that Germans themselves prefer. But there is no denying that there are times when you like it sweet. Really sweet. And there is more than Riesling to get you through those days in palate-tickling style.

It was a 1999 Muskateller Eiswein from the Pfalz, of all things, that left Torsten with the world's tastiest lips and - judging from his review - far away eyes. There are sweet wines that have more ageing potential than this Muscat or perhaps a little more brilliance, but at that moment in time, it came very close to sweet wine perfection.


This one came as a real surprise. Kistenmacher & Hengerer's Swabian Cabernet Franc is certainly the most unlikely of the bunch to have made it onto this list.

Cabernet Franc grown in Germany will not exactly sell itself, so it must never be shy if it wants to hit the big time. This one knew exactly how to get our attention: By teasing Julian with false modesty about being made from young vines only, and then hitting him with concise, powerful aromatics ranging from blueberries and raspberries all the way to moss and forest floor. Slick move, gotta hand it to them.


The Wine Rambler would not be the Wine Rambler without our tireless (and selfless) advocacy of the earthily majestic Silvaner, Germany's second great white grape. When will the world finally get that these aren't novelty or niche wines?

The simple truth, as spelt out admirably in Torsten's review of a great growth Silvaner made by the Ruck family, is that such is the class of wine you would expect to be served with a tasting menu in a first rate restaurant; and yet many a good Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or perhaps even Riesling in such a setting would have to think long and hard about how to develop a similar feeling of being distinct.


Our grand prize for this years goes to the old Pfalz-based winery Reichsrat von Buhl. And that is not because of its venerable historical title of "Reichsrat", dating back to the 19th century kingdom of Bavaria, or their robustly Germanic labels. No, it is because - spoiler alert - they managed to make a stunning dry Riesling that deserves to have Torsten's praise of it quoted in full:

There is a hint of smoke in the bouquet, but it just adds the right level of character to the wine's lovely and deep fruit aromas (stone fruit, ripe pear, a touch of orange peel) and goes nicely with the mineral and flavoursome vegetable touch (hint of potato peel and a touch of celeriac). Deep, cool, enticing.The Riesling feels as deep and full of character on your tongue as the bouquet promises. It is focussed, deep and precise, but also mouth-filling and enticing. Somehow the Pechstein manages to tread the fine balance between joy-to-drink and captivating/serious. There is focussed acidity that tingles you gum and a fantastic crisp and very very long mineral finish, but there a also juicy, almost creamy moments with fruit and a touch of vanilla.

What were your memorable wines in 2012, German or otherwise? Do let us know in the comment section. Oh, and happy new year, everybody!

Submitted by Barry Fowden Monday, 31/12/2012

Hi guys....
a few friends and myself drank the Molitor a few weeks ago...all loved it. I think I managed to buy the last 2 bottles...would have loved more...and surely must tempt more Mosel properties to take the plunge with Spätburgunder. A wonderful Pinot experience from Molitor!

Submitted by S.M. Tuesday, 01/01/2013

It's challenging to reminisce about the year and which wines stood out to me this year and which I can remember most clearly, for some of these I took detailed tasting notes and for some its just a general memory.

I've narrowed it down to wines which I could clearly remember so here goes:

Casa Roja 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah & Petit Verdot

An amazing wine from Rioja, quite unlike your average Tempranillo from Spain.

Parusso Mariondion Barolo 2007

This was a great Barolo smooth, elegant, structured and simply wonderful in each and every way, a great introduction to Barolo for me this year.

Vinum Liturgicum

Aldozoi Aranyveltelini 2003

This was an amazing Hungarian wine, a late harvest Gruner Veltliner so you got the citrus, lemon and herbal notes of a Veltliner, but due to it being a late harvest you also got some Muscat, honey and sweet notes.

Another one was the Baden Chardonnay that I wrote about in an earlier post when you wrote a post about Chardonnay.

A good Riesling I had this year was the Graf von Kageneck 2011 Kenzinger Hummelburg Kabinett Trocken from Baden. Lots of floral notes, some kiwi, and citrus and somewhat flinty even.

For sweet wine my best experience was a Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2004 on the nose lots of peach, apricot and honey; then on the palate vanilla and stone fruit. While being pleasantly sweet it also had good balance and acidity.

As far as Spatburgunder is concerned a good one I had this year was the Peter Steger Barrique 2009 Spatburgunder which had good balance, acidity, structure and good mouth feel. Not a great wine but a better quality of a Spatburgunder from Baden.

For my final wine its a Hungarian red cuvee Raspi Magus 2008 which is a cuvee of Blaufrankish, Zweigelt and Cabernet Sauvignon. On the nose dark plums, dark chocolate and on the palate herby, and spicy notes.

And a happy New Year to the both of you.


Solomon Mengeu

Submitted by namri Tuesday, 01/01/2013

Dear Ramblers,

my top 5 (Germany) in no particular order from the top of my head (and as they say: Alle Ergebnisse ohne Gewähr):

Künstler: Riesling Hölle Auslese 2003
J.J. Adeneuer: Spätburgunder No.1 2006
Knipser: Spätburgunder Kirschgarten GG 2007
Raumland: Blanc et Noir Brut nature 2005
Bercher: Spätburgunder Feuerberg GG 2007

And it would be interesting to hear your letdowns of the year. I'll kick things off:

Salwey: Spätburgunder Kirchberg GG 2007 - shallow
Raumland: Triumvirat V. 2005 - alcoholic/Tequila-like
Johannishof: Riesling Spätlese Retro Domos 2008 - flabby

Best regards from Berlin,


Submitted by torsten Thursday, 03/01/2013

Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you so much for your comments! It was interesting to read through some of your wine adventures. There is lots there that brings back great memories: Künstler's Hölle, Raumland Sekt, Bercher's Feuerberg, to name just a few. There are also new names to tempt us - I quite like the sound of the Graf von Kageneck, and the Barolo sounds great (as it happens we discussed Barolo on New Year's Eve).

The list that Julian put together is about our German highlights. Sadly, we also had German lowlights this year and of course stunning wines from other regions; the Loire did pretty well for instance. I have put these and other memorable wine related stories in a new post, Looking back over a year in Wine Rambling. Cheers!

Submitted by Alexander Tuesday, 08/01/2013

In reply to by torsten

That is actually quite interesting. "Graf von Kageneck" (mostly known here for their ubiquitous sparklings, but they also produce still wines) is _not_ an old noble estate of long standing, with a tall castle hovering over 500-years old caves, as one would be very much inclined to think. It is a brand name and product line of the Badischer Winzerkeller in Breisach, one of two largest cooperatives in Germany. They bought to right to use the name for some wines from an (aristocratic) name owner who is not a vintner.

Big however can be beautiful at times, contrary to comnon wine writer and wine snob prejudice and both the Badischer Winzerkeller and the Württembergische Weingärtner-Zentralgenossenschaft make excellent, technical perfect and above all, even very individual and differentiated (!!) wines.
The reason for this my assessment, which may be unexpected by some foreign observers, is their very high standard of training and winemaking technique, the perfect timelines (both coops operate through a full 24 hours at day and night at the grape acceptance and pressing stations, during harvest times), and the plethora of small and smallest tanks, vats - including barriques - and many glass vessels, which both possess. I have repeatedly found that these mega-coops are able (and willing) to get the utmost out of the respective terroir heritage (ahh, the dreaded buzzword), wherever the vintners in the vineyards had done their part before. Absolutely no "generic" taste thus in that category.

Of course, it is entirely different for branded "grape wines" or "trademark wines" in the lower segments, which these mega-coops strive to produce faithfually and reliably every year, with taste and characteristics as closely matched as possible. They do an equally good and credible job on this mass market side, a feat for which they also deserve to be commended I feel.

Submitted by torsten Wednesday, 09/01/2013

In reply to by Alexander

Thanks for sharing this, Alexander. I have come across the Winzerkeller of course, but not often enough to have formed an opinion on the wines overall, so it is good to have knowledgeable insight from someone who understand not only the wines but also the background. Cheers!

Submitted by Alexander Wednesday, 09/01/2013

In reply to by torsten

Readers should be aware the these mega-coops do not merely produce those wines which bear their own moniker on the labels.
In fact, the majority of the BWB and WZG wines are marketed with the bottles and the labels of their associated single coperatives.

In the case of Württemberg, allow me to recall the example of the vintner Helmut Dolde (from Frickenhausen-Linsenhofen, described here in the blog). In his immediate neighbourhood, the small cooperative of Metzingen (they also have a nice winegrowing history museum next door, which I visited) have their wines vinified in Möglingen by the WZG. The amazing fact now is that these wines from the mega factory show a similar style and character, hence terroir, as Dolde's handmade wines. You can actually identify the sub-region and its traits. Amazing faithfulness of the WZG.