Top five German wines of 2010 - this year's Wine Rambler picks
As a wine drinking year, 2010 was not without its disappointments. Among them, a Bacchus that bored us to tears, a burgundy that let us down - and, most grimly, a swamp gas attack from the Loire that we would rather not talk about just yet. The ritual that helps us get over these low points is the yearly selection of the Wine Rambler's top five german wines. The shortlist was substantial as always, and the choice was not taken lightly - and by the way, one of our favourite daydreams is that sentences like this might one day cause actual nervousness among german wine makers.
So, national anthem, please, for the winners:
Weinhof Herrenberg, Claudia and Manfred Loch's tiny winery on the river Saar is a gem that has yet to be discovered by the wider world. Having tasted their 2008 "Cruv", that mineral beast with its celery-root spiciness and abyss of minerality, a place on this year's podium is richly deserved.
Herrenberg wines are marketed by Pinard de Picard. They ship to Britain and most of Europe, and may even work something out for the U.S. Don't hesitate to contact them, very friendly service.
The 2008 Riesling Goldberg from Van Volxem is a more consensual pick, but that takes nothing away from the sheer quality on offer here. Hard to imagine anyone who likes white wine, no, make that anyone who likes wine, no, make that anyone who has functioning tastebuds, and not love this splendid, state-of-the art dry Riesling. A crowd pleaser, but at the highest imaginable level of perfection.
Van Volxem wines have good distribution. You should be able to find a wine merchant that carries them.
Good ol' boys have been a most enjoyable recurring theme of this year's drinking. The most memorable one was consumed with a grilled turbot at the Wine Rambler London branch headquarters: a 1985 Iphoefer Julius-Echter-Berg Silvaner Spätlese from Juliusspital. While impressive just for what it is, it also stands for the world beyond king Riesling's realm, and what we keep writing up as Germany's second great white grape. Most of all, it stands for wines with stories. Silvaner - believe in it.
We're lucky to have found this one, but we're afraid it's no longer available.
Knipser's majestic 2003 Syrah stands for the future, as even the many doubters will eventually have to come round to Germany's future as a red wine region - see the little discussion that unfolded in the wake of our review.
Knipser Syrahs are made only in some vintages and, unfortunately, sell out quickly. For Knipser wines generally, you can contact Behringer & Sohn, who stock them and are generally helpful.
Our wine of the year will surely raise some eyebrows: Peter Jakob Kühn's 2007 Oestricher Doosberg Drei Trauben. It is our number one pick precisely because it is a polarising wine. Made with breathtaking radicalism by Germany's taliban of terroir, berserk of biodynamics, it is a wine taken to the extremes of what Riesling can be, and beyond many people's Riesling comfort zone. We don't mean to say "love it or leave it", that would be an arrogant thing to say. Instead we are saying, with some urgency, to those who have their wine world ordered in neat little labelled boxes, and turn to Austria and Alsace for their dry Riesling, to Germany for the sweet stuff, to stop in their tracks, take a good long swish out of a bottle of Kühn and recognise the breathtaking ambitions of german dry Riesling and its claim to cutting-edge greatness.
Kühn wines are stocked by K & U. Check with them for shipping outside of Germany.
And the winner is...
...Julian, old bean, you forgot the music. So let's add the German national anthem and, seeing as some of these wines were drunk in Britain, Rule Britannia too. Here's John Lennon doing both, in the bath.
Kühn seems to be radical, but it is if we look closer, a/the true style of wine. Happy new Year!
In reply to Kühn by Gottfried
Happy new year to you, Gottfried, and thanks for commenting. Coming from you, this is significant praise for Kühn. At the same time, as a consumer who cannot really judge these things, I am not convinced yet that natural/slow/biodynamic winemaking, while certainly resulting in more interesting, thought-provoking and surprising wines, is necessarily "truer" in a philosophical or moral sense. But maybe you will do the convincing in a guest rambling here some time soon? Take care!
Peter Jakob Kuehn
Wow, great pick for the wine of the year!! Kuehn is my absolute favorite German producer, and the '07 was a monster of a wine. For me though, the '09 Doosberg managed to even top that!! It just seems cleaner, without losing any of that wild personality.
In reply to Peter Jakob Kuehn by Vimpressionniste
Re: Peter Jakob Kuehn
Many thanks for your comment, Didier. We love Kühn. You love Kühn. Everybody, it seems, loves Kühn. Where's the controversy we had planned to stir up?
Something to add
Obviously, we don't just drink German wine, but as this is the theme for the Wine Rambler we decided to feature five German wines that really impressed us last year. Other wines could have been mentioned as well, and I will just pick two of them. My favourite non-German wine last year was probably Prager's Smaragd Riesling, an outstanding Austrian Riesling that had a well structured full body brimming with energy and the right dosage of strong acidity to keep it lively and fresh.
Of the wines Julian wrote about, I was really impressed with the Domaine Huet, Vouvray Sec "Le Mont", 2007. I missed out on this deep and charismatic wine, but the way Julain described really made me crave Chenin Blanc from the Loire - which so far worked out very well for me.