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Künstler, Hochheimer Hölle, Riesling Erstes Gewächs, 2007

Abroad Germany is mostly know for its delicious sweeter Riesling, but at home it is the top dry Rieslings that get most media attention. They are labelled as "Großes Gewächs" (great growth) or, in the Rheingau, as "Erstes Gewächs" (first growth), at least for the wineries that are members of the growers associations that created these classifications. Quality standards are relatively strict and include low yields, selective harvesting by hand and using only grapes from individual, certified top vineyards.

The price for these grand cru wines is constantly going up, so if you find one from a top producer such as Künstler for less than 20 Euro it is lucky times.

My first impression when smelling the wine, freshly poured from a very cold fridge, was one of spring herbs and peach breaking through the ice on a cool end-of-winter morning. As the wine warmed up a little it made me think more of a cool summer night. Intense lemon peel and citrus notes mingle with flintstone mineral and faint petrol aromas. There is lovely fruit too: pear skin and peach, but also an exotic sweet fruit that was somewhere between papaya and my old childhood friend Hubba Bubba. And then there were herbal aromas and tobacco notes, all together more on the elegant, reserved side of aromas perhaps, but not without some intensity - just not into your face.

On the tongue the Riesling showed good acidity and structure. As with the nose, it took a while to open up (wait a few more years or use a decanter), but then delighted us with a stage-to-stage sensation across our tongues of: steely dry; fruit; tobacco and herbs; grapefruit; and then a long finish with almost salty minerality.

A wine of substance, elegance and intensity that might shine even more if you give it another couple of years.

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