Weingut Dönnhoff

There’s a lot to be said for not knowing exactly what’s in your cellar. I was moving some boxes around to make space for new arrivals, and opened one box expecting to find Chablis. What I found was a case of old reds I had entirely forgotten I owned. The case included a bottle of Barolo from 1966, which I hastened to prepare for drinking while we still had the cold weather that really lets such wines sing.

 

It was from a producer named G.L. Viarengo & Figli, at a property in Asti called “Castello D’Annone.” The cork was curiously sturdy and while there was a “correct” amount of sediment, I expected more. The color was properly fragile; no sign of having been freshened. Decanted an hour before tasting, the wine remained inert over the hours we took to finish it. That is, it neither faded nor flourished.

 

And how was it, and why am I telling you this to introduce a tasting report on the wines of Dönnhoff? 

 

The Barolo was very good, not transcendent, but very good. It wasn’t perfect; it was bloody and somewhat animal, and it had a small nuance of rot expressing as naphthalene, but we enjoyed its earthiness, and its frailty (a 55-year-old Barolo of uncertain provenance, after all!) was enjoyably poignant. What makes me pause is the degree to which I forgave its imperfections. I wanted to like it. There was much to like about it.

 

It comes down to the principle of making allowances. The flaw in the old Barolo could be forgiven because the whole wine was so haunting. And the “issues” I had with a few of the dry Dönnhoff Rieslings can likewise be “permitted” because of my love and regard for the family whom I’ve known since 1987, and a community of wines that have been inspiring as no other.

 

 

 

The night before, I poured us a small glass of Dönnhoff’s Norheimer Kirschheck Spätlese as a sort of liquid granita to refresh the palate after a hearty winter dinner.  I found the wine almost entirely different from my impressions when tasting it. Now, instead of being rather prominently “sweet” it was super fresh and crisp and led with minerality. Obviously ones palate is altered by having eaten a meal, yet still; what to make of this?

 

So I re-tasted several of the dry Rieslings with which I’d struggled, dismayed by their tendency toward bitterness. I’d tasted all of them repeatedly, but in my “anything is possible” mindset I wanted to challenge the opinion I’d formed. Most of the wines were unchanged, except for what had been the worst offender, which improved significantly. Whether that matters, I’m really not sure.

 

We understand, or ought to, that “tasting” is a fleeting moment with a given bottle. The reason I re-taste so diligently (or obsessively) is to administer a reality check both to myself and to the wines. But if a wine that tasted bitter over four different exposures suddenly, a week later, had shed the bitterness, what could this indicate, and how could it help?

 

It indicates that wine is a moving target, as we know, and it doesn’t help much, because 99% of every wine bottle opened will be consumed then and there. Nobody’s going to buy a wine in order to open it and drink it a week later. You could I suppose decant it a day in advance, and somehow keep it cold – but should you need to?

 

The larger picture, for the topic now in play, is that Dönnhoff was not entirely free of the ’20 vintage’s tendency for dry Rieslings of unexceptional ripeness to taste very strict indeed. Whether you agree with me that “bitterness” was the result will depend on the degree to which our palates align. All of the wines with which I struggled had attractive characteristics, mostly of aroma and polish. Some felt bitter all the way through, while others only showed it on the finish.  I was once told that the “German taste” appreciated bitterness; whether this is true, I can’t fathom. I do know I dislike radicchio and frisee, which seem to have no flavor other than bitterness, whereas I like mizuna and arugula and the “peppery” greens, which could also be said to be bitter. One wine’s finish grew sour with alarming speed, as if you were watching a stop-action film of a body shedding flesh before your eyes.

 

 

 

I’m showing these as though I tasted them all the way through, but in fact I broke them into small flights – there are 17 wines in all – so that each day I’d taste both dry and sweet wines rather than moving up the line and having all the sweet wines in a single chunk. If any wines on earth justify the most deliberate possible tasting tempo, it is these.

 

The lineup of wines at Dönnhoff has codified itself, and variations are scarcely to be found. If they tasted, say, the Felsenberg and thought “this won’t make a good GG; it’s too brash and fierce,” I don’t suppose they’d make a one-off that showed the wine with better balance. The item is the item.  Nor have I reason to expect they’d taste the wines five years later and think “It turns out ’20 wasn’t really a vintage for dry Rieslings below the GG level…” because that would challenge the basic template. But I am not fond of basic templates, as I’m sure you know. Even if the solo on the record was great, do we want the player to play the same solo night after night on stage?

 

The lighter dry Rieslings were generally attractive in aroma and atypically strict in taste.  I infer it is an element of the vintage that may have taken them by surprise – assuming they agree with me, which I doubt. In many cases an infantile bitterness will diminish with fining (if you fine) and/or with the first filtration, and I think a lot of growers depend on that happening, if they perceive bitterness in their baby-wines. As a rule I think they’re correct, but 2020 seems to have smashed that rule.

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2015 Pinot Brut                                                                                   +

Hand-riddled, 51 months of tirage, disg. 08/10/2019, and as its predecessor was 100% Pinot Noir I’m assuming this one is also. Also noteworthy; alc. Is just 11.5%.

The refined, lovely fragrance could easily be a good 1er Cru in Champagne (Chigny?).  It’s just an excellent Blanc de Noir, irrespective of its “modest” origin.

 

It’s balanced on the dry side and the long lees-aging gives it an appealing creaminess, usefully, as it also shows the prominent acidity of the vintage. Look, it’s hardly a surprise that a Dönnhoff sparkling wine is classy and smart and thoughtfully conceived and executed. In light of that basic approval, it’s worth considering its details.

 

One part of it is diffident and even a small bit steely, mostly on the palate. Eventually the fragrance sheds its sweet-fruit and closes down on mineral notes. I’m using my Juhlin stem, but when I retaste I’ll add MacNeil’s Crisp & Fresh to see if it grows more hedonic. Also, if I were at the winery I’d ask for a second bottle; something flirts and feints and hints at TCA on the back-palate, though both the actual cork and the greeting fragrances seem correct. But some of the diffidence and clipped-ness I’m sensing could be a suppression of fruit we’d see in below-threshold TCA.

Curiously, the actual finish (after spitting) is clean and lingers into some fine tertiaries. So while the wine is already impressive, I’m feeling a little schmutz someplace among the more esoteric nuances.

 

Finally I poured us a (MacNeil) glass to sip while dinner was cooking, because sometimes cork appears when you’re not looking for it. Was it there – was it notthere? It was never there in the excellent finish, and it was barely even a surmise on the aroma; only in one oblique corner of the palate might it have been crouching, trying not to be conspicuous. 

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2020 Riesling Trocken

This is the “basic” estate Riesling, primarily from volcanic soils. There is also a feinherb variant that doesn’t say “feinherb;” it just doesn’t say “Trocken.”

 

It is a year later than I usually taste the new vintage at Dönnhoff. The fragrance of this wine is almost achingly expressive. The finish is markedly smoky and complex. Between those poles is a wine that feels determined to be dry. Of course it’s intended as a dry wine, and yet it feels adamant, and that adamance obtrudes on the lapidary and musical nature we cherish in these wines. It rather seems to shake you by the shoulders to make sure you’re getting the message.

 

I left this open bottle undisturbed and tasted it again six days later, using the flattering nature of the MacNeil Crisp & Fresh  glass to ensure I wasn’t just being Mr. Crankypants. It didn’t really work. In the Spiegelau the wine was almost juicy enough to make its grumpiness less pronounced – and the finish is truly lovely – but I continue to feel that basic estate dry Rieslings shouldn’t be contrary. And I am fully aware that “contrary” is a value judgment based on my particular impression. To see a dry Riesling that succeeded completely, read on….

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2020 Tonschiefer Riesling Dry Slate                                               +

As usual with the slatey site Leistenberg, a riot of aroma and yet classy aroma. And also, as usual, this wine punches way above its weight.

 

You have all the throbbing-scree minerality, all the energy, all the precise expressiveness you saw part-way in the basic estate Riesling – but none of the sharpness. You also have an unheard-of authority and stature for a Riesling with “only” 12% alc, and really, only Germany can pull this off in today’s climate era.

 

So Leistenberg isn’t exotic, at least not in its dry form, but it is the outer limit of minerality in a rendition that’s thoroughly dry and lavishly juicy – in other words, balanced! We’ve learned to revere this estate for its grandiose GGs and its legendary sweet wines, but Cornelius (and his father Helmut) could easily be proudest of this wine for all its savage loveliness.

 

In Helmut’s father’s time (and at the beginning of Helmut’s time also) the estate didn’t own the necklace of Grand Crus for which they are now famous. It was a few vineyards in Oberhausen (Felsenberg, Kieselberg, a tiny lozenge-shaped site along the river that would later be named Brücke), and perhaps most beloved, this Leistenberg. 

 

It’s in an east-facing lateral valley, steep, and a lot of it fallow, as it’s costly to work and doesn’t fetch high prices. It’s breezy there, and misses the afternoon sun, and so its rieslings can remain on the vine very late in the season with little risk of botrytis. The family believe it’s predestined for Kabinett wines, even if it could be “forced” into a showier form. My old friend Helmut is wont to show Leistenberg wines if he brings out any antiques from the cellar, and I think as he grows older he’s found a wellspring of tenderness for this unheralded beauty.

 

But be aware, if the usually mystical Dönnhoff wines do have a more corporeal, extroverted side, here is where you’ll see it. The wine projects its voice all the way to the back rows of the theater. And while it may be modest in size, it is magnificent in nature.

 

It was retasted (and drunk both with food and as an apero) and I remain persuaded; this wine has even-temperedness and balance.

 

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2020 Höllenpfad im Mühlenberg Riesling GG                                 +VDP Grosse Lage, the back label adds “Roxheimer” and “trocken” to the full name.

This hails from a cadaster in the Höllenberg with older vines and, apparently, a capacity for elegance unusual for this earthy vineyard. Cornelius started bottling it separately with the 2017 vintage, and it has impressed ever since.

 

It stands out from the “regular” Höllenpfad  by dint of greater minerality, a more evenly balanced weight (this wine glides while the other one stomps) and greater length and embedded tertiary flavors.  (Curiously, it faded a little over the days, while the “basic” Höllenpfad [not reviewed] improved.) Yet it’s ambitious to position this as a GG astride the likes of Felsenberg and Hermannshöhle, and to me it’s a kind of vestibule that leads you in to the “elite” wines.

 

It doesn’t taste at all like Pinot Gris, but it shows a corpulent structure that brings PG to mind. It also brings Franken to mind, and even more improbable, some sites in the central Wachau. Its toasted-dough notes may remind you of Berg Rottland (in Rüdesheim), which also carries image tones of the Wachau. This even is peppery, another Wachau cognate, though few if any Wachau Rieslings show the digital pixilation that lies at the core of this curiously compelling wine.

 

And while it is very much in line with “the German taste” for strictness and austerity (in their Rieslings, I hasten to add) – and understanding that you don’t come to this wine looking for “pretty,” its pleasures aren’t merely cerebral.

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2020 Dellchen Riesling GG                                                                 +

Full name “Norheimer Dellchen Riesling Trocken,” and alas, the STUPID HEAVY BOTTLE too many GGs are guilty of using – in this case especially so, as a FAIR & GREEN member estate.

Apropos “secrets.”  The always riddlesome Dellchen is the most introverted great wine in the world, I’m sure.

 

Superficially this one seems expressive enough, full of mints and peppercorns and brilliance, yet at the point where you think it will lapse into a swollen mid-palate it instead becomes whispery and obscure. It’s something I rather like, but this isn’t one of those GGs that puts on a show for you. The Jancis glass helps it unfold, which it does with a sort of firm flourish. I like (what I suppose to be) the cask notes, and I appreciate its elusiveness after that riotous beginning.

 

Most of all I like a wine that expresses a profound interiority, that doesn’t lead with obvious fruit or even blatant mineral. Like the site itself, the wines are hidden away. I’ve never known Dellchen to be overt, certainly not in its youth. I’ve never had one ten years old (or older), so I still don’t know what secrets it stores in its spectral soul.

 

Right now the wine summons a silence. It is beautiful in its suggestive coquettish way; it wants to be attended to, but not to give itself away. It has a stern expression on its inscrutable face, but a richness that reassures. All the flavor nuances I can contrive seem better suited to red wines than to white.

 

Six days open seems to have made it more skeletal, but a swell of saltiness lets the wine meet you at least half way. And the MacNeil glass succeeds in dragging this painfully shy guy out onto the dance floor.

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2020 Felsenberg GG

Full name is Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling (which doesn’t appear on the front label) Trocken – and it is of course a VDP Grosse Lage.

The great porphyry site stands in gorgeous contrast to its colleagues in Niederhausen and Norheim (and Roxheim, recently). And it’s hardly shocking that this smells divine, albeit a little bashful straight from the bottle.

 

The palate, at least at first, is markedly stern and mineral – and not really even “mineral” but really a dusty slide of rock-crush. The normal spices and exotica reveal themselves – eventually, as if reluctantly – from the Jancis. Yet it is adamantly minty and brash, as if the flavors passed through a fuzz-box. It’s rather an orgy of geology, but not as much fun as that might sound.

 

The wine is certainly impressive. It has command; it positively seethes with expressiveness. Yet that describes it, but doesn’t evaluate it. All that (duly striking) impressiveness seems to be saying Now you see here, young man!  

 

Tasted again after three days, it is slowly emerging from an interior so dense as to seem opaque. It’s also clearer than ever that the wine is too dry. I’m also aware it could be in its “shedding-its first-fruit” trough, and even allowing for that, I doubt that fruit alone would correct the imbalance – though I’d more easily accept an argument that time will deliver elements that will show the wisdom of those initial choices.

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2020 Hermannshöhle Riesling GG                                                   ++

VDP Grosse Lage, full name includes “Niederhäuser” and “trocken.”

You know, it isn’t easy not to approach this reverentially. The usual treatment for this condition is a short-cut called “blind tasting,” but if you do not believe in that practice, you learn something valuable. However bated your breath might be as you raise the glass, you must also apply an unforgiving beam of attention that grasps the wine no matter the feelings or expectations you brought to it. The word for such an internal battle is “professionalism.”  

 

Meanwhile I just tasted the wine. It completely kicks ass. It does so in the way Hermannshöhle often does, by posing a host of nuances and elements proximate to one another, whether in a horizontal line or in a circle, or both, and daring you to glean them all, and figure out the driving energy behind their interaction.

 

I’ve named those nuances before, many times before. If you sought to list them doggedly, you’d probably fine around a dozen. A lot of action occurs in these wines. The way they interact is more difficult, like an itch you can just not reach. Hermannshöhle isn’t really serene. It’s a jazz ensemble, cooking. Different vintages showcase different soloists, and ’20 is one of the cool ones like 2016. As it sits in the glass it starts to feint toward redcurrant (and currant leaf) and also with the enticing aroma of very sweet red beets roasting. The palate is a triple fugue of interaction, with a frisky salty energy similar to that of the Leistenberg, but with nobler flavors and with a route toward repose.

 

“Nobler” flavors? Isn’t that impossibly subjective? Yes and no. Something arises from a long history of many peoples’ subjectivities that coalesces into a consensus that certain pieces of land can give wines of surpassing intricacy and beauty. This idea can be challenged, and is often challenged, with arguments I can easily appreciate and respect. I tend, myself, to leap over them, because I consider how things would look if the “other” side was right. To classify land is beyond human ability and would be riddled with fallacies. Okay. That leaves us with a chaos whereby a host of names – I mean thousands upon thousands of names – will show up on wine labels and the consumer has no way to suss what they signify, other than the wine comes from someplace named –x-.

 

I accept that any classification is a codification of value-judgments made by imperfect people with (at times) dubious motives. But we mustn’t let the perfect prevail over the good. The poor wine consumer is entitled to a little clarity, a littlesimplicity, even if these are imperfect. Yes it will be flawed, but it’s better than nothing, and to the objection that it will over-simplify things and make infants out of wine buyers, I say – I’ll take that chance as the lesser by far of two evils.

 

Meanwhile Hermannshöhle GG 2020 just keeps getting finer in the glass, and while it doesn’t completely escape the willful asperities of the vintage, it offers so much intricacy and class that my world is elevated by having tasted it.

 

After several tastings/drinkings I must say I’m left wondering. Not about the wine; the wine is superb. No, what’s curious is that Hermannshöhle is usually the highest among a range of high summits, but in this vintage it is markedly and dramatically higher (i.e., better) than its neighbors. Why, I wonder?

 

A final curiosity: whereas the Dellchen tasted best from the MacNeil, this tastes best from the Spiegelau. These dry ‘20s, even one as splendid as this guy, are moving targets.

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2020 Riesling                                                                                      +

As marvelous as the dry estate Riesling smelled, this is three orders of magnitude better. It’s richer, giddier, more euphoric; there is simply more here. And sorry, but you’d have to be insane not to prefer it.

 

The palate is vigorous, racy, even a little screechy. The vintage doesn’t seem to be sedate here. But this wine is like calliope music, almost absurdly cheerful, with all the interplay of fruits and salts and minerals you could ask for, in a jittery form that misses the limpidity of other vintages – if “misses” is the right word, because there’s very little this wine misses, except perhaps for repose.

 

The length here is ridiculous! The range of associations would run the length of the page. Let’s just say a dozen fruits, a half-dozen spices (especially in the cinnamon/coriander vein), and tinctures from a 16th-century apothecary. It is also utterly delicious, in its electric spastic-lime way.

 

It’s one of the great gifts of the wine world. For very little money, you get to drink a gorgeous wine with fathoms of facets and with a complexity you’d normally pay a lotmore to obtain. It ages decades. It dances with almost every food you throw at it. And, at risk of laboring the point, it shows the immense benefit of the right measure of RS – as little as possible, as much as necessary. And “necessary” was a big, big issue with 2020s.

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2020 Niederhäuser Klamm Riesling Kabinett                                  +

VDP Grosse Lage

Neighbor to Hermannshöhle, but situated in a concave bowl, with a (very) steep section and a large-ish flat section, on a mélange of porphyry and rotliegend. Old Hans Schneider (see my report on Jakob Schneider) would say it was the “Nierstein type.”

 

It’s just the third vintage since the Dönnhoffs obtained it. Helmut would always say it took time to unearth a vineyard’s “talent,” and I wonder if this will always make a Kabinett. Not that I’d mind!

 

The wine smells amazing. Charcuterie and peach blossom prominently, with smoky porphyry notes in the background. And it’s hard to fathom how the palate could be better; there’s moderate sweetness, explosively expressive mineral/fruit interplay, esoteric spices, and finally a lavish green profile like wintergreen and key lime. It has the sharp grip of ’20, whose wines often feel shod with crampons, but here it adds lift and an aerial soaring note because this wine has enough fruit and a seamless balance.

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2020 Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett                         ++

I sometimes wonder, is this the Dönnhoff wine I actually love the most? It seems to offer everything we have any right to require from German Riesling (provided we’re not fussbudgets about RS); it smells like ten raptures, it arrives on the palate singing its fool head off, it finishes dry and mineral, having so perfectly threaded the sweetness needle. It’s like a comice pear that’s a day away from ripe. In vintages like ’20, it nibbles back at you. In the context of its juice-explosion!

 

A smart sommelier might have assembled a vertical of Hermannshöhle – whether Spätlese or GG – but the smartest of the smart, the über-hip, would have a vertical of Leistenberg Kabinett, and (s)he could have it going back 25 years, because this wine ages splendidly. Truly a treasure in the world of Riesling.

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2020 Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese                              +

VDP Grosse Lage.

This shows the comeliest side of ’20. It flirts with excessive sweetness (fragrance and finish) but the fine-grained yet assertive acids pull the sugars down on the palate.

 

Lovers of Kirschheck – myself among them – will know what I mean when I say this ’20 is a song of the green element, by which I mean wintergreen, balsam, aloe vera, key-lime – with only delicate allusions to apple and rose and peach blossom. That said, the usual rapture will be found, albeit in another key signature.

 

It’s an achievement in a vintage that set up some roadblocks. How do you get enough sweetness to mitigate the acidity but not have the wine too sugary? The result is an explicit lesson in managing somewhat inconvenient analytical values while still crafting a wine that people can drink. The result is a wine of angular prettiness that pivots on the sleekest of points.

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2020 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese                                 ++

VDP Grosse Lage

Brücke’s a little like Dellchen; it doesn’t explain itself. It just plays its music. It’s also one of those rare wines that feels primordial, like an ur-riesling.

 

This is an especially good vintage of a wine that often seems opaque at first. Not now.  We are raring to go.

 

Having just tasted Selbach’s wines, I’m finding a thread between Brücke and Zeltinger Sonnenuhr. Neither are wines of explication. Both are analogue and driven by umami. Neither wine describes itself, but both sing in a language you don’t speak, so that you hear the music and the sound of a human voice but you don’t have a “text” to refer to. The part of the brain that seeks to grasp and understand is frustrated, but the part of you that responds spontaneously, limbically, imaginatively and emotionally – that place is lit up like a thousand klieg lights.

 

Thus I can’t bear to try and “describe flavors” because I’d have to shove away the loveliest accord the wine offers. I find it wooly and doughy and haunted and numinous. I’ve said this before: Hermannshöhle, for all its insane intricacy, can ultimately be fathomed and deconstructed. Brücke cannot. Brücke is like the little swoon you feel when you read a poem that is working. Brücke is an essence of melody, and who can explain melody? The wines go deep, as such things do.

 

Tasted again, let me approach it more concretely. It is driven by two dramas, one of sweetness and the other of acidity. It’s a leafier version of the fleshier 2015. It’s one of those moments where you can see the script enacted – sweetness balancing acidity – and you see that it works. It’s based in a rational aesthetic. Yet I think we also need to see it, not as two elements either canceling each other out or joining in a larger harmony that obliterates both pieces, but rather as a symmetry of extremes. It’s a valid way for a wine to be, provided we’re careful to distinguish “balance” from harmony. What’s harmonious here is the umami I wrote about first, which will best be served by decades of aging whereby the young edges are smoothed, and the tertiary flavors develop. (the 2001 Brücke Spätlese, right now, is a heart-rending beauty.) The best thing about this ’20 is its rapturous fragrance, compared to which the sweet-acid conversation feels a little facile. 

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2020 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese            +++

All righty then – the icon.

 

The first thing you notice is it isn’t very sweet. This I like. The RS feels taut and tangy, like it was pulled as tightly as possible without tearing the lace.

 

Here’s something rare for me; a short tasting note. This is a great vintage of a great Riesling, giving everything one could dream of from such a wine.

 

In the mid/late 80s the zeitgeist was to tamp down sweetness as much as possible (in the “sweet” wines), and this mentality was still prevalent in the high-acid monument that was vintage-1990. But within a year or two, it was clear we’d been parsimonious with RS with ’90, which started tasting tart and unbalanced. Some time around ’92-’93 I was sitting with Helmut, who was ruminating that Spätlesen had gotten too “puristic,” and that a freer hand with RS would help them age better. This was true, and then it went too far. Not so much here at Dönnhoff, but generally, where it got ensnared in the “If-sweet-then-really-sweet” mindset, which condescended to those “little-old-ladies” who still liked sugary wines.

 

I bring this up because I sense Cornelius is pulling back a little; at least thismasterpiece is marked by a thrillingly taut saltiness (along with its insanely complex fruit), and if I’m right it’s a gesture I’d applaud.

 

Curiously (and wonderfully) this wine feels more seamless than the Brücke, even though it is also more lucid and logical. Tasted now a third time, I’m watching the pieces carefully and finding they’d rather not be watched. The finish resolves dry, and is not without acidity, but there’s greater repose and ease, the wine is less a collection-of-players and more an ensemble.

 

While it’s hardly surprising that this Icon is among the very best Rieslings of the vintage, when you actually taste it, it’s like it’s the first time. And in a sense it is, because a great wine erases what you expected or supposed. It starts from scratch. And it starts you from scratch, as if it created a dysphasic bliss. Beauty starts now.

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2020 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Auslese             +++

This is how botrytis should smell.

 

And this is the most perfect, sublime Auslese I have tasted in recent memory – and maybe not even “recent.” Only Selbach’s Domprobst plays in this field among the ‘20s I’ve had.

 

It’s sleeker, more piquant than the Spätlese, more playful, delicate, winsome, and yet you can’t fathom the perfection of this botrytis, or the degree to which it integrates with fruit and mineral and acidity. Poignant is the only word that will do. Tiny and shining, as if you held an entire galaxy in the palms of your hands.

 

That word “otherworldly” is prone to overuse. And really only part of this wine is divine. The other part is a clear portrait of worldly exquisiteness, and as is often the case with Hermannshöhle, it can be explained, if you have, like, a week or so. But with this estate there are often moments where you slip-the-surly-bonds and where you feel like these are different, in some crucial way, from any other wines. Because I’ve known this sensation so often, and because I don’t want the wine to drink me (except when I’m drinking for private pleasure), I’ve become a little hard-bitten with Dönnhoff’s wines the last few years. Well, hard-bitten little me is fucking overcome with this wine – the first tasting-sample since this thing started nine months ago that I was physically unable to spit – and I’ve been brought back to the Eden. Such beauty exists in this world? This place we take for granted, this place we disrespect, this place to which we suppose ourselves entitled to be indifferent? 

 

This place is riddled with secrets that every worm knows.

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2020 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Auslese

Somehow this didn’t get the “VDP Grosse Lage” designation, though surely it is one.

 

The aromas are more turbulent than the Hermannshöhle – as usual. A quick out-breath of H2S vanishes in seconds. There’s a stirring purity of everything in the anise family – hyssop, anise-hyssop, star-fruit, anise seed, fennel frond, together with a dream song of gentle stones. Compared to the Spätlese, this has accessed the core, the part where the soul goes to hide when the world is just too mean and clamorous.

 

The botrytis, again, is discreet and perfect. And again – alas – there is a sideways hint of cork, which I’ll confirm (or not) when I taste it again in a couple days.

 

Fast-forward, three days later, Jancis glass, tasted outdoors on a 36º day – and yes, it’s corked. Just a little – but enough.