Weingut Von Winning 2023
2020 Pinot Noir Royale glug-glug-glug!
The estate-level PN.
It’s lusty and earthy in a satisfying way, especially after tasting Diel and Künstler, whose PNs were differently satisfying. This one’s a mouth-full of aroma, if you know what I mean…(if I know WTF I mean), leading to a palate that’s generous, robust, balanced and “sweet.” By which I mean, “sweet” in the way that PN can offer a sheen of fruit that Cabernet can’t.
It is abidingly interesting to consider the burgeoning community of serious German PN growers who aren’t (or weren’t) PN specialists. It’s encouraging to see how good most of them are, but then again I’m tasting from good growers, who wouldn’t show us wines that would diminish their reputations. I mean, this is a mere “estate-level” wine and yet it greets you with open arms and a thorough deliciousness. It’s the red equivalent of the estate Riesling, which has always punched above its weight.
I adore it. It’s adorable! It’s also extroverted and good-natured, and what I like most is that it doesn’t feint towards complexity or seriousness, yet it is much more than one-dimensional. The mid-palate shows a charming dusty note and an addictive saltiness. You know those songs that are always welcome, whenever and however you hear them? That are never out of place? This wine is just like that; I can’t imagine a situation when it wouldn’t be welcome. Well, okay; Richebourg verticals, maybe.
Tomorrow I’ll taste the Kirchenstück GG, one of the wine world’s great mystics and one of the few most consequential white wines in existence. I say that because, the winery can be every bit as proud of this wine as they are of that one. It is an everyday masterpiece.
2018 Reiterpfad GG An Der Achtmorgen
Pinot Noir appears on the back label. This is a cadaster (or “gewanne”) in the GG (Ruppertsberger) Reiterpfad, and has the VDP Grosse Lage designation. One thing it does NOT have is a pretentious heavy bottle, for which I am duly grateful.
One expects (and receives) more overt wood, and the little bit of char it carries along. This is less evident on the palate, thankfully, only because there’s so much sheer jazz taking place on the palate, such that the oak doesn’t reappear until the finish, where it is more emphatic than I’d prefer. This is freshly poured, and from the Spiegelau red stem. From the Jancis it’s more peppery.
I love the texture, the density and the fundamental seriousness. I have a concern that the intent to be serious may have burdened this admirable wine with more cask flavor than it needed, but it’s early days and I can easily be wrong. With air, a tapenade pungency turns up.
The wine isn’t so much misshapen as misaligned. The seamlessness of the estate PN has spoiled me. That wine was at ease in its skin, while this one seems anxious about the impression it will make. I have a Burgundy expert friend coming by to taste with me tomorrow, and we’ll see what reality check he gives me. I have an uneasy sense that I ought to like this more.
He liked it less than I do, and agreed that the strong oak rendered the wine anonymous, as oaky wines always taste like….oaky wines.
Rosé Brut, N.V.
First, a (rare) complaint. There is no information on the back label, such as assemblage (varieties and vintages), disgorgement date, etc. There’s a QR code but I don’t know what it leads to. Possibly the website would give this info, but I’d rather not have to look. In the modern area of serious fizz, we’re conditioned (and entitled) to have this info easily available. In fact the wine is 100% PN, from vintage 2019, and was disgorged “late ’22.”
Rant over. The wine is beautiful. It has loads of fruit but isn’t “fruity,” has grace and light footedness (only 11.5% alc) and a gauzy silken texture, and marked length considering its breezy lightness. It’s one of those wines that only seems modest, all while it delivers a striking vinosity.
It’s the only fizz they sent, but I can understand why. They have every right to be super happy with it. All the virtues of evanescence are here in a chuckling caress that feels like clemency, a door opening, into all of the time in the whole wide world.
2021 Riesling +
Trocken appears on the back label
And happiness appears on the palate! It tastes like a template for Mittelhaardt Riesling and an object lesson for managing the acids of ’21 without altering the wine. Bear in mind, I don’t object to deacidification if it makes the wine more pleasant during its actual commercial life. One doesn’t fuss that such a wine won’t make it to thirty years; one drinks it with a smile and moves on along.
We do have some zip though. It is not without urgency. If you’re really sensitive to acidity it may be too much urgency for you. I like it, and I like what I suspect are a few stealth grams of RS to balance the sting.
Dill, verbena, energy, glug-worthy but also interesting. This is rare.
Normally when I use the following word, it’s a pejorative, but not now. The wine is blatant. It’s crammed with being crammed, loaded with loadedness, and if that’s too much for you, too bad. But it’s not irate, it’s just giddy, and no one’s gonna crush its vibe. So get up on your feet and do the funky Alphonso – and I’ll give a prize to the first reader to get the reference!
The second time around the zip was more sedate, and its remarkable animation and dialogue of flavor are simply striking. What an achievement!
2021 Forster Riesling +
Trocken on the back label. And is this the heaviest screwcapped bottle I’ve ever handled?
This is new in the program as far as I know. The fragrance is a little like Ungeheuer through a thick haze. At first glance this really ennobles the whole village-wine concept – or maybe it just over-delivers. In either case it tastes like Forst, and not the wrong-side-of-the-tracks Forst, but instead young vines or early pickings from among the Good Stuff.
I have a brain flash; there’s a site called Musenhang that’s probably an 1er Cru now, and that’s good land more highly elevated, and historically I’ve found it to be like Ungeheuer in the form of a child. I don’t know whether Von Winning even has a parcel there, but this is the cognate my brain flung at me. And here is a wine whose ’21 urgency serves it perfectly, giving it torque and verve, and a silvery almost minty top-note that’s captivating, poised against the caramelly umami of Forst.
In fact it contains some young-vines fruit from the Crus, but the lion’s share is from the east side of the village, which makes it all the more remarkable.
For balance, penetration, character, for fidelity to the honey and caramel and pepper of essential Forst (minus the stones of Pechstein/Kirchenstück), for intensity that isn’t overly demanding, for intricacy and for a perfectly composed texture, this wine shows how far this estate has come, and how consequential it ought to be. Considering this, and the amazing estate Riesling that precedes it, the winery is already golden, even before you get to the Big Boys.
2021 Deidesheimer Paradiesgarten Riesling +
Trocken on the back label. VDP Erste Lage. Heavy bottle.
Never thought this was much of a vineyard. Turns out I was mistaken. Of course, they have superb parcels, and as far as I know everyone else’s wine from this site is pretty mundane.
If you don’t recall, the signature flavors here are in the anise family: anise-seed, hyssop, fennel on its many forms (blossom, frond, seed), alongside cressy sorrel-like green notes, and finally a bit of balsam-fir, like a sweetly fragrant Christmas tree.
In ’21 this is so bright it could almost be a Nahe wine. It’s out of this world sprightly and buoyant and breezy and it whips through the air like a kite on a gusty day. A subtle sort of quince and ginger, like a manic Chenin, comes zooming through. For sheer vim this is hard to resist. If your imagination is as fanciful as mine, consider the image of pea-vine metamorphosing into stones, and then raise your glass again.
2021 Deidesheimer Leinhöhle Riesling +
Trocken, Erste Lage, heavy bottle.
Reverse my pitiable error over the Paradiesgarten; I always thought this was a GG-level site, but I’m told it was diminished by the “flurbereinigung” (the rectification of the fields, wherein the land was reorganized physically to make it easier and less expensive to work) and now it is a “mere” 1er Cru. And yet, this bottle has a cork, while the above had a screwcap. The semiotics of Deidesheim vineyards are wicked complicated….
I think Leinhöhle is a better site that doesn’t necessarily make a better wine. It depends on what you seek and cherish. Leinhöhle makes a “sour” sort of Pfalz Riesling, with a flavor I describe as “brooding plums,” to which I might add “peppery lemons.” This doesn’t bother me because I expect a certain earthiness from Pfalz wine, or put another way, it doesn’t surprise me and I like it.
But the Jancis glass is revelatory here; this wine is a whole quarry of minerality! All it’s missing – or “missing” – is body. Power. Nothing one can’t do without, in the face of such explicit intricacy. (And by the way, I’m neglecting to mention that these are fantastic ‘21s, a big level better than what I’ve tasted lately.)
This wine has precisely the poise and self-possession that suits it. More assertiveness would not improve it. Does it feel studious after the giddy Paradiesgarten? Maybe. But that kind of energy cannot be sustained, and if one sinks back into the relative calm of this creature – “relative” to the basic energy of Deidesheim – one is at ease and grateful.
2021 Haardter Herrenletten Riesling ++
Trocken, erste Lage, heavy bottle.
New land. Obtained along with the neighboring (and lesser) site Herzog, this is the first time I’ve reviewed a Herrenletten that wasn’t made at Müler-Catoir. Where, I ought to mention, it was often my favorite among the dry Rieslings. When I sampled this at Von Winning last May I was (probably too) adamant that it ought to be a GG. Don’t they have enough GGs? Could well be – but taste this!
If such quality can be sustained, it’ll be hard to deny it belongs among the great wines from Von Winning. It’s unlike anything else in the portfolio we see in the States, though it resembles Grainhübel maybe a little. Look, this wine tastes like a thousand lemons lost their virginity all at once and they all did it great the first time. Yet when that profound relief finally faded (jeez, I thought it’d never happen..) we’re left with a curious feeling, something like wonder, or love, some tiny seam where intimacy made its stealthy way in, and a day later you take a walk and are unsettled by the notion that something serious just took place.
Because if you detach Pechstein and Kirchenstück from the equation, I don’t think there’s ever been a better GG than this in the entire time I’ve known the estate. If it’s a 1-off, then rush to grab it and consider yourself lucky. Because there’s simply a fabulous complexity here, expressed with a singular energy and clarity.
What does it taste like? It has the tapioca and jasmine and ginger of a 6-9 year old Blanc de Blancs Champagne from Grand Cru land, but it also has a waft of the coriander earthiness of classic Pfalz Riesling. And the brown-butter umami of 10-year old Chardonnay Champagne. And it is silky, and gorgeous. I need it. I need a lot of it.
2021 Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad Riesling +++
Trocken, Erste Lage, heavy bottle.
Among the (many) Premier Crus at Von Winning, this is consistently the most charming. And this one – the best vintage I’ve ever tasted – is essentially addictive. Forget even trying to resist it.
There is either a smidge of RS or a facsimile of it, because the fruit here is simply riotous, every variety of pear and guava, anchored to an exceedingly delicate earthiness that gives solidity and yin-yang to the portrait. Indeed the tertiary finish leaves the fruit behind and introduces a malt note so specific you’d swear they sprinkled it in.
It acts like a feinherb without actually being one. It’s the wine equivalent of the best Oscar Wilde dialogue; you grow weightless with joy. With air an entire second act arrives, savory and full of allspice and pink peppercorns and cardamom. You know, you could underrate this wine as merely enticing, because it has no affects of Great And Lofty Seriousness, but I’m here to tell you that wine doesn’t get any more perfect than this.
Why? Because it has everything but capital-P profundity. It has beautiful flavors variegated enough to also be interesting. It has lavish seductiveness but a cleverly animated structure, so that it always bounces among a plethora of this-s and that-s in its ballerina-energy; it has what I call “dialectic” whereby disparate elements are cunningly poised in giddy contrast to one another, and finally it has the highest fathomable SDQ (suck-down-quotient) and it’s as happy to see you as your dog is when you walk in the door.
It is the elevation of frivolity to a kind of sublimity. I am a lover of the dark energies – my whole second book is about those very things – but a wine like this makes you greedy for life because, my god, what bliss it can be.
THE 2020 GG SERIES
I liked the wines, as you’ll see, but I was taken about by what feels like a stylistic 180-turn, back to an emphatically woody style I haven’t seen since vintage-2011.
Take the string of vintages between 2012-2018, and you will find the wood flavor became more and more of an echo, an inference, while the wines themselves grew more limpid, ethereal and expressive. Few of them exceeded 13% alc, and most stayed below, even in hot years like ’18. I had the sense the estate was proud of this, as they should have been, and the wines rose steadily in my estimation, until I was comparing them, easily, with Raveneau.
2019 came along with its sequence of bruisers, and I accepted it was an outlier vintage. I figured 2020 would mark a return to the lyric tranquility of the last many years.
It does and does not. I have tasted the wines five times, and today I’m running through them again. I’ve done nothing to the bottles except to keep them cool. I’m expecting as the bottles empty and the wines receive ever-more air, that the blatant oak will retreat. To a degree that has happened, but I wish it didn’t need to happen.
I don’t like to talk about my “plusses” because I don’t want to think about them. You might wonder at them here, because my texts are full of hesitation, but credit must be given where due, and there are wonderful things to be appreciated here, though I find myself with many questions.
2020 Kalkofen GG +
VDP Grosse Lage, of course. Super-heavy bottle, of course! Trocken goes without saying.
Considering my recent dismay at many of the 2020s, this one smells awfully good. It has the masa harina fragrance of the site, that fire-roasted corn aroma, but it feels contained and sensible.
Kalkofen is always strong. It will kick your ass at arm wrestling. It is sinew and gravel and pizza dough you roast in the oven before you apply the toppings. Because it is so overt, I admire it more than I love it, but this seems to be an especially deft vintage.
Sometimes I wonder….is this wine so powerful because of some innate distinguishing feature? Or is it made to be powerful because it has to answer to the expectations of GG? Chicken and egg, you know? Lovers of this kind of power will think I have a screw loose. I mean, look at it. It’s a singer with a voice you can hear in the cheap seats. I like power! Of course it tends to quash intricacy, and it definitely precludes tenderness, but boy, it delivers. And when you consider the family of Von Winning GGs, why shouldn’t one of them kick ass?
In this 2020 – again, a great example of a difficult vintage – we do have a vein of rock dust, along with the salty caramel of a piece of mature Gouda, and it is a triumph by any sensible reckoning. I make no claim to sensibility, though, and need to observe that the wine disintegrated slowly over the days, until it started to feel disjointed – powerful, but missing the easy fit-and-finish it usually shows.
It is also the least overtly woody wine among the GGs, and that’s probably because it has so much of its own mojo. Nor did I quake at the 13.5% alc, as Kalkofen has often been a body-builder. But despite the many things I appreciate about the wine, it ends up showing the rusticity of certain Chassagne 1er Crus – indeed it’s kind of a white-wine crossover, not categorically “Riesling” but not quite white Burgundy either.
2020 Grainhübel GG +
Riesling Trocken on the back label; heavy bottle. More alc (13.5%) than expected from a ’20.
There’s a stern side to Grainhübel that hasn’t been seen for some time, as the wines have tended to be more lyric and rippling. This one recalls the wines as I first got to know them, strict and smoky. I showed the 2018 to some almost-neophytes (of wine) last Fall, because I knew it would convince them, and it did because no one could resist that loveliness – but this wine isn’t “lovely.” It means business.
It’s a little cask-y. It has the jalapeño heat that alcohol sometimes shows (when it isn’t medicinal or heady) and the finish suggests a certain fruit dessication. You know when you’re sautéing onions and they go just a little too far, and get that burned aroma but it’s not unpleasant? That fragrance is here too.
In fact I think this is very good wine and it impresses me in several ways, but I admire more than love it. The overall effect is somewhat dour, scowling. Mind you, I just luxuriated in the drooling bestial grin of the Reiterpfad, so I might be…altered.
You know, I love being pulled into the dusky obscurities of serious wines, because they can lead me into otherwise inaccessible sweetness and to the touching riddles of things. That isn’t my problem here, nor do I have a “problem” as such; I’d say that the sternness of this wine leads me into a room where I want to open a window, let some air in, and settle down to listen to an old guy crab and kvetch. When you think he’s merely cranky, he surprises you with a pained sort of tenderness. The next day, you go back to see him again.
This kind of wine either gets much better or much worse the next day. Let’s see which.
Better – in that it grew less annoyingly oaky, which in turn let its inherent character emerge. Otherwise it remained rather surly for this site (or for what this site has been showing the last seven years). Bruised black cherry and petrichor appear, as does an unlikely note of farmhouse cider.
2020 Langenmorgen GG +
Riesling Trocken, 13.5% alc, heavy bottle.
My usual favorite among the Deidesheim GGs.
The alcohol shows, as does the wood, but the chiseled crags of Langenmorgen are standing their ground.
This is actually more like the ’19 than I expected to find. It has the knobby scratchy 2020 texture, yes, but it has the assertive ripeness the ’19 showed, and surmounted, albeit just barely. From the Jancis glass this is quite emphatic, coarse-grained, which makes the sinewy etchings of mineral less engaging than they are in lighter years. Here they are necessary, as the wine would be ripe-upon-ripe otherwise.
I’m perplexed by my response to this wine. On one hand I find it ungainly. On the other hand I welcome its gaudy mineral blast. I wouldn’t mind less oak on the finish. We also have the burnt-onion thing again. Any finesse it might show is precluded by the wine’s clamorousness. And yet, again, there’s a tease of something embedded in an occluded mid-palate that feels like a core flavor that would explain this otherwise noisy creature.
What happens over the days? This bottle was quickest to deplete, as I kept peering into it assuming I was missing something. With today’s fifth encounter there’s just two inches of wine left in the bottle. The wood and alcohol are like two heavy translucent curtains; the question is, where and what is the show?
The tensile yet sweet minerality of Langenmorgen is almost caricatured here; the whole wine is so forceful. There’s a slim lick of dark mineral in a structural element that ends up phenolic. All in all the Deidesheim GGs feel like they’re spoiling for an argument.
2020 Ungeheuer GG ++
Riesling Trocken on the back label; heavy bottle.
Pungent. I’ve used words like “Cajun” and “voodoo” to write about these. Yet there’s also a limpid note, one that feels welcoming, like the porch light left on for your late arrival home.
This is a deeply satisfying Ungeheuer. It has sometimes felt too primordially earthy and fiery, too much like ghee or Chanterelles that weren’t the healthiest but you cooked them anyway. This one smells like excellent Lebkuchen.
It has a really improbable lift and leap – maybe that’s ’20 – and whatever it is, we see an unusual finesse and dialogue here. Yes, we do see some of the phenolic scrape of so many ‘20s, but it isn’t bothersome in light of the lyric boost that preceded it. Sure, we have the Espelette pepper smoke-&-heat, but it’s uncommonly melodic in this vintage. We even have some of the sweet-green savor of ’20. As it sits in the glass it grows ever more detailed, ever more demure. A lot of remarkable things are happening here, all the way to that admonishing 2020 finish.
Still, I’ll taste it at least twice more, in different sequences and contexts, and we shall see. So far, the wine is quite moving, in many ways the best among these.
After many more visits, it remains for me the drinkiest of the GGs, and that’s because it has a mid-palate presence that was generously savory and tropical fruit-y, precisely what the Deidesheimers wanted and didn’t receive. It’s still a strong wine, but it has a clouds-at-sunset afterglow, it is willing to be beautiful, and has no great need to insist on explaining itself.
2020 Pechstein GG +
Riesling Trocken, heavy bottle, 13% alc.
Happens we just drank the 2013 last week. Lissome creature, 12.5% alc, everything you’d ever dream of from a dry Riesling; for me the paradigm. There were others too, 2014, 2016, even 2018.
This ’20 begins with a brash but spellbinding fragrance. If there’s a template for Von Winning Pechstein, what might it be? Lilacs, rocks, cookie dough, cherry tobacco…? All of them are here, and all of them are powerful.
The palate follows with a thunder-crash of intensity and precision. The question of whether there is “too much” oak will be settled in time. Today it is (let’s say) prominent, but not annoying – and I am easily annoyed by oak. There is no melting or yielding here. This wine is a summons. It is adamant and martial. It also has what Pechstein tends to have, an amazing counterpoint between blossom and stone, though to access it you have to stand through the 21-gun salute.
Of all the GGs, this was the one where the wood flavor was most stubborn and unwilling to yield.
But there is something dark and lovely in these obscure capillaries where fruit and mineral alchemize into strange black diamonds. I’m peering around for it, sniffing the air. The Von Winning wines I’ve loved were the ones that led me slowly, as if into a nearby room where food was cooking, whereas this one grabs me by the lapels and says Now you listen here! And even though the message is remarkable, you didn’t need to shout; I know how to hear you.
2020 Kirchenstück GG
Riesling Trocken, 13% alc, you-know-what bottle.
An-n-n-n-d….we are corked. It’s one of the ones you can “taste through,” and I am, but I won’t write notes about it. It’s also one of those is-it-or-isn’t-it bottles. The cork smells fine (FWIW) and the aromas are merely questionable; it’s the palate that tells. I’ll stopper it neutrally, give it a day, and see. There are promising signs….among them a limpid yet profound minerality of the type that normally doesn’t show through cork.
It’s corked. Damn. Not only because of the waste of a potentially profound experience, but also the way the top wine gives a final gestalt to the whole collection, and now it’s like a church that’s missing a steeple.
2021 Sauvignon Blanc “II”
Inasmuch as every ’21 German SB I’ve tasted has ranged from vulgar to repulsive, I await this wine from a virtuoso of SB with no small anticipation.
Smells good! A little more “expressive” than usual in the brassica red-pepper vein, but certainly attractive. And the palate, while not as deft or lyric as usual, is still within appealing lines. That said, a day later it was rather a reek of celeriac.
But let me be clear: I don’t like veggie-water SBs. I do like the varietality when it isn’t pornographic, and I especially like its mineral iterations (e.g. good Pouilly-Fumé) and my cellar has (and needs) a few good SBs for the several times when nothing else will quite do.
We have a visible red-pepper element here, stopping just short of “pronounced.” It has its typical stainless steel dance and lift and its few stealth grams of RS. All to the good. It’s not the best vintage of this wine I have had, but it’s the best 2021 SB I’ve tasted to date. Still, you need a high tolerance for SB at its funkiest and most “un-bathed.” And you should drink it the day you open it.
2020 Sauvignon Blanc “I” +
Heavy bottle, again.
This is a huge favorite of mine; it’s a wine that does what no other wine will do – at least the wines I know. It’s uniquely interesting at the table and it has the “WTF is this???” factor when your friends aren’t expecting it. The “I” is the middle ground between the sprightly steel-made “II” and the no-holds-barred “500” coming right up. As such it’s (often) the perfect rhetorical midpoint between smoky wood and varietal fidelity.
I’m not recalling the ’19 just now, but after an atypically demure 2018, this one’s roaring back. Maybe the smoke is too overt? But that seems to be an element of ’20 here. (Or maybe there’s a new cellarmaster who wears a t-shirt that says “I LIKE OAK!)
Best to bury this in the cellar and give the wood time to assimilate, or open it now if an oaky wine is called for that has angles and attitudes.
2020 Sauvignon Blanc “500” ++
Named for the cask-size, in effect a double-barrique plus 50 liters. A half-cask if you’re supposing the usual 1,000-liter upright.
This tends to be an amazingly exotic wine that only obliquely refers to “Sauvignon Blanc,” at least in its youth. It does make you envision the opium-den of the Illuminati, or some place in the center of the earth where the ur-paprika hails from. As crazy-woody as this is, it works better than the “I” because it is happily and insanely itself.
Lest we file it away too soon, there’s an odd almost-silex note clawing its way through the smoke, that wasn’t discernible in the “I” and that is kind of haunting here. The wine is obscure, as an esoteric wine should be. It’s of-a-piece yet it also contradicts itself. It isn’t just a bunch of guys in wizard-costumes chucking paprika into some bubbling cauldron; it’s also an essay about the implications of bone structure.
It’s like superfine pipe smoke, from the tobacco given to the Sultan during a state visit.
Yet with all this razzmatazz, there is still Sauvignon Blanc showing through, though in fairness it has some of the figginess of Semillon as much as it has the kinky angles of SB. It’s totally over the top yet also has a weird overtone of limpidity. Impressive wine!