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Weingut Wittmann – Stellar performance in 2015

In July we visited Weingut Wittmann and was guided both in the vineyards and in the cellar by the Cellarmaster Georg Rieser. We also had the chance to taste a large range of their wines.

We spent quite some time visiting their different vineyards. Georg got very en gaged when we talked about how they work in the vineyards to produce the best possible grapes. He pointed out that this is where the great wines are created, not in the cellar.

weingut wittmann vineyard

Our daughter Iva showed great enthusiasm during the visit:)

Weingut Wittman perform green harvest but the timing and the amount removed depends on the vintage. In a cold vintage they do an early green harvest to ensure faster maturation of the grapes. Another important task in the vineyard is the removal of leaves around the grapes. They need to avoid getting grapes wet, since this could result in botrytis, but they also want to reduce the amount of sun directly on the grapes. Therefore they cut more on the side that has morning sun, and less on the afternoon side since this is more intense. They perform several harvests per vineyard to ensure clusters/berries are picked at optimal ripeness.

Weingut Wittman has been biodynamic since 2004 but before that they had a long history of organic viticulture that started in 1980. By 1990 they where 100% organic.

weingut wittmann vineyardIn the cellar they have some beautiful large oak casks that are over 100 years old. Some of the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines are stored in the old casks but some are in the stainless steel vats. Georg also comments on the importance of maintenance of the old wooden vats to ensure freshness. They do have some barrique size barrels but these are used for red wine and for some Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. New wood barrels are never used for the Riesling wines since they do not want any wood notes on the Riesling.

Since some years back they use a sorting table for selection before the grapes are pressed. This is one more initiative to heighten the level of quality in the fruit that goes into the wines. Gravity is used as much as possible instead of pumping when moving the must from pressing to fermentation and then on to storage. As Georg puts it: “The wine has to be handled gently”.

Wittman uses natural yeast and spontaneous fermentation in most cases, but sometimes they need to add some yeast to ensure the process finishes in time. If possible they do not want the wine to be fermenting during the winter. In colder vintages with less opulent fruit they use longer maceration times to add depth to the wines.

They vinify different harvests and plots separately and then later make blends based on the quality and personality of the wine and vintage. They have a tasting with more than 90 different wines where the staff and the family takes part, and based on the impressions and opinions they decide on a blend for the vintage. This means that there are no pre-decided vineyard sections for each type of wine.

The wines we tasted at Weingut Wittmann

2015 Wittmann Riesling trocken

Slim nose with yellow apples and tropical fruit. Fresh citric acidity with minerals and a grippy and almost a bit salty expression.

This is an energetic and precise wine and a very good entry level Riesling.

87

2015 Wittmann Niersteiner Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly red slate, situated close to the Rhein.

Ripe notes of yellow apples, apricot, an abundance of tropical fruit but also some fresh young green apples. Rather broad acidity but with good structure and grip.

The wine has a generous and juicy expression.

87

 

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

This is an Ortswein from vineyards with mainly limestone.

Tight fresh fruit nose with apples, pears and some slight stone fruit.  Very pure and precise acidity that also has a juicy expression.

Mouthwatering and well balanced wine.

91weingut wittmann vineyard

2014 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling trocken

Rather ripe tropical fruit notes, apples and some petroleum. Juicy but not very precise acidity that stays in a rather long finish.  A rather generous and opulent wine.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Großes Gewächs

The soil in Aulerde has less limestone than Kirchspiel and Morstein.

Rather broad and open nose showing tropical fruits like apricot and lychee. The acidity is juicy and stays in a long finish.

This wine has a very generous expression and good structure.

91

weingut wittmann vineyard

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Kirchspiel Riesling Großes Gewächs

Compared with Morstein, the Kirchspiel wines are usually more open and ready to drink early and is often showing notes of grapefruit. The soil is similar to Morstein.
Very fresh nose with white stone fruit, lots of lychee and some young apricot and pears.

The acidity is amazing with a very energetic and firm expression and an abundance of minerals. Some fresh fruit notes balance the acidity well.

At the moment the wine is slightly dominated by the acidity but it should develop fantastically with time. A great wine with fantastic potential.

95

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Großes Gewächs

The wines from Morstein usually has a lot of citrus and acidity. The soil has clayish marl and limestone on the upper layer and more limestone in the subsoil.
There are multiple layers of fruit on this dense and concentrated nose, but it never gets overly dominant. We also find some very slight flint and yeast notes and white flowers.

Juicy and mouthwatering acidity with a grippy expression showing both lime fruit and lemon. Again the fruit is dense and complemented by some herbal notes.

The wine already has a good balance between the acidity and the fruit and it manages to combine generosity with elegance. A truly fantastic wine.

96

2014 Wittmann Weissburgunder Weißer Burgunder Reserve

Aged in new oak barrels of 600l.

Fresh young apricot dominated a rather opulent nose. There are also oak notes on both the nose and palate but they do not get dominant. Good acidic bite and minerals on the palate where we also find some nice fresh fruit.

This is a rich and charming Pinot Blanc.

88

2014 Wittmann Chardonnay Reserve Trocken

Rather slim palate with tropical fruit and som notes of oak.

The wine has a rather energetic acidity and juicy pineapple notes on the palate. Will require some more time to find the right balance.

89

2015 Wittmann Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 120.

Rather slim on both nose and palate with young tropical fruit and honey, combined with a rather juicy lime acidity.

Fresh Auslese with good precision, but rather one-dimensional.

87

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese

Residual suger of 125.

Lots of young stone fruit and pineapple combined with honey and floral notes.

Energetic Auslese with a grippy acidity and a good mineral structure.  Should develop fantastically with time

91

2015 Wittmann Westhofener Morstein Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel

A rather spicy nose with stone fruit, herbs, apricot, bees wax, white flowers and lime.

Dense and multi layered palate with similar notes as on the palate but also a fresh acidity and mineral structure.

Fantastic Auslese that should be kept in storage for a long time.

93-94

Overall impressions of Weingut Wittmann in 2015

We were very impressed with Wittman’s wines from the 2015 vintage. They have a complexity and depth in combination with a precise and very energetic acidity. The Kirchspiel and Morstein GG wines are truly amazing and we would recommend anyone to stock up on these, but also the other wines keep a very high quality level.

One last note

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Emrich-Schönleber – A reliable producer shining in the 2015 vintage

We met with Frank Schönleber, who is a decisive man, clearly spoken and with strong opinions. He takes great pride in their production and will definitely be a leading influence in the Nahe region for many years to come.

The estate is very focused on Riesling wines and during our visit we only tried Riesling and narrowed in mainly on the dry wines. During the meeting with Frank we both talked about the development in the region and the ways of working at Emrich-Schönleber. The trend both at Emrich-Schönleber and among other producers in the region has been to move from sweet wines towards dry riesling. At the peak for sweet wines their production was approximately 75% sweet Riesling wines, but today it is more or less the opposite about 25%.

We talked some time about the development in Nahe and the surrounding regions. One important change was in the regulations and split of vineyards. Until 1971 the vineyards in the region were split up in much smaller sections but because of difficulties to market the wines a reform where vineyards where grouped together to larger vineyards was implemented. In some cases this has resulted in very large vineyards with many different levels of quality and soil, thereby producing wines of different expression. This is a challenge for the consumer. One unfortunate example is the Frühlingsplätzchen vineyard that today is on both sides of Monzingen, where the section on the east side is more similar to Halenberg (also on the east side). Because of this Emrich-Schönleber produces wines that are a mix of Halenberg and grapes from the east part of Frühlingsplätzchen, but these wines cannot be named after the vineyards.

In the cellar Emrich-Schönleber uses spontaneous fermentation for some of their wines, including the Großes Gewächs (GG) wines, but for the more basic Riesling wines they add yeast. The logic behind the decision is that they want to achieve a more classic Riesling expression on the basic wines, while they allow the GG and single vineyard wines to develop a more personalized and complex character, letting the terroir of the vineyard shine through. For the spontaneous fermentation their experience is that it is better to use wood vats instead of stainless steel vats.

To reach top quality in the fruit they control the yield in the vineyards. The preference is to do this proactively for example by letting grass grow between the rows, instead of using green harvest which is a more reactive action.

One important project at Emrich-Schönleber has been the recultivation of a section of Halenberg. We had the opportunity to try three different vintages of this wine made from rather young vines. This is a wine that, of course,  will continue to develop as the vines get older, but in the 2015 vintage our impression is that the wine took a large step up in quality. We look forward to following the development where eventually these grapes will go into the GG bottling for Halenberg.

The wines we tasted

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling trocken

Slate soil.

Slim fresh nose with some white stone fruit. This is carried over to the palate where we also get a sappy, fresh acidity that drives the wine. Good entry level wine with a slim and precise profile.

85p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling Lenz

Mainly grapes from Frühlingsplätzchen.

Fresh stone fruit and hints of white flower on this charming and seductive nose. Acidity is precise and pure and there is a slight sweetness in the background.

The wine has a fresh citric lime finish. A generous wine that is easy to enjoy.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Riesling “Mineral” trocken

From soil with stony quartz slate.

The nose is very slim and slightly citric. Not much generosity here. On the palate it is all about the acidity and the strong mineral bite. We also find lemon, lime and some careful stone fruit.

Energetic but very slim and citric driven.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Riesling “Fruhtau” Trocken

From 20-25 year old vines.

Apricot, young pineapples and some lime notes. On the palate we find a fresh mineral bite and some fresh lemon notes.

The wine has a fresh finish. In total an elegant but careful and tight wine.

88p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

To a large extent from the vines on the steep part of Halenberg that was recently recultivated.

Initially some flint notes but then also tropical fruit, mainly stone fruit and some fresh minerals. Pure and precise nose. Zappy lemon acidity with a nice mouthwatering juiciness that stays with us in the finish. Dense and fresh tropical fruit on the palate.

This is a great Riesling wine with both energy and character.

92p/100

We tried this wine a second time in the eventing and it developed fantastically during the hours it was open.

2014 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Halgans Trocken

The wine has some residual sugar (5,7).

The nose shows petroleum and ripe, but still rather careful, fruit notes dominated by pineapple. Juicy but slightly broad acidity combined with apples and tropical fruit on a generous and enjoyable palate.

Long and juicy finish.

88p/100

2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken

The wine that in later vintages is called “Halgans”.2011 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling trocken From a warm year with low acidity.

Rather open and warm nose with ripe tropical fruit and some petroleum notes. Same style is carried over to the palate where we also find some French nougat notes and hints of sweetness. The acidity is rather broad and juicy.

A wine with a more ripe and warm character.

87p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Großes Gewächs

Red slate, gravel and red loam. Age of vines are between 15 and 60 years.

Beautiful nose with apricot and other stone fruit, some apples and a hint of herbs. A both elegant and complex nose with great freshness.

Same notes are found on the palate where we also have a pure and precise acidity with both lime and lemon. The wine is energetic and mouthwatering and should age very well.

94-95p/100

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes Gewächs

2015 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Großes GewächsStony blue slate and quartzite soil, producing small and concentrated grapes.

Dense and complex nose with layers of fruit where pineapple, apricot, lime and lemon are most apparent.

The acidity is rather racy and has lots of lime and lemon notes. This will probably calm down with time.

The wine is already well balanced but has a slightly more austere impression than the Frühlingsplätzchen GG at this time.

There is an amazing potential in this very complex wine, but you will have to be patient.

95-96p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Spätlese

Rather open and ripe nose with saffron, tropical fruit and some sweet notes. Fresh but rather careful lime acidity and some white flowers on the palate.

Pleasant wine with good personality, but it lacks some precision.

88p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese

Slim and precise nose with some light tropical fruit and apples. Precise and fresh lime acidity combined with fresh fruit.

This is a pure and fresh Spätlese in a classical style.

91p/100

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Auslese

2013 Emrich-Schönleber Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling AusleseNotes of honeysuckle, white flowers and some melon. Careful tingling acidity which is just enough to carry the sweetness. On the palate we also find saffron and lime together with some floral notes.

This is rather slim Auslese that manages to stay fresh even with low levels of acidity.

93p/100

Summary:

The wines of Emrich-Schönleber are defined very much by their precise acidity and the pure and fresh fruit. We would consider them to be school book examples of top level German Riesling with a very classical style.

In a year where some producers get very high levels of fruitiness Emrich-Schönleber has managed to keep a very tight profile but still with fantastic fruit notes. We where very impressed by the wines and would recommend them to anyone looking for Riesling wines that can develop well with age.