A couple of weeks ago I went to the Germany Unplugged tasting; an event featuring up-and-coming producers of largely dry and red wines. Much to my intense annoyance, I loved it and had a whale of a time.
I’d planned loads of brilliant jokes like ‘the most loathsome collection of Germans assembled since the Nuremberg trials’, plus one unrepeatable one about extraction and fillings. Alas, the wines were so good (with a couple of exceptions) I’m afraid I’m going to have to be nice again.
Germany Unplugged showed the main key to this success is that their dry wines are a bit less dry than when the fad for Trockens exploded. The initial offerings were severe and unbalanced. Now with a bit more residual sugar the wines have harmony and are more similar to the semi-sweet Rieslings I adore.
One thing about Germany Unplugged was that it was largely of affordable wines and it made clear Germany can do ‘value’ extremely well. I mostly talked to producers about ex-cellar prices and if you go and visit these people you’ll be able to drink quality with your lunch every day. There were also a few really fine wines and Germany continues to perform at the top end of the market.
I won’t go through every wine, but four producers really stood out.
Bimmerle was rated the third best estate in Baden in 2011 (you can see Siegbert modelling his award here). He performed right from the bottom of his range with a delicious 2011 Pinot Blanc (Weisser Burgunder) Kabinett Trocken. It was crisp and fruity with far more character and class than any Italian Pinot Bianco and, strangely, more personality than his Pinot Gris.
He showed two 2010 Klingelberg Vineyard Rieslings, a Kabinett and a Spatlese, and these were both extremely classy. Dry and with enough body to be excellent food wines but finely balanced due to their hint of residual sugar. At the prices they were offered for these were excellent drinking that would keep you quite interested as you necked them with brunch.
We tried two of his 2009 Pinot Noirs (Spatburgunder), the basic and Im Holzfass gereift. I was so utterly pissed off that I enjoyed them. They were not the most complex Pinots in the world, but they showed plenty of the hedonistic ravishment one hopes from this most charming of red grapes. The voluptuousness of the 2009 vintage seemed to suit the style of these wines immensely.
The charming Jörn Goziewski showed his wines from Ankermuehle in the Rheingau with under-stated modesty – they were really impressive. Rather than lumber his Rieslings with complex vineyard and ripeness titles he named them simply Joseph, Maria, Hase and Gabriel in order of increasing quality – and by bums did they.
The Joseph started out being remarkably drinkable with plenty of Rheingau style and sophistication. Yet, by the time Editor Daniel and I reached the Gabriel, which was a ‘mere’ Spatlese, we were utterly smitten and trying to arrange times to visit this lovely fellow. These were wines you can easily afford and yet drink with real engagement and deep pleasure.
Matthias Runkel made wines with skill and style that bellied his youthful years – I’ve rarely had generic Rheinhessen wines more joyfully quaffable. The 2011 Pinot Blanc was perfectly balanced and bursting with more peachy ripeness than one could reasonably ask from this grape variety. It was also highly affordable.
I loved the 2011 Riesling which was a nervy entity of fruit, acid, some richness and enough minerality. It was also a bargain but sod that is was just the kind of thing you want to drink on regular occasions.
His 2011 Gewurztraminer was as good as a reasonably priced example of this grape variety can get, but I thought his 2009 Pinot Noir was hilariously fun. Some may find it a bit boozy, but I thought the ripe fruit coupled with just rigorous enough tannins made this a real hoot to drink. If you are one of those people who like putting red wine in the fridge and drinking it outside in the summer, which I can sort of understand as long as you live in Alice Springs, then this would be the Platonic ideal for a wine to do this with. It would also make being in Alice Springs infinitely less horrible. He was a lovely fellow, too, and we want to buy wine from lovely fellows.
Finally, I discovered a stunning new producer from my favourite German region, the Mosel valley: Loersch-Eifel. He has produced the best Trittenheimer Apotheke I have ever tasted; it is a stunningly good-looking and frighteningly steep vineyard that has been farmed by under-achievers for far too long. There was smashing quality across the range – even the basic 2010 Blauschiefer Riesling would be hard to beat for superior quality at an embarrassingly low price.
From the serious vineyard itself the 2010 Vogelsang Riesling was an intense delight of direct elegance, totally lovely with one of the most strangely attractive labels I’ve ever seen (pictured). This was utterly eclipsed by the 2010 Devon Terrassen Riesling Spatlese, which was probably the best Mosel Valley Trocken I have ever tried. Perfect balance, with life, energy and wondrous fruit.
The 2010 Apotheke Alte Reben Riesling Auslese was in a more traditional sweet style and could happily sit at a table in a flash three-star and dine with any of the Mosel’s very finest Auslesen. I knew this vineyard could be good, but I wasn’t expecting such fireworks. He also showed a Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese from this vineyard in 2007 and they were far more successful than most producers’ efforts with wines this sweet. Even the great Willi Schaefer wouldn’t be ashamed of making BA’s and TBA’s like this. I will visit him, I will buy his wines and I will drink them with extraordinary pleasure.
It wouldn’t be Elitistreview if I didn’t hurl invective at the filth, so here goes. Thorle’s 2010 Saulheimer Riesling Kalkstein and Probstey Riesling were so boringly simple that if they had any less dimension they wouldn’t actually have existed. I tried these two wines first so they really made me think all of my very worst jokes about Germans wouldn’t be offensive enough.
Wassmer excelled at being nauseous. Their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc would make the most aggressively acrid New Zealand Sauvignon look like something that you could possibly almost consider drinking when visiting your least favourite relative to prevent you from hacking them to death with the large framed picture of them ego-centrically displayed on the mantelpiece. But that made their 2010 oaked Viognier look nice. I was torn between kneeing him in the rude bits in furious anger and shaking his hand in impressed awe at the application required to produce something so unspeakably loathsome.
Those, fortunately, were the exceptions; most of the wines were good. The ones I’ve talked about really delivered in the all-important pleasure department. If, like me, you have dismissed German Trockens and bemoaned the odd desire some Germans have shown to throw away their laudably stylistic oenological heritage then look again and try some of these wines. They won’t melt the credit card and you’ll be as irked and gobsmacked at how good they are as I was.