Germany Vintage 2018 – with a focus on Riesling

  • Kevin 

The VDP had its annual Weinbörse at the prosaically-named Rheingoldhalle in Mainz a few weeks ago. Two days presenting the 2018 vintage (plus selected other wines from previous vintages) to a trade public. The event is always enjoyable, well-organised and a good opportunity to taste a broad cross-section of wines from Germany from many top producers, even if they are all members of the same association and producing under similar guidelines.

The VDP (Verband Deutsche Prädikatsweingüter), for those who do not know, is an association of German wine producers coming from all 13 of the country’s wine-producing regions. It was founded as a regional association in the Rheingau over a hundred years ago with the goal of recognising and encouraging quality producers of dry wines, and with a particular focus on auctions. This encouragement and promotion remains a major aspect of their activities. They have even developed their own quality pyramid, based on the official German system but including some trademarked designations and a focus on dry wines. Recently, they have introduced a new classification for Sekt, the German sparkling wine. In 2019, it counted 195 members. 186 of them were presenting wine in Mainz.

The thing is, most of the wines for which the VDP is most famous – the so-called Grosse Lage, Grosses Gewächs or even the Erste Lage wines – are nowhere near ready for bottling in April. Most of them won’t be filled until at least a year after vintage, sometimes longer. So, at the Weinbörse, the VDP has slowly sharpened its focus on the smaller wines: the Gutswein (estate wines) and Ortswein (village wines). I tasted nearly a hundred of these wines from more than 40 producers. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to the Franken area this year, and I didn’t taste a single Silvaner. Mea Culpa.

A Look Back at 2015

When 2015 came out, the wines were approachable, soft and fun. Great quality was to be had and large volumes were made. I was telling everybody to buy the smaller wines immediately and drink them young – because they were delicious and because they weren’t in for the long haul – while letting previous, tougher vintages rest a while longer. This advice applied particularly to white Pinots. Now, four years on, I am more convinced than ever that this was good advice, though Rieslings still generally have plenty of time.

2018 is Gonna be Great – and Better than 2015

No joke, I think that this vintage is going to be excellent. As with 2015, the wines are already lovely to drink now – and for some of those Rieslings, that’s no easy feat. But unlike 2015, the acidity of most of them was also much more clearly defined, meaning, for me, that these wines are going to age better than 2015 will.

This new vintage, this 2018, offers the same level of hedonistic pleasure as 2015: ripe, healthy fruit, substance and fun. But it offers more: tighter, better-integrated and defined acidity (nothing compared to the levels of some of the 2010s and 2014s, mind you, but that makes 2018 easily better for short and medium-term drinking at the very least) coupled with generally better structure and Trinkfluss, which is a great German word that literally translates as “drink-flow”, but which would best be translated as “quaffability”. You can see why I might prefer the German word, which, while still not elegant, is at least more descriptive.

A Point of Criticism

Weather, generally, is getting less predictable, but summers are getting hotter. The summer of 2018 was not an exception: it was hot. Very hot, in fact. And that means that, without hard work in the vineyards, the grapes can end up bringing a lot of polyphenols into the wine – which, in turn, can make them harsher and bitter. Fortunately, it seems that Germany learned the lessons of 2003, with its unbelievably hot vintage, very well. With a few surprising, notable exceptions, most of the estates I tasted did excellent work, and so there were no problems with their wines.

2018s Tasted

All wines are Riesling, unless otherwise noted. “FP” indicates that the wine was a barrel sample (Fassprobe in German).

Rheingau

Peter Jakob Kühn

  • Lenchen Kabinett – Grosse Lage
  • Lenchen Spätlese – Grosse Lage
  • Lenchen Auslese – Grosse Lage

Künstler

  • Hochheimer Herrenberg – Erste Lage
  • Hochheimer Kirchenstück – Erste Lage
  • Hochheimer Hölle – Erste Lage
  • Hochheimer Stielweg Alte Reben – Erste Lage

Balthasar Ress

  • Hattenheim – Ortswein

F.B. Schönleber Wein- und Sektgut

  • Oestricher Klosterberg Alte Reben – Erste Lage
  • Mittelheimer Edelmann Bestes Fass – Erste Lage

Domdechant Werner’sches Weingut

  • Domdechant Werner Trocken – Gutswein
  • Domdechant Werner Feinherb Classic – Gutswein
  • Domdechant Werner Kabinett Trocken – Gutswein
  • Hochheim Kabinett – Ortswein
  • Hochheimer Kirchenstück (+) – Erste Lage
  • Hochheimer Dompräsenz – Erste Lage
  • Hölle, Hochheim – Spätlese – Grosse Lage

Rheinhessen

Gunderloch

  • Vom Roten Schiefer – Gutswein
  • Jean Baptiste Feinherb – Gutswein
  • Nierstein FP – Erste Lage
  • Nackenheim FP – Erste Lage
  • Rothenberg Auslese – Grosse Lage

Nahe

Emrich Schönleber

  • Mineral – Gutswein
  • Monzingen, Frühtau – Ortswein
  • Monzinger Niederberg – Erste Lage

Kruger-Rumpf

  • Schiefer – Gutswein
  • Münster – Ortswein
  • Münsterer Kappellenberg – Erste Lage
  • Im Pitterberg Kabinett – Grosse Lage
  • Im Pitterberg Spätlese – Grosse Lage
  • Dautenpflänzer Spätlese – Grosse Lage

Schäfer-Fröhlich

  • Vulkangestein FP
  • Bockenau Schiefergestein FP – Ortswein
  • Bockenau Reinherb Schiefergestein FP – Ortswein
  • Felseneck, Bockenau Kabinett FP – Grosse Lage
  • Felseneck, Bockenau Spätlese FP – Grosse Lage
  • Felseneck, Bockenau Spätlese Goldkapsel FP – Grosse Lage
  • Felseneck, Bockenau Auslese FP – Grosse Lage

Mittelrhein

Bastian

  • Posten Spätlese – Grosse Lage

Toni Jost

  • Toni Jost – Gutswein
  • Devon S
  • Bacharacher Hahn Kabinett – Erste Lage
  • Bacharacher Hahn Auslese – Erste Lage

Pfalz

Dr. Bürklin-Wolf

  • Wachenheimer Böhlig P.C. FP – Erste Lage
  • Ruppertsberger Hoheburg P.C. FP – Erste Lage

A Christmann

  • Pfalz – Gutswein
  • Gimmeldingen – Ortswein
  • Neustadt V. FP – Ortswein
  • Gimmeldinger Kapellenberg FP – Erste Lage
  • Königsbacher Ölberg FP – Erste Lage

Müller-Cattoir

  • MC – Gutswein
  • Haardt – Ortswein
  • Haardt SCHEUREBE Trocken – Ortswein
  • Haardter Bürgergarten – Erste Lage
  • Haardter Herzog RIESLANER Auslese – Erste Lage

Ökonomierate Rebholz

  • Pfalz – Gutswein
  • Vom Buntsandstein
  • Vom Rotliegenden
  • Frankweiler Biengarten – Erste Lage

Baden

Bercher

  • Sasbacher Limburg WEIßBURGUNDER – Erste Lage

Saar

Peter Lauer

  • Ayl – Ortswein
  • Ayl Feinherb – Ortswein
  • Kupp – Stirn – Grosse Lage
  • Kupp, Ayl – Kabinett Trocken – Grosse Lage
  • Kupp, Ayl – Spätlese – Grosse Lage
  • Versteigerungswein Kabinett

Ruwer

Karthäuserhof

  • Fein & Herb – Gutswein
  • Schieferkristall – Gutswein
  • Alte Reben – Gutswein
  • Tyrell’s Edition – Gutswein
  • Karthäuserhofberg Kabinett Feinherb – Grosse Lage
  • Karthäuserhofberg Kabinett – Grosse Lage
  • Karthäuserhofberg Spätlese – Grosse Lage
  • Karthäuserhofberg Auslese No. 53 – Grosse Lage

Maximin Grünhaus

  • Herrenberg Kabinett – Grosse Lage
  • Abtsberg Spätlese – Grosse Lage
  • Abtsberg Auslese FP – Grosse Lage

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