If you ask aficionados about the best producers of Riesling in Germany, 4 names will invariably comes up: Egon Muller in Scharzhofberg, JJ Prum in the Mosel, RobertWeil in the Rheingau and Helmut Donnhoff in the Nahe. Donnhoff’s reputation has gone from legendary to mythic in the last 10 years. He is the total master of the complex vineyard sites he farms in the relatively obscure region of the Nahe. This smallish region, named for its central river, is located right in the middle between the Mosel on its west and the Rheinhessen on its east. Its flavors and scents are quite distinctive from its larger and better know neighbors. Indeed a stony, pronounced minerality marks the best wines of the Nahe giving them sensory properties which are akin to high mineral regions in France like Chablis and Chassagne Montrachet. And no producer captures this salty minerality better than Donnhoff.
His family has owned vineyard lands since the middle of the 18th century. Helmut’s first vintage, serendipitously, was 1971, one of the greatest vintages in the history of German wines. He has added to his family’s estate and now owns 50 acres of vineyard land spread among no fewer than 10 vineyards. Donnhoff makes Rieslings which range from completely dry to totally botrytised and everything in between. His favorite level of ripeness is what the Germans label as Spatlese (late picked). It is at this level that the balance of fruit, acidity, sugar and minerality can be in ideal. A unique feature of the German viticultural approach is that it allows Rieslings to be picked for between 8 and 10 levels of ripeness and balance. In no other region of the world can the vignerons fashion so many differently balanced wines from the same grape and vineyard site. Donnhoff is not a flash guy ands his wines, like the man, are the epitome of elegance, intelligence and quiet intensity. Once you get to know them, they are likely to become a permanent part of your wine drinking future.
The wine we are recommending has a very long name which you will forgive once you smell and taste this dense and mouth coating Spatlese from the demanding 2006 vintage, Donnhoff’s favorite since 1971. The Felsenberg vineyard is full of quartz and is farmed organically. One of the most intriguing qualities of the wine is the way is the way the salty minerality balances the lush peachy, pit fruits texture of the wine. The bouquet is inviting yet restrained. The sweetness is in the background not the foreground, just the way Donnhoff likes his Rieslings. Quite apart from being a delight to imbibe on its own, the wine will enhance most spicy preparations and will work well with many vegetable dishes and most cheeses. About 10% in alcohol, the wine is as easy on the body as it is satisfying to drink. By the way, Donnhoff’s wine age beautifully and are often at their best with 6-10 years of bottle age. So buy a few for now and some for future pleasure. When you return to the wine you will be very glad you had the wisdom to let it age.
2006 Schlossbockelheimer Felsenberg Riesling Spatlese $44/bottle