TastingTerra preta for the vineyardAndreas Huppert and the black earth of the IndiesResearchers stumbled upon a mystery in the Amazon region at the end of the 19th century. They discovered a deeply dark but extremely fertile soil that did not at all fit the natural conditions. The soils of the tropical rainforests are anything but rich in nutrients. The researchers found answers among the Indians. Already thousands of years ago, the indigenous people practised shifting cultivation with slash-and-burn methods. To improve the fertility of the soil, they mixed plant residues, composted waste, human faeces and plant charcoal. Through fermentation, this resulted in terra preta, the black earth.TastingFrom green to scarletThe geologically unique vineyards of Prinz SalmAs Germany's oldest family-owned winery, Prinz Salm looks back on a history dating back to the year 1200. Until the beginning of the 21st century, the winery concentrated on vineyards in and around Wallhausen. In 2008, Michael Prinz Salm-zu Salm took over the vineyards of the former winery Villa Sachsen in Bingen. This means that the current owner, Felix Prinz zu Salm-Salm, not only has top vineyards on the Nahe, but also in neighbouring Rhinehessen. The green slate in Wallhausen and the scarlet soil of the Bingen Scharlachberg are unique.TastingTypicality trumps handwritingStefan Steinmetz: From insider tip to top producerStefan Steinmetz owes his rise to the top of Germany's best winemakers not least to his sure instinct for what the French call terroir, which in this country has unfortunately degenerated into an empty word bubble. There is hardly anyone else who works out differences between vineyard sites and vintages as transparent and comprehensible as he does.TastingIt does not always have to be Champagne!German sparkling wine producers on the upswingGermany is and remains the world champion. Not in soccer, but in sparkling wine consumption. Around 3.2 million hectolitres of sparkling wine flow down German throats every year. This corresponds to a per capita consumption of 3.8 litres. It's not as good as beer, but it's not bad. No wonder that more and more wineries in the country are increasingly focusing on sparkling wine production and producing better and better sparkling wines. It is also no wonder that German sparkling wines no longer have to fear comparison with French champagnes in terms of quality.TastingOn the trail of the RomansThe resurrection of the Vinum HadrianumIt was his grandfather who once awakened Piero Pavone's fascination for Roman history. In Pavone's hometown, the small town of Atri at the foot of the Abruzzi, the ancient Hadria, this history is still omnipresent and alive today. As a young man, Piero Pavone was initially drawn away from Atri to the big city. But twenty years later he returned to his roots, with the idea of reviving the Vinum Hadrianum, the wine from Roman times.TastingHarteneck reinvents himselfNatural wines from the MarkgräflerlandAs in other regions of Baden, viticulture in the Markgräflerland is primarily carried out by the winegrowers' cooperatives. Unfortunately, the cooperatives still have a hard time with the topic of ecology. Anyone who drives along the vineyards through the region during the growing season can hardly miss the consequences of blanket herbicide application. Thomas Harteneck takes a different approach. Born in the Palatinate, he settled in Schliengen in 1997 and is one of the pioneers of biodynamic viticulture in Baden.TastingFoam from the shore of Lake GardaFour remarkable sparkling wines from Northern ItalyLake Garda is the largest inland lake in Italy. While it is surrounded to the north, west and east by the foothills of the Alps, which reach up to 2000 metres, the southern shore already lies in the lowlands of the Po. Three wine-growing regions border the lake, and sparkling wine production has a long tradition in all of them. We present four sparkling wines for everyday domestic use. Three rosés and one single-varietal Chardonnay. From extra dry to extra brut.TastingIn Loreley's landSleeping Beauty Middle RhineThe Rhine covers 130 river kilometres between Bingen and Bonn. Along this stretch, in the Middle Rhine and its side valleys, there are currently only around 470 hectares of vineyards still in production. Because the steep slopes were difficult to cultivate and land consolidation was hardly possible, a good two-thirds of the original vineyard area disappeared by the end of the 1970s. For some years now, however, the situation seems to have stabilised. At the same time, there is hope that a young generation of winegrowers will breathe new life into the Middle Rhine again. Here and there, the recultivation of old, abandoned terraced sites on the steep slopes has already begun and is counteracting the loss of further acreage.TastingFinally ortsweine!Paradigm shift at Dr. HegerUnlike some others in the industry, Joachim Heger from Ihringen has always strictly and consistently separated his wine lines. While the Dr. Heger winery almost exclusively offers wines from the single vineyards of the Kaiserstuhl, which are characterised by volcanic rock, the Weinhaus Joachim Heger primarily processes the grapes grown on loess soil from a producer association. Recently, however, the winery put four bottlings on sale for the first time as Ihringer ortsweine without indicating the single vineyard. We have tasted them.TastingGermany's first “climate vintner”Our discovery in the Kraichgau: David KlenertDavid Klenert is Germany's first “climate vintner”. His winery in Kraichtal-Münzesheim, founded in 2015, is not only certified organic, the young winemaker even goes one step further. His approach to improving the quality of the soil and thus helping to reduce global CO2 consumption initially led him to a farmer friend. From there he adopted ideas from regenerative agriculture, with the aim of gradually increasing the natural humus content of his vineyard soils from the current 1.5 to up to four percent. Depending on the soil type, this corresponds to a binding of an additional 70 to 130 tonnes of CO2 per hectare.TastingPascal Oberhofer takes offGeneration change in the traditional Palatinate wineryAt the time of the French Revolution, they were almost 200 years old. The vines in the Rhodt Rosengarten, mainly Gewürztraminer, are still standing today. The phylloxera and two world wars could not harm them. The Oberhofer family, whose ancestors once came to the Palatinate from South Tyrol, owns what is probably the world's oldest vineyard still in production. The Oberhofers have been cultivating their vineyards organically since 2008. This is not to change in the course of the current generation change – step by step, the 25-year-old junior Pascal is taking over the business.TastingNiederberg's Helden (Heroes)Schloss Lieser and Thanisch in blind tastingThey live in the same village, cultivate their vines in the same vineyards and are even friends with each other. In the past decades, both have played a significant role in polishing up the reputation of the Lieser vineyards. We tasted a representative cross-section of this year's Riesling collection, the 2018 vintage, from both wineries. However, the question was less about which winery would end up on top of the winner's podium. Rather, it was about recognising individual strengths, stylistic differences and different concepts in dealing with a hot-climate year that in a few decades could be representative of viticulture in the second half of the 21st century.TastingMartin Gerlach's restart on the Lower MoselleA first stocktaking after the merger of Gerlachs Mühle and von SchleinitzMartin Gerlach was and is the owner of the Gerlachs Mühle winery on the Lower Moselle. When the possibility of a merger with the traditional von Schleinitz estate presented itself to him two years ago, he jumped at the chance. The “merger on trial” planned for the first few years, however, already promises to be a complete success. With the first vintage of the two united wineries, Martin Gerlach has already made a remarkable new start.TastingThe single vineyards' common threadGeological diversity in the Tesch wineryThe Tesch winery in Langenlonsheim can look back on a good three hundred years of history. The winery is a prime example of the successful synthesis of tradition and modernity. The microbiologist, who holds a doctorate, consistently cut off old habits. He banned the obsolete natural cork in favour of a screw cap and left the regional association of the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter on the Nahe because his marketing concept did not fit the ideology of the elitist association. However, Tesch is by no means an avant-gardist. Rather, he knows how to present his dry Rieslings in a contemporary style. These, in turn, show no stylistic ingratiation with the zeitgeist. On the contrary. Soils, exposure of the vineyards, microclimate and vintage are reflected unadulterated in the six single vineyard wines.Tasting25 vintages estate RieslingRobert Weil impresses with a vertical of a special kindIn case of the Robert Weil estate, most wine journalists agree: it is one of the best Riesling producers in Germany. However, there was and is not only praise in the wine scene. Especially in the area of litre wines and estate Rieslings, there is always criticism of fillings that do not meet the high standards of the house. An on-site tasting in August 2018 at least answered the question of what excellence the winery is capable of.TastingAha, the Ahr!Germany's northern red wine paradiseIn German, the interjection Aha! stands for a sudden insight or realisation. But Aha is also a Celtic word from which the name of the river Ahr is derived. It means as much as water. Aha, the Ahr! therefore seemed to us to be a fitting title for our themed tasting in two respects, because the past year, which was for us dominated by the Pinot Noirs and Pinot Noirs Précoces (locally known as Frühburgunder) from Germany's small red wine paradise, gave us plenty of deep insights and findings. For Aha, the Ahr! we tasted over 150 wines. As a rule, we had two bottles of each wine which we subjected to a total of four individual tests. Two of these tests were carried out as part of a blind tasting.TastingMosella patria vini sicciMoselle Rieslings with a dry flavour profileA good 150 years ago, when Rieslings from the Moselle achieved higher international prices than red wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy, noble sweet top wines played only a secondary role. Auslesen, Beerenauslesen and Trockenbeerenauslesen were extremely rare. At the time, it were mainly Rieslings with a dry flavour that made the winegrowers of the Moselle, Saar and Ruwer successful. It was not until after the Second World War that the region gained great importance as a source of outstanding fruity and noble sweet wines. The production of great dry Rieslings largely came to a standstill. But after the end of the sweet wine wave, the focus is increasingly back on dry Rieslings. We look into the question of whether the Moselle region can resume its old tradition.TastingDraught horse HEPalatinate Pinot Noirs in Burgundian style“Prago”, “Arthos”, “Melandor”. This is how winemaker Uli Metzger from Grünstadt-Asselheim calls his three best Pinot Noirs. Their first vintage, 2012, is now sold out at the winery. Not least because “Arthos” was one of the winning wines at the VINUM German Red Wine Award last year. The young 2013s are already tasting very promising and even indicate an increase compared to the previous year. However, there is not much room for improvement. Uli Metzger's advisor knows that, too. For Hans Erich Dausch, the three Pinot Noirs are in the same league as the best red wines of Burgundy. Dausch can judge that. He knows Burgundy like the back of his hand and is a welcome guest at Romanée-Conti. In his Palatinate homeland, he is better known by his abbreviation HE than by his civil name.TastingThe Wachau in motionStepping on the botrytis brakeFor a long time, anyone looking for the best dry Rieslings in the world could hardly avoid the Wachau. Names like F. X. Pichler, Franz Hirtzberger or Emmerich Knoll filled the glossy pages of wine magazines for decades. Their Smaragd wines, grown on the slopes and steep slopes of the Danube valley between Melk and Krems, fetched top prices. They still do, but more than a few wineries in the region have recently complained about dwindling interest in their wines. The trend towards leaner, lower-alcohol wines proved incompatible with the opulent, high-alcohol and often botrytised Rieslings and Grüne Veltliners produced here. So the Wachau is a hopeless case? Not at all. For our tasting, we specifically searched for winemakers whose wines meet the contemporary desire of wine drinkers for fine, elegant white wines with a moderate alcohol content.TastingIt cannot be more Rotliegend!The renaissance of the Rhine frontThe vineyards of the Roter Hang have probably the greatest potential within Rhinehessen to produce great and individual wines. From Nackenheim to the Nierstein district of Schwabsburg, a formation of Rotliegend runs through the vineyards of the Rhine front, giving the wines, especially the Rieslings, their distinctive and sometimes highly individual character. In the 19th century, the wines from the Roter Hang enjoyed worldwide renown and fetched top prices at international auctions. Afterwards, however, viticulture on the Rhine front fell more and more into a largely home-made crisis. For some years now, however, the winegrowers of the Roter Hang have been increasingly pushing their way back into the limelight.TastingCool StyriaWhite wines from Austria's southeastIn Styria, south of Graz, the majority of white grape varieties grow on 4200 hectares of vineyards. The cool hilly sites produce elegant and highly mineral wines that do not appear fat and correspond to what many wine lovers appreciate. Sauvignon Blanc in particular sets international standards. Mind you, we do not mean the representatives of the Steirische Klassik, which often look like overseas Sauvignons in terms of style, but rather selected terroir and site single vineyard wines that are more reminiscent of the French Loire than of New Zealand, without sacrificing their distinctive flavour. In addition, great wines are also produced from the Chardonnay called Morillon here.TastingBetween Vienne and ValenceWhite and red wines from the Northern RhôneGeologically and climatically, the northern part of the Côtes du Rhône differs significantly from the southern. Between Vienne in the north and Valence in the south, the river flows through a valley bordered by the foothills of the Massif Central in the west and the Alps in the east. On the sometimes very steep, often terraced slopes, Syrah is mainly grown as the only red wine variety permitted in the various appellations. The share of white wines has increased in recent years and is now almost 20 percent. The main grape variety here is Viognier. However, Marsanne Blanche and Roussanne are also gaining some importance.TastingGermany turns redPinot Noir on the riseAs recently as 2002, American wine critic Robert M. Parker claimed, “German Pinot Noir is a grotesque and ghastly wine that tastes like a flawed, sweet, faded, watered-down red Burgundy from an incompetent producer.” This statement was already absurd and wrong at the time. Today, more than ten years later, it is even more so. More and more producers can score with their Pinot Noirs in this country. We introduce you to some new stars in the German Pinot Noir sky.TastingBlaufränkisch – The next generationAustrian's red wine slims downAustrian red wines have a hard time in this country. Almost ineradicable in the minds of consumers is the idea that they are always ponderous wines disfigured by new wood to the point of being unrecognisable as a grape variety, as was still common in the nineties. We still have the impression that many producers give priority to concentration over elegance. But in the meantime, a counter-current to the mainstream is forming. Blaufränkisch, an autochthonous Austrian grape variety, benefits not least from this, as it needs neither abundant alcohol nor exaggerated wood make-up to produce convincing, tannin-rich red wines with fine acidity.TastingDer klitzekleine Ring hits the VDPSteep slope rescue on behalf of RieslingThe Bernkasteler Ring, also known as the Kleiner Ring, was founded in 1899 as an association of winery owners from the Middle Moselle. Since 1901, it has organized wine auctions for its members. It is thus the oldest society in the region to hold wine auctions. Today, the Bernkasteler Ring also includes estates on the Saar and Ruwer rivers. A few years later, in 1908, the Großer Ring formed as a second large winegrowers' association, which first auctioned wines in 1910. The Großer Ring later gave rise to the regional Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer, now the Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter (VDP). A completely different approach is taken by Der klitzekleine Ring, founded in 2005. As the name suggests, the group, which currently comprises ten wineries, does not take itself too seriously.Tasting… at the end, the Germans always winThe Pinot Noir country competitionAlthough the Pinot Noir is better suited than any other red wine variety to produce unique and incomparable, elegant, finesse-rich and multi-layered wines in a comparatively cool climate, after the Second World War German winegrowers mainly produced pale-coloured, thin drinks smelling of raspberry syrup. It was not until the 1980s that a few ambitious German winegrowers began to think about cultivating and developing Pinot Noir. They drastically reduced yields, separated from inferior high-yielding clones and perfected barrique ageing. Only gradually did this work bear fruit. Today, as our blind tasting shows, German Pinot Noirs are quite capable of not only catching up with their Burgundian competitors, but in some cases even surpassing them in quality.TastingRefugium WürzgartenUngrafted and uniqueAs one of only a few vineyards in Germany and on the Middle Moselle, the Ürzig Würzgarten is still home to a significant proportion of ungrafted Riesling vines that often have an age of 100 years or more. Even in weaker or more difficult years, these vines, which are perfectly adapted to their environment, produce top quality. Characteristic of the Würzgarten Rieslings is a complex, strikingly spicy minerality and a very fine, sometimes juicy fruit, often reminiscent of ripe peach, apricot and nectarine. We have tasted a number of dry, delicate, fruity and sweet Rieslings from the Ürziger spice garden. In addition to matured crus from the 1990s, the focus was also on the current vintages from 2007 to 2010.The Würzgarten Rieslings showed how excellently they can mature and still shine with youthful brilliance even after 20 years.Tasting90 percent RieslingThe Ruwer trumpsThe vineyards in the Ruwer valley belong to the Moselle wine-growing region, which was still called Mosel-Saar-Ruwer until the law was changed in 2006. Riesling dominates the steep slopes. A proud 90 percent of the area is planted with the noble white wine grape. Nowhere else is the proportion of Riesling in the grape variety list higher. Although the filigree and subtle Rieslings from the Ruwer are very similar to those from the Moselle and Saar, they have their own distinctive character. As a result of a longer growing season and lower average temperatures compared to the Moselle Valley, the Ruwer Rieslings are much more acidic and have a pronounced green herbaceous aroma, especially in cooler years.TastingPinot Noir speaks GermanFour countries – one varietyThe fact that world-class Pinot Noirs are now occasionally produced in Germany, the land of white wines, is nothing new to many connoisseurs of the subject, even if wine drinkers, especially those with a Francophile bent, often elevate the supposed original from Burgundy to the dubious measure of all things. They tend to ignore the fact that, in addition to the chalky soils of Burgundy, the slate slopes of the Ahr and the red sandstone soils of Franconia, for example, also produce impressive and very distinctive Pinot Noirs that have no need to hide on the international stage. The Pinot Noirs from Switzerland, which also have a say in the race among the best “German-speaking” representatives of the grape variety, are mostly completely unknown in this country and were virtually unavailable in Germany until recently. But not only in Germany and Switzerland, also in parts of Austria and South Tyrol excellent Pinot Noirs are produced.