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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
19 May 2017

From €8.50, £12.50, 129 Swedish Krone, 18.50 Swiss francs, $21.98 

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At this time of year as temperatures rise in the northern hemisphere, our thoughts turn Rieslingwards. On our members' forum, they are rarely anywhere else, to judge from this thread on Which German wine have you drunk this week? with its 2,500 posts.

Today's wine is the most basic Riesling produced by Gunter Künstler of Hochheim (apart from their Riesling in litre bottles), but it certainly doesn't taste like it. It has the density and richness of the wines that inspired the term 'hock' but finishes bone dry. There is dramatic tension in this 12.5% wine from a fine vintage and my recent tasting note taken at this Wine Society tasting reads:

'Really rich and nervy. Fully ready and with great confidence and masses of fruit and powdered pimento spice but a dry end. Perfect food Riesling. More interest in this sort of wine please. VGV' (very good value).

I gave it a score of 16.5 out of 20 and suggested drinking it 2016-2019.

When our German specialist Michael Schmidt, who has just finished his report on the nearly 200 VDP 2016s he tasted last month, wrote this about the wine a year ago:

'Delightful fragrance of acacia blossom and spring flowers may lead you to believe that this is going to be a pussycat of a trocken, but on the palate the dry estate Riesling is quite taut, fresh with acidity and almost like licking a salt cube. '

He gave it 16 and suggested drinking it 2016-2018.

Marcel Orford-Williams, The Wine Society buyer responsible for Germany, currently touring the cellars tasting 2016s, reports on this wine, 'from a buying point of view what is striking are the efforts being made in making very presentable estate wines or Gutswein on the one hand and village or Ortswein. The Künstler Riesling is just the entry level wine but it often comes from several top sites though not necessarily the oldest vines. Of course there are wines with more bells and whistles but this is pretty good for a house Riesling.'

Gunter Künstler, pictured above by Jon Wyand, is no fan of spontaneous fermentation but makes famously precise wines from vines that are admirably senior. We benefit from his fastidiousness and his vineyard plots in an array of top sites including Domdechaney, Hölle, Kirchenstück, Reichestal, Stein, Stielweg and Weiss Erd because of a quirk of history. His family founded a winery in what is now the Czech Republic in the seventeenth century but were expelled from the country, as German speakers, after the Second World War and had to rebuild from scratch in Hochheim. The Rheingau winery was founded by Gunter's father Franz in 1965. Gunter took over in 1992 and two years later they were admitted to the VDP group of top producers.

Hochheim, at the eastern end of the Rheingau, is affected by its proximity to both the Rhine and the river Main so is relatively humid, which makes organic viticulture a challenge although Künstler is certainly moving in that direction. He has recently added leased vineyards in Rüdesheim at the other end of the Rheingau just to keep him off the streets.

The grapes for this blend came from the Stein and Stielweg sites in Hochheim, both classified as Erste Lagen (top sites), and St Kiliansberg in Kostheim and 40% of the wine was made in large old oak casks. The residual sugar is just over 6 g/l, as is the total acidity, making a fine well-balanced, very approachable whole. 

You can order this wine directly from the winery at €9.90 via this online link. It's widely available in Germany of course, in some cases at a lower price, but is also listed by wine-searcher.com in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and widely in the US, where Terry Theise imports the wines of Künstler. In the UK it is sold by The Wine Society at £12.50 and tastes very much finer than a basic Riesling.

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