A miracle of wine service

30 Aug - See below for a response re the proliferation of red wine grapes in Nierstein.

On Monday, Michael Schmidt and I sat side by side at your service on the first of this year's two-day unveiling (the timing having been much discussed on this red-hot thread in our forum) of the VDP's latest crop of Grosses Gewächs and similar wines in the old Kurhaus in the stately German spa town of Wiesbaden.

I'd been to this event before to taste my way through the 2005 whites. On Monday I tasted a slew of 2011 whites and a handful of 2010 reds – we will of course we publishing our tasting notes. Although we probably tasted approaching 100 wines each on Monday (and Michael was able to stay on for a second day's tasting yesterday), it could not have been in more comfortable conditions. As you can see in the video below, the setting is light and quiet. I can tell you that although temperatures outside were quite high, we tasters and the wines were suitably cool. And, when hunger struck, all we had to do was amble to the atmospheric Kurhaus restaurant nearby for a sustaining two-course lunch served, when we liked, with admirable speed.

But the best thing of all is that we tasters simply sit there and order wines to be brought to our seats by the bevy of efficient servers you will see in black. They carry bottles in six packs, all perfectly numbered within numbered fights. I never waited more than a minute for my next flight of wines to be delivered. There were ample supplies of water, good bread rolls, and power for our laptops, wherever in this vast hall we were sitting.

We were all sent the complete tasting line-up in advance so that we could plan our tasting. And were supplied with the little sheets shown top left on which we were to note our place and which flight we wanted to taste.

I caused terrible confusion because I wanted to pick and choose so much, so was asking for wines from more than one flight at a time. Chaos! But I take my hat off to the organisers and would ask anyone else organising a big tasting to look and learn below. (If you look carefully you can see some leading wine lights...)

Oh, and yes, there were some really very impressive wines indeed.  

The oddest sight of my three days in Germany was the extent to which the famous Roter Hang slopes above Nierstein in the Rheinhessen are now planted with red wine grapes – a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and masses of Blaufränkisch/Lemberger.

Felix Peters of St Antony in Nierstein responded by return to this last comment:

Today I found your fantastic article about the Grosses Gewächs Vorpremiere in Wiesbaden and your short comment on the plantation of red varieties in the Roter Hang.

Indeed this seems to be an odd story. And since St Antony is the only winery which is recently planting red grapes in the grand cru parcels I, of course, can nothing else than feel myself personally referred to.

So we are talking about Nierstein [not neighbouring Nackenheim which I originally cited – JR] and especially about the Pettenthal, the Hipping, and the Brudersberg. I, of course, could now intone an ode to the perfection of the Roter Hang and to the red slate as the perfect terroir for Riesling. But you know what? So many others do and this is by no means helpful for those who really work in the Roter Hang. There is also another reality.

All in all St Antony owns about 32 ha in the grand cru parts of the Roter Hang. We are by far the largest producer of high quality wines here and by that make thousands of micro experiences every year with the heterogenity of the slopes. For example, we own one fourth of the whole Pettenthal area and nearly each tiny plot has a different typicity. In my opinion, this is what makes the Roter Hang so special and also so difficult to work in. And this is by far more fascinating than any ode you can intone. Because it is reality.

There are many influences on the vine in the very special Roter Hang such as underground watercourses, special expositions, global warming, changing sunlight radiation intensity in combination with the dark red surface, and so on. To make a long story short: in the Roter Hang there are vineyards that are perfect for Riesling and there are other – thank God, only a few! – vineyards or better: parcels that are either too warm or too wet underground, or even both of them, for Riesling. There we planted red grapes and I still believe after scientific investigations and analysis that they provide perfect requirements for red varieties. In 2011 we had the first 'red' results and I´m actually very happy with it. And when you look at Austria and taste some of the great Blaufränkisch grown on slate you can maybe imagine where we are heading to. Or at least want to head to…

In case you are interested in further information, I would be more than happy to provide an insight view onto our experiences and even our scientific approach and results.

In the next few weeks I would like to invite you to a special tasting in August 2013 (corresponding with the Vorpremiere Grosses Gewächs in Wiesbaden) where we show the past, the present and also the future of the Roter Hang. In case you don’t know: St Antony is the owner of the largest cellar with wines from the Roter Hang from the 20th century (and even older). That refers to wines from Franz Karl Schmitt, St Antony and also the famous Heyl zu Herrnsheim. And most of the vineyards the vines grew on are now the property of St Antony. As soon as the VDP informs us on the exact date of the Vorpremiere Grosse Gewächs 2013 I would like to get in contact with you.