These 85 tasting notes were taken in August 2015 during a visit to the Pfalz and Rheinhessen regions. Together, they ably demonstrate the full diversity of German winemaking – for more details, read my accompanying article Pfalz pretences.
The tasting notes are arranged in alphabetical order by producer (sur)name, then in order of tasting.
WEINGUT AM NIL
12 months on lees. 3,000 bottles made.
Smart, sharp palate. Bitter citrus fruit – grapefruit, lime and lemon skin. Sherbet on the finish. (RH)
Picked over four weeks. Pungent and herby with a sweaty green scent. Plenty of flavour and perhaps just a little too much sulphur giving an acrid edge to the nose. (RH)12.5%
Neutral, plain white fruit. Slightly pétillant on the palate. Modern and clean-cut. Technical and brisk. (RH)12.5%
Light lime aroma. Floral character on the palate, dry finish. Honest varietal character and a simple, straightforward palate. (RH)13%
Reasonably straightforward nose. Lots of salinity on the palate, especially at the finish. Robust acidity, subtle floral notes but the dominant feature is intense lime compress. Deserves time to mature and let the fruit evolve. (RH)13%
Matured in 500-litre oak barrels, 25% of which were new.
Tight, compact, minimalist nose. Convincing purity on the palate, and there is a pleasant lime density on the finish. Certainly has the fruit potential to age well, if not the most aromatically diverse aromas. (RH)
100% new oak. Served chilled.
Sweet floral aroma. Redcurrant, cranberry, a good dose of herby character. Just a little too bitter, on balance – strikes me as slightly underripe. (RH)
Apple, salt, smoky flint and a very slight lick of sweetness on the finish. Generous, simple and varietal. (RH)
Reductive notes on the nose giving a sulphurous edge. Tight, prickly palate – very youthful indeed. Enough fruit to merit a few years’ cellaring but not for the very long term. (RH)
Smoke and spice on the nose, lovely pure lemon on the palate. Slightly tart and bitter, though it is balanced and lengthy. (RH)
Juicy, dry, simple fragrance. Light and zesty. Straightforward, focused. (RH)
Orange peel, lemon zest, honey, blossom, ripe fruit. Direct, fruit-driven, good varietal character. Very citric finish. (RH)12%
Juicy, tropical fruit with a cooked vegetal character. Totally fresh and attractive, however – the balance of flavours on the palate is very well judged and very moreish. Long, succulent finish with a refined mineral character. (RH)12%
Restrained, tense citrus fruit. Savoury and dry on the finish, lots of acidity and brightness. Excellent quality of fruit. (RH)
Stewed apricot and lemon with honeycomb and crystallised ginger. Exotic bergamot spice and violets too. Superb volubility – really expresses the place, and has outstanding fruit clarity. (RH)
Tank sample. Some pungent sulphur, understandably. Great fruit clarity beneath, and a chewy texture suggesting good potential. Fragrant, potent and resonant. Very much a provisional score, as it is perishingly young. (RH)
Macerated for 6-7 days. High disease pressure in this vintage, but they did not include any botrytised fruit.
Indulgent marmalade and lemon curd fruit, sweet spice and a luscious creamy character. Superb extrovertness, and just a little oxidative touch on the finish. (RH)
Superb interplay of sugar and acid in the way that Riesling does so effortlessly. Confected fruit, spice and perhaps a little bit of petrol on the finish. (RH)
Soy, black cherry, smoke – wonderful nose with a lovely clove spice. Sleek, rounded texture. Smart, vibrant acid. Elegant, with distinct German structure – taut and crisp. (RH)
Very ripe style – baked apple, pineapple, melon. Juicy acidity, loads of modern, clean fruit. (RH)
As with their Binger Riesling, this is an overripe, candied style. Potent, orange cordial sort of fruit. There’s a dairy character too – this shows the weightiest style of German Riesling. (RH)
Thick and ripe, and behaves very much like a sweeter style until the bone dry finish. Intense, long, bursting with juicy fruit. Lovely savoury aftertaste too – savoury, slightly leesy and with a flash of green. (RH)
Acid that punches straight through the sweetness – a great feat of balance. Succulent, pure fruit with delicious lemon sherbet finish. Lengthy, moreish and satisfying. (RH)
Pungent, herbal, grassy, quite light and soft on the palate. (RH)
Quite neutral nose, creamy palate with apricot, peach and toffee. Standard Chardonnay with good ripeness and softness. (RH)
Quite a prickly sulphur scent, then apricot and sweet citrus. Fairly light palate with a steely, tart edge. (RH)
Aged in 500 litre oak for six months.
Sweet cream with bitter lemon fruit, a lovely combination that favours oak but is very drinkable and appealing. Graves meets Sancerre. (RH)
Grape juice, white flowers, a pinch of bitter lemon. Simple, dry finish. Very drinkable. (RH)
High acid and pithy citrus. Lime juice, green apple and lemon sherbet. Crisp and crunchy. Substantial. (RH)
Herby, stemmy, ripe red fruit with a dark smoky edge. Full of personality and flair. Punches above its weight. (RH)13.5%
75% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, 25% Lemberger.
Fairly non-descript fruit, and the palate has a heavy oak element. Hard acid, peppery finish. (RH)
Sweet red fruit, high acid, light body, bitter finish. (RH)
Modern, fragrant, sweet oak, vanilla; dry but very ripe. Classic Cabernet in a New World mould. (RH)14.5%
Magnum only. 18 months on lees.
Acidity rules the palate – a little more dosage wouldn't go amiss, I think! Leafy and linear. (RH)
Cloudy gold colour. Conventionalists be warned! 60% oak, 40% amphora (25% whole bunches for nine months). No sulphur added. Potent lemon skin and yoghurt character, some banana and crème fraîche character. Earthy and herbal. Interesting and personable, with nothing too outlandish about it, though it is definitely 'natural'. (RH)
Lime marmalade and a seaweed sort of herby note. Chewy texture and surprisingly soft acid. Polished but with grit and grain on the palate to give substance and shape. (RH)
Honey and lime zest, floral perfume, more substance and chunkiness than their Muschelkalk. Creamy and ripe on the palate with impressive length. Plump by Riesling standards. (RH)13%
Salty, volcanic – definite lava stink here. Has a quality similar to Santorini or Tenerife – fibrous yet creamy. Apricot fruit. Resplendent, expressive – the true face of Pinot Blanc. (RH)
Slinks out of the glass – bright but with a creamy character too. Just a touch of oxidative orange peel scent on the finish. Long, fragrant length with a nutty character. (RH)13.5%
From vineyards 350 metres above sea level.
Quite suppressed aromatic scent, very little of the flamboyance that usually characterises this variety. Has a sort of milkiness on the palate. Finishes dry. (RH)
Very little aroma, but sufficient fruit on the palate with well-balanced acid and sweetness (just over 100 g/l of residual sugar). A tickling sulphur prickle on the throat. Not at all cloying; really precise – but the flavour range is pretty conservative. (RH)
REICHSRAT VON BUHL
RS 6.9 g/l, TA 10.2 g/l. 7 mg free SO2. First wine made by the new team.
Combines yeasty autolysis and lime freshness. Splendid purity on the palate, crystal clear and accurate. Not merely technical though, there is a lovely umami savoury character giving soy and mushroom character. Returning to the nose, it is really sophisticated and attractive. (RH)
RS 0.6 g/l, TA 9.2 g/l.
Ripe vegetal character, brisk citrus fruit and lots of concentration. Not austere, but certainly tight and dense. Slate finish. (RH)
Production of 50,000 bottles. RS 0.8 g/l. Blend of seven different parcels of what is effectively Spätlese trocken – though that term is not stated on the label, as per the VDP rules.
Regal perfume, floral and limey, slaty and saline. Persistent, pure fruit with lovely clarity and polish. (RH)
RS 0.7 g/l, TA 8.7 g/l.
Subtle oil aromas, lime juice, snappy finish with a defined stony edge. Orange peel and a touch of leafiness. Excellent definition and great resonance: smart, brisk, crisp but not austere. (RH)
Honeyed nose, fragrant and slaty. Operatic Riesling – epic fruit intensity and powerful, lengthy finish. Gets all the mineral quality of Riesling too, and should age brilliantly. (RH)13.5%
Apricot, peach, honey and caramel. Completely beautiful – so expressive and alluring on the nose, then the palate is precisely balanced with breadth and substance. So indulgent but with no excess flab. (RH)
Similar fruit quality to their Ungeheuer – almost tropical. Creamy mouthfeel then a leesy texture that gives great persistence. It sort of reminds me of top Godello, and has the same sea salt minerality. Magnificent. (RH)
Onion skin colour. Proper red fruit aromas on the nose. Bone dry, sharp and tight. Errs on the acidic side and that overrides the fruit ripeness on the finish. (RH)
RS 110 g/l. Pineapple, melon, cherry – really fruity yet dainty. Very nicely done with elegance and balance. (RH)9%
Relatively restrained nose, but extravagant and indulgent on the palate with acidity that shimmers through the sugar. Completely infantile but beautiful and layered. (RH)10%
Salty nose, white fruit in a fairly light mode. Medium bodied, smooth, neutral. (RH)
Savoury palate yet has a boiled sweet and ripe citrus fruit character. Thick, viscous mouthfeel. Mixed peel and spice on the finish. (RH)
Cooked vegetables on the nose – some underripeness? Has an almost celery sort of flavour. Nicely balanced on the palate, technically correct, and there’s good persistence on the finish, but the flavour is quite green. (RH)
Rich and quite thickly textured. Finishes dry, but has a sweetness to the fruit that also gives the volume. Appealing, easy-drinking. (RH)
White currant, lime juice, metallic and steely on the nose. Convincing – goes above and beyond simple fruit in the way that single site wines should. (RH)
Quite a creamy and dairy-scented nose. Lemon posset? Dry and balanced on the finish, moderate length. (RH)
Ripe vegetal character, blackcurrant leaf, juicy and bold. Strong herbal element running through. Confected fruit. (RH)
Open, succulent nose with oil and petrol alongside the ripe apricot fruit. Complex, rich, and maturing very generously. Delivers a lot of developed character with primary fruit all intact. (RH)
RS 16 g/l. Only subtley sweet, with plenty of ripe fruit and spritz on the palate. Lively, simple, satisfying – hits the off-dry target like only Riesling can. (RH)
Impressive nose of roses, lemon cordial, herbs, white fruit and honey. Has the same smoke and mineral edge of their dry wines too – good vindication of the terroir. Generous, opulent but controlled. (RH)
Great vibrancy and purity, but not overtly fruity. Satisfying and balanced with impressive concentration and ripeness but finishes dry. (RH)
Rich ochre colour, sweet oak scent giving vanilla, clove and cinnamon. Tropical fruit with, if anything, slight overripeness and a lack of zip. But the flavour is so satisfying. (RH)
Very bright fruit: lemon curd, slate and granite – proper goût de terroir – and a generous, fragrant fruit. Attractive, elegant, ageworthy. (RH)
Very floral character – almost like Muscat with rose and violet aroma. There’s a nutty note too, as well as bright lime fruit. Superb clarity and lots of interesting range of flavour. (RH)13%
From Saumagen. Developed, ripe, honey and a touch of caramel and ginger. Fleshy and creamy on the palate, and a toasty character that is straight out of the Hunter Semillon rulebook. (RH)12.5%
Gold. Creamy, white coffee, honey, dairy. Smoky and saline. Has a very similar style to top old champagne. Peachy and complex and lengthy. Also has a sort of sausage meat character. Superb. (RH)
Stunning fruit and pepper scent. Beautifully crafted – the scent is pure Syrah – violets and black fruit. Juicy on the palate, loads of spicy oak too. It’s modern and sleek with no earthy Rhône character, but it isn’t as heavy as South Australia. A complete triumph! (RH)14.5%
Stemmy notes and quite baked fruit. Smoked bacon and hickory character – sweet but pungent. Impressive but not as rounded and complete as the 2012. (RH)15%
Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Opulent, bursting with fruit, and with a great deal of balsamic and sweet spice. Firm structure, but the tannin has a plushness that is really drinkable. More like Bolgheri than Bordeaux, but very much valid in its own right. (RH)
Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
The astonishing thing about this wine is the genuine Bordelais maturity – cedar, spice, marzipan, black cherry – it is complete and vibrant and has a port-like juiciness to the fruit. This is a phenomenon – it must be tasted to be believed! (RH)
Fortified. Made from Cabernet Cubin, a 1970s cross of Blaufränkisch and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Minty, spirity and fragrant. Dense, hot, potent and fragrant. Glossy texture, lovely balance and intensity. Succulent but simple and satisfying. (RH)
100% Pinot Blanc.
No sulphur, no dosage. Ripe yellow fruit, creamy and buttery on the nose. Clean, fresh, non-autolytic but very nicely balanced. Reasonably short finish. (RH)
Dosage 6 g/l.
Juicy, snappy, green citrus. Smooth and drinkable but simple and fresh. (RH)
Dosage 9 g/l.
Lemon and lime fruit, pithy palate with a simple, short finish. (RH)
95% Chardonnay with 5% Pinots Meunier and Noir blended in.
Very pale indeed. Vegetal, underripe nose. Basic and boring. (RH)
Scheurrebe, Muscat and Gewurztraminer.
Weird honey and bitter citrus fruit, plus tinned sweetcorn flavour. Finishes very sweetly. (RH)
Melon, citrus and acidity that bucks like a bronco. Great power and convinction. Modern and savoury. (RH)12.5%
Acacia, honey, lime pickle, sherbet, bitter leaf – all well integrated. Fragrant, tense, fairly light fruit intensity. (RH)12%
Golden Delicious apple, honey and spice. Dry and layered with finely crosshatched texture. Long finish. (RH)12%
Honeyed, broad, honeysuckle, mandarin and lime flavours. Rich, succulent and well structured – it's fairly heavy, but is kept limber by classic high acidity. (RH)12%
Pretty prominent oak for Riesling. Tropical fruit with ripe, opulent flavours plus toasted aromas and a spicy length. (RH)
Textural rather than fruity, and has a salinity and flint character evoking the Loire. (RH)
75% oak aged, of which 15% was new, for 12 months.
Bold nose with lots of Graves-style spice, butter, cream and white chocolate. Savoury yet full of extravagant flavour. (RH)
Aged 18 months in barrel. Quite cooked fruit, and a smoky overtone. Chewy and meaty with a varnished note. (RH)