The annual GG tasting – no empty seats now


See also Richard's report on the Rieslings of Mosel and Nahe. Michael will be reporting later this month on many more wines tasted in Wiesbaden.  

Since its inception in 2002 the annual preview of Grand Crus (Grosse Gewächse) of the German premium wine growers’ association (VDP) in Wiesbaden at the end of August has grown in stature to become the most important showing in the world of the country’s latest vintage of fine dry wines (specialist wine photographer Sigi Hiss took this photograph of this year's showing; Michael is on the extreme left of the second row, obscured by one of the VDP's super-efficient pourers). Of course the VDP is a private organisation, and not all the nation’s best growers are members. Naturally here at we do our best to cover the best trocken offerings of other producers too, as our regular coverage of, for example, the Bernkasteler Ring presentation proves.

But the Wiesbaden event comprises the most comprehensive showing of the crème de la crème of dry white and red wines from the most recently bottled vintage just before they are officially released on 1 September. When I attended it in its first year, not even half of the seats were taken in the magnificent Kurhaus Kolonnaden, as interest from abroad in dry German Riesling was not great. If my memory serves me right, I was the only participant working for a British publication, the long-departed Wine Report annual edited by Tom Stevenson.

Things are very different now in several respects. Interest in fine German trocken wines has experienced tremendous growth on a global basis and is no longer restricted to Riesling. This lonely voice in the international Spätburgunder desert was eventually rewarded with the grudging acknowledgement that Pinot Noir from Germany was no longer a joke, but a serious contender. With 80 Spätburgunder wines shown in Wiesbaden this year, Pinot Noir was the second most important variety after Riesling. But Silvaner, Weissburgunder and Grauburgunder as well as Lemberger also represent an important part of the portfolio. They may still be niche wines in Germany’s export markets, but they are there!

The extent to which interest in this sneak preview has increased can also be gauged from the fact that nowadays there is a waiting list for places at the tasting tables. Bloggers from all over the globe are keen to join critics from the traditional media, and the least enviable part of the organisers’ role today must surely be that they also have to act like the bouncers at a popular night club, deciding who is allowed to come in or not. Fortunately, Purple Pages carry sufficient clout for two of us to be given a pass, and with over 400 wines on show, comprehensive coverage demands more than one taster. I am very thankful for the help of Richard Hemming this year, and to show my gratitude I offered him first refusal of regions (although I was a little sore about his picking the Nahe).

I would like to claim that I have attended the Grosse Gewächse preview in Wiesbaden every year since its inception, but through no fault of my own this isn’t so. In the second year, in 2003, the VDP simply forgot to invite me. Although I managed to make up for it by visiting a down-sized version of the original in London that year, my ego was severely bruised. By joining Team Jancis I made sure this could never happen again.