It’s true. German organisation really is superb, as demonstrated at the sneak preview of the VDP’s 2018 Grosses Gewächs held in Wiesbaden at the end of August.
On show were more than 450 wines, from taut Rieslings to lively Silvaner to Burgundian Spätburgunders. Held in the Kurhaus in Wiesbaden, the VDP tasting is a three-day affair, where trade and press are assigned seats, given a catalogue and emailed a spreadsheet of all the wines, for ease of adding tasting notes. The wines are arranged in flights of up to six wines, which servers bring to the table as requested.
“For me, the Nahe stood out as more consistently good across the board than any other region, to an extent because it’s relatively small,” said British wine critic Anthony Rose. “Rheinhessen in the Roter Hang and the Wonnegau in particular also showed well in many cases.”
He went on to say that “in general, the 2017 was not as consistent as 2016, showing the variation of a vintage marked by both frost in spring and hail in summer with an impression of alcohol in some cases.” Overall, however, he thought that, “there were many wines with excellent acidity and good potential, where there was sufficient fruit, for ageing.”
For wine critic Anne Krebiehl MW, many of the Rieslings were worth “top marks”. She added, “There is substance and freshness: many of my favourites had inherent balance and have a very promising future. The very best wines have ever more finesse.”
Krebiehl was excited by wines from Saar, Ruwer and the Nahe. “I love the combination of raciness and restraint they seem to offer,” she said. “Very fine and exciting, but also quietly waiting to unfold.”
For Meininger’s, the Silvaner from Franken was the standout surprise. The wines on show were dry and zesty, with delicate overtones and relatively low alcohols – nothing like the poor quality, flabby wines that flooded international markets back in the 1980s.
But then, German wines overall remain a bargain. Krebiehl said the Riesling Grosses Gewächs in particular are “seriously underpriced”, though she adds that there are now German winemakers getting good prices for their wines. Still, “if you know where to look, you will find almost shameful bargains.”
Rose added that German wines “still suffers to an extent from a historic legacy of name confusion, the hangover of cheap, mediocre wines and an old-fashioned view of German wines as sweet.” He said, however, that things are changing, with wine lovers starting “to appreciate the differences between estates” and regions. “That greater appreciation of top quality dry German wines is reflected in rising prices, even for 2017, even if it probably won’t achieve the same recognition as 2016.”
The VDP, or Germany’s association of German Predikät Wine Estates, is an elite group of the country’s top wineries, notable for developing a quality classification system. The Grosses Gewächs tasting is an annual event.