“Nature or nurture,” you might ask, wondering about the temperament of a child or the elements that go into a particularly delicious, well balanced wine. Today’s wine world is often a hotbed of deception. For example, if you find yourself admiring the buttery, oak-y aroma and palate of an affordable Chardonnay, watch out! You very well might be sampling a “Frankenwine” in which oak chips had been placed into a steel vat of Chardonnay to replicate real wood aging.
Traditional German Riesling relies a great deal on the soil to give the wine its character, aroma, palate, and structure. Towards that end, one of the objectives of producers who specialize in dry Riesling is to have the wine express the minerality and nature of the vineyard. The more minerals and volcanic soil in the vineyard, the better the wine. Combine this with other factors, such as a steep slope, southern-facing exposure, and proximity to the Rhine to moderate the climate and reflect the sun, and you have the makings of a top vineyard.
As mineral-rich soil is paramount to creating a quality wine, top German producers focus their efforts in the vineyard, preferring to tamper as little as possible with the vinification process. Patience is also a virtue, as the most respected and valuable grape variety, Riesling, ripens so late an October harvest is common. Keeping grapes healthy and flourishing during the long growing season from spring to near-fall is always a challenge.
One of the most famous names in the Riesling world, Weingut (winemaker) Helmut Dönnhoff operates from the Nahe region of Germany. From his many soil-specific vineyards, he offers a superb selection of dry and off-dry wines, universally prized for their balance, structure, and intense minerality. An attractive and elegant man with an air of calm confidence, Helmut Dönnhoff focuses on coaxing the best expression of the Riesling grape from vineyards famed for centuries for their volcanic soil and variety of minerals.
You do not need to be a Riesling scholar in order to immediately understand the power, beauty, and balance of Dönnhoff’s wine. Even if you are new to the Riesling grape varietal, you’ll notice at first sip that these wines have a delicious and subtle balance between the fruit and acidity hard to find anywhere else. Dönnhoff and critics are quick to attribute this to the soil, especially of the Hermannshohle vineyard, as well as the well-positioned aspect of the vineyard which is on a steep slope which receives a great deal of sun.
As Dönnhoff explains his philosophy on winemaking, he reveals the winery does not have a web site. Why not, you wonder? Doesn’t he need to sell his wine? As it turns out, the wine is strictly allocated and he does not produce enough wine to meet the demand. Well, why not make more? After all, it’s the American way. Refreshingly, Dönnhoff takes a more European view. Life is to be enjoyed. All is well as is, so why change?
Bahnhofstrasse 11, 55585 Oberhausen a. d. Nahe
Phone: +49 (0)6755-263, Fax: +49 (0)6755-1067