2017 Grosse Gewächs: Germany’s grandest dry wines

2017 Grosse Gewächs: Germany’s grandest dry wines
There was a time not all that long ago that the grandest of German dry wines, the Grosses Gewächs, were primarily appreciated by the local market and a very few niche customers here in the UK. This is changing. Those in on the secret may shudder to hear it, but the list of customers for the best German dry wines is growing, and fast.

It is not hard to see why. They are capable of exceptionally longevity, betray vivid terroir definition and are ridiculously well priced for the quality. They provide electric excitement when young, but mature into wines of complex crystalline flavours with age. They can be broad and expansive but also delicate and focussed. And they tend to hover at the 12.5% abv level. A recently poured magnum of Halenberg 2010 from Emrich-Schönleber was viscerally exciting; buzzing with energy, its fruit shot through with deep slate flavours. It was irresistible now, but appeared to have decades of life ahead of it.

The days of aggressively acidic or austere wines are long gone. A combination of improved farming practices and more amenable weather for dry wine production means that the wines we are seeing today are probably the best they’ve ever been. Areas like the Mosel and Ruwer, as evidenced by brilliant wines at Schloss Lieser, Haag and Von Schubert, are today capable of producing superlative dry wines that are recognisably of their individual vineyards and regions, but also balanced. If you want to view terroir through the Grosses Gewächs lens buy a couple of cases of Thomas Haag’s Schloss Lieser GGs – the clarity of expression of site is amazing.

As you move away from the Mosel’s steep slate vineyards into more traditional dry wine heartlands you tend to find more power; a certain breadth and rich nobility in the Rheingau, a depth and bright intensity in the Pflaz (certainly in the south where Rebholz are), and in the Rheinhessen and Nahe a combination of the two, power, intensity and delicate finesse. These are generalisations of course, but they give an idea of the transparency these wines when it comes to a sense of place.

This is a vintage that those new to the genre will adore. There’s not a vast amount separating the past three vintages in quality terms, with 2017 sitting somewhere between ’15 and ’16 in acidity levels, with more elegance than the former and more intensity than the latter. We list as many as 28 of these fine dry wines from the 2017 vintage, not including those recently sold at Auction. It is worth noting that the brilliant, rare Auction bottlings see thirsty buyers willing to pay many times the price of the regular bottlings. For those less committed, it makes the wines listed below look like increasingly good value. Snap them up while you can…

For a full vintage summary please click here.

Michael Schmidt, writing on jancisrobinson.com has just published his notes on the 2017 GGs. Here are a few selected excerpts:
Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 - 18.5/20
"... Great substance that will take time to unfold. Still decidedly dry on the finish – not austere – but serious"

Schloss Lieser, Lieser Niederberg Helden Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Mosel - 19/20
"A fragrance that would penetrate even a nose blocked with a serious cold!...On the palate it is crisp and dry, rocks with minerality and trembles with acidity."

Schloss Lieser, Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Mosel - 18.5/20
"Lovers of spontaneous fermentation aromas will relish the invigorating impact of this cool, herbaceous fragrance.”

von Schubert, Maximin Grünhäuser Abtsberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Ruwer - 18/20
"A virtual walk through the meadow is rewarded with the fine fragrance of herbs and flowers..."

Battenfeld-Spanier, Nieder-Flörsheimer Frauenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Rheinhessen - 18/20
"...mouth-watering piquancy. A crunchy bite of rhubarb reflects the contribution of ambient yeasts and adds a little vigour to the finish.”

Dönnhoff, Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Nahe - 19/20
"Purity. That's what this is and one could finish there. Or write a eulogy. Orchard, stone fruit, eau de vie, viscosity, vibrancy, vigour, brilliance. Poetry on the palate."

Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Frühlingsplätzchen Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Nahe - 18.5/20
"A delightful fragrance with all the clarity of morning dew on a spring meadow...The Grosse Gewächse square is circled with assertive acidity and rich texture."

Emrich-Schönleber, Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2017 Nahe - 19/20
"A fragrance that excels in purity of fruit and coolness of minerality….On the palate this rendition of the Halenberg is absolutely compact and taut.Fruit and minerality clearly defined but conceding the limelight to an amazing exhibition of structure and elegance. An all-time Great!"