Germany VDP Auction

Germany VDP Auction

Tuesday 7th December 2021
by Mark Dearing

Hammer Time!

Last month our buyers Julian Campbell and Mark Dearing hit the road again in pursuit of the world’s finest Rieslings at the annual VDP auctions in Trier and Bad Kreuznach. 

As one might expect, the organisation was seamless, and following the tradition of a “wet” auction (excuse the phrase), all lots were tasted multiple times ahead of and during the auction itself. A raft of lacy, elegant Kabinetts, sumptuous Spatlesen and a handful of noble sweet wines were this year under the gavel. Fears of diminished demand ahead of the day in Trier were soon allayed once auctioneer Max Von Kunow began rattling through the lots. 

Early on though, with a hammer price of just €25.00 per bottle the A.J. Adam Hofberg Alte Reben Kabinett proved to be one of the great bargains of the auction – perhaps unsurprising given that this was their first appearance – and thus an unknown entity somewhat. On this showing, bidders will surely pay attention in future! Hopefully we’ve not missed the boat on that one…  Similarly, Dorothee Zilliken’s heavenly Rausch Kabinett closed at just €30.00 per bottle – a veritable steal for a wine from such a storied Saar estate, and a total production of just 600 bottles and 24 magnums. We are delighted to have secured a small amount for our stocks including 12 magnums. At a hammer price of €95 per magnum ex taxes, the rarity to value ratio doesn’t get any better than that and proves that the auction is not all about fever-induced prices! 

The upper echelons however did yield some surprises in the Kabinett world. The lovely Willi Schaefer team produced arguably the most sought after Kabinett of the auction: the inaugural Domprobst Fuder #1, which hammered at an impressive €100 per bottle, exceeding all estimates in the process. It’s clear that the Schaefer wines fly under-the-radar no longer; testament to the old adage that cream rises to the top. Unsurprisingly perhaps, given the vintage’s Kabinett credentials, we witnessed a record price for Egon Muller’s Scharzhofberger Alte Reben Kabinett at a lofty €322 per bottle, while Fritz Haag, Schloss Lieser and Maximin Grunhaus all saw their Kabinett bottlings perform strongly. We are delighted to have secured a fabulous selection for our clients, with a particular bargain opportunity in the form of Peter Lauer’s Ayler Kupp Fass 5. This Kabinett continues to be an unsung hero of the auction and delivers all the thrill and intensity one expects from an auction wine at just €40 a bottle ex taxes. Furthermore, Joh. Jos. Prüm turned out a solid set of results for a stellar set of wines, with a few formats even coming in slightly below our projections – a pleasing, if rarer event than it used to be! 

A special mention in all this must go to Maximin Von Schubert and his genuinely transcendental Herrenberg Nr. 221 TBA 2018 – a bona fide 100-point candidate if ever there were one. That we managed to secure the world’s only magnum for a lucky J&B client certainly got the pulse quickening. 

When it comes to the top of the top, we turn our attention to the records smashed at the Bad Kreuznach auction, which comprises producers from the Ahr, Pfalz, Nahe and Rheinhessen. Solid performances from usual suspects Wittmann and Wagner-Stempel set the tone, before our very own Battenfeld-Spanier drew gasps and rounds of applause, not only for the crystalline, spicy quality of their awesome Zellertal Kreuzberg Grosses Gewachs in the standard bottle format, but for the bidding frenzy around the two artist-label double magnums which eventually closed at an unbelievable €8,100.00 each. In her own words an hour or two later, Carolin Spanier-Gillot declared “I’m still shaking!”. And while the 3Ls were a little rich for our blood in the end, we are thrilled to have secured a few bottles which are still available to purchase. 

For this writer, the wines of Emrich-Schönleber have always held a special place in his heart. Nowadays, their status as a top-drawer estate in Germany is surely irrefutable. Consistent price increases and rabid demand for Frank’s floating, intensely mineral Auf der Ley Grosses Gewachs is in our view justified, given the supreme elegance and purity of their dry Rieslings. Those who can’t stretch to Auf der Ley would be well advised to look at the classic Halenberg and Frühlingsplätzchen bottlings. Intellectual and noble, the Schönleber wines rarely disappoint. Auf der Ley 2020 is once again up there in the small handful of best wines we’ve tasted this year.

No German auction summary would be complete without reference to the Keller stable. At present, there appear to be few, if any, contenders to the Keller throne, and this year was no different. Records were once again broken and hammer prices exceeded even the most generous of estimates. Pettenthal GG 2020 closed at €2,900.00 per individual magnum, while the three double magnums on offer hammered at a jaw-dropping €16,100.00 each. Moreover, the record for Germany’s most expensive and sought after Kabinett once again sits at Klaus-Peter’s feet, as their Piesporter Schubertslay Alte Reben achieved a mighty €850.00 per bottle. 

While the top lots will of course hit the headlines, it should be said that these auction releases do represent the absolute pinnacle of German wine production, with quantities ranging from single bottles up to a maximum of around 600 bottles for world. For those seeking the best of the best, there is simply no better place to be, and what’s more, stellar wines from the likes of Lauer, Haag, Zilliken and Schloss Lieser prove that one doesn’t need to break the bank to secure some truly special and delicious Rieslings at fair and reasonable prices. 

Mark Dearing

Justerini & Brooks, December 2021