Great German Dry Wines

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“We live in a world of refinement, not invention.” - Marco Pierre White

“I want more freedom than that, a universe of surprises . . .  free of future predetermined.” Children of Dune, Frank Herbert

The winter pruning is a time to make fundamental decisions, decisions that will affect the growth and fruits of the next two seasons. Lacking the immediacy of the harvest, or the visual appeal of veraison, it is often overlooked. However, as a time of transition, of flux, it’s importance should not underestimated.

The perception, the appreciation of German wine is also in flux. The underlying reasons why such an important and diverse wine country has, at times, been reduced to a solipsistic caricature of a single category are manifold. Rather than point a finger at history, rather than make the pioneers of the past into the straw men of today; let’s look to the stories yet to be told, the connections still to be made, and towards a future of German regions and growers worthy of attention.

We begin in the region of Franken with Stefan Vetter’s 50-year-old vines of Sylvaner, planted in limestone and sandstone soils.

Stefan Vetter

Stefan’s old-vine Sylvaners are organically and biodynamically farmed, representing one of the few natural Sylvaners of the region. Eschewing an adherence to high ripeness and must weights, Stefan prefers to have his wines retain the freedom the comes with the classification of Deutscher Landwein, a designation with lower must weight requirements than most other categories. However, Deutscher Landwein does not allow the village (Gambach) and vineyard (Kalbenstein) to be fully written on the label, so on Vetter’s labels this becomes abbreviated as “GK”.

The sandstone of the Sandstein “GK” offers an herbal and floral nose with a dry, lean, and richly textured palate. The limestone and dolostone of the Muschelkalk “GK” shine with complex aromas of dried and fresh herbs, musky tones, and elegant floral aromas, along with a dry, finely chiseled palate.

Independent thinking and a preference for the Deutscher Landwein category can also be found in the region of Baden, at the passion project of Sven Enderle & Florian Moll.

Sven Enderle & Florian Moll

Enderle & Moll’s restless spirits and uncompromisingly minimalist philosophy do much to expand the idea of their region’s wines to include the funky, the playful, and the deliciously drinkable. No wine in their lineup makes this case more vibrantly than their skin-contact Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris). Aromas of quince, wisteria, sorrel, and blood orange zest float from the glass and ally with a dry and refreshingly chalky palate. Food pairings for this wine are myriad and wondrous.

An equally dynamic, yet more familial partnership can be found at Weingut Seehof, in the region of Rheinhessen. The father and son duo of Ernst and Florian Fauth farm some of the choicest, limestone-laden parcels around the village of Westhofen.

Ernst & Florian Fauth

Seehof’s 2014 Morstein shows all the weight and complexity of this Grosse Lage site. Yet all the Seehof wines show a certain floral nuance and litheness on the palate and this wine is no exception, after a bit of time to breath.

Finally, we end with a bit of a surprise, in the form of a pre-arrival offer for 2014 Riesling GGs of the Saar valley’s Florian Lauer. These include the GGs from the sites of Saarfeils, Ayler Kupp, and Schonfels, each designated in red below. By all accounts, these are among the finest dry Rieslings of the 2014 vintage, with a special nod towards the Schonfels GG.

 

To a degree for which they are seldom given credit, German wines have stylistic range and diversity. For those willing to look beyond the conventional and the commonplace, there are some great dry German wines to be enjoyed.

- David Salinas

Vetter 2013 Franken Sylvaner Sandstein "GK"

The GK stands for Gambacher Kalbenstein, a terraced vineyard site that has concentrations of both colored sandstone and limestone. Because of this duality, Stefan has made two different wines, each one focused on the grapes grown on the predominant soil type. This is the sandstone bottling, which makes for an expressively textural wine. Floral with apricots and peaches on the nose, the palate is savory and spiced with notes of bergamot and yellow apple. Cari Bernard

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  • Organic

Vetter 2013 Franken Sylvaner Muschelkalk "GK"

Muschelkalk translates into "Mussel Chalk" and in Germany can be divided into 3 sub-groups, which can contain combinations of limestone, calcareous marls, clay marls, gypsum, and dolomites. Vetter's Muschelkalk "GK" is one of the most chiseled expressions of Sylvaner on our shelves. It shines a radiant golden yellow in the glass and offers aromas of dried mint, pine, eucalyptus, lime blossom, and smoky tones. The palate framed by a firm and fine minerality, which carries mustard seeds and wild flowers through to a finely-pointed, dry finish.An uncompromisingly, high expression of Sylvaner.

- David Salinas

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Enderle and Moll 2014 Baden Grauburgunder

The color of this wine leads to many a question. It is neither a rosé nor an orange wine, but rather a limited skin-contact white, with a bit of funk from an indigenous yeast fermentation, but tempered by the use of quality, second-hand Burgundy barrels. More importantly, it's peach-hued yellow color is beguiling and it's savory, textured palate is delicious. The nose is a kaleidoscope of the floral, the funky and the citrus, with highlights of wisteria, sorrel, and blood orange zest. The palate is lilting, but encompassing, and has enough texture and weight to have tremendous food pairing possibilities. Grauburgunder, Pinot Gris, call it what you will, this is a tasty adventure in wine.

David Salinas

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  • $26.99

Seehof 2014 Rheinessen Westhofen Morstein Riesling Trocken

Sourced from one of the top, limestone-laden vineyards in Rheinhessen, Seehof's 2014 Morstein is fine, dry Riesling. Shimmering a striking golden yellow, the nose benefits from a bit of breathing time to show its full potential of lime blossom, sage, candied ginger, and petrol tones. On the palate, this Morstein is dark and brooding, but balanced by a fine minerality that plays at the edges and carries aromas of apricot, quince, and Meyer lemon before a dry and lengthy finish. A Riesling of complexity and pedigree.

- David Salinas

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Lauer, Peter 2014 Saar Riesling Saarfeilser GG

Despite having the reputation of being Lauer's warmest site, Florian seems to have coaxed a fine minerality from the 2014 Saarfeilser GG. - David Salinas

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Lauer, Peter 2014 Saar Riesling Kupp GG

Sourced from Florian's finest vines from the legendary Ayler Kupp vinyard, this GG never disappoints, but the 2014 vintage seems to be particularly promising. - David Salinas

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Lauer, Peter 2014 Saar Riesling Schonfels GG

Word is that must weights were kept low (around 88 oeschle) for the 2014 Schonfels, yet great concentration and length seem to be present as well. Hats off to Florian Lauer for a great, dry RIesling. - David Salinas

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