German wines have become an obsession. They are so versatile and pure. Clean and mineral driven in their youth. Luscious and full of velvety nectar with age... and these are just the white wines I'm talking about! The red wines scream terroir, giving you such a strong sense of place and tradition, you would swear you were standing on the banks of the Mosel River. German wines embody restraint- lean and focused, so much more than the more common sweet Rieslings you may have tried previously.
It is weirdly important to me that you experience extraordinary German wines. Selecting the Top 5 wines for July really made me struggle. As your personal sommelier, I feel it is my both my duty and pleasure to educate you on all things German wines: the vocabulary, varietals, even how to read the label! German wines are breathtaking in their artistry. These are the German wines you want to drink.
1. Weingut Fürst, Elbling, Trocken,
Mosel, Germany 2020- $26.99
Some say go back to your roots. Replant. Reinvent. Others never change, like Michael Fürst's family, who has grown the Elbling grape in the Obermosel, the most southern part of the river region, since the 13th century. Elbling (varietal) is the oldest grape to be planted in Germany. The Romans called it "Alba Romania," and it was the most popular grape planted, even surpassing Riesling which did not take root until the 17th century! It prefers a very particular climate, so only a handful of producers in the southern Mosel are producing these wines.
Weingut (winery) Fürst takes this task very seriously. It is part tradition, part pride, but all together delicious. Fermented trocken (dry) meaning no residual sugar remains, this white wine is spectacularly refreshing, while coming in at a low 11% abv. Everything you want in a crisp summer white wine. Wickedly high acidity, crisp citrus and tropical fruits, and a genrous1L bottle. Great for sharing with friends.
2. Weingut Zilliken, "Butterfly," Feinherb,
Mosel, Germany 2020- $26.99
The experience of walking underground the Zilliken estate is mind-blowing. Stalactites and stalagmites surround you from every direction. The amount of mold and dirt covering century old metal wine bins housing thousands of back vintage wines... Had I not been there, I might not believe it! Every time I open a bottle of their wine, it immediately takes me back to that day. I asked, "Does the mold bother the bottles?" Absolutely not. Cellar temperature and humidity is perfectly, naturally, maintained underground. These wines will be allowed to progress in the proper way. They are just beginning to take shape.
The Butterfly bottling from Zilliken is their entry level off-dry (feinherb) Riesling, meaning it has just a smattering of residual sugar. The gripping minerality blends beautifully with a tropical fruit forward. It showcases the Devonian soil from which it is planted, rich with stone and slate. It is what I call a "base" wine. All about the low notes of minerality and soil. Fruit is not the focus in this Riesling, nor should it be. The soil is the superlative.
3. Darting, "Durkheiner Nonnengarten, " Gewurztraminer Kabinett,
Pfalz, Germany 2020- $32.99
If sweet is what you seek, look no further than this Gewurztraminer (varietal) from Darting. Having produced wine in the Pfalz (region) since 1780, the Darting family knows a thing or two about producing top notch wines. This single vineyard bottling is both feminine on the nose and gripping with raw power on the palate. Perfect for spicier foods, this white wine will calm a full flavor dish with silky notes of honey, peach, citrus, and a ton of floral spice.
Gewurz (for short) meaning spice in German is quite popular in Germany, Austria, and Alsace, France. In this example, it is planted above red sandstone soils, which highlights the minerality coming through the traditional richness of the varietal. The Pfalz region is best known Riesling, but this Gewurztraminer deserves special attention. Winemaker Helmut Darting completed his studies with a practicum at Muller-Catoir (another favorite producer of mine) and believes in a minimal interventionist approach. He said, "every time you handle a wine, you diminish it," which explains his slow, cold, native yeasts fermentations in an anerobic environment. Reductive winemaking at its best!
4. Thörle, Spätburgunder, Trocken,
Rheinhessen, Germany 2019- $36.99
My love of Pinot Noir has no boundaries. It could be August in Iowa, 99 degrees outside with 99 percent humidity, and I will still thoroughly enjoy this beautiful red grape, known as Spätburgunder in Germany. Translating to "late Burgundy," Spätburgunder absolutely tips its cap to Burgundy, France. It is rumored the first German Pinot Noir was planted by monks at the behest of Charlemagne in 814 AD. There is a long tradition here of Burgundy's finest... and the soil is why!
The Thörle Rheinhessen (region) vineyards contain the same soils of calcareous clay and limestone as in Burgundy, France. It allows the grape to ripen slowly, developing great flavors or dark blue fruits, black tea and earth, while keeping its natural acidity. The Thörle brothers, Christoph and Johannes, have been at the helm since 2006, bringing new innovation to the winery and organic certification. After fermentation, the juice is transferred to French oak barrels to age another 20 months. Only when the wine is ready, they bottle without fining or filtration. Treating their wines like French Grand Crus, they have catapulted to the forefront of stellar Pinot Noir production in Germany.
5. Jan Matthias Klein, "Ruby Soho," Pinot Noir Pet-Nat,
Mosel, Germany 2020- $39.99
Leading the revolution of Old World meets New World, Jan Matthias Klein incorporates modern winemaking techniques at the picturesque180 degree curve of the Mosel River. Using classic varietals, like Spätburgunder in this Pet-Nat, which means naturally sparkling, the wine is both rich in weight and refreshing at the same time. The effervescence is perfectly matched with the deep dark fruits and earthy components of the wine. Serve slightly chilled, and watch your friends faces smile with delight.
JMK is the seventh-generation winemaker on his ancestral lands, which have been in existence since 862 AD. The 60–70-degree slopes are intense and farmed organically. He uses no additional sulphur and hand bottles his wines. The labels are truly a work of art. This one-of-a-kind winemaker makes wines that match his originality.
THANK YOU FOR READING JULY'S TOP 5 WINES. FIND THE OTHER LISTS UNDER OUR SOMM JOURNAL TAB ABOVE. HAPPY READING!