Some two hundred years ago, the family of Helmut Donnhoff acquired vineyards in the Nahe region of Germany. It took more than a century for the family to demonstrate that the Nahe's Rieslings could comfortably rival and even best the qualities and charms of the two more popular Riesling regions of the Rhine and the Mosel.
Located on the Rhineland Palitanate, the region developed largely as part of prehistoric volcanic activity and the soils, ranging from red to purple slate to sandstone, reflect wines of often great individuality, varying from vineyard to vineyard.
Riesling fermentation in the area invariably starts in large German oak casks, after several months is transferred to stainless steel and occasionally returns for a few months to the oak.
I recently attended a tasting of wines now available in Israel with Herr Donnhoff, a man who claims with full wisdom that from the moment he plants a new vineyard he needs at least a decade to know just how those wines will turn out.
His Rieslings have attained a reputation as being among the world's very best. Although his Rieslings rarely show anything but a bare hint of petrol on the nose and palate during their youth, the wines tend to age well, and as they develop secondary characteristics the petrol note becomes a bit more clear - never so loud as to impose but in a super-gentle way that implies a hint of complexity along with age. With regard to petrol notes, some adore them, others cannot suffer them. In my opinion, bare hints can be fascinating.
The wines may be purchased from Giaconda's Internet site at www.giaconda.co.il or by calling (03 ) 6022746.
Donnhoff, Riesling, Trocken, QbA, Nahe, 2009: Light shining gold, crisply dry with a nose rich with peach, citrus and mineral aromas. Light- to medium-bodied, with fine balancing acidity and notes of near-sweet peach pits that develop from mid-palate to add liveliness. Not a complex wine but a delicious and supple one. Consider this one with a spicy gazpacho or even a Japanese miso soup. Drink now-2014. Score 89.
Donnhoff, Riesling, Grosses Gewachs, Norheimer, Dellchen, Nahe, 2008: Fully translucent, youthfully deep golden, with a bold nose of peach, pear and stony minerals, parting to admit flavors of citrus, and apples. Well balanced, the minerals playing nicely on the palate and showing just the barest hint of a tarry note. Fine but delicate sweetness. Consider with Far Eastern egg-roll style dishes or with thin salmon fillets with a delicate fruit sauce. Elegant and long. Drink now-2022, ideally over the years to watch as the wine develops in the bottle. Score 93.
Donnhoff, Riesling, Spatlese, Oberhauser, Brucke, 2008: Golden with light green and orange reflections, the generous sweetness taken in with good grace by minerality and acidity to produce a wine that some might swear was on the edge of dry. On the nose and palate Anjou pears, citrus peel and tropical fruits (think passion fruit ) and, from mid-palate on apples and quince. Lingers long and generously. Elegant. Drink now-2022. Score 92.
Donnhoff, Riesling, Auslese, Oberhauser, Brucke, Gold Capsule, 2001: Not for sale, but tasted from the importer's library. Deep gold with hints of darkening, but don't let that put you off because this one continues to develop exquisitely. Medium- to full-bodied, with both stony and earthy minerals as well as a note of vanilla to highlight a variety of citrus and summer fruits (think perhaps tangerines and nectarines ), the vanilla adding a near-creamy texture that coats the palate comfortably. Fine structure and balance carry over to a super-long and hyper-elegant finish. Lovely with a thin slice of fruitcake, soft chevre cheese and a ripe purple fig. Drink now-2022. Score 95.
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