Weingut Dönnhoff, Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese

Weingut Dönnhoff, Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese, 2017

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    Riesling 100%

This site is south-facing on 100% slate, excellent for Spätlese. 50 year old vines yield a wine with wonderful acidity and depth. There’s a weightless energy here, with notes of yellow plum, peach and a hint of apricot and cherry, plus something floral, and a lovely herbal, minty character on the finish. Very long.

In Helmut’s words, “for the price it’s too good.”

About Weingut Dönnhoff

Weingut Dönnhoff is an estate in the Nahe region of the Rhineland, and is regarded as one of Germany's very best producers. It is famous for the high quality of its wines, which are made predominantly from Riesling. Dönnhoff is one of only three German estates to receive a 100-point rating from Robert Parker, for the 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2010 vintages of its Riesling Eiswein.

The estate is located at Oberhausen in the Riesling heartland of Nahe. There are around 20 hectares (50 acres) of vineyard, with a healthy proportion of Erste Lage sites. Some 80 percent of production is of the Riesling grape, which is planted on rocky, volcanic soils, giving the wines balanced acidity and intense minerality. The remainder of Dönnhoff's vineyards are devoted to Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris. These are planted on more loamy, less stony soils, which retain more water through the summer.

Winemaking is simple at Dönnhoff, with whole-bunch pressing followed by 10-18 hours of settling, then fermentation in casks or stainless steel tanks. After resting on lees the wines are filtered in the March after vintage and are bottled a few months later. Around 10,000 cases are produced each year.

The Dönnhoff family has been making wine in this region since the 1750s. However, since Helmut Dönnhoff took over in 1971, the estate has been built up step-by-step from 4ha (10 acres) to its current size. Its reputation has increased in similar proportions. Helmut has been described as a "superstar" by Robert Parker and as having a "fanatical commitment to quality, and a remarkable natural talent for winemaking" by British wine writer Hugh Johnson.

Grape variety

Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas as well as high acidity. It is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet, and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world's 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) (with an increasing trend), but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the "top three" white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly "terroir-expressive", meaning that the character of Riesling wines is greatly influenced by the wine's place of origin.

In cool climates (such as many German wine regions), Riesling wines tend to exhibit apple and tree fruit notes with noticeable levels of acidity that are sometimes balanced with residual sugar. A late-ripening variety that can develop more citrus and peach notes is grown in warmer climates (such as Alsace and parts of Austria). In Australia, Riesling is often noted for a characteristic lime note that tends to emerge in examples from the Clare Valley and Eden Valley in South Australia. Riesling's naturally high acidity and pronounced fruit flavours give wines made from the grape exceptional aging potential, with well-made examples from favourable vintages often developing smoky, honey notes, and aged German Rieslings, in particular, taking on a "petrol" character.

In wine making, the delicate nature of the Riesling grape requires special handling during harvesting to avoid crushing or bruising the skin. Without this care, the broken skins could leak tannin into the juice, giving a markedly coarse taste and throwing off balance the Riesling's range of flavours and aromas.

A wine that is best at its "freshest" states, the grapes and juice may be chilled often throughout the vinification process. Once, right after picking to preserve the grapes' more delicate flavours. Second, after it has been processed through a bladder press and right before fermentation. During fermentation, the wine is cooled in temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks kept between 10 and 18 °C (50 and 64 °F). This differs from red wines that normally ferment at 24 to 29 °C (75 to 84 °F)

Unlike Chardonnay, most Riesling do not undergo malolactic fermentation. This helps preserve the tart, acidic characteristic of the wine that gives Riesling its "thirst-quenching" quality. (Producers of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio often avoid malolactic fermentation for the same reason.) Riesling is often put through a process of cold stabilisation, where the wine is stored just above its freezing point. The wine is kept at this temperature until much of the tartaric acid has crystallised and precipitated out of the wine. This helps prevent crystallisation of the acid (often called "wine diamonds") in the bottle. After this, the wine is normally filtered again to remove any remaining yeast or impurities.

In viticulture, the two main components in growing Riesling grapes are to keep it "Long & Low" meaning that the ideal situation for Riesling is a climate that allows for a long, slow ripening and proper pruning to keep the yield low and the flavour concentrated.

Alternative Names: Weisser Riesling, Johannisberg Riesling, Johannisberger, Rhine Riesling, Riesling Renano

About Norheim

Norheim is the oldest recorded wine village in the Nahe region of Germany, first mentioned in a sales document from Lorsch Abbey dated 766. It is known primarily for its intense, long-lived Riesling wines, and has two Grosse Lage vineyard sites – Kirschheck and Dellchen.

The village is just downstream from Niederhausen, and shares its borders with Traisen to the north, and Bad Münster to the east. This whole area is known for its volcanic rock soil known as Rotenfels.

The Kirschheck vineyard lies on the western outskirts of Norheim, and its name suggests that it was once a cherry grove (kirsch means 'cherry' in German). It is a south-facing site that benefits directly from its close proximity to the Nahe river, the thermal mass of which helps keep the vineyard warm in the cooler evenings. The old Riesling vines planted here produce very low yields, due in part to regulation but also to the sandstone and grey slate soils present in the vineyard.

The Dellchen vineyard is immediately west of Kirschheck. It lies on the edge of the river and has a south-westerly orientation that gives the vines access to the afternoon sun. Stone walls terrace the steep incline, and along with the nearby cliffs provide shelter for the vines. Rieslings from Dellchen are firm and concentrated and have good aging potential.

Norheim's name is thought to share an etymological root with Nahe – possibly "nava", a Celtic word for flowing water.

Regular price $253.00

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