Demarcated clockwise by the Rhine in the north and east, the Haardt Mountains in the south and the Nahe in the west, Rheinhessen is situated on the left bank of the Rhine, stretching between Worms and Bingen am Rhein. With some 26,500 ha of vineyards, Rheinhessen is the single largest of Germany’s 13 wine regions.
Proximity to the Rhine has historically been an important advantage, enabling Rheinhessen wine to be easily transported to Mainz, capital of the Federal State of Rheinland-Pfalz, indeed the unofficial centre of the German wine trade. Both Deutsches Weininstitut and Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter (“VDP”) are headquartered in Mainz, where the Weinbörse – the VDP’s annual trade fair featuring the vast majority of VDP member-estates – takes place every spring.
Certain parallels can be drawn between Rheinhessen and Languedoc-Roussillon, in that both are still unfairly underestimated due to historical reasons. Whist Languedoc-Roussillon was a main source of the European-wide wine lake problem, Rheinhessen suffered from the success of bulk wines such as Liebfraumilch, Blue Nun and Black Tower. But the heyday of easy-drinking semi-sweet wines for amateurs is long gone, and with pendulum effect, the German domestic market has become so obsessed with fully dry wines that well-made traditional Kabinett, Spätlese and Auslese wines often do not receive their due credit.
The history of viticulture and winemaking in Rheinhessen dates back to Roman times, and the region has been an important production area for both wine and crops, thanks to its fertile land and favourable climate. Monoculture of grapes had taken roots in Mosel and Rheingau much earlier than Rheinhessen, as many parts of Mosel were too steep for crop farming, whereas the aristocracy and clergy of Rheingau rarely ever had to worry about food supply. Owing to its kaleidoscopic range of terroirs and climatic conditions, Rheinhessen possesses the largest portfolio of grape varieties in Germany, with Riesling covering less than 20 percent of all vineyards.
One of Rheinhessen’s 16 VDP member-estates, Weingut K.F. Groebe was established in 1763, and has remained family-owned ever since. Friedrich Groebe’s wines are an oenological incarnation of himself – behind the gentlemanly poise and understated charm are a resolute structure and Zen-like focus. Frills and gimmicks are strictly non-existent, as are herbicides and insecticides. The style of his wines is perhaps best described as both classical and intellectual, requiring patience and knowledge from a connoisseur.
The following wines were tasted in situ, in the presence of Mrs Manuela Groebe and Mr Friedrich Groebe, during the pre-Weinbörse press trip organised by the VDP. Weingut K.F. Groebe – W: www.weingut-k-f-groebe.de; E: firstname.lastname@example.org; VDP – W: www.vdp.de; E: email@example.com
Groebe Riesling Trocken 2015
Light citrine with glimmering golden reflex, the fresh nose reveals lime, citronella and crushed rock. Supported by lively acidity and saline minerality, the clear palate delivers lemon, verbena and brine. Medium-bodied at 13 percent, the refreshing entry carries onto a minerally mid-palate, leading to a sustained finish. A Gutswein that punches significantly above its weight.
Groebe Westhofener Aulerde Riesling Trocken VDP Großes Gewächs 2015
Translucent citrine with beaming golden reflex, the sophisticated nose effuses bergamot, lime, verbena and wet stone. Buttressed by abundant acidity and pristine minerality, the laser-focused palate emanates calamansi, pomelo, citronella and rock salt. Full-bodied at 13 percent, the poised entry evolves into an articulate mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. A Großes Gewächs that sets the benchmark for its counterparts in Rheinhessen.
Pastel citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the clean nose releases yuzu, greengage and wet stone. Braced by bright acidity and palpable minerality, the focused palate offers calamansi, green apple and crushed rock. Medium-full bodied at 13.5 percent, the invigorating entry continues through a detailed mid-palate, leading to a palate-cooling finish. An Ortswein that can rival – if not beat – many an Erste Lage.
Brilliant citrine with rich golden reflex, the captivating nose radiates grapefruit, honeydew, limestone and frangipane. Underpinned by animated acidity and chiseled minerality, the spellbinding palate oozes white peach, pineapple, wet stone and chamomile. Off-sweet and full-bodied at a delightful 8 percent, the succulent entry persists through a vibrant mid-palate, leading to a hedonistic finish. This is pure pleasure in a bottle.
Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France,
and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages