(Continued from “The Palatine Idyll” on 29 December 2017)
German wine laws are notoriously complicated, and those governing the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) estates are downright Byzantine. All the world over, classifications concern either estates, e.g. Bordeaux and Provence, or vineyards, e.g. Bourgogne and Champagne. Seemingly too dull for them, the detail-oriented Germans have their VDP estates subject to both regimes. All VDP estates have to comply with EU and German laws and, on that basis, they have the extra onus to abide at all times by the VDP’s stringent rules and regulations, even if the VDP is a non-governmental entity, whose by-laws are not enshrined in law.
The VDP’s four-tier classification system is largely terroir-based, comprising from low to high Gutswein (regional wine), Ortswein (village wine), Erste Lage (premier cru) and Große Lage (grand cru), with its fully dry style called Großes Gewächs (also grand cru). To produce a Großes Gewächs wine for example, the producer must first of all be a VDP member-estate, cultivate at a terroir designated as Große Lage a permitted grape variety, and produce the wine in such a way as to meet VDP standards. This looks unsuspectingly straightforward, but numerous devils are in the details.
Whereas Left Bank estates of the class of 1855 can expand, exchange, merge or shrink vineyards as they see fit, VDP estates are confined to the boundary of the designated vineyards, if the prestigious designation is not to be lost. All the while, the perpetual membership of the 1855 club simply beggars belief in the 21st century. And whereas in Bourgogne vineyards can change hands and still produce premier cru and grand cru wines, VDP membership can under no circumstances be swapped. Furthermore, unlike Meursault Premier Cru Les Genevrières plus Meursault Premier Cru Les Perrières equals Meursault Premier Cru, or Nuits-Saint-George Premier Cru Les Murgers plus Nuits-Saint-George Premier Cru equals Nuits-Saint-George Premier Cru, cuvées restart from the very bottom of the VDP pyramid.
Established in 1849, Reichsrat von Buhl’s stellar quality is rivalled only by its illustrious history. Whilst its proud owners included the von Buhl and von und zu Guttenberg families, it also counted Otto von Bismarck and Felix Mendelssohn as its ardent supporters. At the official opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, the wine raised for the toast was a Reichsrat von Buhl Riesling. Since taking the helm in 2013, CEO Richard Grosche and MD-cum-Winemaker Mathieu Kauffmann, former Chef de Cave of Bollinger for more than a decade, have led Reichsrat von Buhl to dazzling new heights.
To be continued…
Some of the wines were tasted at the VDP.Weinbörse 2017 in Mainz, additional ex-cellar samples supplied by Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl.
A cuvée from two Erste Lage vineyards: Deidesheimer Herrgottsacker and Deidesheimer Mäushöhle. Luminous citrine with shimmering golden reflex, the airy nose offers mandarin peel, kaffir lime, mint and crushed rock. Anchored by generous acidity and substantial minerality, the pristine palate delivers lime peel, green apple, citronella and rock salt. Medium-full bodied at 12.5%, the crunchy entry carries onto a structured mid-palate, leading to a laser-focused finish. A wonderfully enjoyable Ortswein, whose designation does it no justice.
Saturated cirtine with rich golden reflex, the spellbinding nose effuses yuzu, green papaya, dried peach, crushed rock and white smoke. Buttressed by exhilarating acidity and chiselled minerality, the mesmerising palate emanates nectarine, dried mango, sweet ginger, white clover honey and rock salt. Fully sweet and full-bodied at 11.5%, the creamy entry evolves into a succulent mid-palate, leading to a memorable finish. This Erste Lage is a paragon of German Spätlese Riesling.
Sourced from vineyards in Deidesheim, Forst, Friedelsheim, Niederkirchen, Ruppertsberg and Wachenheim. Brilliant citrine with twinkling golden reflex, the virgin nose presents kumquat, Williams pear, mangosteen, daffodil and wet stone. Braced by dainty acidity and talc-like minerality, the adorable palate furnishes yuzu, white peach, rambutan, paperwhite and clean slate. Off-sweet and medium-bodied at 8.5%, the tantalising entry continues through a weightless mid-palate, leading to an immaculate finish. A truly irresistible Gutswein that rivals any Große Lage Kabinett.
A cross of Riesling and Silvaner, Rieslaner was created almost a century ago. Incandescent citrine with scintillating golden reflex, the graceful nose reveals kaffir lime, white peach, mangosteen, verbena, paperwhite and wet stone. Underpinned by buoyant acidity and ultra-fine minerality, the magnificent nose provides bergamot, greengage, passion fruit, citronella, frangipane and clean slate. Full-bodied and luxuriously sweet at 8.5%, the maestoso entry persists though a melodious mid-palate, leading to a harmonious entry. This Gutswein is an exceptional Große Lage in disguise.
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.