In comparison with other major wine-producing countries in Europe, Germany possesses a notably high number and indeed proportion of aristocratic and ecclesiastical estates. Somewhat unsurprisingly, Rheingau and Mosel boast the largest number of such estates, yet many have changed hands over the decades and centuries. In contrast, Württemberg’s quintet of aristocratic estates has all without exception remained in the hands of the founding families.
This speaks not so much about Württemberg’s conservatism as its blend of tradition and innovation, encapsulated in its fun yet proud campaign slogan “Wir können alles – außer Hochdeutsch”, literally “We can [do] anything. Except [speak] Standard German”. An innovative hub of Germany, Württemberg is equally enthusiastic on the vinous front. Of its 18 VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter) estates, nine are members of Deutsches Barrique-Forum, possibly the next big thing in German wine.
Established in 1991, Deutsches Barrique-Forum is, in its own words, “a community of interest aiming to produce first-class wines… producing barrel-aged wines of extraordinary quality is the common commitment uniting all these wine-growers”. With the curious exception of Rotspon (https://macaudailytimes.com.mo/the-hanseatic-claret.html) of northern Germany, extensive barrel maturation was historically uncommon in the country due to various reasons, e.g. Germany’s cool climate and focus on white wine meant that few wines needed, and indeed could stand up to, the process.
Circumstances have changed dramatically over the past decades, e.g. global warming and technological advancement have led to a new batch of German wines, both red and white, that can benefit from extensive barrel maturation. For those who were not born early enough – same as this author – to witness the rise of Super Tuscan, we may yet be witnessing the rise of a particular style of German wines that could potentially be called… “Super German”?
Weingut Graf von Bentzel-Sturmfeder (W: www.sturmfeder.de; E: firstname.lastname@example.org) and Weingut Graf Neipperg (W: www.graf-neipperg.de; E: email@example.com) have been making wines since 1396 and more than three-quarters of a millennium ago respectively. Tasting the following wines in the presence of Kilian Graf von Bentzel-Sturmfeder-Horneck and Karl-Eugen Erbgraf zu Neipperg was as much a privilege as a first-hand history lesson. A great aunt of the formers’ was Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg, widow of Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, leader of the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler; the latter is married to Erzherzogin Andrea Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen, daughter of the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary Otto von Habsburg-Lothringen.
The press trip was organised by Mrs Diana Maisenhölder (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mr Dietmar Maisenhölder (email@example.com) of VDP Württemberg (www.vdp-wuerttemberg.de).
Limpid lemon-yellow with pastel citrine reflex, the fragrant nose offers cloudberry, mirabelle, bell pepper and dried basil. Sustained by ample acidity and firm minerality, the vigorous palate delivers strawberry, grapefruit, white pepper and thyme. Medium-full bodied at 12.5 percent, the lively entry carries onto a spicy mid-palate, leading to a moreish finish. A delectable quaffer full of bucolic charm.
The comital estate has been growing Muskateller since the 1720s, and this fine expression is sourced from old vines above 40 years of age. Luminous citrine with light golden reflex, the aromatic nose presents white strawberry, yellow apple, frangipane and wet stone. Anchored by generous acidity and clean minerality, the chiselled palate delivers calamansi, honeydew, rosemary and crushed rock. Off-dry and medium-bodied at 11 percent, the refreshing entry persists through a high-spirited mid-palate, leading to a focused finish. Muskateller’s charm is showcased in a structured way in this fine example.
Samtrot is also known as Spätburgunder in Württemberg. Bight garnet with carmine-ruby reflex, the floral nose radiates raspberry, strawberry and carnation. Supported by crunchy acidity and tangy tannins, the ebullient palate oozes cranberry, rosehip and potpourri. Medium-bodied at 12.5 percent, the tutti-frutti entry continues through a dainty mid-palate, leading to a sprightly finish. Given care and skills, as this Erste Lage shows, Samtrot can be delightful on its own.
Dark garnet with crimson-Tyrian purple rim, the scented nose reveals blackberry, black cherry, clove, liquorice, sandalwood and geranium. Buttressed by abundant acidity, succulent tannins and palpable minerality, the profound palate unveils cassis, prune, caffè ristretto, tobacco, game and charcoal. Full-bodied at 13.5 percent, the stately entry evolves into a magnanimous mid-palate, leading to an indelible finish. This is without doubt one of the most age-worthy Lemberger in Germany, and indeed Europe.
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.