The Champion of Nahe

If Bordeaux’s Grand Cru Classé wines are the vinous equivalent of Hollywood, the A-Listers of Germany would resemble European cinema – the lack of bankable stars is more than compensated by a host of venerable names, such as Egon Müller, Joh. Jos. Prüm and Markus Molitor (all Mosel), as well as Graf von Schönborn and Kloster Eberbach (both Rheingau). Belonging to the same league as these illustrious names is Dönnhoff, which for decades has been recognised as the leading estate from the Nahe region, often described as the middle child of German Riesling.

When the Dönnhoff family first settled in Oberhausen an der Nahe in the 1750s, agriculture was their main focus, whereas viticulture and winemaking were but an additional source of income, typical of traditional European farmsteads at the time. Although Nahe wines were highly regarded during the 19th century, the two World Wars and the post-war years were devastating, and it would not be until the 1980s that Nahe gradually recovered its former glory.

The estate began to focus on wine production during the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s under Hermann Dönnhoff, and ownership and stewardship would pass through successive generations, including his son Hermann Dönnhoff Jr., grandson Helmut Dönnhoff and great-grandson Cornelius Dönnhoff. It was the latter two who made the estate a household name, whilst the number of hectares under vine gradually grew from merely 4ha to 25ha today, 80 percent of which is planted with Riesling. Helmut Dönnhoff and Cornelius Dönnhoff are often on the shortlists of German Winemaker of the Year, the father in 1999, and the son in 2016.

Whereas Nahe is renowned for its hugely diverse range of soil composition comprising the entire cycle of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, Dönnhoff can be fairly described as Nahe in a nutshell. Its nine Einzellagen (single vineyards) – each classified as Große Lage and three currently produce Großes Gewächs dry Rieslings – are located in five towns and villages, including alphabetically Bad Kreuznach, Niederhausen an der Nahe, Norheim, Oberhausen an dr Nahe and Schloßböckelheim.

Each of the nine vineyards has its unique soil composition, leading to a beguiling range of Riesling styles across the sweetness spectrum. The only unifying factors amongst the vineyards, it seems, are their outstanding quality and substantial cellaring ability, indeed the reasons why Dönnhoff is revered as one of the leading estates of Germany, and one of the leading Riesling producers in the world.

wb1118-1Dönnhoff Riesling Trocken 2013

Pale citrine with light sunshine reflex, the fragrant nose offers lemon peel, grapefruit, seashell and citrus blossom. With bounteous acidity and palpable minerality, the lively palate delivers lime peel, pomelo, fresh herbs and rock salt. Medium-bodied at 11.5%, the citrusy entry carries onto a saline mid-palate, leading to a clean finish.

wb1118-2Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett VDP Große Lage 2013

Luminous citrine with pastel lime hues, the composed nose presents lime peel, kumquat, starfruit, wet stone and jasmine. With sprightly acidity, structured minerality and slight petillance, the invigorating palate supplies lemon peel, calamansi, mangosteen, seashell and citrus blossom. Off-dry and medium-bodied at 9.5%, the tangy entry continues through a fleshy mid-palate, leading to a lingering finish. Dönnhoff Norheimer

wb1118-3Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese VDP Große Lage 2012

Rich citrine with bright golden reflex, the poised nose effuses pomelo peel, clementine, white peach, wet stone and orchard blossom. With bright acidity and clean minerality, the succulent palate delivers grapefruit peel, tangerine, nectarine, crushed rock and frangipane. Off-sweet and medium-full bodied at 8.5%, the peachy palate persists through a juicy mid-palate, leading to an adorable finish.

To discover the household name of Dönnhoff, contact Ms Guiomar Pedruco of Macau Fine Wine Bazaar Co. Ltd.; W:; E:; T: +853 2872 0025

 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

Categories World of Bacchus