Door: Christian Callec, 8 augustus 2011 op

Let me start with mentioning that I am surely no connoisseur of German wines, not even close! I just LOVE their diversity, their own character, their great minerality, their fantastic gastronomic potential, but I will never become an expert on German wines, terroirs and winemakers. However, year after year, I get increasingly fascinated by this great diversity of styles, types, varietals and terroirs. I do admire people all those colleagues knowing so much about German wines, wine regions, even single vineyards, producers and vintages. Guys like the Dutch Albert de Jong(winner of the prestigious ProRiesling Förderpreis 2010)Lars Daniëls(PersWijn, Magister Vini)René van Heusden (PersWijn)Frank Jacobs(PersWijn) and Jacob Molendijk (RieslingPartners & Co.) but also some German people like Gerhard Eichelmann (Deutschlands Weine, Mondo Heidelberg)Alain & Gisela Jacobs (DWI NL) and many friendly wine producers are for me a welcomed source of information and education.

Vintage 2010: dispraised before the harvest, rehabilitated at ProWein 2011

Yes, 2010 was a totally unusual, unprecedented vintage in the past 30-50 years. The low temperatures during the flowering, the bad fruit setting, the very cool and wet August, the hail storms in many regions, the severe losses and extra decrease of the yields (25% less than 2009 according to the Deutsches Wein Institut, up to more than 40-50% in some regions)… that was surely not a ‘classic’ vintage, more likely a vintner vintage, a vintage that separates the wheat from the chaff among the wine producers and terroirs. Even before the first grape had been harvested, 2010 was already doomed by the German and international press. It just could not be a good year, according to all those ‘gurus’. The acidity would be much too high for good quality.

“Non-sense!” wrote Albert de Jong, one of the best connoisseurs of German wines in the Netherlands (and may be too in Germany!). “Of course, the acidity in 2010 is indeed high, but not as unusual as many pretend! Germany used to have rieslings with 15‰ of acidity (15 g) some decennia ago. But it is not a question of how high the acidity is, as long as you get RIPE acidity and not green and harsh! The 2010 acidity in riesling wines, from 10 to 15‰, gives the wines an exciting tension with citrus or lime aromas. The riesling wines with residual sugar get a wonderful tension and balance between sweetness and freshness. The acidity gives the riesling wines a fine, elegant, pure, light and highly strung character, and that is now exactly what makes the German riesling wines so exceptionally beautiful!”

“One should never restrict his judgement by looking only to acidity content. There are so many other factors and components in the wine which have an influence on the taste and quality of riesling wines. Look at older vintages to understand better this type of riesling wine. Go and find a riesling from 1996, from a famous wine producer. In 1996, the wines were showing the same type of ‘limey’ acidity, and those wines are still perfectly drinkable. The riesling wines from 2010 have much more extract and concentration than those wines from 1996, and I am pretty confident that they will pan out even better than the 1996.” Sic dixit Albert de Jong.

Very low yields, high must density, high acidity, highest concentration, intense wines with great ageing potential… a huge contrast with the softer, easier drinking and more sensual top-vintage 2009!

It was indeed a difficult, challenging year with extreme results, from disgusting to absolutely fantastic! Those with perfectly managed vineyards, great sites with perfect sunshine and stony upper layer to reflect the sunshine and warm up the grapes, windy places to dry up the grapes when the grey rot was lurking, those who worked day and night to control every single grape cluster, keeping only 100% healthy grapes, those who could afford to take the risks to wait longer… All those got hugely rewarded with a fantastic increasing of the aromatic power (apple, pear, quince, verbena, sorrel, tarragon…) and natural concentration in the grapes, with very high – but ripe – acidity and high sugar content! For them, 2010 brought absolutely marvellous wines with a unique character, a terrific and exciting balance and a great ageing potential! For the others, unfortunately, not only they got fewer grapes, but the quality was terrible, with some bitter, greenish tones. Of course, many vintners (also within the top ones) opened the trick-box in the cellars, practising de-acidification by adding of calcium carbonate to the must, sometimes followed by malolactic fermentation became more a common rule than an exception.

2010 was a year that separated the wheat from the chaff among the wine producers and terroirs. The future will tell us about the real value of this vintage. I hardly can wait the next VDP tasting of the 2010 vintage!

Sources: Lars Daniëls, Magister Vini, PersWijn, after the VDP Mainzer Weinbörse; Albert de Jong and some friendly German wine producers at/after ProWein.