Skurnik/Theise Tasting: 2017 German Wines

I’ve been lucky enough to attend these tasting for years, and get a peek at the new
vintage for myself. Obviously, to judge a vintage from a tasting – even as
extensive as this one – would be unfair. But I can offer my impressions – and
honestly, I was surprised. I was in the Mosel and Nahe area during the early
part of this harvest, thus I already knew the quality of the fruit coming in
was very high, a big relief after a disastrous spring with hail and frost. I
knew that this meant a smaller crop – and would result in a more concentrated
wine. But what surprised me, and I must say quite pleasantly, was the
brightness of the fruit and the impressive zing the wines had. I was prepared
for the baroque and lush yellow peach and sappy, dripping apricots with hints
of orange blossoms from the botrytis… and I was met with bright white peach,
pear, and loads of ginger! A multitude of delicious Kabinetts, lithe and
bright, sunshine and stone. In some ways, it reminded me of 2002, if one was to
see 2015 as 2001 (I don’t think 2015 is exactly like 2001 – but the pair made
for a good comparison). While perhaps not spiking to the heights of the 2015s,
these offer a depth and beauty. Yet, a word of warning – do not mistake the
brightness of these wines for lightness. They are big, serious and will show
their true power if given the chance to age. I cannot speak for the Auslese
wines, I tasted too few to even make a guess, but the Spatlese have power and
structure to develop over time. A side note for the lovers of Scheurebe – this
is the time to grab some, the cat is out and it is hungry. 


It is always a pleasure to taste with Johannes and Hannah Selbach. Their wines represent the Mosel I fell in love with: floral, full of grace, with a nod to history but not afraid to be themselves. They are not the wines that scream for attention, but they reward patience and introspection. I am
currently drinking my stash of 2002 S-O Spatlese (Zeltinger Sonnenuhr *) and I
am very happy I waited. White peach, mineral, flowers… a true Mosel Riesling. 

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese feinherb Ur Alte Reben: Green peaches, deeply aromatic with herb and pear. Ripe mid, leaning quite dry with bright acidity over the rocky, mineral-laden fruit. This needs time but should prove to be another excellent Feinherb.  

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese : Already a beauty - this wine opened up with bright white peach and floral notes, big sexy peach and pear in the mid with minerality adding edges to the curves. Quite creamy but with a long ginger and zest finish.

2011 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese: Once the hint of petrol blows off - this wines is grabs you, ripe, candied lemon, ginger, smoke, and loads of autumnal fruit. While clearly bigger, it has much to give in terms of structure and minerality - a great showing for a still young wine. I really enjoy tasting these back vintages together with the new wines - as a reminder of how much patience is rewarded. 

Hannah Selbach

2016 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Himmelreich Riesling Anrecht:  This has all the best qualities of the 2016, light floral, elegant wine, teeming with ripe yellow peaches in the mid and a mineral core. Long sweet and tart finish. Delicious.

2017 Selbach-Oster Zeltinger Schlossberg Riesling Auslese ‘Schmitt’: While most Selbach-Oster wines prefer the quiet of chamber music and polite conversation….Rotlay and Schmitt are the rowdy rock stars. This wine is no exception: rich melange of tropical fruit and berries, ginger, acid, stone, power… And for all that, this stays light, avoiding the sappy, sugary tones. An excellent wine, and will require and reward patience.

 Weingut Spreitzer  

From the Mosel, it seems right to jump to the Rheingau, trading in the floral notes and pastels for steel and muscle. And Weingut Spreitzer is Rheingau, even in the persona of Andreas himself. But don’t mistake the steel in the wines for coldness, they will greet you with open arms, if given the chance. The feinherbs and kabinetts are a great example of that, I am on my last bottle of the 2012 Kabinett halbtrocken and it is delicious now, citrus and lime galore. 

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Doosberg Riesling Alte Reben: Did someone ask for Rheingau? Lean, bright with grassy and herbal tones on the nose, core of pineapple and tropical fruit in the mid, underscored by ginger and stone. Intense Trocken - on par with the GG in style.

 2017 Weingut Spreitzer Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen Riesling Großes Gewächs: Shockingly good, especially for such a young GG, already stunning in its stony armor, but look under - and it is ripe and rich, bursting with tangy fruit. This is wine of power and elegance. One of my favorites from the tasting.  

Andreas Spreitzer

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Winkeler Jesuitengarten Riesling feinherb Alte Reben: Floral and earthy, with a core of white peach. Bright middle of tangy fruit over mineral, light zesty finish, drier than it seems. The balance here is key. Delicious.

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Kabinett: Bright, autumnal fruit with notes of pear and even apricots. rich wine, with a serious mid-palate and a long finish. It will really reward a few years of patience.

2017 Weingut Spreitzer Oestricher Lenchen Riesling Spätlese 303: This is, in many ways, an Auslese, if perhaps brighter and more lifted. With 98 grams of RS and 10g/l of acidity - it is a beauty. Ripe, rich fruit, hints of tropical notes and orange blossom from the botrytis, mirabells take over the mid, adding a zing and bite. Long sweet and sour finish with lemon curd. Excellent wine.

Jacob Schneider

I love Hermannshohle Wines, I can’t help it. Especially as a Spatlese or Auslese. With age, they show cream and red berry notes that are simply irresistible. And here is a family that makes amazing wine from the vineyard, both dry and lieblich. How are they still a secret? I recently had the trocken version - the Magnus - and it stood up well to a Chablis in a flight. Purity and texture. The wines I tasted today, the 2017 vintage, were in the same vein - purity, great fruit and the acidity to match

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Riesling MELAPHYR Qba trocken: Mineral, smoke, herbs and grass - what a pretty little QBA. Although little may not be fair - it is packed with spicy citrus fruit. 

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Riesling “Auf der Kertz” feinherb: Peaches, red slate, load of apples. This shows good sweetness up front and in the mid, with a tangy, zesty note of ginger, mint and lime.  

Jacob Schneider

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Klamm Riesling Kabinett : A real Kabinett has become a rare thing. This is one - full of yellow and white peaches, but light, lithe, and…the glass is empty.

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Norheimer Kirschheck Riesling Spätlese: This was a rather intriguing Spatlese, in a room full of white peaches, this one swung for the apples, and riper toward the mid, apple pie, nutty notes and quince. Lovely citrus and spice on the finish with perhaps a hint of savory herbs. 

2017 Weingut Jakob Schneider Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese : Another one of my favorite wines at the tasting - a Spatlese of stunning purity. My notes say - “Perfect. Buy. Cellar. Enjoy.” And that really is all that is needed, with bright acidity (9.8 g/l) and excellent levels of RS for a Spatlese (70g) - it is both ripe, and bright, sweet and refreshing. It will need some age to come together, but this is a star.

Weingut Darting

Heike Darting

One table I never miss at tastings is that of Weingut Darting. And I always know what to expect - honest, delicious wines, made with love and skill. Oh, and the best Rieslaner in the land, of course. But this year there was more the Durkheimer Hochbenn Muskateller Kabinett Trocken 2017 was impossible to resist, deeply aromatic with sweet yellow flowers on the nose and bright, acid driven mid. Summer and shellfish are calling. 

Talking about the summer, is there a better summer-time party wine than the Darting Durkheimer Nonnengarten Riesling Kabinett? I mean, it already comes in liter bottles. To me - that says party time! The 2017 is very bright, ripe and clean, with a delicious citrus tang on the finish.

…. and then there was the 2017 Ungsteiner Honigsackel Scheurebe Spatlese. Showstopper. Big delicious tropical notes, mixing with the salty sea breeze and whole garden of herbs. This was delicious, and so very scheu. 


The tower needs no introduction. I was lucky enough to visit in late September and capture the above image. Standing with Helmut on that vineyard road, discussing the vintages and the impending harvest - that is a Riesling geek dream. The Donnhoff 2017 wines show class, and I really enjoyed the power and elegance of the 2017 Felsenberg Riesling “Felsentrumchen” GG. Spicy, with a long midpalate and a bright finish. This is showing well already. 

The 2017 Hermannshohle Riesling GG is a different beast, still elegant and powerful, but brooding, darker and deeper than the Felsen. This one needs time, the complex flavors will surely find their way through, and calm the brooding storm. It is a masterpiece, but patience is required. 


Phillip Rumpf

I really enjoyed the 2017 Kruger-Rumpf wines, especially the lieblich side. Starting with the floral, tangy and sexy Muensterer Rheinberg Kabinett, and on to the more lithe, peachy and pear-y Muensterer Im Pitterberg Kabinett shat showed my favorite Riesling note - red berries (think red currant). But my two favorites were the Spatlese from Dautenpflaenzer. 

First, the Riesling: a striking balance of sweet, tropical fruit, with its tangy, sappy notes, and the brightness and lightness of a true Spatlese, staying savory and rich without overwhelming the palate. And then there was another Scheurebe. The 2017 Scheurebe Spatlese is a beastly thing. Rich, sexy, plush at one moment and racy at the next. Deep and complex. Catch me if you can. 

A Few Other “Do Not Miss” Wines

Sebastian Strub

Guido Justen

Enrico Saam

There were many standouts in this tasting. Every single A.J. Adam wine I tried was delicious, but I must highlight two. First, the Dhron Hofberg Riesling Feinherb “In der Sangerei”, powerful, with peaches and grapefruit notes, with the mid-palate leaning mineral and a dry, spicy finish. And the Dhron Hofberg Riesling Kabinett, with its mint, sage, savory herb nose over ripe white peach and pear. Delicious. 

I can never say enough about the baroque beauty of Merkerlbach wines. Their 2017 Kinheimer Rosenberg Riesling Spatlese “2” is the perfect example. Old school Riesling, perhaps even Old Skool. Spicy, savory, with an understated elegance and a tart richness that keeps you coming back for more. But the star was the Urziger Wurzgarten Riesling Auslese Lang Pitcher “#7”, the melange of spices, tropical botrytis-influences aromatics and the bright Urziger fruit is simply delicious. Seek this one out. 

Strub is another estate that I cannot help but love. Their wines are a great representation of the people who make them - the smile is earnest, and the sun shines both from their faces and their wines. Sebastian is a perfect example - and I really enjoyed discussing the wines and the vintage with him. The 2017 “Thal” Feinherb defines the style, floral, bright, with a herbal note in the mid and a long, zesty finish. The “Soil to Soul” Kabinett is always a ridiculous value, but the 2017 offers a generous helping of pineapple on top of the ripe peach and the creamy mid rounds the whole thing off. I enjoyed both the “Herzstueck” and the Pettenthal Kabinetts, both showed bright apple and peach, ripe mid and an excellent core of acidity. The nod perhaps goes to the Pettenthal, which showed more minerality and a deeper, complex finish with ginger tones. 

While I always enjoy the wines of Meulenhof, I was even more surprised with the 2017s. These showed finesse and brightness that really served to underscore the deep fruit characters of their wines. My favorites were the Erdener Trepchen Riesling Spatlese Alte Reben and the E.T. Riesling Auslese #102. Both wines showed peaches, white flowers, hints of tangerine and excellent depth, with the Auslese adding more cream and riper peach and apricot to the mix. 

The wines of Weingut Kunstler are Rheingau wines. Elegant, masculine, with a hidden core of power and a clarity that borders philosophy. My favorite wine was the Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Kabinett Trocken, because it personified all of the above, a true Rheingau wine, masculine, complex and yet, crystal clear. One cannot overlook the Berg Schlossberg Riesling GG from 2016 either, elegant, but with yellower fruit and a more delicate feel, as expected from the vintage. 

Overall, the 2017 vintage seems extremely promising. And, at least in my case, will probably offer a good amount of wine for long term storage while I enjoy the 2016s. Overall, Riesling rewards those who can wait… but that, of course, may be just my opinion. 

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