A Whirlwind Tour of Germany 

I was lucky enough to be invited on ABS Wine Agencies’ Masters of Riesling trip this June. It’s one of the wine industry’s most coveted tours and it certainly lived up to all the hype. 

On arrival at Stuttgart Airport, we were promptly offered a glass of Sekt (or German sparkling wine) that came straight from a cooler in the boot of the minivan – certainly a first for me, but carpark bubbles definitely needs to be more of a thing! Glass in hand, off we went to Weingut Schnaitmann but not before a brief stop in the vineyards of Fellbach in Würtemberg to take in the views and learn about the challenges of the 2021 growing season. Rainer took us through a selection of their Spätburgunder (or Pinot Noir), Lemberger and Riesling over lunch. We had an “extremely local” dish made by his mum: spaghetti carbonara – although Rainer was hoping for something slightly different as our first taste of Germany, I think we all know it’s best not to argue!  

Next up, Patrick from Weingut Johner came all the way from Baden to take us through a tasting from Karl H. Johner as well as their new Johner Estate that’s based in New Zealand. We tried the only Rivaner of the trip with him which I thought was slightly surprising as it’s the second most planted grape variety in Germany but, equally, I suppose there’s a reason it’s called “Masters of Riesling”! It had fresh citrus and green fruit notes that were complemented by a light floral lift and a flinty acidity – and was perhaps a little too easy-drinking.  

Weingut Karl H. Johner
Weingut Fürst

Two hours in the car later and we ended up in Burgstädt in Franken at the picturesque Weingut Fürst. We had a quick tour of the famous Hundsrück vineyard followed by dinner with a backdrop of, you guessed it, more vineyards. The next morning kicked off at 8:30am with Sebastian taking us through a tasting of ten wines in their new purpose-built tasting room – certainly a punchy start to the day! There was an excellent selection of both Spätburgunder and Chardonnay, both of which I’m particularly fond of. If you’re thinking of giving German Pinot Noir a go, I’d suggest trying their entry-level Spätburgunder Tradition 

Villa Wolf

Part of the Dr Loosen group since 1996, Weingut Villa Wolf was next on the hit list. It’s a beautiful Italian-style villa and estate that can be found in Wachenheim in the Pfalz region. Parts of the estate have been certified organic as of the 2022 vintage but the philosophy for many years now has been to farm without artificial fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides and by hand to ensure quality. Their Pinot Noir Rosé has always been one of my favourites, and I also enjoyed the Forster Pechstein Riesling that was delightfully precise and had a splash of spicy minerality. 

Then it was onto Weingut Dr Loosen itself in the Mosel. Not only were we taken through a tasting by the famous and charismatic Erni Loosen himself, but we were also treated to dinner, challenged to a blind tasting and invited to stay at the new Dr Loosen guesthouse. Blind wines included a white field blend from California, a Petite Arvine from Switzerland and some wines from Erni’s personal cellar from various older vintages: 1971, 1964, 1959 and even 1945! It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Dr Loosen

Day 3 began at Weingut Jean Stodden in the Ahr. It was inspirational learning how the region is getting back on its feet after the devasting flood in 2021 that significantly damaged the Ahr Valley. Alexander’s Flutedition (or flood edition) wines are made from barrels that were very much salvaged from the aftermath of the flooding. Without knowing what was in each barrel, they were individually tasted and split into three quality groups that make up the 2020 offering – even the wonky ‘n’ on this vintage’s label is because that’s how their sign was found. The result is a spectacular set of Spätburgunders that we hope he never has to make again – they’ve not been released yet, so watch this space! 

Weingut Jean Stodden

Our visit to the Nahe started off spectacularly with one of my current favourites: Weingut Dönhoff’s Oberhaüser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett. Not only did we have a glass of it at a famous viewpoint overlooking the whole region, but it was also paired with chocolate ice cream! At the winery, we had extensive tasting of 13 wines (all of which were Riesling!) followed by Cornelius’ lockdown beer project that was a fun contrast and also a great balance of hoppy and fruity. The lovely Anne then hosted us for dinner at a local restaurant that included an absolutely delicious Kalbsrücken auf Rahmwirsing Pfifferlinge und hausgemachte Spätzle aka veal (and, yes, that took too long to copy). We were also made to try some local schnapps and the more adventurous of the group ended up having a post-dinner dip in the Nahe. 

Weingut Dönhoff

We spent the last, and hottest, day of our trip in the Rheinhessen. Konstantin of Louis Guntrum greeted us with a glass of refreshing Riesling Brut that had spent 36 months on the lees – this gave it a light toasty, brioche complexity that I found both unusual and tasty. We sampled through another selection of 13 wines (!) and interestingly found out that the only wines that Konstantin bottles under cork is for the Italian market – and solely because of perception.  

Louis Guntrum

Our final stop, also in the Rheinhessen, was at Weingut Gunderloch. We had some of their iconic Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett at another fantastic viewpoint overlooking the river before Johannes took us back to the winery for a proper tasting and tour that included a sneak peek of some the more unique winemaking techniques he’s using such as starting ferments in the middle of the vineyard and fermenting in concrete eggs.  

Weingut Gunderloch

It was certainly an unforgettable few days in Germany. Thank you again to ABS Wine Agencies for putting on such an amazing trip and to everyone else for their time and fantastic hospitality!