Tasting T2.6 German Riesling

When I first thought of 60 wine tastings for my 60 years, the idea was that they were not just tastings for the sake of it, but designed to further my knowledge in some areas and to create some knowledge where little or none previously existed for me in other areas.

Riesling is a fine example of the latter. I know very little about Riesling. Shocking though that is. It is the most planted grape variety in Germany. It has various styles and levels of quality and sweetness and it is accepted as being a far more nuanced and interesting grape variety than most.

As I developed my knowledge around the world, most ‘old world’ (European) countries came with their own grape varieties and styles. Germany didn’t enthral me to discover its wines, possibly due to that memory of Liebfraumilch dominating the UK markets back in the 80’s when I first worked for Victoria Wine. Bottles of Black Tower, Blue Nun and if memory serves Grune Kahn, (that a colleague in the wines shop mis-translated as Green Cock, Crock in reality) are deeply imprinted in my memory with the desire never to re-visit them.

As my wine world expanded to the ‘new world’ particularly Australia and New Zealand I would often see Riesling on company wine lists and continued to loosely ignore it.

Over the last few years partly due to Harry being more open minded about it than I was, and partly due to visiting various importer wine tastings, I have come across a few Rieslings and started to understand the grape variety and its flavour profiles much more. A few years ago, I even purchased some of the 2015 vintage from two impressive German wineries and now they are really developing into lovely wines.

Riesling has become a ‘go to’ wine for many Asian dishes and cuisines, but my knowledge of their differing styles is still limited so within my 60 tastings three are dedicated to Riesling.

T2.6 German Riesling (This one) is my introduction into the dry and off-dry styles of Riesling.

This tasting will be of 7 bottles, all from one exceptional winery, Donnhoff, and all from one exceptional vintage 2019.

There will be 3 different bottles of dry, Trocken Riesling, 2 bottles of Off-Dry, Kabinett and 2 bottles of still off-dry but slightly sweeter or more accurately fruitier Spatlese.

The idea here is simply to understand three of the most found styles of Riesling that one would drink with food, so I can understand what I like, and with what type of food I should drink them with.

Later we will have two further tastings:

T2.7 Alsace and German Riesling, this will be various producers and various dry, medium and sweet styles.

T3.4 Australian and New Zealand Riesling, again various producers and vintages but looking to teach me what the exotic areas of the southern hemisphere can bring to the grape variety.

Styles of Riesling

Complicated is a good word to use when first trying to understand German Riesling.

The below diagram supposedly explains it all, however it does seem to cover both quality and sweetness at the same time, I guess the thought is that if you are making a sweeter wine then the quality would be greater too as otherwise why bother with the extra work?

All the wines we will taste are at least Qualitswein mit pradikat (QBA) or Pradikatswein.

At this level it then becomes a level of sweetness that becomes labelled as follows

Trocken – Dry

Kabinett – off Dry

Spatlese – off dry or Fruity

Auslese – Sweet

Beerenauslese – Sweeter

Eiswein – Sweeter still

Trockenbeerenauslese – Extremely Sweet

Ok so enough of all that, maybe it will become clearer when we taste some wine.

The Winery - Donnhoff

Donnhoff is based in the Nahe region of Germany, more specifically in Oberhausen. It has long been considered as one of Germany’s leading lights and is renowned for producing racy, elegant wines which have a potent mineral character and plenty of tension.

The Nahe region is a soil diverse area. Known for slate and limestone to sand and loam. It is located between the Rhine and Mosel valleys and the vineyards mostly overlook the Nahe river.

Riesling is by far the predominant grape variety planted.

The Donnhoff estate owns 28ha of vines which includes plots in the nine Grosse Lage vineyards (the highest quality classification) and including the monopole (a vineyard owned by only one company of Oberhauser Brucke. A wine we plan to taste in tasting T2.7

The winery originated back in the latter part of the 18th century, but it was Hermann Donnhoff who first began selling single vineyard expressions of Riesling back in the 1920’s. Today the fourth generation of the family Cornelius Donnhoff runs the estate taking over from his father Helmut who really established the reputation of this estate.

Riesling and the 2019 Vintage

Riesling produces wines that particularly express where they are grown, so location and vineyard are important. The wines last and continually evolve like most great reds. They are particularly refreshing and tend to be relatively low in alcohol, and a major plus, they are great with food.

The climate change that Germany wine makers are seeing in their vineyards also points to the change away from the fruitier sweeter styles to the more common bone dry Trocken and off-dry or medium dry light Kabinett styles of today. So nowadays most Rieslings made are dry to medium dry, not sweet and German dry Riesling is a much-undervalued treasure of the international wine world.

2019 is an exceptionally good year. The German wine industry has majorly benefitted from climate change and no longer needs to disguise underripe grapes by adding sugar.

This wonderful ripeness of fruit has meant that even though the 2019’s have great traditional and appetising acidity, many of them are already a delight to drink. Open and accessible yet with the ability to last 40 years is something often said about this vintage.

Tonight’s tasters are David, Harry, Luke, Kim & Jen.

As I mentioned before Riesling is particularly great with food, most wines are, but Riesling is more diverse than most. It is particularly good with Asian styles and flavours. 

Tonight, after our initial tasting without food we will re-taste the drier (Trocken) wines with some Sushi and Gravadlax to start, followed by a Miso-Salmon Poke bowl (prepared by Luke) and some Thai fish cakes with the off-dry (Kabinett) wines and then moving to the medium dry to medium sweet (Spatlese) wines. Apparently the hotter (spicier) the dish the sweeter the Riesling.

Following all of this, some cheese, and whilst it might be strange to follow that with cheese, Riesling is a great cheese wine too.

Soft and creamy, like Brie and Camembert pair well with the drier styles, as do the harder cheeses like Emmental and Manchego.

Semi-Harder and nutty, like Raclette, Gouda, Goat and Jarlsberg are best paired with off-dry Riesling.

Smelly cheeses like Munster, and salty blue cheeses, ie Roquefort, are best paired with the sweeter styles. The saltier the cheese, the sweeter the wine needs to be.

We have seven wines today, demonstrating the styles and vineyard locations of the vines. 

1st up is..

Kreuznach Kahlenburg 2019 (Trocken)

A dry Riesling infused with charm, elegance and a beguiling spicy Riesling bouquet.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Aromas of pear, citrus and stone fruits. Hints of vanilla and apples as well.

Palate: All of the above coming through nicely on the palate, notes of butter and grapefruit towards the end as well. Medium – full bodied wine with high acidity. A medium – full length finish coupled with the high acidity gives this wine a lot of ability to age for the next 7-10 years. Gorgeous wine.

Kreuznach Krotenpfuhl Grosse Gewachs 2019 (Trocken)

A rich yet extremely elegant GG. Spicy with a finely chiselled minerality and fruit. A concentrated depth of flavours.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Beautiful aromas of biscuit and yeast. Apples, pears and stone fruits coming through nicely. Extremely interesting nose.

Palate: Notes of biscuit and apples on the forefront, small hints of stone fruits. Lots of grapefruit towards the end and bursting with acidity. This wine has a long way to go! Medium – full bodied wine with high acidity and a moderate – long finish. This wine will age for at least a decade probably more. Very nice and fresh.

Hillenpfad im Muhlenberg Grosse Gewachs 2019 (Trocken)

A delightfully dry Riesling with tremendous depth of flavour and marked with elegant, distinctively spicy aromas for which the Hollenpfad vineyard is known.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. First hints of petrol on the nose for this one, floral notes as well as apple and pears coming through.

Palate: Apples and pears immediately on the forefront, notes of orange blossom and white flowers. Grapefruit mixing nicely with the acidity for the finish as well. This was tough to taste honestly, took a long time to open up and we had opened several hours earlier. Medium bodied wine with moderate acidity and a short – medium length finish. I would certainly give this a couple of years until drinking just to see how it evolves.

Riesling QBA Kabinett 2019

Exhilarating, sophisticated off-dry Riesling with subtle fruitiness and a playful acidity.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Strong hints of peaches in particular on this one, pears coming through again with floral notes as well.

Palate: Lots of white fruit notes on the palate, really enjoyable. Peaches, pears, apples all coming together. Floral notes coming through as well with hints of orange blossom and acacia. Light bodied with moderate acidity and a short finish. A lovely wine for drinking right now.

Kreuznach Krotenpfuhl Kabinett 2019

Elegant off-dry Riesling, artfully balancing distinctive herbal spice notes with a vivacious clarion acidity

Nose: Pale straw on first viewing. Extremely perfumed nose, white fruits and floral notes really coming through with hints of petrol for substance.

Palate: A lovely wine, filled with white fruits and white flowers. Almost lime zest like, really impressive. Slight grapefruit coming through towards the end but extremely light. A light bodied wine with moderate acidity and a moderate finish. Beautiful wine.

Norheim Kirschheck Spatlese 2019

Brimming with brilliance and beauty. Luscious, opulent fruit balanced by a lively acidity. Immensely deep flavours of wild cherry enhance this Spatlese’s distinctive, delicious character.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Honey, floral notes again with fresh stone fruits. Honeysuckle and citrus coming through as well.

Palate: Melon, honey… wow this is cracking. Lychee and exotic fruits fill the mouth. Lovely medium bodied wine with full powerful acidity and a moderate finish. What an excellent wine. This will go for quite some time and I would recommend keeping for at least 6-7 years to watch it develop.

Neiderhausen Hermannshohle Spatlese 2019

Hermannshohle is revered as Nahe’s top-ranked site and the benchmark by which all other vineyards in the region are judged. Traditional stately Spatlese with an incredible wealth of fruit aromas and despite its impressive concentration, an ephemeral grace and elegance.

Nose: Pale straw colour on first viewing. Orange blossom, white flowers and honey are lovely aromas with apples and pears coming through.

Palate: Amazing honeyed characteristics with orange blossom and white flowers. Apples, pears and white stone fruits. Medium – full bodied wine with full acidity. A medium – full length finish, this wine will do well for many years to come. A true classic.


This was certainly an eye opener. Both for my father and for myself. As dad explained earlier I have definitely pushed for us to have more Riesling in our lives, I have found it to be extremely diverse and different from any other grape variety.

On their own these wines were crisp and acidic, showing their true colours. However when tasted with food afterwards, they opened up to show their classy fruit characteristics as well as their honeyed palates. These wines were extremely good and whilst not everyone around the table enjoyed them, they could be appreciated for what they are.

The scores:

Kreuznach Kahlenberg 2019 – 91 Points

Kreuznach Krotenpfuhl GG 2019 – 89 Points

Hillenpfad im Muhlenberg 2019 – 88 Points

Riesling QBA 2019 – 90 Points

Kreuznach Krotenpfuhl K 2019 – 90 Points

Norheim Kirscheck 2019 – 93 Points

Niederhausen Hermannshohle 2019 – 93 Points

Nearly all wines in the outstanding category which let’s be honest from one winery is so impressive. An absolute cracking tasting of an extremely diverse grape variety. I personally enjoyed discovering which types of Riesling I particularly like, as there is so much to learn. I would definitely suggest starting with well-known names if you can, just so you can discover what type of Riesling you enjoy.

Thank you for reading 😊

David & Harry

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