Tasting T2.7 Alsace and German Riesling

In tasting T.6 German Riesling, we tasted seven dry and off-dry wines all from one exceptional winery, Donnhoff, and all from one exceptional vintage 2019. T2.6 contains a fairly detailed explanation of the styles and sweetness of German Riesling, so if you need to remind yourself of that knowledge (I know I do), then head over there for a quick refresh.

In this, our second Riesling Tasting, we are tasting seven wines, four from Germany (Mosel and Nahe) and three from Alsace in France. The style here is dry through to very sweet.

There are obviously many similarities between Rieslings from Germany and Alsace. In both cases it is an aromatic grape which produces flowery, often almost perfumed aromas with a high level of acidity. It produces dry, off dry, semi-sweet and sweet white wines. It is rarely oaked and is normally produced as a pure single varietal wine.

So, what are the main differences between German and Alsace Riesling? Please bear in mind that these are generalisations and often particular wines may vary, sometimes quite considerably.


German Riesling is produced in the more northerly area of the Rhine valley and its offshoots of the Moselle and Nahe river valleys. The cooler climate produces wines with a balance of lightness in body, a mineral structure, acidity and fruitiness.

Alsace Riesling is produced in the more southerly area on the left bank of the Rhine between Strasbourg and Mulhouse. This warmer climate produces wines that tend to be more rich, opulent and fuller bodied.

Alcohol and Sugar

In part due to the climatic differences German Rieslings tend to be 7.5 to 9.5 percent alcohol, whereas the wines from Alsace wines tend to 12 to 13 percent alcohol.

Alsace wines tend to be drier in general, not including the Vendange Tardive and grains nobles wines.

German wines tended in the past to be off-dry and medium dry up to sweet. However in more recent years these medium Rieslings became less fashionable and Germany now produces world class dry Riesling too.

Viticulture and Vinification

In Alsace the winemaker tends to have a hands-off approach and let the terroir of their individual sites be reflected in the wines. Their vinification is similarly less involved and the wines express a full, complete multi-levelled style.

In Germany the vineyards are often worked more intensely, partly due to the cooler climate, so the sites again display their individuality. In the cellar they work with high precision to produce wines of clarity and a more singular aromatic identity and energy dominates.

In the course of my research, it became apparent that after you pass the general ‘my areas wines are best’ that most wine makers have, their seemed to be a consensus that both areas produce some exquisite wines. It really comes down, as ever, to personal choice as to which styles or indeed individual wines you prefer.

The Wineries are:

Von Hovel

Founded in 1803 Von Hovel is now on its 7th generation of the von Kunow family. The vaulted cellar is 1,100 years old and has been used for different purposes all the way through. Von Hovel has a total of 21.5 hectares of vineyards, in some of the best terroir in Saar.

No herbicides, fertilizers or pesticides are used on the vines and this reflects the philosophy of the winery. Everything is done by hand with a meticulous approach and quality is fine tuned.

Markus Molitor

In the mid 80’s Marcus took over from his father as the eighth generation of the family. His main goal was to return the estates wines to the golden age of Riesling from Mosel valley. Also to create wines that were extremely representative of their terroir and can be aged for many years. This is an extremely well known winery and one that has continually been at the top of the rankings.

Zind Humbrecht

Passed from father to son since 1620 the Humbrecht family have been cultivating vines in Alsace for centuries. The actual Domaine was created in 1959 and Olivier and Margaret Humbrecht are the current day to day owners.

They own 42 hectares of vines across Alsace which are cultivated organically with biodynamic principles. Fermentations are generally slow and spend a minimum of 6 months on the total lees. The Domaine pay particular attention to cultivation and organise a huge team for harvest time in order to enable an extreme attention to detail.


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 winery originated back in the latter part of the 18th century. 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.

Joh Jos Prum

Founded by Johann Josef Prum in 1911 this estate has become one of the finest in Mosel. The winery built a tremendous reputation for racy and pure expressions of Riesling. Today Dr Katharina Prum runs the estate which consists of over 13.5 hectares of vines. Yields are quite low with harvest often stretching all the way to November.

Hugel et Fils

Now if you do not know this name do not fear… however I will say that they are extremely well known and one of the largest and best producers of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and many other varieties in Alsace. In 1639 Hans Ulrich Hugel settled in Riquewihr and took control of the Corporation of Winegrowers. In 1672 his son built a house in Rue des Cordiers and carved the family crest over the doorway which is used in the company logo to this day.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the Hugel family became exceedingly well known for producing enviable wines. Many wars including The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars ravaged Alsace and vineyards started to become unplantable. Frederic Emile Hugel, along with some other courageous winemakers, started replanting vines and slowly bringing the region back to its former glory. Oh did I mention they also make incredible wines that have won more awards than you could count?

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

Von Hovel Saar Riesling 2015

Vinification in stainless steel with elevage also taking place for 8 months in stainless steel.

Note: Petrol aromas with citrus and floral notes which are very powerful. On the palate a medium-full bodied wine with good long acidity and freshness. Zingy citrus running throughout the wine and the floral notes translating well onto the palate with white flowers and hints of orange blossom towards the finish. A good medium length finish to round out a lovely wine.

Markus Molitor Graacher Domprobst Riesling 2015

Note: Citrus notes, refined white fleshed fruits with apples really prominent. Strong aromas of wet slate, good minerality. On the palate intense, powerful apple notes (almost like appletise!) with really zingy acidity at the end. Limes and slight hints of grapefruit but just overall extremely zingy. A very tight wine at the moment but definitely something that will be extremely good in the future. Very different and something I would advise to have in your cellar for the future.

Zind Humbrecht Rangen de Thann Clos Saint Urbain Riesling Grand Cru 2015

Harvested just before the mid-September rainfall in 2015, the Riesling grapes reached a perfect ripeness and were able to ferment dry after a long yeast activity.

Note: Deep vegetal notes, hay and citrus coming through with apples and pears. More exotic fruit here with mango and lychee aromas present. Vegetal and exotic fruits translating well onto the palate. A full bodied wine with great acidity and an extremely powerful depth of flavour. Zesty limes coming through towards the end with a really lovely long finish. Still some baby fat to shed on this but drinking so well. Give it another 3-5 years and it should be sublime.

Zind Humbrecht Clos Hauserer Riesling 2015

Despite the precocious climate, the Clos Hauserer soil warms up very slowly which explains the late ripening style of the wines that always boast one of the highest acidity/low pH of the Domaine. This in turn explains the very slow fermentation and the natural sweeter style of this wine in 2015.

Note: Petrol, lychee and mango prominent with good citrus fruits. Light bodied wine with medium acidity. Extremely fresh, clean and linear on the palate. Exotic fruits and citrus nicely translating onto the palate and rounding out this wonderful bodied wine. Very close to a Chablis with nice minerality but with exotic fruit clear from the beginning. Towards the end apples and citrus taking centre stage with a zesty long finish. A really great wine and drinking so well at the moment.

Donnhoff Oberhausen Brucke Spatlese Riesling GG 2009

This wine comes from the Grosse Lage (equivalent to French Grand Cru) vineyards and must be labelled with ‘GG’ (Grosse Gewachs). This is the highest quality classification in Riesling. Oberhauser Brucke is a ‘monopole’ meaning a vineyard owned by only one company.

Note: Beautiful deep yellow hue turning golden. My first note was ‘this smells like heaven’ so I think we’re off to a good start. A gorgeous mix of citrus with honey and lemon curd beautifully apparent. Pineapple and mango are extremely luscious and pair perfectly with the full bodiedness of the wine. Hints of sweetness with caramelised sugar and honey bringing together a great balance of sweetness and fruit. An extremely long, intense finish. This wine is just fantastic and I would absolutely recommend having a couple in the cellar and ageing them well.

Joh Jos Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese Riesling 2005

Note: Notes of honey and marmalade surround the nose. Touches of petrol and floral notes as well. This is gorgeous. Orange blossom and elderflower coming through on the palate with, of course, swathes of honey and marmalade translating so well onto the palate. Fantastic straight acidity still coming through with an extremely impressive depth of flavour. An absolute beauty of a wine and something that will continue to drink well for many years.

Hugel et Fils HUGEL Selection de Grains Nobles Riesling 1998

Pressing is fed by gravity with no pumping involved. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled barrels or vats. The wine is racked once and then filtered and bottled the following spring.

Note: Golden brown in colour. Molasses and ginger with spice and dried fruits. This is depth of flavour to the extreme. Intense savoury notes running through this wine all the way to the end. Sweetness coming from the dried fruits with raisins and dates coming to mind. Acidity is ever present, which is very impressive in itself. Molasses and ginger in particular translate well onto the palate with the same sweetness present. This is a dark and brooding Riesling which is very powerful yet elegant. Not everyone’s cup of tea but certainly a great wine.


These wines were truly impressive and no wonder all of the wineries are extremely highly regarded. I can highly recommend all of these wines and they all range across different price points, so there is certainly something for everyone.

Have a look at the scores below but do remember that these range from dry through to very sweet so have that in the back of your mind.

The scores:

Saar Riesling 2015 – 89 Points

Graacher Domprost Riesling 2015 – 91 Points

Rangen de Thann Clos Urbain Riesling 2015 – 92 Points

Clos Hauserer 2015 – 94 Points

Oberhausen Brucke Spatlese 2009 – 96 Points

Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese 2005 – 98 Points

HUGEL Selection de Grains Nobles 1998 – 98 Points

Thank you all for reading this week and we hope you enjoyed it! See you in two weeks for our Oregon Pinot Noir tasting review!!

David & Harry

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