Rheinhessen is the most important wineproducing region in Germany. There are two ready explanations for this success. First, it is home to several important varietal crossings, including Muller-Thurgau, Dornfelder and Scheurebe (which actually originated here), so there are a lot of different wine styles on offer.
Second, the region has the somewhat sorry reputation of being the origin point of liebfraumilch, a slightly sweet and incredibly bland white wine that conquered the world in the seventies but crashed later on, taking the reputation of Germany in its entirety with it.
Rheinhessen reinvented itself thanks to an exciting group of winemakers called ‘Message in a Bottle’, of which Klaus Peter Keller and Philipp Wittmann are certainly the most famous members. Their wines achieve international critical acclaim and are highly sought after which also means that they are amongst the most expensive ones Germany has to offer. One of their colleagues, Caroline Spanier-Gillot was named winemaker of the year 2015 by Falstaff, Germany’s leading wine magazine, and the estate she runs, Kühling-Gillot certainly warrants your attention.
Today I will present one of their entry-level Ortswein (the village level in the VDP classification), Nierstein Trocken 2012. If you follow the Rhine downwards from Mainz, you will encounter some of the finest vineyards in the region. Historically the wines produced in the Nierstein Bereich were amongst the most expensive wines that you could find, now they are oft forgotten or ignored in favor of more well-known regions. The best vineyards are situated on a stretch between Nierstein and Nackenheim, known as the ‘Roter Hang’ because of the red sandstone present in the soil.
The village wines around Nierstein itself may not benefit from the steep slopes (excellent drainage), but the influence of the red soil (heat retention) is clearly identifiable in the wine as you get a lot of ripe fruit, namely oranges and a little bit of apricot, on the nose. This is not an exuberant wine; in fact it seemed to become more subdued on the second day. On the palate I had a remarkably spritzy sensation which nicely supported the acidity, and after the CO2 dissolved, I got a much more powerful and dense wine, a bit balled up on the palate but not heavy. There is juiciness here that is supported throughout the end and a clear hint of spiciness towards the finish. In length it fell a bit short, closing up, and I would expect that the wine would benefit from a bit more time tucked away in the cellar.
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