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Catastrophic year? Vintage of the century? One would not have wanted to be an oracle in the last two autumns. The impressions and statements were too different. Now, a good year later, one can at least say about 2015: all is well. Or almost everything. 2015 was not the vintage of the century. But sometimes it gives you an idea.

2016 didn't make it easy for the coffee guessers, who like to predict the quality of a vintage very precisely from August onwards. The extremely wet first half of the year already led to fears of the worst, especially because it brought the vintners an unusually early infection with downy mildew. The first losses in volume were therefore certain, even total failures had to be feared in isolated cases. After a winter without any frost at all, there was also a precautionary spring frost so that it could cause adequate damage. And always and always: rain. At some point it stopped raining - and didn't start again so quickly. August was so dry that young plants in particular had to be watered frequently to keep them in line.

So you wouldn't have wanted to be an oracle at the end of August last year. Doubts were high; the disaster year was already hanging by a thread. Then came an autumn for which the picture book would have been invented. The days were warm, the nights cool and there was only as much water as absolutely necessary. In many places the harvest was more relaxed than ever, the grape pictures on the web looked like they had been photoshopped, and the first samples sent tasters into raptures. A vintage of the century? We shall see.

In the meantime, a vintage of the century has also been identified in the 2015 vintage, which we tasted for this BEST OF. Here, too, the fears were initially enormous, but this time mainly because of the drought that lasted for months in many places, forcing many vintners to take massive irrigation measures if they did not want to risk a total failure. Only at the last moment was there water and then, fortunately, not too much again. With the first samples, the all-clear was given at first, then downright euphoria.

But it is not that simple after all. A closer look reveals that the drought stress has not left no trace everywhere. The acids are sometimes reminiscent of 2010 and the phenols are far from ripe everywhere, so that some wines seem rather angular and uncharming - and no, that is not something that indicates particularly good ripeness in these cases, not at all. Where these deficiencies have been dealt with in the cellar, on the other hand, the wines are flabby and sometimes already appear wilted. Where, on the other hand, the quiet autumn was used to push the ripeness to the extreme, we are now left with thick, alcoholic-rustic results that seem to have fallen out of time.

So much for the bad news. Let's get to the good. And the good ones are really good. And there are a lot of them. Because where everything is right, in the vast majority of committed wineries and their wines, the results are at least on a par with the surprise 2014 vintage, in some cases even significantly better. Most of the dry 2015s do not quite have the charm, play and engaging fruit of last year's best Rieslings, but sometimes they have even more firmness, complexity and depth. More and more producers are also managing the balancing act between high concentration and finesse, which is the prerequisite for great wines in the first place. There is no doubt that there has never been such a variety of styles in dry Riesling in Germany, without being guilty of oracle.

Reason enough to take stock of the state of affairs in the individual wine-growing regions, as far as this is possible in a nutshell. In the regions that are missing from the following list, Riesling either hardly plays a role or, due to a lack of samples, we do not have the basis for halfway useful statements.


Baden is actually too large and too heterogeneous to be treated as a single wine region. The Ortenau has always been Rieslingland, but is currently experiencing a refreshment with new wineries that are contrasting the usual, usually quite fruity style with spicy, earthy-mineral, pithy Rieslings that have been aged for a long time on their lees and are almost completely fruitless. Not everyone likes it. We do. Even more surprising, however, is what is happening in the south, in the Kaiserstuhl. Actually, one would expect to find predominantly broad, thick, alcohol-heavy Rieslings in Germany's hottest wine region. But the exact opposite is the case. Among the country's top Rieslings, the Kaiserstühlers are among the most elegant and lowest in alcohol. This should give pause for thought to the apocalyptics who are already calling for the imminent extinction of the native Riesling through climate change. There are also convincing, sometimes first-class wines in other supposedly non-Riesling regions: on the Badische Bergstrasse, in the Markgräflerland, even on Lake Constance.

26 currently tasted wines


Not taking the Franconians seriously when it comes to Riesling is a German national sport. A rather stupid national sport. One of the reasons for this is probably that the Bocksbeutel suggests a certain sluggishness and rusticity - which in reality the Franconians have long since left behind. But prejudices are stubborn. It's not for nothing that several top Franconian producers have switched to mallets in recent years, at least for Riesling. What is more important, however, is what is inside the bottle, and here Franconians are in no way inferior to their counterparts from more famous Riesling regions. The finest Rieslings traditionally come from Würzburg, but even in regions known for rather powerful to rustic wines, finesse-rich, yet deep and complex wines with life and play are produced today: Iphofen, Castell or Escherndorf are prime examples. The far west is actually red wine country, but here too there are a few examples that regularly belong to the absolute top in Franconia.

91 currently tasted wines


There are those who would prefer to ban the production of first-class dry Rieslings on the Mosel. It is untypical, they say. The origin could not be expressed at all in dry wines on the Mosel. "The valley is narrow" is what the locals say when their fellow Mosel inhabitants once again show their particularly stubborn side. But this proverbial narrow-mindedness seems to have settled in, especially among many Moselle wine freaks, no matter how flat the area they live in. Because of course it's all complete nonsense. Firstly, dry Riesling has a fairly long tradition on the Mosel (and we're not talking about 30 or 40 years here, more like 100 or more), and secondly, some of the finest dry Rieslings ever are produced on the Mosel today. Their filigree and lightness with maximum expression is exactly what the Moselle is all about, which some wine lovers only want to see expressed exclusively in sweet examples. They obviously see dry Mosel Riesling as a threat to their existence. Of course, where producers on the Mosel believe they have to emulate a supposedly typical, voluminous and powerful Palatinate model with their dry wines (which occurs so solely in their imagination), they often produce chubby, plump, alcohol-warmed and nevertheless also sweetish-blurred bores that run into the arms of every prejudice. But that's the fault of the producers in question, not the territory. A misunderstanding that could be cleared up quickly if the critics were to take an unbiased look at the dry - sometimes bone-dry - top Rieslings from the Moselle. And there are dozens that can rival any other dry Riesling in the world.

219 currently tasted wines


The only surprising thing you can report about the Nahe today is when a vintage has not turned out particularly well for once. But the Nahe has not been doing this favour for a long time. Here, some of the best Riesling producers in the country sit in a heap. Well, not quite in one bunch, it's a bit of a drag, but that's how we in the East see it when we have to look so far to the West. Because right behind us comes France. The hereditary enemy. One stupid stumble and you end up behind the border. That's where Sauron lives, and we're not hobbits, so we'd better stay away. And therefore have no idea what the area is really like. Which is stupid, because it can be really pretty there. And the wines! But everything has already been said about them.

75 currently tasted wines


So here we are. In the Palatinate. Where "the" Palatinate Riesling comes from. The epitome of the strong dry Riesling (we remember). And all wrong again. Hardly anywhere is the range of styles as wide as here. Probably nowhere. And the differences don't just run along the wine route from north to south. We can easily find four or five wines from different producers from a single vineyard that have nothing to do with each other in terms of style, even though - if you're lucky - all the wines somehow taste of their origin. From slender to powerful, from racy to melting, from lively to resting, from fruity to mineral, from bone-dry to sweetly flattering, everything is there (and everything is also available in moderate to great). And new talents with their very own, exciting wines are constantly being added. If you don't find anything that excites you here, you just don't like Riesling. So "Palatinate Riesling" is a similarly stupid term as "Asian cuisine". Or "lying press".

207 currently tasted wines


If any region can at least come close to rivaling the Palatinate in terms of style, it is, amazingly, the Rheingau. The region has had - and still has with many wine lovers and even professionals - the reputation of having rested on its laurels for too long and, thanks to a steady influx of only moderately critical customers from the Frankfurt conurbation, of having paid too little attention to quality and further development. If you encounter this lament today, it is best to listen away. For hardly anywhere else in Germany is so much being overturned, experimented with, discussed and changed at the moment. Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, perhaps things are similarly dynamic elsewhere, but nowhere is the change as striking, as brutal as in the Rheingau, which has been cemented in place for so many years. The old hierarchies only apply to a limited extent, the old convictions no longer apply at all. In the Rheingau! Imagine something like that in the Bordelais! Then you would have a rough idea of what these upheavals mean. It has always been like this: where the Rheingau is big, there is almost nothing better. There just hasn't been so much of it for ages. And it has perhaps never been so exciting.

220 currently tasted wines


When we talked about the range of styles above, some people surely thought to themselves: Jaundwasistmitrheinhessen? Admittedly, the whole area seems considerably more inhomogeneous than the Pfalz and Rheingau, where the vineyards are mostly strung out like a string along the river and the slopes, whereas here the vineyards are scattered all over the hilly region and only form a somewhat homogeneous front directly on the Rhine between Oppenheim and Nackenheim. The fact that the wines here can be assigned to a few basic styles is probably mainly due to the clear models that a young generation of winemakers - and Rheinhessen seems to consist almost exclusively of a young generation of winemakers - has at its disposal here. The quality revolution began in Rheinhessen at a time when great experimentation was not yet fashionable. Today's icons of Rheinhessen have developed cautiously and always had solid ground under their feet. Today, they are solid bulwarks, by no means immovable, but with such a secure, deep-rooted quality philosophy that all the world's great wine producers possess. A region is lucky to have such lighthouses, and even luckier if its producers know how to appreciate their light. And that is the case here as nowhere else in Germany: the big ones pull the small and young ones along - and they let themselves be pulled along. And they get better and better at it. One could write textbooks about it. If one were to get around to it, for all the trying. Because it can take a long time to drink your way through all the first-class dry Rieslings here.

149 currently tasted wines


Württemberg. 'Sch Ländle. The land of the diminutive. I wonder if the disdain that many Riesling drinkers have for Württemberg has something to do with this. At any rate, it can no longer be due to the wines. In fact, Württemberg was a real wine country for quite a long time. Pleasant boredom everywhere. But that was 20 years ago, at least if you don't want to be too strict. And what has happened here in the last 10 years should put to shame any wine lover who thinks of himself as open-minded and who hasn't noticed. But even if people have noticed the radical change, they perceive it mainly in the red wines; Riesling is often left out. A mistake. No, not: "sit down, six!". Go there, taste it!

39 currently tasted wines

Links to the wines of the regions not discussed:

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