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The collections and discoveries of the year

The last two years were not exactly easy in most Central European wine regions. One could assume that the warming of the climate would predominantly bring advantages for the producers, especially in the cooler wine regions. At the same time, training and technical possibilities are now at an unprecedented level, so that one can speak without exaggeration of comparatively paradisiacal conditions - and of wine qualities that have never been seen before on a broad scale. Today, you have to look for really bad wine, like the kind you encountered everywhere 10 years ago.

But the weather caprices are increasingly worrying wine producers. Winters are getting too warm, flowering often comes too early and exposes the young shoots to unnecessary dangers, even before the grapes are ripe the sugar content rises to undesirable heights - and whenever it is supposed to rain, it stays dry, while towards the end of the growing season it often doesn't want to stop pouring.

Growers have to adapt to the new challenges; it is precisely when things get complicated that it becomes apparent who has really mastered their craft. In the meantime, there are a surprisingly large number of them. Where the sites and the skills of the winegrowers create the right conditions, more and better wines are being produced today than ever before, even at the top end.

So the competition is fierce. With performances that would have earned the highest awards 10 years ago, it would now be rare to reach the top. It is all the more remarkable that in many areas today we often still come across the same names as at the beginning of the quality revolution, which started in Austria almost 30 years ago, in Germany 25 and in South Tyrol about 15 years ago. Many of the pioneers at that time are still the motors of quality development in their regions. Some took a breather in between, others always sailed ahead, a few stayed behind.

Most producers with big names are living up to their reputation today or are well on their way to doing so. Of course, that is reassuring at first. On the other hand, other first-class companies are often a little overshadowed by the attention given to wine legends. Even we wine writers get a bit of a problem here when it comes to awards like our "Collection of the Year".

For about 15 years now, we have been honouring the wineries that have simply presented the best wines in their respective regions during the last tasting season. Not infrequently, the decision is very close, but just as often it is clear-cut. It is difficult for us when a small number of wineries regularly come out on top in a region. In some places, the dominance of a few top producers is so great, despite all the growing competition, that sometimes the same two or three estates decide the price among themselves for years.

This is not only getting boring, it also seems a bit unfair to me by now. It's time to give more recognition to the achievements of those who, while perhaps not always quite reaching the great icons of the wine world, nevertheless regularly produce wines of exceptional quality and character that should not be missing from the wish list of any dedicated wine lover.

Therefore, I have decided to gradually say goodbye to the idea of the "Collection of the Year" as it exists today. This year, I am once again awarding the best of the best, even at the risk of being accused of unimaginativeness. For the most part, these are still flagships of the wine world that stand up to even the toughest competition - and are worthy of every honour. At the same time, however, I extend the awards to considerably more "Discoveries of the Year". This title is not only awarded to newcomers, but also to wineries that have been reviewed in our wine guide for some time, but have recently attracted attention with their remarkable achievements.

Germany, Ahr

Collection of the Year: Kreuzberg Winery, Dernau

Among the coolest red wines in the Ahr; powerful and concentrated at the top, but never heavy, and also consistently convincing at the base.

Discovery of the Year: Weingut Heiner und Kreuzberg, Dernau

One of the Kreuzberg brothers continues to work on his own behalf. And convinces. The entry-level wines in particular are often really good and, for the Ahr, extremely affordable.

Germany, Baden

Collection of the Year: Weingut Bernhard Huber, Malterdingen

Certainly not the last bow to Bernhard Huber, who sadly passed away much too early. His red Burgundies and his Chardonnays are unsurpassed in Germany.

Discovery of the Year: Weingut Holub, Herbolzheim-Tutschfelden

Late Burgundy and Pinot Gris in particular have class - and the Gemischter Satz is also worth a look.

Germany, Franconia

Collection of the Year: Juliusspital, Würzburg

One of the great wineries in Germany with an almost unmanageable range. From the smallest basic wine to the very top, it is of a quality that is hard to find anywhere else in Germany among wineries of this size and portfolio.

Discovery of the Year: Weinmanufaktur 3 Zeilen, Rödelsee

With the Silvaner already at the top - and one of the best Bacchus ever.

Germany, Mosel

Collection of the Year: Weingut Clemens Busch, Pünderich

Wines of unmistakable character; both sweet and dry Rieslings at the highest level - and all organic.

Discovery of the Year: Winery Karl Erbes, Ürzig

Who is Karl Erbes? Exactly. Stefan Erbes makes some of the best Spät- and Auslese wines in the region.

Germany, Nahe

Collection of the Year: Schäfer-Fröhlich Winery, Bockenau

Tim Fröhlich convinced in 2013 in all important white wine disciplines on the Nahe, like hardly anyone else. Burgundy varieties, Riesling, dry and sweet - he doesn't afford himself any weaknesses.

Discovery of the Year: Weingut Edelberg, Weiler

Dry Riesling with class, but Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer and red wine can also be really good.

Germany, Palatinate

Collection of the Year: Reichsrat von Buhl, Deidesheim

Everyone is talking about sparkling wine, but the new spirit at Reichsrat von Buhl is currently even more noticeable in the still wines. Even the estate wine is exceptionally good here; the completely uncompromising, demanding Grossen Gewächse are in a class of their own this year.

Discovery of the Year: Weingut am Nil, Kallstadt

Rieslings that put the fear of God into many Grossen Gewächse in the area, plus remarkably good red and white Burgundies. A new greatness in Kallstadt - and in general.

Germany, Rheingau

Collection of the Year: Weingut Robert Weil, Kiedrich

A pretty clear choice. An over-rare series of noble sweet tops and possibly the best dry Rieslings in the estate's history.

Discovery of the Year: Winery Detlev Ritter & Edler von Oetinger, Erbach

After years of stagnating at mediocrity, Achim von Oetinger has rolled up his sleeves and made a 180-degree turnaround. Completely independent, demanding, first-class Rieslings.

Germany, Rheinhessen

Collection of the Year: Winery Kühling-Gillot, Bodenheim

From the astonishingly good base to the top, all of a piece. The local wines are splendid, the Grossen Gewächse in part outstanding. A stroke of luck for the Rhine front.

Discovery of the Year: Schätzel Winery, Nierstein

One of the great hopes in Nierstein. Lean yet incredibly expressive Rieslings and Silvaners. Grows year after year.

Germany, Württemberg

Collection of the Year: Gerhard Aldinger Winery, Fellbach

Hardly any other winemaker in Germany produces first-class red and white wines from a similarly wide range of grape varieties as Gerd Aldinger. Even newcomers like Grüner Veltliner are convincing right down the line. And the Rieslings are better than ever.

Discovery of the Year: Kistenmacher-Hengerer Winery, Heilbronn

Perhaps the best Trollinger in Germany, but also excellent Lemberger, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, sparkling wine...

Cooperative of the Year: Winzerkeller Sommerach, Franconia

A bank even in difficult years. This year, too, without weaknesses. One of the very few cooperatives in the country from which you can buy blindly.

Austria, Vienna

Collection of the Year: Wieninger Winery

Of course it's nothing new, but it can't be said often enough: this is where some of Austria's best Veltliners, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are made. And perhaps the best blended set of all. At Wieninger, even the inexpensive entry-level wines are incredibly good.

Discovery of the Year: Winery Fuhrgassl-Huber

One of the big surprises for me this year. Irresistible, pure-toned, polished, juicy wines with their very own personality.

Lower Austria

Collection of the Year: Winery Rudi Pichler, Wösendorf, Wachau

Like few others, Rudi Pichler knows how to combine power and elegance in his Smaragd wines; but even the much leaner basic wines are consistently first-class. Mediocrity does not exist here. A highly impressive collection.

Discovery of the Year: Lesehof STAGÅRD, Krems-Stein, Kremstal

Riesling and Veltliner full of character from top Krems vineyards for advanced winemakers. Far away from the mainstream - and worth every attention.

Austria, Styria

Collection of the Year: Winery Erwin Sabathi, Leutschach, South Styria

The concentrated, but at the same time very polished and often incredibly finesse-rich wines of Erwin Sabathi need time until they can show what they are made of. Those who give it to them experience some of the best Muscat, Burgundy and Sauvignon wines to be found anywhere. The Chardonnays leave you speechless.

Discovery of the Year: Ewald Zweytick, Ratsch, Southern Styria

Basically already a candidate for collection of the year. At the top, incredibly dense, juicy, powerful wines, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else in Styria. At the base, clearly leaner, but still quite independent and expressive.

Note: we will post the awards for Burgenland as soon as the current wines from the region have arrived and have been tasted.

Italy, South Tyrol

Collection of the Year: Terlan Winery

There is no getting around the Terlan wines, even though the competition is growing steadily. The whole of South Tyrol is on a quality course - and Terlan is sailing ahead. Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Gewürztraminer or Lagrein: here you are always ahead.

Discovery of the Year: Pranzegg - Martin Gojer, Bozen

A very small, young winery with extremely independent, mostly cool, multi-layered, exciting wines that are already among the best South Tyrol has to offer in their respective categories.

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