Spectacular rieslings from Donnhoff & Gunderloch

The Nahe estate of Hermann Dönnhoff is undoubtedly one of the most illustrious names in the district – and in all German winemaking. The estate is also on a rich seam of form if this tasting of 1999’s and a couple of 2000’s is anything to go by. Dönnhoff’s estate covers 12.5 hectares of grey slate on volcanic soil and Hugh Johnson rates its rieslings as ‘exceptionally fine’.

In Rheinhessen, Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach own Weingut Gunderloch, another estate that could lay equal claim to being the best of its district (Hugh Johnson says ‘the undisputed number one Rheinhessen’). The Hasselbachs also bought the nearby Balbach estate in 1995, effectively doubling their land under vine (Germany’s strict planting laws mean that buying exisiting vineyards is practically the only way to expand holdings today). Both labels were featured in this tasting.

These wines, ranging from the bone-dry to the lusciously sweet, show a wonderful purity and clarity of fruit. Add in a thrilling balance that matches that ripeness with vivacious mineral acidity, and the result is a set of wines of exceptional quality.

The wines of all three estates are imported into the UK by Alwin Barret Seigel.


Riesling QbA 1999
Racy, sprightly nose with lemon and sherbet aromas. The palate is quite full and savoury. Off-dry, there is good acidity keeping this sharp, and sufficient orchard fruit to balance. Good/very good.

Riesling Kabinett Oberhäuser Leistenberg 1999
A little nettle and crisp, fruity quality on the nose. The palate has quite mellow peach and pear fruit, and even an apple acidity is quite soft. Again this is balanced and elegant, and is very fine with good length. Very good indeed.

Riesling Spätlese Schlossböckelheimer Kupfergrube 1999
Lovely waxy, lightly oily impression on the nose with elegant white fruits. Weighty, full palate has peach and orchard fruits, and the generous acidity maybe just lacks a little defining sharpness, but this is very good/very good indeed.

Riesling Auslese Oberhäuser Brücke 1999
Nose seems more developed with lots of herbaceous, nettly, leafy character over oily lime and sweeter nectarine fruit. Lots of syrupy richness on the palate here and a really, fine quality as well as being absolutely delicious. Long and beautifully balanced. Excellent.

Riesling Spätlese Norheimer Kirschheck 2000
Really fine purity and focus with sweet confectionery and floral notes and lovely fruit. Very racy on the palate, lots of zip and crunch with pear and pear-skin flavours and lovely length. Again, strikes a superb balance with mineral acidity sharpening the finish. Very good indeed/excellent.

Riesling Auslese Niederhäuser Herrmanshöhle 2000
Very racy again on the nose, with poised apple and pear aromas, a little sherbetty note. The palate displays exotic, floral flavours and unctuous texture, but that core of gorgeous, focused minerality sweeps through and extends the finish. Delightful and excellent.

Weingut Gunderloch and Balbach

Gunderloch Riesling QbA Trocken (dry) “Memento” 2000
Aromas of sherbet, bubblegum and confectionery, sweet and floral, but with a mineral hint. Juicy, tangy citrus fruit and a dry finish. Good.

Gunderloch Riesling Kabinett Trocken “Jean Baptiste” 1999
Waxy notes precede minerals and a hint of sweet, tropical fruit. Crunchy green apple freshness on the palate, finishing with mouthwatering acidity. Modern in style, appealing, and very good.

Balbach Riesling Qba “Riverfront” 1999
Pleasant nose with some sherbetty, mineral character if a little subdued. Decent apple and ripe pear fruit, but not as good as the previous wine. Good.

Gunderloch Riesling Auslese Nackenheimer Rothenberg 1999
This adds a leafy, waxy, herbal edge and complexity to beautifully fine, sweet fruit. On the palate a rich mouth-feel and lovely sweetness with notes of syrup and finely-wrought white fruits into a long finish. Very good indeed.

Gunderloch Riesling Beerenauslese Nackenheimer Rothenberg 1999
There are notes of honey and fig immediately suggesting botrytis, with a lovely candied yam quality. Very rich and unctuous on the palate with a juicy, sweet nectarine and ripe mango fruitiness, but maintained and lengthened into the finish by fine acidity. Very good indeed.

Balbach Riesling Eiswein Niersteiner Oelberg 1999
Lightly honeyed nose with little peach kernal nuances and lots of fat, sweet, plump fruit that is pillowy and peachy. The palate shows nectarine and rich tropical fruit, and though full and wrapped in sweetness, an elegant acidity balances and it finishes with great style. Very good indeed.