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Big German Wines From The Pfalz

Von Winning Cellar Pfalz

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Charine has long raved about the big-bodied Riesling from the Pfalz while I haven’t always share her enthusiasm. We recently spent several days visiting cellars in the region. After seeing the region first hand, would I change my mind?

The Pfalz: A Dynamic German Wine Region

The Pfalz is Germany’s second-largest wine region. The German Wine Insitute reports that the region has just under 24,000 hectares of vineyards. The vineyards are bordered by the Haardt Mountains to the west. These low-lying mountains create a mini-rain shadow and create a dry, sunny climate. The Pfalz is basically a northern extension of Alsace (France) with the Haardt Mountains acting as the northern section of the Vosges Range.

This map is courtesy of Villa Wolf.

The region has the second-largest plantings of Rieslings in Germany behind the Mosel, but the Pfalz isn’t a one-trick pony. There are plantings of Dornfelder, Müller-Thurgau, and Spätburgunder in addition to Grauburgunder, Portugieser, Weißburgunder, Kerner, and Chardonnay. We even came across a few wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

We had only a few days to work with and were only able to visit four estates: Müller-Catoir, Reichsrat von Buhl, Von Winning, and Odinstal. The visits were a chance to deepen my understanding of the region, especially as it pertains to Riesling.

The Pfalz, The Region, The Style

Thanks to the warm and dry weather, many producers are able to farm organically or biodynamically. Of the four estates we visited, one is certified organic (Müller-Catoir) and the other three are biodynamic. Odinstal has the highest vineyards in the Pfalz. They take biodynamics a step further as they make all of their biodynamic preparations on-site.

Hard at work at Weingut Odinstal.

In Germany, acidity is a premium and malolactic fermentation (conversion of sharp malic acid to softer lactic acid) is not commonly practiced. It’s different in the Pfalz, where warmer temperatures offer riper fruit and higher pHs, which can then lead to malolactic fermentation. The warmer, dryer weather allows Pfalz Rieslings to be different than other parts of Germany. They tend to be fuller, meatier, and riper with intense amounts of yellow stone fruit.

The impressive Müller-Catoir estate, family-owned for nine generations running.

The region has a much more touristy feel, with tasting rooms that you can walk into without appointments and big-time crowds. The vineyards aren’t as dramatic or as steep as other parts of Germany, nonetheless, they are still beautiful.

Von Winning is located in the hearty of touristy Deidesheim, dont miss their brilliant restaurant!

As far as the wine style goes in the Pfalz, it’s certainly distinctive. The full-bodied Rieslings here are different than anywhere in Germany. The whites from the Pfalz offer a good change up to the tack sharp examples found elsewhere in the country. I came to deeply appreciate and respect the wines from the Pfalz and can’t wait to come back.

Maybe Charine was on to something after all.

Wine Recommendations:

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

  • Müller-Catoir, ‘Bürgergarten’ Muskateller 2017

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The Müller-Catoir ‘Bürgergarten’ Muskateller is an Erste Lage (1er Cru) wine made from 100% Yellow Muscat. The wine has high acidity and a modest alcohol level of 12.5% abv. It’s not overly pungent like a typical Muscat but there are notes of mineral water, yellow flower, and kiwi fruits. The wine has a lot of salinity and is the most serious dry Muscat I’ve tasted. There are floral notes but the mineral and fruit flavors overpower them. Score: 91/100 

Muller Catoir Burgergarten Muskateller
  • Müller-Catoir, ‘Herzog’ Rieslaner Auslese 2017

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The Müller-Catoir ‘Herzog’ Rieslaner Auslese is a sweet wine coming in at 164.1 g/L of RS and 8.1 g/L of acidity. The Rieslaner grape is a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner. This wine has notes of lemon, honey, apricot, mineral water, and butterscotch. It’s rich and creamy on the palate yet weightless at the same time thanks to the acidity. Impeccably balanced for a sweet wine, this is a helluva effort. Score: 94/100 

Muller Catoir Herzog Rieslaner Auslese
  • Müller-Catoir, ‘Bürgergarten’ Riesling Spätlese 2018

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The Müller-Catoir ‘Bürgergarten’ Riesling Spätlese is an impressive sweet wine with notes of apple, honey blossom, apricot, and lemon. This has plenty of mineral kick and vibrant acidity. The wine really sings on the palate. Despite the 61.2 g/L of RS, the wine feels very light thanks to the lemony acidity. Score: 92/100

Muller Catoir Burgergarten Riesling Spatlese
  • Reichsrat von Buhl, ‘Forster Freundsück’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2016

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Reichsrat von Buhl holds back their Grosses Gewachs a year later than most producers before releasing them (this year most producers are releasing their 2018’s while they are unveiling their 2017’s). The Reichsrat von Buhl ‘Forster Freundsück’ Riesling is fermented in large oak casks. The wood shows through here and is accompanied by notes of apricot, peach, slate, and chestnut. With a complex nose, this is a rich, chewy, and full-bodied wine with stellar oak integration. Score: 93/100

Von Buhl Freundstuck Riesling Grosses Gewachs
  • Reichsrat von Buhl, ‘Reiterpfad Hofstück’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2013

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Reichsrat von Buhl had a few archive wines open, including this goreous ‘Reiterpfad Hofstück’ Riesling. It has notes of honey, apricot, dried peach, and slate. It is a developed wine with some notes of petrol. It is tangy and intense Riesling with real staying power on the palate. This has a lot of life ahead of it. Score: 92/100

  • Von Winning, ‘Diedesheimer Kieselberg’ Riesling Grosses Gewächs 2015

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Von Winning produces big, barrel-fermented Rieslings. The Von Winning ‘Diedesheimer Kieselberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs has rich, deep color for a Riesling. There are notes of vanilla, white peach, lime, and white apricot. It’s full in body and the wood could be clumsy but instead, this is round with perfect balance and a long finish. The acidity is there but is not razor-sharp like people expect with Riesling. Score: 93/100

Von Winning Diedesheimer Kieselberg Riesling Grosses Gewachs
  • Von Winning, ‘Marmar’ Riesling 2017 

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The Von Winning ‘Marmar’ Riesling is the top white of the estate, positioned even above their Grosses Gewächs Rieslings. The fruit is a barrel selection from the Ungeheuer Grosses Lage (Grand Cru vineyard). There’s a lot of oak here. Notes of pineapple, baked apple, white flower, and spice. This is full-bodied and incredibly rich, one might not think it is Riesling. Not a purist style but it is wonderful and still harnesses the electricity that makes Riesling so special. Score: 94/100

Von Winning Marmar Riesling
  • Odinstal, ‘Muschelkalk’ Riesling 2017 

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The Odinstal ‘Muschelkalk’ Riesling is made with whole cluster fermentation. This has a flinty, matchstick smell with notes of lemon, lime, and white peach. The wine is rich and full of electricity with a touch of well done residual sugar. It finishes tight and linear with a bright, citrus peel acidity. Score: 91/100

  • Odinstal, ‘Bundsandstein’ Riesling 2017

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The Odinstal ‘Budsandstein’ Riesling is made with fruit grown in sandstone soils. There are notes of slate, smoke, lemon, and lime. This is a fine and delicate, Riesling with many layers of flavors. A fantastic wine with energy and finesse in addition to a long and strung out finish. Score: 92/100

Odinstal Muschelkalk Buntsandstein Riesling
  • Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan, ‘Ruppertsberger Hoheburg’ Riesling 2015

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Dr. von Bassermann-Jordan is one of the big names in the Pfalz and his ‘Ruppertsberger Hoheburg’ Riesling is an Erste Läge (1er Cru) wine. It is a developed Riesling with notes of kerosene, baked apple, crushed rock, and white pepper. It isn’t as big as the 13% ABV would suggest. Round on the palate with a sleek finish, I want a little more power on the end but this is still a very nice effort. Score: 90/100

dr von bassermann jordan ruppertsberger hoheburg riesling

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We covered our own transportation, accommodation, and visits for this article (with the exception of Von Winning who provided lunch). The opinions expressed in this article are unsolicited and have not been paid for in any way by governmental bodies, enterprises, or individuals. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

DR MATTHEW HORKEY
DR MATTHEW HORKEY
Author | Speaker | Wine Nerd
https://exoticwinetravel.com

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