Künstler, Hochheimer Hölle, Riesling Erstes Gewächs, 2007

Künstler, Hochheimer Hölle, Riesling Erstes Gewächs, 2007

Abroad Germany is mostly know for its delicious sweeter Riesling, but at home it is the top dry Rieslings that get most media attention. They are labelled as "Großes Gewächs" (great growth) or, in the Rheingau, as "Erstes Gewächs" (first growth), at least for the wineries that are members of the growers associations that created these classifications. Quality standards are relatively strict and include low yields, selective harvesting by hand and using only grapes from individual, certified top vineyards.

The price for these grand cru wines is constantly going up, so if you find one from a top producer such as Künstler for less than 20 Euro it is lucky times.

My first impression when smelling the wine, freshly poured from a very cold fridge, was one of spring herbs and peach breaking through the ice on a cool end-of-winter morning. As the wine warmed up a little it made me think more of a cool summer night. Intense lemon peel and citrus notes mingle with flintstone mineral and faint petrol aromas. There is lovely fruit too: pear skin and peach, but also an exotic sweet fruit that was somewhere between papaya and my old childhood friend Hubba Bubba. And then there were herbal aromas and tobacco notes, all together more on the elegant, reserved side of aromas perhaps, but not without some intensity - just not into your face.

On the tongue the Riesling showed good acidity and structure. As with the nose, it took a while to open up (wait a few more years or use a decanter), but then delighted us with a stage-to-stage sensation across our tongues of: steely dry; fruit; tobacco and herbs; grapefruit; and then a long finish with almost salty minerality.

A wine of substance, elegance and intensity that might shine even more if you give it another couple of years.


Submitted by Vimpressionniste Tuesday, 10/05/2011

Cool, I've got one of these in my cellar. I was itching to open it soon, but I think I'll take your advice and wait a little more. Thanks!

Submitted by Alex Tuesday, 10/05/2011

I have a couple myself - they also have a goldkapsel version of this. I think that they changed the name though for the 2009 vintage, it is now "Hölle Sommerheil".
These Künstler wines are really special since they're quite different in style from the rest of Rheingau in my opnion. Especially Hölle is a wine that is often somewhat retained or incomplete in its youth but shows power and complexity when ageing while still having something calm and elegant - that'S why they call it "Latour from Hochheim"... Nice review - thanks, Alex

Submitted by torsten Wednesday, 11/05/2011

I was not aware that Künstler was known as the "Hochheimer Latour", but it is an interesting classification. I would have preferred to give this wine another two years or so, but there was a good occasion with English friends around who I knew would appreciate a quality dry wine from Germany (they complained about the difficulty of finding truly dry German wines), so I was quite happy that it opened up relatively quickly.

And regarding PoNotet's comment: I noticed that the VDP recently with a triumphant tone mentioned that constant increase in the price of Großes/Erstes Gewächs wine. I can see that it makes them happy as they make more money and also as it indicates that the (international) market accepts these wines, but as a customer I would be happier if I would not increasingly have to look at GG wines over thirty Euro... In that sense this one here is fairly priced.

Submitted by Al McCall Saturday, 28/05/2011

I just recently discovered GG/GE wines. Here in the US we are starting to see German wine producers aggressively market drier wines, although GG wines are still a new phenom here. Leitz and Loosen are offering what could be considered declassified GE/GG's, since these wines may contain grapes from a Erste Lage, but don't adhere to the stricter production rules of the VDP. I've tried a handful of GG's and have also noticed as you referenced, the reticence of the aromas when the bottles are first opened. In general these wines really start to roar when they've been in the glass for a while and have had a chance to warm up. This trait alone has and will continue to make these wines a darling of sommeliers, top retailers, wine nerds and wannabees. Wines that require this much work to appreciate probably wot't gain quick acceptance among the average US consumer here in the states, since immediate appeal is preferred, but that's not the market GG producers are aiming for anyway. Have you guys tried any GG's from warmer regions of Germany and if so what are your thoughts on the elevated alcohol levels in some examples, which to me seem to have reached their apex of tolerability? Most GG's I've seen for sale retail @ $ 35.00 and up.

Submitted by torsten Saturday, 28/05/2011

In reply to by Al McCall

Thank you for your comment; much appreciated. In Germany, the GE/GG are more and more seen as the flagship wines, perhaps with the exception of those producers that focus on sweet wines (some of them will still make small quantities of GG). I haven't really seen much of them in the UK - they appear to sell out rapidly in Germany and some producers do now even sell them in subscription.

Not all GG wines are as closed as the Künstler; some can be enjoyed pretty much straight away, but you are right that in general producers aim for a more complex style that needs time. Interestingly, GG from the south are not necessarily always heavier. For instance, I have had Pinot Blanc from the Mosel with 15% ABV, but a Riesling GG from Salwey (Baden) with only 12.5%. Also some of the Pinot Gris GG from Baden come in at 12.5% or 13%. Much depends on the vintage and the stylistic preferences, it seems to me. Also, GG do not have to be bone dry, they can in fact go up to 9g residual sugar per litre, so there is some room to control the amount alcohol.

In Germany, you would probably have to pay between 17-45 Euro for a GG, with the average going closer to €30...

Submitted by A McCall Sunday, 29/05/2011

Thanks for your insight. As one might expect you have access to more quality wines because you're closer to the production source ( wine envy ). In the US wines from Ahr, Baden, Saale-Unstrut, Sachsen and Wurttemberg are rarely seen. I agree that vintage and stylistic preferences can be a significant factor in alcohol levels. I'm glad I found your sight.