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DWWA 2014: Germany insights

Hear from our Germany Regional Chair Giles MacDonogh on which wines to buy, which wines to leave on the shelf and what to keep an eye on from this year's Decanter World Wine Awards....

Germany is a fair-sized country that makes a lot of varying but mostly high-quality wine from 13 regions. 2014 was a slightly disappointing year at the DWWA, both in the number of bottles entered and the general standard of wines. There were just a few 2013s; the bulk of the whites were from 2012 and the reds from 2011. Until we reached the Ahr, what I missed most was a real coup de coeur, something that made me hold my breath. Though we were impressed by the Gold-winning Saxon Pinot Noir, as these east German wines have been Cinderellas up to now. There were plenty of medals, but just two Trophies and four Golds, and none for dry whites, which is a shame.

What should we buy from here?

Ahr Valley Spätburgunder (aka Pinot Noir) is still winning hearts. We had a lovely flight which resulted in four Silvers, a Gold and an eventual Trophy. The judges on the Burgundy panel even made a pilgrimage to taste them and wandered off nodding their heads in appreciation. Germany is best known for its Riesling but now there is more and more buzz about Pinot Noir. Personally, I have a soft spot for good Weiss or Grauburgunder, and I am longing for the day when I can give one or both a Gold – more entries please!

What should we leave on the shelf?

There were the inevitable disappointments. Rheinhessen has been an emerging force over the past few decades, but sometimes the ghost of Liebfraumilch emerges in unexpected ways, generally by the use of high-yielding grapes such as Huxelrebe, Bacchus and Kerner. Similarly, the Germans love to experiment with new black grapes; I was not convinced by Cabernet Gernischt. A Syrah that has been fine in the past was clearly unripe this year, and a few Cabernets that sell for big prices were no better than basic claret. Also, after a decade on a spectacular roll, the Rheingau seemed less overwhelming this year, especially as many were flagship grosses gewächs wines – Germany’s answer to Burgundy’s grands crus. When all is said and done, quality is down to vintages and ripeness, and it seems that 2012 let them down.

What should we keep an eye on?

We had too few wines from Franconia in their characteristic squat bottles this year. The region’s workhorse grape is Sylvaner, but a really good one gives great pleasure with its spicy, rye bread character. Bone-dry and sweet Franconian Rieslings are worth watching too. Finally, look out for the Rieslaner grape that makes auslesen, beerenauslesen and the odd trockenbeereauslese with an enchanting aroma of rhubarb compote.

Written by Decanter

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