The 2021 harvest marked a return, after a string of warm vintages, to the cool classicism of finely carved, bright, mineral-driven wines. ‘I am convinced that in ten years’ time people will recognise the quality of this vintage for its finesse, just as they did with 2004, 2008 and 2012,’ Oliver Haag said. The wines do seem to prove him right, with their firm elegance, assertive acid and well-defined aromas.
However, the quality and character delivered by 2021 were nothing producers would have taken for granted throughout the growing season. At times it looked as if disaster loomed. ‘We lost yield during flowering, to mildew,’ continues Haag. Katharina Prüm remarked that the months of April, May, July and August all saw below average temperatures with very little in the way of blue skies. In the Ruwer Valley hail struck at the end of July. It was a testing year for viticulture – and not just in the Mosel Valley. In the Rheinhessen, Oliver and Carolin Spanier confirm that more than 5,000 extra labour hours went into producing the 2021 vintage as it required intense weather watching, diligence and trust in both the team and the old vines which dominate their holdings. Frank Schönleber added that they have said goodbye to the practice of habitually picking their Grosses Gewächs last; climate change has made the growing season simply too unpredictable.
Eventually, the 2021 harvest delivered less fruit but great quality. Haag didn’t realise the quality he had when the grapes were being harvested. ‘It’s a totally different vintage to recent years […] we made 35% less than a ‘normal’ vintage, not great from a business perspective, but it’s what made the quality so high,’ he said. Oliver shares the surname and winemaking region with Lara and Niklas Haag of Weingut Schloss Lieser who corroborate his view: ‘We had to select a lot and there was no botrytis really, so we didn’t reach the top categories. We estimate that we are about 40% down in terms of quantity but because of that and because of the strict selections we have a good extract level which makes the wines very well suited to food when we think about structure and complexity.’
Valentin Rebholz suggests that Pfalz was the year’s best performing region. ‘We had no problem with ripeness and achieved perfectly healthy grapes with amazing concentration. For us it is better to have amazing quality than a big crop.’
The vintage’s challenges were also, therefore, what allowed it to deliver pure, mineral, classic wines with vibrant acidity and lower sugar levels – precision, transparency and backbone are its trademarks.
Read the full vintage report and details on Justerini & Brooks Germany 2021 En Primeur offer here
Germany 2021 – Buyer’s highlights:
Battenfeld-Spanier, Zellertal Riesling Trocken, Pfalz 2021
The first Riesling bottled by Battenfeld-Spanier in the Palatinate was the 2018 Zellertal Kreuzberg, a small release offered exclusively at the VDP Auction, following which it acquired cult status. From the younger (15-year-old) vines of the Kreuzberg plot now comes this cuvée – less a village bottling than a baby Auction wine. It already shows the purity, complexity and minerality you might expect from this prized vineyard, with balanced intensity and enjoyable harmony. Peach skin and crunchy pear flavours are lined by a delicious salinity.
Ökonomierat-Rebholz, Kastanianbusch Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Pfalz 2021
This GG is a more powerful iteration of its Ortswein counterpart, with metallic density and freshly juiciness. A core of pineapple and guava is topped by notes of herbs, aloe vera and lifted by a vibrant citrus zing. Lively and playful, this shows a fun, approachable and very idiosyncratic style of GG, marked by the unique character of biodynamic producer Ökonomierat-Rebholz. Sitting at between 150 and 300 metres above sea level, the Kastanienbusch vineyard is known to produce wines of with powerful structure, mineral complexity and a vibrant transparency which Ökonomierat-Rebholz’s low-intervention approach further brings to light.
Kühling-Gillot, Hipping Riesling Grosses Gewächs, Rheinhessen 2021
One of the key sites, along with Pettenthal, in the Roter Hang, Hipping is s steep, south-east and east-facing vineyard whose red slate soils yield wines of robust elegance. This wine is a perfect example of this structural elegance, firm yet poised, which supports a complex aromatic profile. Fleshy fruit – white berries, sweet peach, melon – is underscored by a textural minerality and topped by a wild, earthy touch of hay. The craftsmanship of husband-and-wife team Oliver Spanier and Carolin Spanier-Gillot is on full display, with their hands-off approach adding texture and earthiness to already complex fruit.
Maximin Grünhauser, Riesling Feinherb, Ruwer 2021
Grünhaus’ alluring style is perfectly captured in this Feinherb of great energy and dangerous drinkability. Well defined aromas of lime zest, Granny Smith apple, freshly-cut grass and wild herbs suggest crispiness from the very first sniff. The palate follows with cooling herbaceousness – which has made the Grünhaus so recognisable and loved – and a slatey finish. Effortless and unpretentious.
JJ Prüm, Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel 2021
JJ Prum, an iconic estate that needs little if any introduction, had a particularly good 2021 vintage, producing wines of great terroir expressiveness and aromatic clarity. The vintage’s bright acidity plays a key role in the complex and broad structure of this wine, with the textural stone fruit notes resting at ease on the mid palate. The amazing complexity it already displays hints at its potential to age beautifully. Smoke and slate nuances give focus and linearity to the finish.
Fritz Haag, Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel 2021
An excellent Sonnenuhr Spätlese, with filigreed minerality, robust fruit extract and great persistence. Affirmative slate notes entwined with an elegant smokiness, rest on top a crystalline layer of peach, lime and melon flavours. A lingering note of honey adds richness and nuance. Great intensity and focus balanced by effortless weightlessness. A perfect example of the crispness, finesse and glorious dancing minerality that the Brauneberger Juffer vineyard is so famous for, in a vintage of lower but prime quality yield.
Justerini & Brooks, established in 1749, is well-known for its unrivalled portfolio from some of the world’s greatest Châteaux, estates and domaines. The fine wine merchant is also committed to unearthing and championing young, new talent, as well as offering its customers an extensive range of immediate drinking wines.