Hailed by the likes of Robert Parker and Hugh Johnson and named Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year in 1999, Helmut Donnhoff is regarded in German Riesling circles as a super-star. And if you’re thinking that term is somehow an oxymoron, you’d probably find Helmut agrees. With the affable humility and deep deference to his vineyards of someone whose family have been making wine since 1750, Donnhoff believes that “winemaking alone cannot bring quality, it can only retain the available quality.” Wine is made in the vineyard, and from taking the helm in 1971 to the present Helmut has grown the family holdings from 4 hectares to a still modest 20 hectares of lovingly managed vineyards. 80% of which are Rielsing (many of them Erste Lage or Grand Cru) with the other 20%, reflecting Nahe’s less austere climates and more mixed clay and volcanic soils, given to Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. But Riesling is king, with Helmut Donnhoff’s many classics from the steeper slate soils having themselves played a prominent role, over the last forty years, in formalising Nahe’s reputation as Germany’s third region for consistently premium and Grand Cru wines.
What The Critics Say
"The Höllenpfad punches above its Erste Lage weight to perform like a Grosses Gewächs. An orchestra of aromas relies on the harmony of its constituents rather than brilliant solo efforts to delight the sensory audience. Some may cherish the pure mineral expression, others the delightfully fresh fruit, rich extract could be mentioned as another contender, but at the end of the day they all integrate into a very special dry premier cru. (MS)." Drink 2017 - 2023
93/100 Parker's Wine Advocate, Stephan Reinhardt (2015 vintage)
"From a steep, south-facing vineyard on red sandstone soils, the 2015 (Roxheimer) Höllenpfad Riesling Trocken opens with warm and generous yellow apple fruit, but also a coolish and piquant sand stone expression with spicy and even peppery lemon flavors. "The grapes are always smaller here than in the Kahlenberg and the berries [are] very intense in their fine fruit aromas," says Helmut Dönnhoff. The roots can go through the sandstone, which is not the case in the volcanic soils of Niederhausen and Oberhausen. As a result, drought stress is very rare and that makes the Höllenpfad a perfect origin for dry Rieslings. On the palate, this is a generously fruity, but also pure, piquant and finely racy Riesling with lingering salinity and lemony freshness. The wine is dense and generous, but precise, fresh and rather cool instead of warm. It is a gorgeous Riesling that combines the warmth of the northern Nahe, closer to the Rhine river, with the purity and salinity of the Niederhausen/Oberhausen. The finish is pretty, long and aromatic, and the ripe apples remain on the palate as do the stony flavors."
91/100 Vinous, David Schildknecht (2014 vintage)
"Helmut and Cornelius Dönnhoff are out to revive the imposingly butte-like Höllenpfad (“path to hell”), whose reputation peaked close to a century ago when it was farmed by some of their relatives whose cellar was an adjacent 13th-century hospital. “Because this site is relatively warm and close to the Rhine there was more botrytis,” explained Dönnhoff Senior, “and we had to pick it very early.” Smoky pungency of nut oils and black tea practically assaults the nose, then carries over to a firm palate, adding to the invigorating quality supplied by tart rhubarb and apple. There is a prickly sense to the high-energy, gripping finish that suggests peach fuzz and pineapple core. This wine could wake you from a dead sleep. (The 2013, when tasted alongside, is now even more fascinating and mouthwatering, not to mention more mannerly.)"
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