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 day Helmut has grown the family holdings from 4 hectares to a still modest 20 hectares of lovingly managed vineyards. 80% of these are Riesling (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
Winemaker notes from the current 2016 vintage
"A dry Riesling wine, very typical of our wine estate. Wonderfully fresh and well defined, elegant with a tingling minerality. A delicious wine for every day with moderate alcohol and very soothing acidity. Characterful Riesling from the steeply sloping vineyards of the middle Nahe region. The vines grow in stony, weathered volcanic soils of porphyry and melaphyr in particular, with certain amounts of slate and quartzite. Age of vines 15 - 30 years. Yields ca. 60 hl/ha. 100% selective hand harvest. Fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and large oak barrels."
90/100 Parker's wine Advocate, Stephan Reinhardt (2015 vintage)
"From volcanic soils the 2015 (Estate) Riesling Trocken is lovely, pure, refined and mineral on the nose, displaying ripe white fruit aromas and crushed stone flavors. On the palate, this is a tension-filled, lovely, juicy and intense Riesling of great elegance, lightness and finesse. "This is a typical Riesling from this part of the Nahe valley and it's far too good for an Estate Riesling," says Helmut Dönnhoff. The grapes are from south/southeast-facing vineyards (Oberhausen, Felsenberg and Kieselberg) and ripen later, sometimes they are picked pretty late--about in the middle of the main harvest. But, there are parts that are picked in the very end. This is a gorgeous Riesling and the best Estate Riesling I have ever tasted here."
16/20 JancisRobsinson.com (2014 vintage)
"Fruit from two sites, one slate and one volcanic. RS 5 g/l. Mineral, almost a little peppery. Delicate but definite. Fine, sour freshness, tight and steely on the finish, very crisp. (JH)."
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