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47-year-old vines on a steep south-facing slate vineyard produced a fragrant racy riesling full of charm in which you can almost smell a touch of cherry, as the name implies. 62g/l residual sugar.
Product Code: GE8831
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View all products by Weingut Dönnhoff
Helmut Dönnhoff, born in 1949, married to Gaby, has established himself as the finest grower in the Nahe, itself a dynamic vineyard region. The family established a modest farm here 200 years ago. Helmut began making wine in 1971 and continued to purchase top sites like Kirschheck (cherry hedge), Dellchen (little dell) and more recently Kreuznache Krötenpfuhl (little frog pond) to add to his holdings and Oberhauser Brucke (bridge), Leistenberg (slate hill) and Felsenberg (rock hill).
Nahe is a geologically diverse region with a handful of outstanding producers who are probably more famous than the origin of their wines. Protected by the Rheingau and Hunsrück ranges of hills and mountains Nahe is also one of Germany’s drier wine regions. Expect wonderfully intriguing aromas, a certain mineral quality, rounded palate, and great length of flavour.Germany has suffered something of an image crisis in recent decades when its fame for quality wines that at one time rivalled the first growths of Bordeaux in price was diluted by a sea of cheaper white wines from undistinguished vineyards, often made by undistinguished co-operatives. However, the high-quality wines were always there, made by conscientious and often brilliant winemakers from very specific sites of historical repute. There is a history of winemaking in Germany dating back to the 1st century BC and throughout the years of the Roman Empire when popular Rhenish wines were exported to Britain. Today, though there are still many mass produced wines, Germany has seen something of a revival, sometimes called the ‘Riesling Renaissance’, and produces more great wines than ever in a wider range of styles, often drier and increasingly red. A new generation of winemakers has arisen who have learned new ideas, often having spent time overseas making wine. In this they have been aided by the warming effects of climate change, giving them consistently ripe grapes to work with, and an increasing pride in German wines within the country itself.Germany possesses 13 wine-producing areas, called anbaugebiete. These are sub-divided into districts called bereich and within these bereichs are communes, clusters of neighbouring vineyards called grosslage, and named vineyard sites or einzellage that have proved themselves over the centuries to be the places where the elements of terroir all come together in an essential harmony. The majority of these anbaugebieten are in the south and south-west of the country and often along river valleys, with the most famous clustered along the Rhine and in the valleys of the rivers Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. It is in these latter two areas that Germany’s most prestigious einzellage reside and from whence come the most famous wines. The rivers have a moderating effect on temperatures, helping to keep them up when it is cold and lowering them a little when it is hot. Steep slopes and the soils found on them can have an effect on the ripening of the grapes by providing propitious aspects and by acting as storage heaters and reflectors of sunlight respectively.The German wine regions enjoy a continental climate of cold winters and warm summers, with the additional benefit of long, warm autumns allowing grapes to mature fully in the more northerly latitudes. Soils vary greatly from region to region with the weathered slate of the best Mosel-Saar-Ruwer vineyards being the most famous.German wine law, while perfectly logical on one level and created to protect the interests of growers, is not always clear and user-friendly for the consumer unfamiliar with it. While geographical and grape varieties are governed the distinguishing feature of German wine law is the central role that the sugar level of grapes at harvest plays, expressed in degrees Oechsle. It is the main factor in determining the classification of the wine. The riper the grapes the higher the degrees Oechsle and potentially the higher the classification no matter the location or reputation of the vineyard. Incidentally, this needn’t always translate into sweetness in the finished wine as a must high in sugar may still be fermented to dryness. The levels of classification, above the most basic Wein and Geschützte Geographische Angabe (equivalent of vin de table and vin de pays respectively) are as follows: Geschützte Urspungsbezeichnung, previously Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete (QbA) – meaning Protected Designation of Origin.Qualitätswein – a chaptalized wine, one to which sugar has been added before fermentation to increase its alcoholic strength, from a named grape variety. The wine is tested for quality.Kabinett – naturally dry or off-dry (ie unchaptalised) with a distinctive character. Usually lightest of the quality levels but can still be very high-quality.Spätlese – Spät means late and lese means harvest. Sweeter and fuller-bodied than kabinett due to later harvesting or a particularly beneficial site leading to higher sugar levels, though the wines are sometimes fermented to dryness.Auslese – Translates as ‘selected harvest’. This level has higher sugar levels at harvest than spätlese’ and may be made from selected bunches of particular ripeness that may have been affected by botrytis or noble rot (known in Germany as edelfaule).Beerenauslese – Beeren is berries in German so wines at this level are usually made from individually selected berries probably affected by edelfaule. They are luscious sweet wines.Trocken beerenauslese – Trocken translates as dry. This refers to the shrivelled nature of the berries, affected by botrytis until there is little juice remaining in the grape. They are only made in great vintages and have very high levels of sugar balanced by high acidity. They are mouth-coating, rich wines of great concentration, rare and expensive.For a fuller description of Germany and its wines and wine regions please see our How To Buy German Wines page on our website. German wine law German wine legislation has done its best to make things complicated. Logical in their way, and designed to be democratically fair to winegrowers, the rules lack a common-sense awareness of what wine drinkers want to know. The four most important pieces of information on a German wine label are the name of the grower, the origin of the grape variety, the vineyard and an indication of whether the wine is dry or sweet. The recent move to simplify estate names and origin of the grapes and to remove Gothic script, which made names unreadable and hard to pronounce for linguistically challenged Brits, is welcome.Germany has a continental climate and this far north it is close to the limit for ripening grapes. Consequently early-ripening varieties are the most successful with riesling chief among them. Though the latitude is not helpful, and rain can come throughout the growing season, the presence of the rivers and the shelter of the valleys ameliorate the effects of cold and heat when it comes. Autumns are often warm and long, providing the conditions for ripening and often allowing vines to hang on the vines well into the colder winter months to be made into sweeter styles.LabellingGerman wine legislation has done its best to make things complicated. Logical in their way, and designed to be democratically fair to winegrowers, the rules lack a common-sense awareness of what wine drinkers want to know. The four most important pieces of information on a German wine label are the name of the grower, the origin of the grape variety, the vineyard and an indication of whether the wine is dry or sweet.The recent move to simplify estate names and origin of the grapes and to remove Gothic script, which made names unreadable and hard to pronounce for linguistically challenged Brits, is welcome. The German home market, which buys most German wine, prefers wines that are totally dry to go with food. A high percentage of the wine that most estates produce is therefore dry. The only grape variety for which this does not necessarily always work well is the one that makes Germany’s greatest wines: riesling. The natural balance of wine made from riesling is often made complete by the retention of natural sweetness. The bouquet is enhanced, the wines keep better, and the alcohol level (because not all the grape sugar is fermented out) is lower, which suits the style of the grape.German wine laws classify the quality of a wine according to the degree of sugar the crushed grapes contain, but this is a pretty unhelpful guide. A wine may be called Spätlese (literally ‘late-picked’ but in reality, not necessarily so) if the minimum must weight (also Oechsle) is about 80° (a potential alcohol of 10%). But Spätlese wines are often made from grapes with higher must weight than this, and can be fermented out dry to 10% alcohol, or left with some sweetness at 8.5%. Auslese (literally ‘a selective picking’) has a minimum must weight of about 90° Oechsle with a potential alcohol of 12% if the wine is dry, although in this country we are more used to Auslese being sweet, and around 8% alcohol.Remember, however, that a German wine with a sweetness of 4 or 5 (medium dry to medium sweet) will be delicious as an aperitif and with food, because the natural sweetness is always balanced by fruit acidity. Think of a perfect British-grown ripe Cox or Ribston apple.Many other grapes are grown in Germany successfully, particularly in the warmer more southerly vineyards, and there are increasingly fine pinot noir wines from the Ahr valley, but they produce wines that can be equalled and usually bettered in other parts of the world. Riesling, of course, is successfully grown elsewhere, but nowhere does it produce such delicate, multifaceted results as it does in Germany’s great vineyards. Reds are increasingly made and some 40% of Germany’s total vineyard area is planted with red varieties.
2014 was challenging because of warm, damp weather, meaning that it was a very labour-intensive process to ensure the crop was healthy. By the end of September the crop was looking bigger than 2013 and 2012 (both short), but there was heavy rain in October to spoil the party. For some, though, 2014 was more straightforward than 2013: in the Pfalz the harvest was dry and sunny and came early, and the wines we buy from the Ruppertsberg co-operative are looking excellent. There will surely be excellent wines produced elsewhere and we shall know more after tasting in situ.
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The Society's wine buyers work very closely with our suppliers to determine how best to seal our wines. We list below those closures currently in use with a brief description of each.
A technical cork made up of the remnants from the production of natural corks which are ground down into particles and cleaned and then combined using a food-grade polyurethane glue. A cheaper closure which The Society's buyers discourage suppliers from using.
A technical cork made from cheaper-grade natural cork where the naturally occurring pores are filled with ground down cork particles and then the whole is sealed with a food-grade wax coating. Generally only used for wines with a short shelf-life.
Diam corks look like agglomerate corks but are far superior and are designed to put an end to cork taint and random oxidation. The production process chops cork into pieces and sorts the superior, highly elastic, suberin component from the less elastic lignin, which is discarded. It mixes the suberin with microscopic spheres of the same substance used for contact lenses, which fills the voids between the cork particles reducing porosity to air and increasing elasticity without introducing humidity. Finally the pieces are mixed with a glue and moulded under pressure. The mechanical properties of the cork are guaranteed for a certain minimum number of years depending on the grade of cork - for example Diam 2 is guaranteed for two years; Diam 3, 5 and 10 are also available.
The Champagne cork is 90% agglomerate made from cork off-cuts which are ground down, cleaned, compressed and then glued together with two disks of good quality natural cork glued onto the end which protrudes into the bottle.
Natural corks harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in Spain and Portugal have been the closure of choice for wine for the 300 years. The bark of the cork oak is stripped from mature trees every nine years. The planks are stored and then cleaned and graded before the corks are punched out of the wood. For wines destined for long-ageing, high-grade natural corks are still the closure of choice.
Cost-effective synthetic 'corks' made from food-grade plastic with a silicone coating (similar to that used on natural corks). Generally used for wines for short-term cellaring.
A glass stopper with a plastic 'O' ring which acts as an interface between the top of the bottle and the stopper, held in place by a metal, tamper-proof seal. Relatively expensive as a closure and not widely used. Can be removed by hand.
A short natural or agglomerate cork with a plastic or wooden top to enable the stopper to be removed by hand. Traditionally used for whiskies, sherries, Madeira etc.
Aluminium alloy screwcaps made with an expanded polyethylene wadding for the lining. Screwcaps are also known as ROTEs (roll-on tamper evident) or by the brand name (Stelvin is a popular brand). Widely used in Australia and New Zealand and for wines for short-term cellaring. Becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of allowing differing levels of permeability so mimicking the properties of natural cork offering winemakers more choice depending of the style of wine being made. There is still a lack of sound data regarding the performance of screwcaps for longer-term cellaring.
This is an agglomerate cork with a disk of good-quality natural cork adhered to both ends. A reasonably priced, reliable alternative to natural cork.
This is the metal pilfer-proof cap usually used to seal beer bottles but also used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wine when wines are stored under crown cap before the dosage is added. A few producers use crown caps to seal wine bottles. Open with a standard bottle opener.
Jamie Goode has written an excellent book on the subject of closures for those wishing to find out more (Wine Bottle Closures, Flavour Press).
Alcohol by volume%
Units per standard bottle
The Society includes the alcohol by volume percentage figure for each wine available online, in Lists and offers.
It is generally accepted that alcohol levels in wine have been increasing in the last 20 years. There are many reasons why, but the single most important factor is the vast improvement in vineyard management techniques which have resulted in healthier, riper fruit being harvested. Alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation of sugars in the grapes and the best-quality wines are made from grapes that have reached physiological ripeness (colour, flavour and tannin), and this generally happens after sugar ripeness.
There are several techniques that can be used to reduce alcohol levels but currently most are intrusive and strip flavour as well as alcohol and we don't buy wines made in this way. In actual fact, more than half of our still table wines have an abv of 13% or less. Members looking to choose wines with lower levels of alcohol can now search our range by level of alcohol.
Excellent-quality wine is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society and balance is the single most important feature of quality. The interaction of a wine's main components of sugar, acidity, tannin, alcohol and flavour matter more than the actual level of alcohol. A well-made wine of 14.5%, for example, will taste more balanced than an inferior-quality wine with 10% alcohol. Furthermore, alcohol levels are only a guide to a wine's fullness: a 12.5% cabernet sauvignon may feel heavier and more full-bodied in the mouth than, say, a gamay of 13.5%. Members should refer to the wine's tasting note for a description of the style and fullness of the wine.
The Society is committed to promoting the responsible enjoyment of wines and spirits by providing relevant information to our members that allows them to make their own informed choices. An additional figure is beginning to be used on labels: the number of (UK) units of alcohol contained in that bottle. This is simply the alcohol by volume percentage multiplied by the content. Thus a 13% wine in a standard 75cl bottle will have 9.7 units of alcohol. All new labels of Society and Exhibition wines will include this information. drinkaware.co.uk
The Society's buyers provide recommended drink dates for all of our wines to help members decide the right time to pop the cork. As a general rule, most everyday white wines are best enjoyed within a year of purchase, and most everyday reds within two years. Certain fine wines, however, those with the right structure and balance, have the ability to evolve over time and gain complexity and finer nuances of flavour.
If the product page says:
...then our advice would be:
Should be drunk over the coming months, certainly within the year.
Ready to drink now but will keep until the year shown.
We recommend keeping longer before opening. For example, a wine will be ready to drink in 2020 but still young and will keep until 2042. It's a matter of personal taste when such wines should be drunk. Many members prefer to try the wines over many years from the opening drink date to the last to watch the wine evolve.
Within one year of purchase
A non-vintage wine that should be drunk within 12 months.
Within two years of purchase
A non-vintage wine that is ready now but will keep for two years.
Savouring the wonderfully complex and intense bouquet and flavour of a wine drank at its peak is undoubtedly one of life's greatest pleasures. As with people, the ageing process will vary from wine to wine. Over the years the wine's primary aromas of fresh fruit will develop more complicated and persistent secondary and tertiary aromas. The fruity flavours of, for example, a premier cru white Burgundy will, over time, evolve buttery, toasty and yeast aromas, or fine reds may develop coffee, cedar, tobacco, vegetal, or even 'animal' flavours as they age.
There is much pleasure to be had by experimenting with bottles at different stages of maturity; finding out how a wine evolves with age and, perhaps more importantly, establishing your own preference in terms of taste for mature wine are all part of the interest and excitement of cellaring wine.
The drinking window we provide is a guide to when the wines will be at their best. Many will favour the wines in the youthful early stages of their development; others will enjoy the wines at their most mature.
Decanting is a useful way of softening the tannins, rounding out the flavours and releasing the potential of a young wine. To find out more please visit our Serving Wine guide.
The Society's purpose-built, temperature-controlled Members' Reserves offers members access to optimum storage conditions for their wines.
For more help and advice about how best to enjoy your wines contact us via our enquiry form.
Oak plays a very important role in the production of wine throughout the world. However, the level of oak detectible in a wine can vary depending on a number of factors – for example, the age and size of the barrel and the type of oak used, as well as the length of time the wine is aged in wood. Oak also influences the structure and tannins of the final wine. For wines on our website, we use the following classifications:
This suggests that a wine has either seen no oak at all, or may have been produced using very large, old oak barrels, resulting in a wine that has no taste of oak. Expect these wines to be crisp, fruit-forward and aromatic.
Some oak has been used in the production, yet it has not been a defining factor in the style of the wine. In this instance, the oak may have played more of a part in the structure of the wine but there will still be discreet flavours associated with the use of new oak.
Wines that are defined by and known for their use of new oak. This must not be confused with a wine which is 'overly oaky' as that would purely be down to bad winemaking! We buy only wines that, we believe, use oak in a balanced and appealing way, enhancing flavour and complexity, and/or imparting structure.
How detectable oak is depends a good deal on the size of the barrel and how new it is. New oak provides a much more evident flavour and aroma and must be used carefully. The size of the barrel is important, as the smaller the barrel, the more surface area of the wine is in contact with the wood and the more flavour will be drawn out. Often, very large old oak barrels are used, which impart little or no oak flavour to the wine at all. They will still bring an extra dynamic to the final taste of a wine though, when compared to stainless steel or concrete vessels, as oak is porous and therefore lets a small amount of air into the barrel. This controlled oxidation has a positive effect on wines, softening the tannins and developing secondary flavours, all helping to add a complexity which comes with age.
There are many ways that people rate wines, whether it is on the 100 or 20 point scales, 5 stars, 3 glasses or simply thumbs up or down. The pleasure of a bottle of wine is hard to express in figures, but it does help give the memory of that wine a context, and a way of sharing your opinion with others.
In response to members' requests we have added a star rating option to the site so you can mark your favourites, or maybe those occasional less-than-welcome experiences, and make your next order easier.
You can use the 5-star rating tool to record your experiences however you wish, but if you are looking for some guidance we believe that a focus on the 'value' of the wine takes into account the quality but also the pleasure it provided, and whether it is something you would recommend to friends.