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Wittmann: The Secret of the Rheinhessen

Posted by Stephen Bitterolf on April 29, 2009

Powerful - Staining - Mineral - Dry Riesling

"Wittmann's uncompromising pursuit of quality...make for some striking vinous characteristics. Who would believe ... his top sites have higher Riesling acidity than those of his wife Eva Clusserath on the Mosel?"
- David Schildknecht for the Wine Advocate

It's been a maniacal week in Germany - a non-stop Riesling adventure that has largely focused on the fresh 2008s. That said, this new vintage is still in an embryonic form (I'd guess 40% of the wines are not yet bottled) and most visits have included some 2006s and 2007s to provide context for the new wines and their expected development.

I'm thrilled to offer a select parcel of some of the most impressive dry wines in Germany: 2006 and 2007 Wittmann "Grosses Gewachs."

If you like powerful, chiseled wines of taut citrus fruit and mineral, this is an offer not to be ignored.

These are Wittmann's "Grand Cru" dry Rieslings from the most famous terroirs in the Rheinhessen (Aulerde, Kirchspiel and Morstein) in *stunning* drinking form and priced absurdly low.

For dry Riesling fanatics I can't recommend these wines enough, though anyone with a sweet-spot for minerals and acidity should try at least one bottle. When Wittmann catches on in the U.S. (and it's only a matter of time, the rumble here in Germany is very intense) these bottles are going to come with a tariff much closer to the high prices his neighbor Klaus-Peter Keller fetches.

Wittmann was one of the estates I was most excited to visit.
My German friends and other international Riesling-heads had been talking up Wittmann for years and the few bottles I had tried (these are not at all widely available in the U.S.) were shockingly good and right up my alley - mineral, cut and precise with great clarity.

Even with these expectations I was blown away by my visit.

If Klaus-Peter Keller and his mind-bending wines were the game changer for dry Riesling in the Rheinhessen (if not in Germany), Wittmann belongs somewhere very close indeed in this hierarchy. Wittman's dry Rieslings do not come out of the gate as silky and finessed as Keller's wines; they are more thunderous, more jarring, with more 'looking-into-the-sun' intensity.

And with time in the cellar, watch out. A 2005 Morstein drunk maybe 18 months ago was the first refreshing slap in the face for me, but at my visit last Thursday Philipp was kind enough to open both an 07 Aulerde and an 07 Morstein and both wines were beautiful and intense and the 06s are downright glossy and graceful right now.

If Keller's wines are more nimble, more rapier like, Wittmann's dry Rieslings are stronger, more muscular with incredible staining citrus. These are forceful wines, with a tactile citrus that slams the palate with serious extract and an intense, glowing acidity. With continued bottle age, the wines will integrate even more and gain a more nuanced mouthfeel, a more delicate shape. The 2006s are in good, good form now (though a decant will never hurt), for those of you who really want to crack open a 2007, give it a BIG decant, please!

Wittmann has always had a good reputation; they've been around since the late 17th Century and are one of the greatest estates in the Rheinhessen. That said, Philipp has only been at the helm since 1999 and there's no doubting his seriousness and the fact that he's raised the bar. Lots of estates can show you old bottles and cobweb-strewn cellars, but Wittmann has one of the most impressive collections of old barrels (many well over 100 years old) that are still in use. They started farming organically in 1988 and have since 2003 been both completely organic and biodynamic. (See below for more.)

Please find our entire offering below, with complete tasting notes. While the Morstein is obviously the choice bottle for collectors, the Aulerde may be the hidden gem. This site contains some of Wittmann's oldest vines, planted by Philipp's grandfather in the 1950s so the wine has a concentration and depth to it that should not be overlooked, not to mention the fact his parcel in the vineyard is quite good...

For those of you who have had wines from the Kirchspiel vineyard, well you know the razor-blade minerality this site can deliver, so I know these bottles will be snapped up quickly.

This offer is all about the love of great Riesling. For the US market especially, where the wines remain rare and under-the-radar gems, this is a great chance to steal some of the best dry Rieslings in Germany.

Please claim your bottles as soon as possible by calling the store at (212) 980-9463, emailing us at offers@crushwineco.com, or clicking below. Give us the maximum number of bottles you're interested in and we'll do our best to honor all reasonable requests though we'll do our best to get at least one bottle in all customer's hands... if it's possible!


The Irony of the Rheinhessen & Winemaking at Wittmann


One of the greatest ironies in contemporary German winemaking is the fact that some of the top artisans of dry Riesling herald from one of the most tarnished wine regions in Germany - the Rheinhessen.

From the home of "Liebfraumilch" and thousands of other characterless bottles of dilute plonk, a new generation of winemakers is shaping Rieslings (both dry and sweet) with incredibly precise and nimble profiles.

Klaus-Peter Keller has truly put this region back on the map for collectors and dry Riesling fanatics the world over. Philipp Wittmann however, just 15 minutes away in the village of Westhofen (they share some sites, including Morstein and Kirchspiel), remains very under-the-radar in the U.S. even though both he and his estate are basically superstars in the German wine press. More than anything else, the spotty distribution of the wines and their relative rarity have kept them largely out of the public's eyes. We'd like to change that.

The winemaking here is as serious as it gets. The estate is farmed 100% organically and has been biodynamic since 2003. 90% of the production here is dry Riesling, though if you can find a bottle of the Silvaner, try it! Philipp has been at the helm of the estate since 1999 and uses mostly old wooden barrels for both fermentations and aging. All the wines are fermented with spontaneous yeasts.

The estate is stunningly beautiful, with a great courtyard and gardens. The family is also a big collector of modern art, which is displayed all over the house. If you'd like to see some pictures from my travels, click here.


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