The Piece on Keller to end all Pieces on Keller

Posted by CrushWine

So I started out with every intention of writing the piece on Keller to end all pieces on Keller.

Truth be told, I had spent quite a few days writing. I’d even bothered Klaus-Peter Keller with a bunch of questions (and, of all the nerve, while he was harvesting his Pinot Noir). It was going ok I’d say – not A+ but solid B. Then Joe reminded me that John Gilman had written a piece on Weingut Keller last year in his newsletter View from the Cellar. I had totally forgotten.

I think I was on page five by the time I realized this was the piece on Keller to end all pieces on Keller and I was wasting my damn time.

So I just stopped writing and emailed John and asked him if I could post his entire article. What can I say, I fancy myself a writer but I’m also a pragmatist. If you want to learn about Weingut Keller, this article has it all. I really think it’s an extraordinary piece and John’s been cool enough to lend it to us (and you) for free.

Click here for John Gilman’s piece to end all pieces on Weingut Keller, from View from the Cellar.

If you are a wine geek, or feel like you are slowly becoming a wine geek, or know someone who you believe is slowly becoming a wine geek, you (or he or she) really should be reading View from the Cellar. If you enjoy our offerings, you will find much to like in View from the Cellar: Edmond Vatan, Huet, Bruno Giacosa, Mugneret-Gibourg, Coche-Dury, Noël Verset, Marius Gentaz, Henri Bonneau, López de Heredia as well as regional and vintage reports on Burgundy, Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Champagne, Port, the Loire and so on.

And Gilman is a manic-Teutonic fan, with more reports on German wine than you can shake an Audi at (even though I’m not sure he really gets Austrian wine, yet).

Click here for the View from the Cellar’s article index.

John’s also been kind enough to extend a special offer for Crush customers: Receive any ONE of the first 22 back issues, FREE. Just email John at and tell him Crush sent you and let him know what issue you want to receive free. That’s it. No commitment, no hassle. If you do end up subscribing for a year, he’ll give you another free back issue. Subscribe for two years and get three free back issues. That’s it. It’s all pretty straightforward.

As for Keller, these really are some of the most astounding Rieslings in Germany at the moment. Though I have given up on my quest for the piece on Keller to end all pieces on Keller, I’d still like to add a few words.

It is impossible to underestimate the reputation of this estate. They have, very quickly, gained an incredible international reputation. In 2002 the Keller estate was awarded the Vinitaly Award, a serious honor that has also graced wine world elites like Chateau Margaux, Vega Sicilia and Penfolds. Last year (2007), Keller’s Abtserde GG was nominated “Dry Riesling of the Vintage” by the German wine review Gault Millau – in 2006 the estate won “Collection of the Year” and in 2000 Keller was nominated by the same publication as "Producer of the Year."

And you can’t engineer, in your most intensely vivid dreams, a blurb like this. Jancis Robinson, writing in the Financial Times, penned this astounding line: “If I had to choose one wine to show how great dry German Riesling can be, I would show a Keller Riesling. Those wines are the German Montrachets.”

Holy moly.

From my viewpoint, Keller has achieved a level of fame comparable only to Egon Müller in the Saar. Sure, everyone loves J.J. Prüm and the label is the most recognizable in Germany – but it’s not the same. Prüm is ubiquitous, something of a commodity. The Rheingau has had its legends, but at this moment in time they seem to have all bloomed and faded. We’re still waiting for the next estate to really flower.

Keller and Müller, however, are absolutely idolized. If German wine geeks can sit around for hours discussing the merits of Willi Schaefer vs. Fritz Haag (and I have, thank you very much), comparisons are rarely discussed with Keller and Müller because they are rarely considered. Egon Müller is the greatest producer in the Saar, Keller is the greatest producer in the Rheinhessen – everyone else is in a manic, distant scramble second place. It’s as if fate had decided it all many centuries ago. (Maybe, through terroir, it has?)

To some extent, our story really begins with Klaus-Peter Keller. He has, in a just over five years, changed the focus of the estate from sweet to dry Riesling (currently the estate produces about 80% dry wines and 20% sweet wines) and has quickly become nothing less than an icon. Like Tim Fröhlich at Schäfer-Fröhlich or A.J. Adam at his eponymous wine estate, these young guys just seem to have “the touch.”

If it’s all a bit much sometimes, with fans making one grandiose claim after another (it’s only a matter of time till the Abtserde is awarded 1,239 points by someone, somewhere) still, there is good reason for the adulation. I’m loathe to say these are the greatest dry Rieslings in Germany, simply because such statements are always somewhat ludicrous. (Still, they could be.) In any event, they are, undeniably, among the greatest dry Rieslings in Germany, with a fineness, a form, that is simply undeniable and undeniably elegant. They are amazing wines.

It should be said that Klaus-Peter Keller, aside from all the celebrity, is an extraordinarily nice guy, truly warm, kind and funny without the slightest bit of pomp or arrogance. He’s also a bit crazy, as all great people really are in one way or another. He’s a dynamo, a whirling dervish of ideas, insight and wisdom mixed with a crazy, happy, billowing undeniable and irrefutable energy.

I remember bouncing around the estate’s vineyard truck on a tour of the Hubacker vineyard (trying, as best I could, not to fly out the window or smash my head against the roof) while Klaus-Peter plowed on without hesitation or notice, speaking manically about (in no particular order) the superiority of asparagus grown on limestone as opposed to clay, the damn shame of so many small parcels within Florsheim-Dalsheim – so much potential – clones, vineyard management, Schloss Eltz and the greatness of Rauenthaler Baiken in the 70s, creating Pinot Noir with the transparency of Riesling, limestone, Burgundy (he loves Burgundy and has an impressive cellar of his own) and the promising pool of talent in the Rheinhessen. I don’t remember talking about Broadway musicals or combustion engines, but those are maybe the two subjects we missed.

So far as I can tell, it is impossible to be in a bad mood when you’re around Klaus-Peter. He has a maniacal laugh that is one part mischievous schoolboy, one part twisted scientist. When I was visiting the estate last April, the honorable and world-renown wine critic Jancis Robinson was flying in for a tasting that evening; due to some miscommunication she had thought Klaus-Peter was going to pick her up at the airport. Instead however, he was with me, bouncing around the vineyards and talking about asparagus. Julia, Klaus-Peter’s wife, had been good enough to head out to make the pick-up and when they both arrived at the estate an hour or more later, I expected perhaps a bit of tension – at least an eyebrow raised and a sharp word. Nothing. Jancis stepped out of the car and Klaus-Peter took over in a gushing dance of greetings, apologies, laughs, smiles and within minutes all was forgotten and we were off on the next adventure.

You just have to meet this guy – you just have to try these wines.