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Average critic rating : 94.0 points
Green tea, lavender, honeysuckle and framboise distillate penetratingly scent Donnhoff’s 2010 Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese, their proxies reappearing, along with fresh lime, red raspberry, and drippingly-ripe pear, on a palate of striking purity, refinement, and levity. To an undertone of wet stone in the finish are added site-typical saline, carnal, and brown butter savor. Look for two decades of bewitchment from this beauty. “When I saw the analyses that came back on this year’s Spatlesen,” notes Donnhoff, “I had them run again because I couldn’t believe we had close to 100 Oechsle even on the least of them.”||Helmut Donnhoff is quick to point out that the challenges of 2010 would seem normal by 1980s standards, and he likes the sharp differentiation of site character that he thinks is enhanced in a cooler, well-watered vintage. He harvested through the first days of November, but voiced skepticism that one could have accomplished much – at least in his vineyards – thereafter. “We harvested like the world champions in the last days, practically around the clock, because the weather reports had forecast rain and that’s what we got,” he noted, handing me a slip of paper on which his vineyard manager had written a day-to-day report intended to explain to yours truly – who had a free day November 10 and had hoped to be present for some late picking – why the harvest here ended November 5. “It would have been nice to have been able to wait until the second half of October to have begun,” he adds, “but practically speaking, I need four weeks to harvest all of my vineyards, so in my mind I plan from back to front. You can’t just wait, wait, wait, or it might be too late, you’d end up rushing, and as a result lose out on precisely what would have been your best wines. We de-acidified the early pickings – simply with calcium carbonate,” he explains. “Acid levels were dropping, but very slowly, and in the end we arrived at levels of 9.5 or 10 grams in the must, which is still high, but by that time the levels of tartaric and malic were comparable (to one another), and with the strong must weights we had, it was enough to do the job.” Bottling for most of the wines took place in late May or in June, around a month later than usual. There was some discussion, notes Donnhoff, about whether to leave higher than usual residual sugar behind in the dry wines. “But I decided against that as I didn’t want to mask the wines’ character. To be sure, there’s a sort of hardness here – though it’s not a green, under-ripe hardness but rather (an expression of) sheer density. At first I had some misgivings about the (dry) wines, but later on, I didn’t merely reconcile myself to them. On the contrary, I really started to take pleasure in them, admiring their straight lines, their clarity, and their potential. I’m a fan of Clos St. Hune and a devotee of this puristic style.” Donnhoff has repeatedly expressed his satisfaction in being able to ostensibly “complete” his vinous tour of the middle Nahe – first by acquiring property in Norheim; then in Bad Kreuznach – but the expansion has taken yet another turn with the acquisition of two and a half acres in the red Permian sandstone Roxheimer Berg, for whose maintenance his son Cornelius – a critical if publicly little-known member of Team Donnhoff for some years now – will be responsible. It was another case of a site about whose many steep, once-prestigious and increasingly-neglected vineyards Helmut Donnhoff felt frustrated and apprehensive. “One by one,” he relates, “I gazed out at parcels about which I thought, ‘Man, if things go on the same way for another year or two, this vineyard will be finished,’ and I thought about the distance – seven or eight kilometers – from Oberhausen; and (my wife) Gabi could tell just what was going through my mind, so she grabbed me under the arm (and said) ‘No!’ “ ? to no avail. The old Riesling vines are being restored and a barren portion will be replanted, but 300 liters were bottled from the 2010 crop of (no, that isn’t a misprint) Gewurztraminer.||Terry Theise Estate Selections, imported by Michael Skurnik Wines, Inc., Syosset, NY; tel. (516) 677-9300 Wine Advocate.December, 2011
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