2011 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese

Helmut Donnhoff

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Cs (6x75cl)
0 immediate, 1 marketplace
Bt (75cl)
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Average Score 96.0

A riveting, high-toned aromatic diversity announces the Donnhoff 2011 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese with themes that inform an at once creamy yet subtly tannic and vibrant palate: quince, pear, lychee, nut oils, fusel oils, distilled herbal essences, brown spices, and smoky black tea. This behaves as if a bit of Traminer had been blended-in. The rich nuttiness and glaze of honey as well as sheer succulence of fruit make for a more opulent performance than that of Brucke, but to say that this is less energetic or dynamic would be misleading. Its incessant interplay of elements is utterly kaleidoscopic – just more calmly harmonious than the Spatlese from next door. Like that sibling, this deserves to be followed for a good quarter-century. ||The Donnhoff crew participated in a massive “pre-harvest” in late September to cull those few but pervasive bunches that had picked up vinegar from marauding yellow jackets or contracted early and unpromising-looking botrytis. “Immediately after that,” relates Helmut Donnhoff, “we picked the Pinots, and then started in on Riesling, but there was no stress thanks to the stable weather. We picked each vineyard twice more, once chiefly for botrytis and once for the rest. I’ve never seen more beautiful grapes – everywhere you looked, regardless of vineyard. Any mistakes I made could only be in their cellar upbringing. It got so warm during the day that some pickers went shirtless. There was no difficulty with fruit harvested in the morning, but in the afternoon – since we don’t have a cooling chamber – we had to rush each lot of fruit straight to the cellar to be pressed, so that we could then cool-down the juice.” As a group, this year’s dry wines are a surprisingly austere group especially for their vintage. They also display relatively full body, hovering close to 13.5% alcohol – half a percent over what Helmut Donnhoff says is his target. He offered a revealing comment this year in opining that “lots of young growers today are too eager and extreme in the pursuit of perfection in their fruit. Dividing of clusters and trimming-off any perceived imperfection at the pre-harvest stage is impractical, and in fact you need those ... call them little scars (Narben), otherwise the wine becomes too polished and glib (glatt), even boring. Each cluster can have a bit of under-ripeness and all manner of things (alles Mogliche). That diversity (Buntheit) is incredibly important.” Another insight-rich Donnhoff observation: “To interpret each of these sites as it is, requires that one operate with and produce wine of a certain restraint” – that remark apropos of his trio of Grosse Gewachse, but no doubt intended to apply across the board. “That is my responsibility,” he adds, “but of course also my great pleasure. (My son) Cornelius didn’t pay any special attention in managing the vineyards as to whether it was Hermannshohle or Kirschheck – they all got the same degree of attention and the same treatment. We do high-class work, and that’s that. So the differences you taste don’t reflect any favoritism.” I debated whether to publish my initial note on a highly promising Pinot Noir that is entirely Cornelius Donnhoff’s project, but since it is an inaugural effort and won’t be bottled before mid-2013 I’ll wait until next year and report from bottle. eRobertParker.com.February, 2013

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