This website is devoted to a selection of fine wine estates from Germany, which are available in the United States through various wine importers. This portfolio has been created by Eric Litchfield, an acclaimed authority on German and Austrian wines, who has spent considerable time selecting producers that define today's highest standards of winemaking. Mr. Litchfield's philosophy is allowing the wine producer and nature to harmonize equally, utilizing sustainable agriculture, organic and biodynamic farming to reach the purest expression of grape varietal, microclimate and terroir, yielding wines of supreme balance and elegance.
It is the objective of this website to provide comprehensive data about these fine wine estates as well as other aspects of the German wine industry, including: current news, understanding German wine labels, wine region information and vintage reports. It is our goal to make GermanWineEstates, information and vintage reports. It is our goal to make GermanWineEstates, The Site for German Wine Lovers.
Today, the winery is directed by proprietor, Dr. Franz Werner Michel, who is assisted by his wife and their daughter Catharina Mauritz. Visitors are welcome - by appointment only - to taste and purchase the wines (English, Swedish and Italian are spoken).
The worldwide first documented mention of the Riesling grape - Germany's premier white grape variety - dates from 1435 in a site not far from Hochheim. The Riesling wines from the Rheingau region are the foundation of the region's fame. Hochheim's soils and microclimate afford optimal growing conditions for Riesling. As such, the profile of the Domdechant Werner estate clearly focuses on this varietal, supplemented by a small proportion of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) - another grape that is traditional in this region. In all, though, the Domdechant Werner estate numbers among the world's leading, high-quality Riesling producers.
The estate cultivates ca. 14 ha/35 acres of vines, 98% of which are planted with Riesling and 2% Spätburgunder. The vineyards are located on gentle, south-facing slopes. The mineral-rich soils are predominantly chalky, with an excellent capacity to retain underground water. Therefore, the vines are able remain healthy even during hot and dry weather.
The estate has holdings in the single vineyard sites Domdechaney, Kirchenstück, Hölle, Stein, Stielweg and Reichestal - all of which have met the classification criteria of the
Rheingau region's top quality category Erstes Gewächs, or first growth.
The Rheingau classification is based on many years of scientific research carried out by the Geisenheim Research Institute. Their study confirmed that the the microclimate and soil composition of 85% of the estate's holdings are eligible for Erstes Gewächs status, compared with 33% of the Rheingau's total vineyard area.
Thanks to optimal growing conditions, the Domdechant Werner estate is able to produce top-quality wines of all styles, ranging from dry to lusciously sweet wines. Regardless of style, elegant fruit and mineral tones are the hallmarks of all the wines. The finest dry Riesling wines are designated Erstes Gewächs, while the finest sweet wines bear the traditional Prädikat Auslese. The red Spätburgunder wines are carefully aged in mature oak casks. They are velvety smooth, fruity, and show only a hint of oak.
Tidbits of Information
Prost to Progress! Celebrate International Women’s Day with German Women Winemakers
Information Supplied by Wines of Germany
-19 March 2018-
In her 2010 book, Women in Wine: The Rise of Women in the Global Wine Industry, author Ann B. Matasar noted, “No business or industry reaches further back in history or is more global in scope than the wine industry. And no industry has so resolutely excluded women from positions of influence for so long.” Nearly a decade after Women in Wine was published, it’s evident that progress has been made as women are increasingly taking charge in historically male-dominated roles within the industry, from distributors and sommeliers to the vineyards and cellars where the wine is grown and made.
Still, the wine industry has a long journey ahead towards inclusion; as reported by Wine Enthusiastin October 2017, women make up just about 20% of the industry’s workforce. Especially in Old World wine countries, there is a history of vineyards and wineries staying in the hands of one family for generations, passed down from father to son. In the last decade, however, this old-fashioned tradition has become a thing of the past, and there are now many female winemakers and trailblazers in Germany continuing to change the wine world for the better. Even the German Wine Institute is female-led by DWI managing director Monika Reule!
The industry as a whole is benefitting from innovative technology, a fresh focus on sustainability, and a growing force of women advancing in ranks from vineyard management to international sales, education, and journalism. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we have highlighted a few notable female winemakers from a range of Germany’s wine regions, including some new names and some from centuries-old estates. Whether these women are establishing their own brands or refreshing legendary labels, they are all paving the way for more women to work in wine at every level. We’ll drink to that!
Growing up among winemakers in Dernau, Julia was destined for the wine industry. After an internship with Meyer-Näkel in the Ahr and a degree in Viticulture and Oenology from the University at Geisenheim, one of the world’s premiere institutions, Julia was named a German Wine Queen in 2012 and embarked on a year representing German wines around the world. Julia then returned to the Ahr to work at her family’s estate and began making a small amount of wine under her own name, focusing specifically on Spätburgunder. Julia plans to increase production of her own wines as she takes over her family’s estate, and is dedicated to focusing on the best sites with the oldest vines, grown using sustainable practices. As a member of Generation Riesling, Julia has been recognized for the innovative practices that she brings to her family’s winemaking tradition.
Purchased by the Diel family in 1802, Schlossgut Diel is of great historical significance in the Nahe. The winery, owned by Armin Diel, is now overseen by his daughter Caroline, who brings together innovative practices, like sustainable methods, with historic traditions, like the use of clay tanks. Caroline studied at Geisenheim and took internships with renowned producers from around the world before taking over her family’s estate. While embracing her family’s history of producing exceptional, terroir-driven Riesling, Caroline has taken a fresh approach and implemented a new philosophy towards winemaking. Most notably, Caroline has reduced the amount of residual sugar in the Prädikat wines, bringing her own style to her family’s estate.
Photo courtesy of Schlossgut Diel on Facebook
Juliane Eller, JuWel-Weine, Rheinhessen While the Eller family winery and vineyard was founded in the 1980’s, the Juwel-Weine brand is a true gem of the new millennium. When Juliane returned from her studies at Geisenheim at age 23, she wasted no time in bringing new life to the family business. With her parents’ blessing and support, she overhauled their technique, focus, and branding, putting her own name on the fresh, modern labels, expanding their offering to include the Pinot varietals and Silvaner as well as Riesling, and moving to hand-picking and organic practices. She is the primary winemaker and cellar master, while her sister, Katharina, oversees the tasting room and marketing. Juliane’s visionary approach is recognized through her membership in Generation Riesling, a network of German winemakers under 35 years old with an international focus and a dedication to modern, high quality, and dynamic wine production.
Coming from a family of doctors, it was chance that led Eva to the wine industry. After working at a winery in Cape Town, South Africa for a summer, Eva returned home to Bremen and chose to study wine. Eva quickly got to work with an apprenticeship at Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau and studying at Geisenheim. After years of working alongside renowned winemakers through various internships at wineries around the world, including Johannes Leitz in the Rheingau, and attending business school, Eva began to focus on her own winery in 2011. A self-made winemaker and businesswoman, Eva is now fully dedicated to Weingut Eva Fricke. The estate, now 10 hectares, is a small, artisanal winery that is completely dedicated to quality and sustainable processes.
Photo courtesy of EvaFricke.com
Sofia Thanisch, Weingut Dr. Thanisch, Mosel Not only is Weingut Dr. Thanisch a 375-year-old, world-renowned estate, but it also has the incredible distinction of being run by four generations of women since 1895! Sofia Thanisch is the current director of the Bernkastel winery and vineyards and part owner of the “Doctor” vineyard, which is famously regarded as one of the best plots in Germany. With a rich tradition in winemaking as well as women’s empowerment, the estate grows 100% Riesling and was a founding member of the VDP in 1910. The Thanisch family is dedicated to producing high quality wines through sustainable viticulture and spontaneous, natural fermentation. Sofia took over the family business from her aunt Mechthild in 1996 and plans to pass it on to her daughters Christina and Juliane, who will become the 5thgeneration of female leaders at the estate.
The Weegmüller family began producing wine in 1685, making Weingut Weegmüller the oldest estate in the Pfalz. Continuing the legacy is Stefanie Weegmüller-Scherr, owner, winemaker, and cellar master for more than 25 years. While Stefanie is the 11thgeneration to run the winery and vineyard, she fully embraces current trends and evolving tastes, focusing on dry, high quality wines, practicing ecological viticulture, and offering a range of grape varietals. Stefanie recently planted Grüner Veltliner for the first time for her family, which proved to be an international success. Stefanie is regarded for her technical expertise and her passion for the industry, but producing wine is not a one-woman job. Her sister, Gabriele Weegmüller, is responsible for marketing, sales, exporting, and customer service, while four more women hold top positions in supporting the small family business.
Photo courtesy of RheinPfalz.de
Julia, Caroline, Eva, Sofia, and the Eller and Weegmüller sisters are not the only women in German winemaking, and progress is being made, but they are still far outnumbered by male winemakers. We look forward to welcoming more and more women into the wine world in the years to come!
2017 German Wine Vintage
Information Supplied by Wines of Germany
-12 March 2018-
The German 2017 grape wine harvest has yielded good to very good wine qualities with in many cases low volumes. Unusually heavy and widespread frosts in April were the key reason behind the relatively large crop losses at many estates. The year´s total intake across the country of 7.5 million hectolitres is expected to be 18 per cent down on the previous year as well as the ten-year average of 9 million hectolitres.
In most German wine regions the harvest was completed very early, with only a very few estates leaving grapes in the vineyard for a possible ice wine production. The qualities harvested are on the whole very satisfactory, resulting in a 2017 vintage of generally light, fruity wines with great finesse which match the current trend in consumers´ tastes.
Ahr (563 ha)
After the spring frosts in April had already reduced yields, followed by heavy rains in the summer, selective harvesting was the order of the day in the Ahr. With the early ripening varieties such as Frühburgunder (Pinot Précoce), the harvest had in some areas already begun in August. The second half of September brought ideal harvest weather, which benefitted the region´s main variety Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) as well as Riesling, leading to good qualities. With cropping levels anticipated at 31,000 hectolitres – roughly 21 per cent below the long-term average -, the Ahr wines have a welcome high level of extract and body and will delight the wine lovers´ palate with their good structure and typically fine varietal fruit.
Baden (15,812 ha)
“We got off lightly” was how many Baden producers summarized the 2017 vintage. This year´s frost catastrophe in the region was the biggest since 1953. Many vines recovered and produced secondary shoots but these generated only a few grapes. Thus already at the beginning of October, after a quick harvest, yields of 70 hectolitres per hectare were obtained – lower levels were last recorded only in 2010 and 2013. Harvest volume estimates of 1.05 million hectolitres are 15 per cent below the ten-year average and 19 per cent down on the previous year. However, must weights and qualities were certainly good, especially with the later ripening varieties. At the end of October, the sunny weather even gave rise to the occasional noble sweet qualities, from Auslese to Trockenbeerenauslese. Overall Baden´s 2017 wines are refreshingly rich in aromas and complex with a harmonious acid structure.
Franken (6,107 ha)
One should be careful with superlatives but the Franken winegrowers are all agreed: 2017 marked the fastest and earliest harvest in the region´s history. This is of course linked to the capricious weather, which the year was certainly not short of. With a great deal of effort, the damage caused by the spring frosts could be minimized, so that despite some hail damage in the summer and heavy rain, as well as the corresponding pre-harvest grape selection, the harvest volume of around 487,000 hectolitres is expected to be even slightly higher than the previous year. The wines are mostly refreshingly light with vitalizing fruit flavours and are thus a nice contrast to the very concentrated, full-bodied vintage 2015 and a complement to the fruit-driven 2016. The slender, elegant 2017 is a particularly attractive Franken vintage!
Hessische Bergstrasse (461 ha)
A turbulent year lies behind the winegrowers of the Hessische Bergstrasse. Yields were not only depressed by the damaging frosts, which affected producers to varying degrees. Problems also arose due to the partly wet weather, requiring growers to undertake strict grape selection by hand to preserve quality. Fortunately September brought cool nights, albeit at the beginning also a good deal of rain, which further accelerated a harvest that had already begun early. By the 10 October all grapes were in the cellar. All in all, total yields of 25,000 hectolitres fall significantly below the norm of 31,000 hectolitres but the quality is right, in particular with the later ripening varieties such as Riesling. The Bergstrasse can look forward to a 2017 vintage which is varietally typical and fresh but above all graceful and elegant.
Mittelrhein (467 ha)
Winegrowers in the Mittelrhein were mostly spared from major crop losses due to the April frosts, with relatively moderate temperature lows of minus two degrees Celsius recorded on the steep vineyard sites. That said, the year posed other major challenges for growers in the form of a lot of rain in the summer and unsettled, wet weather at harvest time, with only a few exceptions. Rigorous grape selection was required to separate healthy from rotten berries, rewarding those who worked scrupulously with good qualities. The harvest, which had begun in September, was largely over by the beginning of October. Noble sweet grapes up to Trockenbeerenauslese were also harvested. The total yield is approx. 33,000 hectolitres and thus roughly on a par with the previous year´s figure. The wines are proving to be aromatic and balanced to concentrated with a wonderful interplay of sweetness and acidity.
Mosel (8,796 ha)
This year´s harvest in the Mosel was the earliest ever and the smallest in volume terms for half a century. This was of course attributable to the April frosts, which affected almost a third of the region´s vineyards. Even the steep sites suffered, which rarely happens as cold air normally flows down slope. At 600,000 hectolitres, the harvest volume is significantly lower than the long-term average of 800,000 hectolitres. The summer brought warm, dry weather as well as heavy rain and isolated hail storms. Picking got underway in mid-September, topping the earliest harvest on record from 2011 by ten days. Riesling grapes which were harvested later were able to profit from the favourable weather conditions in the second half of September. This resulted not only in good must weights, measuring up to 200 degrees Oechsle in the noble sweet grapes, but also balancing fruit acidity levels. The 2017 Mosel wines will be slender, playful and mineral with a wide quality spectrum up to Trockenbeerenauslese, especially in the Saar and Mittelmosel.
Nahe (4,205 ha)
The frost night of 20 April caused considerable damage to the vines in the Nahe, also partly in the region´s top and steep vineyards. Even seasoned winegrowers could barely remember anything quite like it - yields were 30 to 80 per cent below the usual results. Happy the ones who lit candles in the vulnerable sites and largely managed to save the grapes. To make matters worse, there were hailstorms during the year, so that a minus of 18 per cent compared with the long-term average is anticipated. However, the mostly favourable weather in the summer and at harvest time had a positive influence on the remaining grapes, which yielded pleasing must weights. With extreme dedication, winegrowers nurtured every healthy berry and this effort brings its rewards: The Nahe wines of the vintage 2017 are proving to be true to variety, full-bodied and very well-balanced.
Pfalz (23,590 ha)
In Germany´s second largest wine region, 2017 will also deliver good wine but less of it. Owing to frost damage in April, growers in the Pfalz brought in 1.8 million hectolitres of grapes - approx. 19 per cent less than the average. After a wet July, however, the weather gods were somewhat more benign in August and September. At harvest time, which began early in August, the weather brought warm days and cool nights, which were perfect for a good aroma profile. In September it then turned cooler towards the end of harvest, while the rain was not excessive. The grapes were thus able to accumulate a lot of sugar and registered good acidity levels. The 2017 vintage in the Pfalz promises characterful and expressive wines with a lovely interplay of aromas, especially in the aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc or Muskateller. The young wines are already proving to be stimulating and appealing.
Rheingau (3,168 ha)
The year 2017 showed again that the climatic challenges for the Rheingau winegrowers are not easing up. Volume estimates of 180,000 hectolitres are approx. 18 per cent down on the previous year. To blame were first and foremost the frosts in April, with the addition of major hail damage in the centre of the region in August. Nature was able to offset much of this with good weather during flowering and harvest. At the beginning of August, vine growth was ten days ahead of the long-term average. Rigorous grape selection became necessary after heavy rains during the ripening phase, which ultimately resulted in very good grape quality and must weights for the late ripening varieties Riesling and Spätburgunder. “Our growers expect a good vintage”, concluded Peter Seyffardt, president of the Rheingau Winegrowers´ Association. Aromatic wines with harmonious acidity and good structure are the defining characteristics of the current vintage.
Rheinhessen (26,628 ha)
Total harvest figures of two million hectolitres in Germany´s largest wine region are significantly lower – approx. 20 per cent less - than the previous year and the long-term average. This was caused by frosts in April and hail storms especially in the Alzey-Worms district later in the season. Also in other respects 2017 had one or two hurdles “up its sleeve” for the Rheinhessen growers. “A roller coaster ride” was how the year´s progression was described and steady nerves were required. The weather gods showed themselves to be more benign during the extremely early harvest following heavy rains shortly beforehand. The mild weather with its cold nights helped many grapes on the home run to a good level of ripeness and plenty of aroma. The young wines in Rheinhessen are proving to be very fruit-driven with a well-balanced, refreshing acidity. Especially the late-ripening varieties such as Riesling benefitted from this challenging vintage 2017.
Saale-Unstrut (765 ha)
Growers in the Saale-Unstrut region can look back on a good year. There were no major weather problems in the sheltered – often terrassed – sites along the rivers and the east of Germany remained largely free of frost damage in April. The mix of sun, rain and warmth in summer was ideal for the grapes and encouraged strong growth in the canopies. After an unusually long ripening period, the harvest got underway at the beginning of September. The dry wines are delicate, fruity and graceful - typically Saale-Unstrut. But the harvest also rendered full-bodied Spätlese (late-harvest) grapes up to mid-October, when picking was completed. At an estimated 58,000 hectolitres, volumes are even slightly higher than the previous year´s figure of 54,000 hectolitres, an increase of roughly 7 per cent.
Sachsen (11,306 ha)
In Germany´s easternmost wine region, major frost damage also remained at bay. Both quantity and quality were spot-on. In the often warm weather, the grapes had a long period in which to ripen. The harvest stretched into the second half of October, enabling for example the Riesling berries to attain must weights into the high 90 degrees Oechsle. Fruity, juicy wines with good levels of extract are the pleasing result. The harvest volume of roughly 27,000 hectolitres is forecast to fall slightly below the previous year´s figure but significantly higher than the long-term average of 21,000 hectolitres. 2017 was a good wine year in Sachsen with a long harvest season, which rewarded the efforts of the growers. Besides assiduous work in the vineyard and careful selection, the great virtue was patience, which gave the grapes the necessary time for ripening.
Württemberg (11,306 ha)
In Württemberg a mixed picture is emerging at the end of the wine year 2017. The year had brought a lot of hardship, the severe April frosts causing partly considerable crop losses. In some instances, a minus of 25 to 30 per cent - in regions such as the Taubertal or Hohenlohe even 50 to 60 per cent - had to be absorbed. Volume estimates across the region of 850,000 litres are 20 per cent below the long-term average and 26 per cent down on the previous year. Unfavourable weather at harvest time required in many places an early and rapid picking, which was largely over within the short – and rare – time span of only three weeks. This was also due to the fact that the late ripening varieties had to be picked directly after the early ones. Württemberg growers are satisfied with the qualities harvested - especially the late ripening varieties yielded healthy grapes with high must weights. One can therefore expect a vintage of balanced, fruity wines with true-to-varietal aromas.
Tidbits of Information Archive
AustrianWineEstates is a website devoted to a selection of fine wine estates from Austria, whose wines are available in the United States through wine importer and distributor, Slocum & Sons, located in North Haven, Connecticut. This portfolio has been created by Eric Litchfield, a wine professional and German and Austrian wine expert with 28 years of experience importing and promoting the wines of Germany and Austria.He has spent considerable time selecting producers that define today's highest standards of wine making. Mr. Litchfield's philosophy is to allow the wine producer and nature to harmonize equally, utilizing sustainable agriculture, organic and biodynamic farming to reach the purest expression of grape varietal, microclimate and terroir, yielding wines of supreme balance and elegance.