The Rheinhessen suffered from over a century of (mis)use for sheer bulk production. Glorious, old vine vineyards sitting on steep, calcareous outcrops were largely forgotten in favour of high yielding sites lower down the hills. In recent years, with the movement to craft better quality wines, the Rheinhessen has a had a series of rising stars (particularly Klaus Peter Keller) creating sublime bone dry Rieslings that have achieved cult status. One of Keller’s protégés and neighbours, young Katharina Wechsler, took over her family winery in 2012 and has quickly become an ascending star in the region. She sources from “Grand Cru” level vineyards Kirchspiel and Morstein (used by Keller for his top bottlings), as well as her family’s monopole vineyard site, Benn, to make nervy, complex, age-worthy wines using biodynamic practices, spontaneous ferments, minimal intervention and eschewing most fining and filtration. She also makes a series of “Natural”, funky wines with extended skin contact. These world class wines are stunningly affordable.
Germany’s largest wine region, Rheinhessen was historically known for mainly producing large amounts of bulk wine destined for the export market. That began to change gradually beginning in the 1980s, when growers began to focus on lower yields, drier styles and overall higher quality wines. Today, the region is home to the majority of Germany’s organic/biodynamic viticulture, with a great number of young and energetic producers eschewing the past and leading the future. Unlike other German wine regions, there are significant plantings of many grapes, though Riesling plays a role here as well, to be sure. You will find plenty of Muller-Thurgau, Dornfelder, Silvaner and Pinots Gris, Noir and Blanc throughout. The climate is relatively mild, protected by countless hills and forests and moderated on the east and west border by the Nahe and Rhine rivers, respectively. Soil types vary, though the majority are a mix of loess and loam with limestone deposits mixed with gravel.
Sourced from single vineyards in Westhofen (Benn and Kirchspiel) There are layers of limestone meandering through the substrate, channeling water and ensuring the plants have enough to drink even in the hottest parts of summer. The smallest vineyard in Westhofen, Benn is a monopole that has been in the Wechsler family for generations.
Dornfelder is a crossing native to Germany, created to have better resistance to rot and frost than Spätburgunder, as well as to give darker wines with firmer tannins. It can give heavy yields and takes well to oak aging. Able to ripen in cooler climates, plantings have popped up all over the world, including in Ontario.
The grapes are hand-harvested, then undergo a light maceration to extract colour. The base wines are blended together in tank, where they undergo a secondary fermentation in the Charmat Method, similar to prosecco.
Fruity and fun. Ripe red and black berries dominate this easy-drinking sparkler. The palate isn’t cloying, but it is definitely off-dry. The bubbles and creamy mousse add complexity. Sip this with a picnic lunch or with a plate of sushi.