I think I may have started a blog post with this exact statement before, but it still rings true and that is when you think of German wines your thoughts are instantly drawn to Blue Nun, Black Tower and the bad medium sweet wines of the 80’s, but these days they are anything but that!
German winemaker’s have been working extremely hard over the years to increase the quality of there wines and to change consumers perception of them as well, and while the latter still has some way to go the quality is most definitely there. This week I got the opportunity to taste the wines from Oliver Zeter, who’s based down in the Pflaz region in south west Germany. Oliver originally worked with his father and brother as importers of fine wines, after deciding on a career change he then starting to learn his winemaking craft at the highly regarded Pfalz estate Dr Deinhard, he then travelled to Italy and South Africa for a year each to continue his winemaking apprenticeship. On returning to Germany he picked up where he had left off with the family business till he bottled his first wine in 2007, an oaked Sauvignon Blanc, which instantly grabbed the wine critics attention of this young new estate. Oliver has continued to grow the estate planting vines selectively throughout the Pfalz, making sure that each site is planted with varieties that best suit it’s characteristics, planting everything from the traditional varieties of Riesling, Spatburgunder and Grauburgunder to the international varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc, the list continues. Oliver also uses a mixture of Stainless Steel, New and Old oak to ferment and mature his wines before blending each parcel, this helps to add texture and depth while also helping to keep acidity and freshness to his wines.
This is the dry style of Riesling, with the grapes grown on Sandy/Chalk soils, and is fermented in Stainless Steel, Oliver also allows the juice to get some skin contact, 4 – 5 hours to help add texture and depth to the wine. On tasting this wine had all the characteristics you would expect from Riesling, beautiful stone fruit and lime peel, combine this with the bountiful acidity and they all balance each other out perfectly. An extremely classy and delicious wine.
2016 Nussriegel Riesling Trocken
Again, another dry Riesling, but this is a single vineyard version, and comes from Oliver’s oldest site which was originally planted in 1976, the fermentation for this wine happens in 3,000 oak vats, that add no flavour to the wine, but they do add texture. As with the first wine it has those lovely stone fruit flavours, but the citrus in this wine is more orange than lime in the previous one but again you get that balanced refreshing acidity which is just delicious.
This time the soil is Clay rather then the sandy/chalk for the Riesling. It’s fermented a third in Stainless Steel, a third in big oak vats and the final third in old 500ltr oak barrels. This wine has apple and pear fruit, with hints of spice and crisp acidity and minerality that combine with the fruit perfectly.
2017 Sauvignon Blanc
Not your typical German grape, but he makes an amazing wine with it, the grapes come from 7 different plots that are all fermented individually in Stainless Steel before all being blended together. This has quite a pungent nose of green pepper, passion fruit and tomato leaf and these all come through on the palate beautifully with a wonderful zippy acidity.
2016 Sauvignon Blanc Fume
Now many people have attempted to oak Sauvignon Blanc, and if I’m honest most of them fail at it, but not Oliver. He uses fruit from his oldest vines from 7 plots that he has and allows wild fermentation to happen in 300 and 500ltr barrels, he also does not allow Malolactic fermentation to happen so that the wine keeps much more acidity and freshness to it, all the parcels are then blended together, it’s then left for a further 9mths in Stainless Steel before bottling.
This wine has the lovely fruit that you get in the normal Sauvignon, but you then get hints of flint, smoke and savoury character which I can only describe as smoked bacon, yes, I did say smoked bacon but with the fruit and crisp acidity works!
For the fermentation Oliver uses 50% old oak and 50% new and does some whole bunch pressing as well to help extract some more tannins. In the glass the colour is so light, you could almost mistake it for a dark Rose. This wine is loaded with red berry fruit and a slightly savoury character/spice to it, the tannins are fine and just enough to work with the fruit and acidity to produce a stunning wine, that can be enjoyed on its own or with food.
2015 Pinot Noir Reserve
Oliver again uses the same oak profile for this as with the Spatburgunder, but this time he allows the wine to go through Malolactic fermentation to add softness to the wine. Darker in colour and more power than the Spatburgunder, but you get that savoury/barnyard character you find in Burgundy, add in wild strawberries, cherry and leather to the mix with the soft acidity and fine elegant tannins and you have a wine to rival the greats from Burgundy, without the Burgundy price.
2017 Sweetheart Sauvignon Blanc
To create this sweet wine, unlike to greats from Sauternes the grapes are not allowed to get any Noble Rot, the sweetness comes from the fermentation being stopped at around 7% by cooling the wine down, resulting in most of the sugar not being fermented out. It has a lusciousness to it with lovely apricot fruit and an acidity that stops the wine from being overly sickly, just delicious.
So, this is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Ortega, Huxelrebe and Rieslaner grapes from 1993, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2007 and 2011 hence why it is a non-vintage wine. It is also a Trockenbeerenauslese style, which is a very sweet wine that is produced it tiny amounts as you need the grapes to achieve a certain level of Noble Rot. In the glass it has a deep golden to it, with flavours of Apricots, Honey and what I can only describe as Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) with a wonderful sweetness to create something that you could only call the nectar of the gods.
Throughout the whole range of Oliver’s wines several things struck me, firstly was there was not one wine that I did not like or think just wasn’t quite right, the quality of them all was just unparalleled and the depth and length of flavour you got from the entry to the premium range was just amazing. The whites were just delicious, and I just wanted to keep on drinking, and the reds, for me rivalled anything you could find in Burgundy for at least twice the price.