Visiting German vineyards, part 2
Leitz, Rheingau

Eva Fricke (winemaker) and Johannes Leitz

In recent years, two quality German estates have made a significant impact on the UK, with listings in supermarkets and high-street chains. The first of these, Dr Loosen, features later in this series; the second, Leitz, was my first visit on this trip – and by default, my first ever German vineyard visit.

Johannes Leitz is based in the Rheingau, and most of his vineyards are dotted around the town of Rüdesheim (above), which sits on the Rhine. It’s a wide, busy river, with lots of large barges either flying downstream, of chugging away slowly upstream against a strong current. It was a gorgeous, bright May day, and it looked quite beautiful.

We began at the Bischoffsberg vineyard, which sits above the town on a gentle slope. There’s a cable car that runs from the town to the top of the slope, with the Niederwald monument (above), for tourists – a nice touch. Apparently, Rüdesheim gets lots of tourists every year. Neighbouring this vineyard is the Berg Rotland, on the same slope, as it gently follows the river. Rosengarten is a monopole vineyard in the middle of the town. It’s the oldest of all, dating back to the 9th century.

Further round, the slopes start getting steeper. The vineyards here were reorganized in the 1970s and the terraces that you’d normally expect on these sorts of slopes were removed, to be replaced by up and down the slope row orientations. Berg Roseneck (above and below) is an impressive amphitheatre-like vineyard with quartz soils.

The slopes here are getting so steep that spraying has to be done by helicopter, and the vineyard holdings are indicated by markers – for Leitz, red plastic indicates the limits of their blocks of vines.

The Schlossberg vineyard (above) overlooks the Ehrenfelz castle, which dates back to the 11th century. This was the site of a toll station in the river. A chain was used to block the channel, which was then dropped once the toll had been paid. Soils in Schlossberg are 30 cm of top soil, then slate, resulting in wines with distinct minerality. Just above this vineyard, there’s some remaining terracing: the Kaisersteinfelz vineyard.

Johannes says that while they do have some older clones of Riesling, what makes the real difference to the wines is older vines and good vineyard work. Leitz own about 30 hectares of vines and rent another 10, but it wasn’t so long ago that Johannes started off with just 2.5 hectares.

About 50% of the wines are made in Trocken style (dry), and 50% in the fruity (sweeter) style. The domestic market in Germany prefers the Trocken style.  

Leitz use a combination of screwcap (with tin/saran liners) and natural cork to seal their wines. Wines that are made in stainless steel with cultured yeasts are sealed with screwcaps, while those made in cask with natural yeasts are sealed with natural cork. Johannes says they have never really had problems with cork.

Recent vintages:

2008 was quite a difficult vintage, because it was cool, but it was a good one. Harvest started on October 6 and finished on November 20 in normal conditions. Even when Riesling loses its leaves, the grapes still develop. Even late November when the leaves are gone, every good day is helpful. 2007 saw the earliest blooming ever, but then a cold summer and a late harvest. 2006 was the hottest summer ever in Germany, with higher potential alcohol levels and botrytis everywhere. 

Leitz Eins-Zwei-Dry Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken 2008 Rheingau
Deep sandy loam soils. 12% alcohol. Gently honeyed, taut lemony nose with lovely fruitiness. The palate is broad and nicely fruited with almost nutty, lemony fruit. Nicely balanced and fruity. 88/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken 2008 Rheingau
From pure slate soils, 12% alcohol, 7 g/l residual sugar. Rounded, fruity and fresh with lemony fruit and nice balance. Some minerality, good purity and attractive fruit here. 88/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Bischofsberg Riesling Spätlese Trocken 2008 Rheingau
12% alcohol. Very sweet honeyed nose, showing a ripe pear and melon character. The palate is rich and concentrated with nice fruit: sweet pear, apple, honey and lemon notes. Delicious. 90/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Qualitätswein Trocken 2008 Rheingau
11.5% alcohol. Cask fermented and cork sealed. Lovely complex lemony, minerally sweet lemon and pear fruit on the nose, which is beautifully aromatic. The palate is complex and minerally with lime, honey and melon notes. Rich, really complex and quite fine. Beautiful. 93/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken Alte Reben 2008 Rheingau
12.5% alcohol, 40 year old vines. Very fine honeyed, limey nose with some minerality. Rich but complex. The palate is fine, elegant and precise with lovely minerality under the limey fruit. It’s rich, ripe and complex. An amazing wine. 94/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Trocken Alte Reben 2008 Rheingau
From 60 year old vines. Lemony, honeyed nose with some flinty mineralic notes. The palate is fruity and bright with honey, pear and minerals. 91/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Riesling Kabinett 2008 Rheingau
Sweet honeyed nose is ripe, melony and pure. The palate is fresh and limey with lovely bright appley fruit. Crisp. 36 g/l rs, 8.5% alcohol. 88/100 (Tank sample)

Leitz Rüdesheimer Kirchenpfad Riesling Kabinett Feinherb 2008 Rheingau
Feinherb means off-dry. Bright, fresh and lemony, and quite dry, showing nice precision and freshness. Light and expressive, with good acidity. 89/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spätlese 2008 Rheingau
78 g/l rs. Rich and melony. Honeyed and fresh with nice precise apple and melon fruit, and lovely minerality on the finish. 91/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese 2008 Rheingau
Expressive, minerally nose is really fresh with some lime notes as well as richer melony characters. The palate is complex and elegant, showing lovely broad melon and peach notes, as well as fresh minerally acidity. Broad, elegant and complex. 92/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese 2008 Rheingau
Herby, lemony, minerally nose. Fresh and fruity. The palate is rich and full with nice rich melon and apricot fruit. Quite bold and rich textured with lovely sweetness and intensity. 93/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Goldkapsule Riesling Alte Reben Trocken 2008 Rheingau
12.5% alcohol. Super-concentrated, intense, rich minerally pear and peach notes with lovely depth of fruit. Incredibly rich but focused and balanced. Brilliant stuff. 94/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Rottland Goldkapsule Riesling Alte Reben Trocken 2007 Rheingau
Deep yellow colour. Intense nose of herbs, minerals and nuts with some bold, almost waxy lemony fruitiness, together with some greenness. The palate is intense and complex with a dry character, and bold, herby, waxy citrussy notes as well as nutty breadth. Real complexity and depth here; quite savoury in style. 93/100

Leitz Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Auslese 2008 Rheingau
Super-intense and viscous with lots of weight and depth. Lush and smooth with melon/apricot character as well as some minerality on the finish. Linear and pure with good intensity. 92/100

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Leitz, Rheingau
Part 3: Dönnhoff, Nahe
Part 4: Gunderloch, Rheinhessen
Part 5: Paul Furst, Franken
Part 6: Dr Loosen, Mosel

Wines tasted as 05/09  
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