Visiting German vineyards, part 4
Gunderloch, Rheinhessen

So far in this series on German wine we’ve been in the Rheingau and the Nahe. Now it is time to visit the Rheinhessen, and specifically one of the top producers in the region—Gunderloch.

Agnes and Fritz Hasselbach are the people behind the wine. When they married in 1976 both were teachers. Agnes’ family owned Gunderloch, but because none of the other children showed any interest, Agnes and Fritz decided to leave a safe and secure income to take over the responsibility of the family winery in 1979.

Looking along the vineyards of the Rheinhessen (Rothenberg is in the close field) down to Nierstein

In 1996 they took over another winery in nearby Nierstein, Anton Balbach. Friedel, the owner, had taught Fritz, who was very interested in half of the vineyards, close to Gunderloch, but not interested in the remainder, which were flat fields. But it was all or nothing, so overnight Gunderloch doubled in size to 24 hectares.

Gunderloch’s vineyards are located on steep slopes overlooking the Rhine between Nachenheim and Nierstein. The soil, red slate, is unique to the Rheinhessen, and this slate was a sediment formed when the alps were built. It makes a warm, minerally soil that Fritz says influences all their Rieslings. According to Fritz, the Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett really shows the minerality of the red slate.

Riesling is the bulk of Gunderloch’s production, accounting for 85%, with a bit of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Sylvaner, as well as tiny amounts of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Fritz is not terribly happy with the wine law. ‘We have a strange German wine law that doesn’t say anything about the classification of the vineyards, just the must weights.’ While he likes the Grosses Gewächs (GG) classification of vineyards, he isn’t sure why it is just for the dry styles. It would make sense that the GG vineyards were GG for all styles of wine, not just the trocken styles, wouldn’t it? ‘It is currently possible to chaptalize dry wines from GG vineyards,’ he laments. ‘For us, the average yield for GG wine is 20–25 hl/ha, but we have colleagues in Nierstein who make 20 000 bottles of GG wines. For us it is important not to chaptalize GG wines. From 1 hectare of Rothenberg we make 2000 bottles maximum.’ He adds that there is a tasting panel for GG wines, with several growers from the VDP involved, but no neutral person.

With winemaking, Fritz says he has 27 years’ experience, but each vintage is different. Earlier on, he used a centrifuge to clean the must, then flotation. Now he simply chills and settles it for 12 h at 9–10 °C. ‘We don’t use a flotation pump any more; everything is naturally settled,’ he says, although he does fine the must with bentonite. There’s  a strict selection in the vineyard, and for the Jean Baptiste botrytis is selected out. Fermentation is very slow, at low temperatures. Fritz says the range is 2–10 °C, but this sounds absurdly low. He says that red slate soil leads to high tartaric acid levels, and this can fall out. His father-in-law had problems with acidity, which became too low, and malolactic would start.

The wines are impressive across the board, ranging from the delicious, nicely packaged Fritz’ Riesling to the more serious labels.



Notes from 05/09

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenbery Riesling Trocken 2007
12.5% alcohol. Intense, flinty and mineral nose. Strong, pungent and slightly smoky with a rich savoury quality. Powerful, with almost meaty notes alongside the minerality. 93/100

Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett 2008
Named created by the theatre writer who authored ‘The Happy Vineyard’ in 1925. The main character in the play was Anges’ great grandfather, Karl Gunderloch. Very distinctive intense, minerally nose. Crisp and limey with lovely freshness. The palate is just off-dry (24 g/l rs) – the feinherb style. Green apple fruit with nice texture and a long spicy, minerally finish. 91/100

Villa Gunderloch Riesling QbA 2008
Fresh, fruity, appley and mineral. Intense, fruity and fresh on the palate with nice balance and a bit of grapefruit freshness. 88/100

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Spätlese 2008
Strongly mineral and flinty, with a matchstick edge to the nose and light fruity characters. The palate is rich and quite sweet but also precise and fruity with a smooth mineral edge. Distinctive and quite complex. Lovely texture. 92/100

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese 2008
Mineralic, tight nose is crisp with some limey notes. The palate is rich-textured with lovely sweet lemony fruit and some apricot notes. Good acidity. Deliciously fruity and sweet. 92/100

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 2007
By the regulations this could be a TBA, but they say they’d expect more weight in a TBA. Gold colour. Rich, peachy and apricotty with real viscosity and a fat texture. Lush with spicy complexity and broad tropical fruit notes. 93/100

Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg Riesling Beerenauslese 2007
Deep gold. Wonderfully sweet, rich and intense with herbs, lemon, minerals, apricot and melon flavours. Long spicy finish with perfect balance. It’s the red slate, apparently. 94/100

Notes from 05/10

Fritz’s Riesling 2009
11% alcohol. Beautifully pure with bright fresh lemon and apple notes. Some melony richness as well as some sweetness. Beautifully balanced. 88/100

Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett 2008
Very expressive with taut lime and mineral notes. Off-dry and beautifully balanced with fresh lemony notes and some pronounced minerality. Lovely precision. 92/100

Gunderloch Riesling QbA 2008
Intensely mineral, herby nose with taut, spicy, limey notes. The palate is fresh with apple and pear notes as well as some herbal depth. Off-dry. 89/100

Gunderloch Rothenberg Nackenheim Riesling Auslese 2006
Very lively and intense with notes of lime, honey and spice as well as melon. The palate shows beautiful melon fruit with some ripe apple notes. Sweet and rich but showing beautiful balance. 94/100

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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