‘The greatest story here is the vineyards, and it is astonishing that not everybody has understood this yet.’
The quality of Phillip Wittmann's wines would have anyone struggling to believe that there was a time, not that long ago, that people didn't see the value of the vineyards in the Rheinhessen and that the widespread opinion of the producers in the area was that they were glorified tractor drivers. Luckily, Wittmann and a few of his neighbours could see the potential they were sitting on and the collaborative group "Message in a Bottle" was created. 27 young and energetic producers, committed to making the Rheinhessen the outstanding region that it is today.
Wittmann himself pioneered organic and biodynamic farming in the Rheinhessen and became an active member of the VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) a voluntary organisation of producers that make dry style Riesling from single sites (Grosses Gewächs or GG wines are produced from the very best sites). In fact, seeing the tell tale VDP symbol (a bunch of grapes with a number 1) on a label has become tantamount to a quality assurance.
Kirschpiel is one of these GG sites, sitting opposite the Rhine like an amphitheatre, creating a pocket of vines protected from cold winds allowing the grapes to achieve a perfect balance of ripe fruit and acidity. Wittmann has well and truly earned his place as one of the greats and the 2018 Kirschpiel GG is, without a doubt, living up to the reputation of both the winemaker and the vineyard. The wine is delicate and pretty, but with a chalky minerality and depth of flavour. Quantities are strictly limited and we don't expect them to last long.
The Kirchspiel grand cru site opens toward the Rhine like an amphitheatre. Its southern and southeastern exposure protects the vines from cold westerly winds – and accounts for the excellent microclimate of the vineyard. The soil structure is similar to that of the Morstein site, marked by clayish marl interspersed with limestone. Limestone is the predominant component of the subsoil, too.
Philipp Wittmann was named Winemaker of the Year 2014 by the Gault Millau Wine Guide, with the judges praising him as "one of the pioneers of organic viticulture and a driving force behind quality developments" in the southern Rheinhessen. "For many years he has produced superb dry Rieslings with fascinating ageing potential," they went on. "Almost single-handedly he elevated the Morstein site to legendary status." Philipp’s ancestors have been winegrowers in the old market town of Westhofen since the mid-1600s. His father Günter put the estate on an organic footing, and it’s been a member of organic farmers' association Naturland since 1990. Philipp then took the step to go biodynamic in 2004. He lays the foundation for wines of exceptional quality through intensive, year-round vineyard maintenance, low yields and the uncompromising selection of bunches by hand. For the most part, the wines ferment in traditional, old oak casks or stainless steel and fermentation often continues into the year following the harvest. Already firmly established as one of Germany’s superstar producers, this young winemaker has a brilliant future ahead of him. Biodynamic producer
This has a super fine nose with an impression of aromatic elegance and finely defined notes of chalk, white pepper, dry spices and a fresh, lemon and lime-peel edge. The palate has pin-point acidity and fine, leaf-like detail. The power is very discreet here and the finish is succulent, dry and uber fresh. Drink or hold.
Gorgeous precision, lemony tautness, sharp linearity: even in 2018 the inherent coolness of the limestone soils in this gently east-south-east facing site afforded these vines immense freshness. Sites which 30 years ago were too cool for greatness now come into their own. The finish is bone-dry and an ode to citrus-purity.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT - JANCISROBINSON.COM
An enticing fragrance brings together floral and herbal aromas of a summer meadow with ripe orchard fruit, creating an aura of summer meadow. The flavour is equally diverse, opening with sweet juicy yellow plums on a viscous palate, but adding tactile mineral notes and a piquant spicy notion to the mid palate. There is also sufficient acidity to stimulate the taste buds. 18/20