Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tour and Wine Tasting with Lunch, with Mark Barth at Wein- und Sektgut Barth in Hattenheim, Rheingau – Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Picture: Mark P. Barth, Wein- und Sektgut Barth, Rheingau, Germany

The Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours, organized and led by Annette Schiller, took place from September 6 – 12, 2015. The group was small - there were 7 of us, including Annette and Christian Schiller.

The tour took us to the Rheingau, Mittelrhein, Ahr, Mosel and Nahe. In the Rheingau, we visited 5 producers: Baron Knyphausen, Barth, Spreitzer, Bardong and Schloss Johannisberg.

This posting covers the visit of Wein- and Sektgut Barth. We also had lunch at Wein- and Sektgut Barth. Mark P. Barth was our host.

Pictures: Welcome

Wein- und Sektgut Barth

Wein- und Sektgut Barth is located in Hattenheim in the Rheingau. It overlooks the Rhein River and was founded in 1948 by Johann Barth. Originally a mixed agricultural facility, the property was transformed by Norbert Barth, the son of Johann Barth, in 1973 to a fully operational winery. In 2010, Norbert’s daughter Christine Barth and her husband Mark P. Barth took over; although both are trained winemakers, Mark takes the lead in the vineyard and the cellar today.

Picture: 2 Generations

Since being in charge, Mark and Christine have re-built a state of the art cellar, tasting room (where we had our tasting luncheon) and modernized facility that is über contemporary. They have nearly doubled their production and today own 18 hectares. Production is about 135000 bottles per year. Mark Barth was recently recognized by Handelsblatt (the Financial Times of Germany) among the best young winemakers in Germany.

Picture: In the Cellar with Mark P. Barth

Hattenheim in the Rheingau

It is remarkable: For its entire length of nearly 560 miles, the Rhine flows north with one exception – a 28-mile stretch where the river changes its course. Here, it flows to the west, thereby enabling both the river and the vineyards facing it to bask in the warmth of the sun all day long. This is the Rheingau, one of the medium-size German wine regions. Hattenheim lies about in the middle of the Rheingau wine region, close to the famous Eberbach Abbey. Eberbach Abbey dates back to the 12th century, was erected by monks of the Zisterzienser order from Clairvaux in Burgundy and is known for its Steinberger Vineyard.

Pictures: Mark P. Barth and Annette Schiller

Sekt in Germany

Besides excellent (still) wines, from early on Barth produced sparkling wines – Sekt – and in 1992 a Sekt manufactory was completed to be able to produce the Sekts entirely at the premises.

Pictures: Sekt at Wein- und Sektgut Barth

Germany is one of the largest sparkling wine markets in the world, which is not well known around the world. Germans drink a lot of sparkling wines, although in general less quality-conscious than the French. One out of four bottles of sparkling wine is consumed in Germany, roughly 500 million bottles. Sekt is made in all German wine regions, both in the méthode traditionnelle and charmat method. There are three groups of Sekt makers: (i) large and (ii) smaller Sekt houses, who only make Sekt and (iii) winemakers, who make predominantly wine, but complement their wine selection by a few Sekts. The Sekts produced by large Sekt estates tend to be in the demy-sweet and sweet range, while the Sekts of smaller estates and the wine makers, like Wein- und Sektgut Barth, are mostly in the brut and extra brut range.

Pictures: Mark P. Barth Hand Riddling

Sekt at Wein- und Sektgut Barth

At Wein- und Sektgut Barth, all Sekts are bottle fermented in the méthod traditionelle starting with base wine production, subsequent bottling, bottle fermentation, hand-riddling, and disgorging. All Barth Sekts remain on the lease between 24 and 36 months. In 2010, Wein- und Sektgut Barth released the first ever German sparkler made from a grand cru base wine. The novelty was named Barth Primus, and put Barth on the map for the serious Sekt lover.

Pictures: In the Cellar with Mark P. Barth

Although the Barth Primus is an extremely successful sparkler, Wein- and Sektgut Barth has stopped to label this Sekt as Primus but instead put the vineyard name on the label. Accordingly, in the tasting with Mark Barth, the top sparkler we had was the 2011 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Hassel Riesling brut – an ultra-premium Sekt from the Hassel vineyard, a VDP.Grosse Lage vineyard.

Today, Wein- and Sektgut Barth is recognized among Germany’s preeminent traditional method Sekt producers and they have had their products featured in Michelin star properties as well as with Lufthansa Airlines.

The Wine & Vineyards

Wein- und Sektgut Barth produces mostly Riesling (83%), followed by Pinot Noir (12%) and a few other varieties (Pinot Blanc, and Cabernet among others) on vineyards of clay, black loess, marl and slate soil, creating elegant and well-structured wines.

Environmentally friendly viticulture is of utmost importance to the Barth family, who shows great care towards the vine, soil and nature. Time-consuming vineyard work like harvest reduction and the harvest itself are all selectively done by hand for optimum ripeness and flavor. The estate was certified organic by BioWein in 2013.

Pictures: In the Vineyard with Mark P. Barth

The top sites comprise Wisselbrunnen, Schönhell and Hassel, all VDP.Grosse Lage and Schützenhaus, a VDP.Erste Lage. And of course, Wein- and Sektgut Barth also produce wines at the Ortswein level and at the Gutswein level.

The production of wine is done with natural yeasts and most whites are aged in stainless steel vats. Reds see a variety of wood treatment, both large Holzfass (wood) and small oak barrique barrels.

Lunch with Wine and Sekt Tasting

We had a traditional Rheingau "Schlachtplatte" for lunch and went through a series of Sekt and Wine tasting with Mark P. Barth.

Pictures: Lunch and Wine and Sekt Tasting with Mark P. Barth

Here are the sparkling and still wines that Mark P. Barth served:


NV Wein- und Sektgut Barth Riesling Sekt extra brut
NV Wein- und Sektgut Barth Pinot Rose Sekt brut
NV Wein- und Sektgut Barth Ultra Pinot brut nature
2011 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Hassel Riesling brut

White Wine

2013 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Riesling trocken VDP.Gutswein
2014 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Hallgartner Riesling trocken VDP.Ortswein
2013 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Schützenhaus Riesling trocken VDP.Erste Lage
2013 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Wisselbrunn Riesling trocken GG VDP.Grosse Lage
2013 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Schönhell Riesling trocken GG VDP.Grosse Lage
2011 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Singularis Riesling

Red Wine

2013 Wein- und Sektgut Barth Hassel Riesling Spätlese VDP.Grosse Lage


Thanks Norbert and Mark P. Barth!

Pictures: Bye-bye Norbert and Mark P. Barth

Postings on the Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015) (Posted and Forthcoming)

4 Wine Tours by ombiasy coming up in 2015: Germany-East, Germany-South. Germany-Nord and Bordeaux

Fall Tours by ombiasy WineTours 2015 - A Very Special Treat: Experience Harvest Time !

Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), Germany

Tour and Tasting at Weingut Baron Knyphausen in Erbach, Rheingau - Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), Germany

Wine and Music at Eberbach Abbey in the Rheingau - Germany-North Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Wein- und Sektgut Barth in Hattenheim, Rheingau

Tour and Tasting at Weingut Josef Spreitzer in Oestrich, Rheigau

Wine Tasting at Weingut Toni Jost in Bacharach, Mittelrhein

Cruise on the Rhine River from Bacharach to Boppard, Mittelrhein

Wine Tasting at Weingut J.J.Adeneuer in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr

Vineyard Walk and Tasting at Weingut Meyer-Näkel in Dernau, Ahr

Wine Tasting at Weingut Dr. Loosen in Bernkastel-Kues, Mosel

Wine Tasting at Weingut St. Urbans-Hof in Leiwen, Mosel

Vineyard Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Weingut Van Volxem in Wiltingen, Saar, Mosel

Wine Tasting at Weingut Hexamer, in Monzingen, Nahe

Tour and Tasting at Weingut Gut Hermannsberg, in Niederhausen, Nahe

Tour and Wine Dinner at Weingut Kruger-Rumpf in Münster-Sarmsheim, Nahe

Tour and Tasting at Sektmanufaktur Bardong in Geisenheim, Rheingau

Tour, Tasting and Lunch at Domaine Schloss Johannisberg in Geisenheim, Rheingau  

Friday, October 30, 2015

At Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim, Rheingau, during the 2015 Harvest with Winemaker Dirk Würtz, Germany

Picture: Dirk Würz, Weingut Balthasar Ress, Technical Director, in the Cellar Tasting the new Wine

Founded in 1870 by Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim in the Rheingau, Weingut Balthasar Ress developed into one of the leading wine estates of the Rheingau region and became a global player in the wine trade. It is a member of the VDP, the association of about 200 German elite winemakers.

Stefan Ress – now senior boss - owned and run Weingut Balthasar Ress for many years. In 2010, his son Christian Ress took over and Dirk Würtz became Winemaker and then Technical Director.

Pictures: Weingut Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim

With 46 hectares under vine, it is also one of the larger estates in the Rheingau. Riesling accounts for 90 % of the grapes in the vineyards: Berg Roseneck, Berg Rottland and Berg Schlossberg (Rüdesheim), Engelmannsberg, Nussbrunnen and Schützenhaus (Hattenheim) as well as Höllenberg (Assmannshausen). Since June 2009, the winery owns by a 3,000 square meter vineyard ion the island of Sylt; it is the most northerly vineyard in Germany.

With Christian Ress and Dirk Würtz having taken over, Weingut Balthasar Ress has launched a series of new initiatives. Dirk Würtz is the brain behind the initiates in terms of vine growing in the vineyard and wine making in the cellar. I joined Dirk Würtz during the 2015 harvest for an afternoon and had a chance to talk with him about a variety of issues, including his push towards organic/natural/biodynamic winemaking, his “orange” wine, his ultra-premium red wine, to name a view. Overall, it was an exciting afternoon with a fascinating winemaker, who is also a star in the social media wine scene in Germany.

History of Weingut Balthasar Ress

The Ress family is an old, established family in Hattenheim. For generations, they were butchers, and the butcher shop "Metzgerei Ress" exists to this day. In 1870, Balthasar Ress, who was a butcher himself, founded the inn "Gasthof Ress" on Hattenheim's main street, thereby laying the cornerstone of a long tradition in the hotel and restaurant business as well as the wine estate and wine business.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Christian Schiller and Stefan Ress in the wineBank in Hattenheim in 2013 during the: German Wine and Culture Tour by ombiasy, 2013. See: Tasting at Weingut Balthasar Ress, Hattenheim, Rheingau, with Stefan Ress, Germany

Since then, Carl, Paul, Stefan and now Christian Ress have been at the helm of the Ress Empire. By the 1920s, a thriving wine business had developed. In 1947, Carl Ress founded "Balthasar Ress KG - Wine Estate Proprietor, Winery, Hotel Ress." After Paul Ress’ death in the early 1980s, the family's entire properties were redistributed. Stefan Ress' siblings received the properties in Rüdesheim; he remained the proprietor of Weingut Balthasar Ress.

Picture: Christian Schiller with Christian Ress in Berlin in 2010. See: Germany's Grosses Gewaechs Wines - Premiere 2010 in Berlin

In 1999, Stefan's son Christian Ress entered the business as the fifth generation of the founding family. He became General Manager in 2010. Since then, he has continued to expand the wine estate, which today comprises 46 hectares. Christian Ress has achieved considerable attention in the wine trade for innovative projects, such as planting Germany's most northerly vineyard on the island of Sylt, near the border with Denmark, in 2009 and opening the wineBANK in Hattenheim in 2009.

Dirk Würtz – Technical Director (Betriebsleiter)

Balthasar Ress in Hattenheim has always had a strong reputation in the premium segment of German wine, but was not known to be an innovator, leader and trend-setter in German wine. This changed, when Dirk Würtz – wine maker, wine blogger and wine TV journalist – joined Weingut Balthasar Ress in 2009, first as winemaker and then as Technical Director. Together with owner Christian Ress and senior boss Stefan Ress, he is pushing Ress to new hights.

Dirk Würtz is a winemaker from the Rheinhessen region Germany. He started his career at Weingut Robert Weil, the famous Rheingau producer, to which he is still very attached. “What I am today I am thanks to Wilhelm Weil”, he says. Dirk Würtz is not only a successful winemaker, but also a leader in terms of social media in the German wine industry. Dirk is the most popular wine blogger in Germany. Until recently, he had his own internet TV show “100 Grad Öchsle”. This was a very professionally made one- hour talk show with prominent guests from the wine industry. And he was the front man of a video series on wine produced by the Stern, a leading German weekly. In 2016, Dirk will be back with a new show, he told me.

Pictures: Dirk Würtz

Robert Parker on Weingut Balthasar Ress

When I visited Weingut Balthasar Ress and Dirk Würtz, Dirk had just finished a tasting with Stephan Reinhardt, who covers Germany for Robert Parker. By joining the Robert Parker team, Stephan Reinhardt arguably became the most influential German wine critic. Let me quote what Stefan Reinhardt wrote about Weingut Balthasar Ress in his last review:

Robert Parker: Balthasar Ress is one of the Rheingau estates that is mostly discussed in tastings and wine forums in Germany. Since Dirk Würtz took over the management of the vines and the winemaking he introduced a style of wine which prefers the uncompromisingly pure, dry and straightforwardness to one that is more charming and fruitier. However, the charismatic social media star Dirk Würtz was never striving for charming wines, neither as the right (or left) hand cellar master at Robert Weill in the late 1990s nor at his own estate in Gau-Odernheim/Rheinhessen. He prefers more this naked love-me-or-leave-me style (which is just a postmodern, viral form of modern wine marketing) and it's up to you if you follow his style (100% malolactic fermentation in 2013) or not. They surely enrich (and maybe also initiated) the new move in the Rheingau which had been the most less interesting German wine region for so many years. As far as the Ress (and many other new) wines are debated they are worth to be bottled and - at least - tasted. There is something going on in the Rheingau, Ress sei Dank!

Vintage 2015 in the Rheingau

While at Weingut Balthasar Ress, the last grapes were being harvested. How will the 2015 vintage be? Dirk Würtz: “Potentially an outstanding vintage, but it can also go the other way. We have to wait and see how things develop in the cellar. Overall, the sugar content in the grapes is relatively high. Chaptalisation will not be necessary. Also, de-acidification is not an issue. It will definitely be a great Pinot Noir vintage. The Pinot Noir grapes were very healthy and the quantity was good.”

Pictures: 2015 Harvest at Weingut Balthasar Ress

Stuart Pigott on German Red Wine

Not very well known in the world, Germany has become a serious red wine producer. Red wines now account for more than 1/3 of German wine production. Before turning to one of the best German Pinot Noirs currently on the market, let me quote what German Wine Guru Stuart Pigott, now based in New York City, has to say about the “German Red Wine Revolution”.

Stuart Pigott: Sophisticated German red wine? Really? Internationally, there’s still a lot of resistance to the idea that red wines from Germany can be better than moderately good and even this would be an exception to the rule. Amongst experts and Somms around the world the standard view is still of Germany as the prototypic cool climate wine producing nation, that therefore the white wines will always work better than reds, and even these will tend to be light in body and high in acidity. Many of those experts and somms are convinced that German red wines are hopelessly over-oaked, if necessary in defiance of evidence to the contrary. The truth is that a combination of climate change and greatly increased ambition in red winemaking already began altering this significantly during the early 1990s.

2015 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot

Although Riesling accounts for 90% of the Weingut Balthasar Ress portfolio, Weingut Balthasar Ress is part of the group of German winemakers that produces world class (and rather expensive) Pinot Noir wine. I had the chance to taste the 2015 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot (while fermenting) and the 2013 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot (from bottle).

Dirk Würtz: “At the very peak of the quality pyramid, there is our Caviar de Pinot, the top cuvée among our Pinot Noirs. For the 2015 vintage, the healthy and gently transported grapes were destemmed by hand, grape by grape, berry by berry. They were then put in this small open top fermenter, where they were crushed gently by feet. This method is known from the Douro Valley in Portugal. It generates a dense concentration of tannins, but smooth as the grape skins and the bitter cores are not crushed or destroyed. Fermentation is spontaneous. The wine will mature for 18 months in barrique barrels.”

Pictures: 2015 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot

2013 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot

The 2013 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot could easily pass as a Frenchman, as a Bourgogne. Rather dark for a German Pinot Noir, cinnamon, clove and brown spices on the nose, silky, dense and velvety mouthfee, a very special wine, will improve further over the next 5 to 10 years.

Pictures: 2013 Weingut Balthasar Ress Caviar de Pinot

2015 Weingut Baltasar Ress Pinot Blanc Orange Wine

I also had a chance to taste the 2015 Weingut Baltasar Ress Pinot Blanc Orange Wine (while fermenting). Dirk Würtz: "Orange Wine is nothing else than a white wine fermented like a red wine, i.e. the grapes are de-stemmed, everything else is macerated and fermented like this, how we do it with red wines - on the skins. That’s it.” The previous vintages of Dirk Würtz’s Orange Wine were praised widely.

Pictures: Orange Wine in the Making

2013 Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg Riesling in 2 Versions

Under the leadership of Dirk Würtz, Weingut Baltasar Ress is moving to organic/biodynamic winemaking, more generally: towards wine making with an ecological mindset. As part of this process, Weingut Balthasar Ress is working in one part of the Engelmannsberg in the conventional way and in the other part moving towards organic/biodynamic vine growing. As a result, there are 2 wines, from the same vineyard, same grape variety (Riesling), one from the organic/biodynamic parcel and the other from the other parcel (conventional). This is a most interesting experiment. The two wines (2013) are available only through K&U Markthalle in Nürnberg for Euro 23, both wines.

Tasting these two wines side by side, the differences are striking. The biodynamic version appears more mature. You can imagine that the grapes looked different at harvest compared with the conventional version, probably smaller with less juice. They had to struggle more to grow and develop. This translates into a denser wine in the glass. The mouthfeel is smoother, thicker, and creamier, with a hint of sweetness.

Picture: 2013 Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Engelmannsberg Riesling in 2 Versions

Turning to the conventional version, on the nose, you get green apple and some pepper notes, in the mouth, the wine is leaner, sharper than the biodynamic version. You can imagine that the conventionally grown grapes were greener with more juice, when they were harvested.

In terms of key numbers - like acidity, remaining sugar, etc. - the two wines are pretty much the same. Both wines are very dry, with 3 g/l emaining sugar and 6,5 g/l acidity. Looking at the bottles, the only difference on the label is the AP (Amtliche Prüfnummer): AP 31 059 011 14 (biodynamic) and AP 31 059 009 14 (conventional).

2013 Rüdesheim Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trocken GG

Weingut Balthasar Ress produces a series of Grosses Gewächs GG wines, Germany’s new category for ultra-premium dry wines. A GG is a ultra-premium dry wine from a Grosse Lage (Grand Cru). Here is what Robert Parker (Stephan Reinhardt) had to say about the 2013 Rüdesheim Berg Schlossberg Riesling trocken GG.

Parker: 92-94 Points - The citrus colored 2013 Rudesheim Berg Schlossberg Riesling trocken GG shows an impressively deep, pure, dense and complex bouquet of crushed rocks, quartz, limes, citrus oil, orange peel and white peaches but also some irritating malo flavors (cream, Sauerkraut). Full-bodied, this is a pure and salty Riesling showing complexity and a persistent salinity. It combines power with purity and elegance with a frisky minerality which makes this a stimulating, well balanced wine to one of the finest dry Rheingau Rieslings of the vintage.

Pictures: Wining and Partying with Dirk Würtzin 2012. See Hanging out with Rheingau Winemakers: Dirk Wuertz, Desiree Eser, Alexander Jakob Jung, Hansi Bausch and Christian Ress in Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany

Picture: Christian Schiller and Dirk Würtz in the Freudenhaus in Hamburg in 2010. See: Dirk Wuertz and His Bag-in-a-box Rieslings

2013 Balthasar Ress Riesling Trocken Resspekt

The GGs are the top dry wines. At Weingut Balthasar, there is a dry white wine above that category, Balthasar Ress’s Resspekt. The grapes come from the best parcels of the Rüdesheimer Berg, i.e. from different vineyards. After a long maceration, the wine fermented spontaneously. Following a long period on the lees, the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered. Here is what Robert Parker (Stephan Reinhardt) had to say about the 2013 Resspekt (95 Parker points): The 2013 Riesling trocken Resspekt (a wordplay with the name Ress and the word respect) is the only wine under cork from this estate. Unfortunately the cork is sealed with a thick wax closure which is extremely difficult and time-consuming to remove. As soon as this is done you discover a golden-colored Riesling of great intensity, depth and purity on the nose. This is an enormously rich, concentrated, piquant and tension-filled yet also an elegant and well balanced Riesling of great length with dried fruit aromas in the long aftertaste. Bone dry and full-bodied, this great and particular Riesling is characterized by its botrytisized and ultra-ripe fruit flavors. Although it's not my style of Riesling I would be happy to have a glass of it at least every single year.

Balthasar Ress Von Unserem Riesling Trocken

Let me finish with a wine that I did not taste during my visit at Weingut Baltasar Ress, but which I know very well. It is my house wine in the US. Available at Total Beverages, just around the corner where I live in the US: Dry, crisp, fresh entry-level wine with citrus, lemon zest and mineral notes. Reasonably priced.


Picture: Christian Schiller at oenotheque by Wine Universe in Singapore with Sommelier and Manager Geoffrey Daurelle and  a Von Unserem. See: German Wine in Singapore

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