You’ll recall how Dönnhoff pulled it out of the bag in ‘17. It was a vintage the family had practically written off, after spring frosts decimated the crop. Uneven ripeness across the parcels meant even more passes than usual for the pickers, but the late-season weather yielded a superb if depleted haul from these superb sites in the Middle Nahe.
So how did ‘18 measure up? It was a year of abundance, with extreme rainfall in May and June setting things up for a bumper harvest. And then it turned sunny and steady. “Even during the very warm and dry summer especially, the old vines didn’t show any hints of drought stress,” Helmut Dönnhoff told Stephan Reinhardt of Wine Advocate. “Wherever we had a look, all our grapes were just marvellous, no matter in which vineyard. And the yield was even higher than we expected. The harvest weather was also beautiful, and all the grapes were in perfect condition, as if they were painted.”
For his part, Reinhardt says both 2017 and ‘18 are marked by their amazing clarity, and he couldn’t pick between the two. Helmut, too, was extremely happy with the way the latter turned out. “2018 is a very, very good vintage. We got the same concentration and intensity like 2017, but in 2018, this is based on super clear and healthy grapes, whereas the density and structure of the 2017s was due to the heavy reduction during spring frost.”
2018 Dönnhoff Estate Riesling RRP $41
MAGNUM RRP $97
Characterful dry Riesling from vines aged 15 to 30 years old on the steeply sloping vineyards of the middle Nahe region. The vines grow in stony, weathered volcanic soils of porphyry and melaphyr in particular, with certain amounts of slate and quartzite. Fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and large oak barrels. It’s wonderfully fresh and well defined, elegant with a tingling minerality. A delicious wine for every day with moderate alcohol and very soothing acidity.
2017 Dönnhoff Tonschiefer Riesling RRP $54
The sloping vineyards of the Leistenberg are characterised predominantly by clay slate soils. This dry, blackish-grey slate is perfect for producing superbly elegant wines. Our characterful dry Riesling wines from these soils are therefore named after this ancient rock. Tonschiefer translates as clay slate. The vines are aged between 25 and 30 years old and give yields of about 50hl/ha. 100% selective hand harvest. The must is fermented and the wine matured in stainless steel vats and large oak barrels. It’s a full-bodied, mineral Riesling wine with a fruit nose of great finesse and classic acidity.
Faint honey toast notes, ripe and fresh stone fruits, floral things, faint bergamot tea character in perfume. Palate is concentrated but very fresh and refreshing, tangy citrus dominates but there’s a light honeyed character under it, and green herbs. All up, brisk and brilliant drinking. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2019
2018 Dönnhoff Felsenberg Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $141
The fruit comes from the best steep parcels around Dönnhoff’s Felsentürmchen in the midst of the magnificent Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg site. It’s outstanding Riesling terroir with a soil of red volcanic igneous rock, a melange of porphyry and melaphyr. Fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and classic oak barrels. A great dry Riesling, very complex, displaying great, smoky crystallised minerality with a flinty character.
This wine is endless with apples, peaches, pears, stone, cream and white flowers. It’s so steady and long. Goes on and on. Pristine. Joyous and captivating. Drink or hold. 97 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
Imagine a cool mountain stream running through a citrus-fruit grove and you might be in the mountains of Mallorca, on the other hand you may just be inhaling the ethereal fragrance of Dönnhoff’s Felsenberg. On the palate the delightfully zesty citrus fruit gets a fine sprinkling of mineral dust, tingling acidity and some indefinable savoury piquancy that leads to elation. 18.5/20 Michael Schmidt, JancisRobinson.com August 2019
Bottled in July, just two days before I tasted the 2018 Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg Riesling trocken –GG– for the first time, the nose was ripe and generous but fine and flinty-mineral. Lush and salty-piquant, this is a full-bodied, rich and powerful yet vital Riesling with lots of body but also tension, purity and grip. Tasted again in August 2019. 93+ points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate October 2019
2018 Dönnhoff Dellchen Grosses Gewächs Riesling RRP $141
MAGNUM RRP $306
A historic steeply sloping vineyard which Dönnhoff awoke from its slumber. Steep terraces in a hollow with slate and porphyry soils. The vines are about 20 years old and yield about 35hl/ha. 100% selective hand harvest. The must is fermented and the wine matured in classic wooden barrels and stainless steel vats. Vigorously spicy and at the same time dancingly elegant with great depth and fascinating charisma.
A dense and layered white with minerals, salt, white pepper, chalk, dried lemon and subtle pears. Pumice. Wow. Tiny film of oil. Creamy and insane. What a wine. Magic. One for the cellar. Drink or hold. 99 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com November 2019
As pure as the driven snow is just an old cliché, but one might be tempted to leave the description there in view of the inadequacy of words to describe the sophistication of the Dellchen. The fruit is filigree, the minerality cool and invigorating, the acidity exhilarating. Proof that opulence and power are not the be all and end all of great Riesling. 19/20 Michael Schmidt, JancisRobinson.com August 2019
The 2018 Norheimer Dellchen Riesling trocken –GG– is brilliant, pure and fresh on the nose, with super ripe and dried white-fruit aromas on the nose. Round, lush and elegant on the palate, this is a rich yet elegant, pure and crystalline Riesling that tastes somewhat sweetish on the finish right now. Tasted three days after bottling in July 2019. 92 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate October 2019
2018 Dönnhoff Hermannshöhle Grosses Gewächs Riesling RRP $165
MAGNUM RRP $331
A perfect, steep southern slope with soils consisting of blackish grey slate and volcanic elements, extremely rich in minerals. This legendary site is the best-rated vineyard in the entire Nahe region. The vines are up to 60 years old and give yields of about 40hl/ha. 100% selective hand harvest. The must is fermented and the wine matured in stainless steel vats and classic oak barrels. A very complex Riesling of noble elegance with a hugely intense, rich fullness of flavour and deep mineral tones. A great dry wine with a mysterious, aristocratic character.
High concentration of flavors in this one with dried apple, pear and salt. Full-bodied, layered and very, very dry with a chalky texture at the end. Minerality with power. Drink or hold. 98 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
Crystal-clear fruit of mirabelle with the purity of the finest Alsace eau de vie. Add the most delicate fragrant touches of white peach and Williams pear and you are in fruit paradise, though it’s titillation not exuberance this fragrance excels in. The palate works in a similar way, putting exhilarating freshness before juicy abundance. Take a fine sprinkling of mineral rock dust, add the merest hint of exotic spice, and you have a contender for greatest Grosses Gewächs of 2018. 19/20 Michael Schmidt, JancisRobinson.com August 2019
The 2018 Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling trocken –GG– is fascinatingly pure and fragrant on the nose. Crystalline, lush and intense, this is a full-bodied, crystalline, precise, salty and persistent wine with linear tension, great grip and intensity. Tasted in July 2019. 95+ points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate October 2019
2017 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett RRP $49
Steep, southeast-facing slope with grey clay slate soil. The morning sun dries the grapes, keeping them healthy; while the afternoon sun is not so direct, allowing the grapes to ripen for a very long time without becoming overripe. A perfect vineyard for Kabinett wines! The vines are 25 to 30 years old and yield about 50hl/ha. 100% selective hand harvest. Fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and large oak barrels. This is a Riesling with well-defined, spicy fruit, very elegant with a wonderful balance between fine fruit sweetness and firm acidity.
Yum! Addictively good drinking, sweet yes, but zingy almost in fizzy acidity. Has good whiffs of green apple, fern, honeycomb, lemon juice. So vivacious! Nicely balanced, precise and refreshing, zingy and cool. Delicious wine here. 93 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2019
2018 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese RRP $89
The monopole, named for the Leopold’s Bridge in Oberhausen, lies on the opposition side of the Nahe from the Dönnhoff winery. The microclimate protects the vines and promotes early flowering each year, which translates into a long growing season for the late-ripening Riesling grape. The special soil composition, consisting of grey slate bedrock covered by a layer of loess loam, ensures an adequate water supply for the vines even during dry years. The Spätlese vines are between 25 and 45 years old, with yields around 40hl/ha.
100% selective hand harvested fruit is fermented and matured in stainless steel vats and large oak barrels. The wine has fragrant, nuanced aromatics and a stunning balance of ripe natural sweetness and crisp, delicate acidity.
This is a decadent sweet wine with bright dried peaches, white truffle and light honey. Tropical fruit, too. Full-bodied, dense and layered with beautiful intensity and richness. Sweet finish. 94 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
The 2018 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Spätlese is very intense and aromatic on the dense and voluptuous nose. Lush and creamy on the palate, this is a generous and dense, lush and persistent Brücke Spätlese with remarkable freshness and piquancy. It’s pretty straight and piquant, with remarkable finesse and mineral tension. Tasted in July 2019. 93+ points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate October 2019
2018 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Auslese Goldkapsel 375ml RRP $89
Vines for the Auslese are aged between 25 and 45 years and yield about 20hl/ha. 100% 100% selectively hand-harvested fruit is fermented and aged in stainless steel vats. This radiant noble Riesling show richly complex aromatics and a sophisticated, mineral-laced acidity.
This is a very contrastive sweet wine with sliced melon, white peaches and honey. Dried fruit. Full-bodied yet compact and tight, giving it an agile tension. Fresh and energetic acidity. Salted caramel aftertaste. Great wine. One for the cellar. 1,200 bottles. Drink now or hold. 97 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
Even greater citrus purity here than on the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Auslese. Full of pure apricot fruit, sweet but harmonious. Generously fruited and really exotic. Indulgent. 17.5/20 Julia Harding MW, JancisRobinson.com May 2019
The 2018 Oberhäuser Brücke Riesling Auslese is perfectly clear and fresh but still intense and concentrated on the spicy and complex nose. Lush and piquant on the palate, this is a fresh, stunningly pure and playful Brücke that is singing and dancing on the knife’s edge. Fabulous in its purity, tension and finesse. Nevertheless, there is the ripeness you can expect from an Auslese. Tasted in July 2019. 96 points. Stephan Reinhardt, Wine Advocate October 2019