“It’s more like gardening than farming. Everything has to look perfect!” says Philipp Wittmann as he leaps from a vineyard wall to clip a stray vine tip before it grows unruly. This isn’t vanity, though. Handsome though he is, Philipp is all about performance. It’s his duty to coax every vine into the most beguiling wine it can be.
Organically certified since 1990 and biodynamic since 2004, Philipp’s parcels of his beloved Rheinhessen are a haven where nature thrives. Limestone rules around his home in Westhofen, whose rocks are the sensory X-factor and texture-lending lifeblood. The Wittmann family owns significant parcels in four grand-cru sites here, with a further GG-in-waiting in neighbouring Gundersheim. “Everything in the Grossen Lagen is treated as GG, regardless of its destination,” says Philipp – explaining why everything from the estate wines up tastes so impeccably distinctive. “I should never start to think about the cost of what I do in the vineyard. I always think about what the vines need to do it well.”
You have to love perfectionists like this – those who bounce around, energised by their craft and smiling at the joy it affords. While the Rheinhessen is a lovely place to ripen beautiful Riesling berries, there’s plenty of work to be done. In a warm and relatively bountiful harvest like 2018, soil health, yield balance and canopy management are key to harnessing the sunshine and warmth. Then, in the cellar, a need for patience and restraint in balancing opulence and freshness, fruitiness and sapidity.
And all the while retaining that purity, so the wine looks as good in the glass as these perfectly manicured vines on gentle German slopes.
2017 Wittmann Estate Pinot Gris RRP $43
Estate-grown, hand-selected, certified-biodynamic Pinot Gris. Primarily fermented in traditional large barrels. Alluring aromas of apple, hawthorn and citrus are married with soft smoky and nutty nuances. The subtle, playful acidity is underscored with a creamy texture. Long, lingering and herbal finish.
“I hate this grape variety!” Philipp Wittmann says. Yet with this he produces a moderately ripe and supple dry wine with chalky mineral character at the finish. Just a hint of raisin aroma. Drink now. 91 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com
2018 Wittmann 100 Hügel Riesling RRP $29
The fertile hills of Rheinhessen, with its famous wines, are home to Philipp Wittmann. This biodynamic estate’s “100 Hills” wine has quickly become a modern classic. It’s a juicy-fresh dry white with animating acidity and a fine minerality. Elegant with an invigorating freshness of grapefruit and peach. An essential Riesling for every day.
2018 Wittmann Estate Riesling RRP $39
High-quality wine doesn’t come on its own. It starts in our vineyards with yield reduction, hand selection of the fruit and a variety of other biodynamic-friendly measures throughout the year. In the cellar, gentle pressing is followed by traditional vinification methods. The wines are primarily fermented in traditional large barrels. Our Gutswein-level Riesling delivers a remarkable portrait of its origins: the limestone-rich soils of Westhofen. Rigorous manual labour in the vineyard and traditional fermentation in large wooden barrels establish this wine’s pedigree as a “true” Wittmann. – Philipp Wittmann
This is a really pretty riesling with bright lemon curd, orange blossom and lime cordial. Signature minerality and depth for this price point; this is a medium-to full-bodied riesling with smooth, textural appeal, but a vivacious backbone of acidity. Drink now. 93 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
2018 Wittmann Westhofener Riesling RRP $75
Starting with the 2018 vintage, VDP Aus Ersten Lagen wines are recognized as Rheinhessen’s finest ambassadors for individual winegrowing villages. Philipp Wittmann’s 2018 Westhofener Riesling is a selection of grapes from the Morstein grand cru. The typical limestone minerality mingles with grapefruit aromas and a delicate spice that draw on exotic fruits such as papaya and lime. Beautiful freshness enhanced with a firm, fine saline minerality. Complex and deep with a long, elegant finish.
Plenty of butter, milk, apricot pie, mangoes, papaya and dried-pear tart. Even a touch of bananas. While the nose is certainly in the tropical zone, the palate is unexpectedly steely with a deep indent of acidity punctuating the otherwise soft and round impression. A contrastive, tense white in the end. Drink now or hold. 95 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
Some like it lean, some like it mean, but Philipp Wittmann prefers his dry Riesling wines to be generous in fruit and juice. 2018 has played right into the hands of this philosophy, and if this racy, elegant and mineral Westhofen village wine is anything to go by, we can look forward to some very special Grosse Gewächse. 17/20 Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com August 2019
2018 Wittmann Aulerde Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $125
Aulerde is Wittmann’s warmest site. Westhofen’s southern to southeastern vineyard slopes rise from the glacial valley of the Rhine to the rim of a high plateau. The Aulerde vineyard lies at the foot of the protective eastern and southeastern slopes of the Kirchspiel site. The vines here face slightly south. The upper layers of a small portion of Aulerde are heavy clayish marl with only a very small amount of limestone. Wittmann’s Riesling grows where the subsoil contains clayey or gravelly sand
Very intense, lemony notes here with dried honeysuckle, apple curd, bright quince and spearmint. There’s a layered, compressed quality to the center palate, despite the impressive power here, and the acidity drives long and pure. Ripe but well-defined on the finish. Drink now. 96 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
A generous fruity fragrance exhibits aromas of ripe apple, peach and pear. The palate adds zesty touches of lime and orange to the sweet and juicy local fruit. Healthy acidity, a salty mineral tang and a subtle phenolic piquancy add contours to the finish. 17.5/20 Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com August 2019
2017 Wittmann Aulerde Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $125
Lavish yellow fruit, including some almost overripe pineapple. This just avoids tipping into opulence; there’s healthy acidity and that lifts this monster dry riesling at the bold, herbal finish. From almost 70-year-old vines. Biodynamically grown grapes. Respekt certified. Drink or hold. 95 points. Stuart Pigott, jamessuckling.com September 2018
2018 Wittmann Kirchspiel Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $178
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.
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. 97 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
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 Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com August 2019
2017 Wittmann Kirchspiel Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $149
Honeyed notes on green apple, sour apple, cucumber. Palate is bright and crunchy, lively with tart acidity, almost spritzy, green apple and waxy honeycomb vibes. It’s punchy in a way, refreshing in another, direct and powerful, excellent drinking here. 95 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front April 2019
2018 Wittmann Morstein Riesling Grosses Gewächs RRP $178
MAGNUM RRP $373
The grand cru Morstein site is situated on the south-facing slope that stretches from Gundersheim to Westhofen. The subsoil consists of massive limestone rocks. The first documented mention of the site dates from 1282. Today, Wittmann owns about 4 ha (10 acres) in the best (south-east exposure) parcel of this vineyard. The upper layer of soil is primarily heavy clayish marl interspersed with limestone. The subsoil is also heavy and marked by layers of limestone that help circulate water. This ensures that the vines are well supplied with nutrients and minerals, and may account for the mineral character of the Morstein wines.
Wild yellow flowers blow in a citrusy, salty breeze. Freshly picked nectarines run amok and honeydew melon drips in intensity. Alluring and decadent at the same time with glitzy tension, but ornately spiced stone fruit. The acidity is tempered only by the raw power here. Stoney and tightly constructed, but deep and welcoming. Drink now or hold. 98 points. Nick Stock, JamesSuckling.com December 2019
A warm and rich fragrance adds an unusual but seductive notion of Ambrosia rice pudding to the more conventional aromas of ripe yellow fruit. The palate is packed with sweet and juicy fruit flavours, a hint of exotic spice and well-rounded acidity add subtle accents. Despite its generous character, the Morstein shows great purity of taste and does not lose itself in opulence. 18.5/20 Michael Schmidt, jancisrobinson.com August 2019