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“Doos” is a Rheingau colloquialism for Dachs (= badger). An exposed south-west slanting hilltop with constant down winds, through which the grapes dry fast and remain healthy - ideal conditions for mature dry Riesling.
Streaked with grey quartzite the clay rich loess soil of the parcel with its old name “Landpflechter Brunnen” - “Landpflechter Well” indicate the ample water supply.
At the heart of this plot grows our Riesling-Unicum “Landgeflecht”.
For more than 230 years, our family has been growing vines here in the middle Rheingau. Knowledge of these special vineyard sites, with their soils of phylllite slate and Taunus quartzite, was handed down and has incr eased over 10 generations. We look back on this long tradition with the greatest respect. Since 2004, we have been cultivating our vines and vineyards according to the principles of biodynamic ag riculture.
For us, biodynamics means above all increased attention in t he vineyard and empathy towards our vines and t he natural connections surrounding them. We use them to promote soil vitality, biodiversity, and create a real, deep relationship between us, our vines, and the soil. The latter, especially, is the essential basis for healthy, aromatic grapes that have an expression of the individual place. As vintners it is part of our task to intervene with nature by sensitively cultivating it. The idea of biodynamics is to disturb nature as little as possible, creating a balance between nature and plantation. We achieve this for instance by applying natural compost, this way returning to the soil what our vines drain as nutrients. Due to these and other measures - like diverse planting - we sustain the quality and vitality of our soil also long-term. The compost, which mainly consists of cow dung is “inoculated” with various compost preparations, which in turn we also make ourselves from organic substances and plant parts. These preparations are applied similarly to homoeopathy in minimal doses. It is their task, to initiate and regulate the rotting process.
Above all, biodynamics has also changed us profoundly and has brought back sensitivity and empathy to us. Today we have a real relationship with all living things in our vineyards, as we understand them better and know of the part they play in the ecosystem. We don’t just encounter weeds, vermin, and diseases, but a contained and logical system of cause and effect, which we just need to understand better and that we can influence gently but efficiently. This changed perspective of things, and especially the change in the fruits of our labour make us today deeply happy and grateful.
Germany/ Quality rather than quantity: 2017 has great potential!
The fascinating 2017 vintage is also one of a kind. The smallest volume here in our wi- nery since the excellent 1971. In many parcels, the Riesling yield barely exceeded 20 hl/ha. For the Pinot Noir, in some instances it was even less.
We are obviously sad because we already know that we don’t have enough wine in our cellar to satisty our customers. But from a quality perspective, the 2017 vintage makes us happy and proud.
2017 has many of the hallmarks of the first-class 2001 and 2004 vintages: the ripeness and out and out nobility of 2001, together with the elegance and extract of 2004. Dear wine friends, if you happen to have bottles from these vintages in your cellar, they have developed into lucky charms and provide a foretaste of what we can expect from the 2017s ten years from now. A year with great potential.
The greatest challenges: erratic weather and hailstorms
After a frosty spring, the 2017 growing season picked up the pace and the young green shoots appeared three weeks too early. We only just escaped greater frost damage in April, with temperatures of -3.5 oC (26 oF). Others regions were more unlucky and many vinegrowers and fruit farmers lost 50–100% of their crop at this early stage. Our vines had to digest the shock of this early frost – as did we.
The vegetation seemed to fall into a winter sleep for several weeks until mid May when summer-like temperatures clearly accelerated the growth of the canopy. June was much too dry and our vines must have felt like nomads in the desert again. Rainfall in the first six months of the year didn’t even reach half the long-term average.
Fortunately the longed-for rain came at the end of July and a cool, damp August allo- wed the vines and us to breathe a sigh of relief. Growth and ripening proceded slowly. The water reserves that are so important for the vine had been replenished and every- thing pointed to a quiet and relaxed final ripening phase. The small bunches hung picture-perfect on the vine.
Towards evening on 25 August a heavy hailstorm in Gundersheim und Westhofen dashed in a trice all hopes of a generous harvest.
I was standing at that moment with my son Felix under the roof overhang. Felix looked as white as a sheet. The hailstones hammered on the roof and we had to look on helpless as our year’s work was brought to nothing in just a few minutes. At least that’s how it seemed at the time. When the sun reappeared there was no time to mope. We had to go on. So we jumped into the VW minibus and checked, vineyard by vineyard, the damage the storm had done.
Fortunately the losses in Dalsheim were less than we feared. In Westhofen, however, Morstein, ABTS E and parts of Kirchenspiel had been badly hit. Had it rained after the hail, we would have lost the majority of our crop. We were very lucky that it re- mained dry. The god of the weather seemed to want to make good and sent us a wonderful Indian summer. The pleasantly warm, dry days and cool nights dried out the berries that had been hit and allowed the aromas in the healthy berries to explode.
The small crop still on the vine developed slowly and benefited from night-time tempe- ratures of around 0 oC/32 oF. The fruit in the berries grew finer, the acidiy transpired very slowly. Sorting the berries in the ensuing harvest took a huge amount of effort. In some instances we had to inspect every single berry individually on the vine. Only the best made it into the little baskets in which we carried home the harvest in the evenings. And when, at the end of a long day’s picking with 25 helpers, only 800-1,000 litres flowed from the press instead of 4,000-5,000 litres, it was hard to see the positive side. My father Klaus, on the other hand, stood by the press beaming and said, ‘A lot and good seldom go hand in hand. The bunches look fantastic!’ And of course he was right. After 52 harvests he’s pretty much unflappable.
It took a lot of patience and willingness to take risks to produce excellent quality in 2017. Those who hurried to rescue what could be rescued generally ended up with green, unripe characteristics and a lack of balance in the cask.
To be perfectly honest, even I am a little surprised by how good the vintage is. And that’s exactly what we winegrowers love: after 30 or 50 harvests we continue to learn so much and are surprised time and time again. Particularly influential for quality in this vintage were the low yields. But still, many more dominoes had to fall into place for us to turn a good vintage into a very good or even a great one.