An anesthesiologist by profession, Dr. Kegel, who joined the winery in 1995, is the niece and goddaughter of former owner Maria von Othegraven. "My goal is to restore the quality of this great site," Kegel said recently during a visit to New York.
Kanzemer Altenberg, which is planted entirely to Riesling, is situated along the only east-west orientation of the Saar river, a tributary of the Mosel. The vineyard produces the traditional German late-harvest auslese, beerenauslese and trockenbeerenauslese wines, as well as two new dry wines -- the QbA Trocken Maximus and Kanzemer Altenberg, a dry spdtlese.
Dry wines are not common in the northern Mosel region because most of the wines need some residual sugar to balance their high acidity. Von Othegraven produced its first dry wines in 1996, and Wine Spectator recently reviewed the 1997 Maximus (85, $19) and Kanzemer Altenberg (84, $27).
Based on the French "cru" concept, von Othegraven seeks identity through the vineyard name, thus the Maximus and Altenberg would be the equivalent of a premier cru and grand cru in Burgundy. "Dry is an elite concept," explained von Othegraven's United States importer Stephen Metzler, who runs Seattle-based Classical Wines. "It has to come from a great vineyard."
To help with its vineyard and dry wines, Von Othegraven has enlisted the consulting services of Bernhard Breuer of Weingut Georg Breuer in the Rheingau, a champion of the dry wine style and founding member of Rheingau's CHARTA association, which promotes dry wines made under quality standards higher than those required by German wine law.
While the dry wines represent a new departure for von Othegraven, Dr. Kegel's arrival offers another interesting note for German wine lovers. Before she took over the estate, the wines had no regular distribution network. As a result, the winery still had a significant collection of bottles dating back to the 1975 vintage; these are now available in limited quantities in the United States. Previously, Wine Spectator reviewed the Trockenbeerenauslese Kanzemer Altenberg 1994 (94, $450), Auslese 1983 (91, $45) and Trockenbeerenauslese 1976 (97, $285 for 350ml).
To learn more about German wines, read Bruce Sanderson's report on the 1997 Rieslings in the February 28, 1999, issue, on newsstands now.
Other recent tasting reports on German wines:
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