I recently returned from another trip to Germany, where I was checking in with top wineries and getting my first look at the 2018 Rieslings and other top wines. The vintage was marked by warm weather and a bountiful harvest, nearly a quarter larger than the average yield over the past decade. The wines are promising, and 2018 is on pace to be Germany's fifth straight vintage of outstanding or better quality.
(WineSpectator.com members can read my recent tasting report on Germany's 2017 vintage, "Shift in Styles," in the Oct. 15, 2019, issue; a free alphabetical chart features scores and prices for more than 500 wines reviewed for that report.)
“Harvest yields were very strong,” Weingut Robert Weil deputy managing director Jochen Becker-Köhn told me of the largest crop since 1999, “and will allow us to [make up for] the small volumes of .”
In addition to the high yields, 2018 delivered ripe and expressive wines, albeit with reduced acidities. Consequently, the 2018s are far more approachable at this young age than typical—particularly the Grosses Gewächs (GGs), the dry wines from the country’s top vineyards that are usually tightly wound in their youth.
Quality appears to be consistent across the board. The GGs indeed are more open at this stage, with less sharpness and astringency. There’s a chance these wines won’t age as gracefully as those of more structured vintages, but the best 2018 Rieslings have enough backbone to age for years to come.
While I was there, I once again attended the three-day Grosses Gewächs vintage preview tasting hosted by Germany’s VDP trade group (the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates), showcasing the latest releases of dry wines from its 200-plus member wineries. The event was held in Wiesbaden, Germany, in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region; more than 400 wines were presented, with an expectedly heavy focus on Riesling.
The top lineups came from the Mosel and Pfalz regions. Highlights from the Mosel included 2018s from Knebel, Schloss Lieser and Maximin Grünhaus. Karthäuserhof Riesling Mosel Karthäuserhofberg GG 2018 was a star, showing purity and seamless harmony, with tropical fruit, minerality and acidity all contributing to the appeal.
In addition to the 2018s making their debut, there were numerous late-release 2017 Rieslings to sample, highlighting a growing trend of holding the GGs back an extra year. Among the 2017s, Peter Jakob Kühn (Rheingau) and Reichsrat von Buhl (Pfalz) stood out, joined by Clemens Busch, which combined generosity of fruit with the signature elegance of its Mosel Rieslings. These better-integrated 2017s displayed how beneficial an extra year in the cellar can be for Grosses Gewächs Rieslings.
Zehnthof-Luckert delivered an impressive Silvaner Franken Maustal GG 2018, showing great complexity and a lovely mineral profile. Hans Wirsching Silvaner Franken Kronsberg GG 2017, another wine that was held back a year, was another success, with a suave texture and an array of floral and orchard fruit notes.
2018 is a great vintage for the consumer thanks to the wines' friendly, giving character. “It is nice to be able to tell customers they don’t have to cellar the new releases for years,” said Thomas Haag of Schloss Lieser. In combination with stunning wines from 2017, Germany will have an impressive offering on the market in the upcoming year.