2010 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese

Year: 2010
Appellation: Nahe
Country: Germany
Wine Advocate: 94
Vinous Media: 92+
James Suckling: 94
White Wine
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"Alluring scents of sweet honeysuckle, musky peony, and smoky black tea waft from the glass of Donnhoff 2010 Niederhauser Hermannshohle Riesling Spatlese A.P. #14, then follow inner-mouth in a display of richness and palpable density yet striking buoyancy, backed by fresh lime and white peach, nut oils and stone serving as underpinnings and subtle salinity for saliva-inducement. "This year, abnormally," notes Donnhoff, "the Hermannshohle achieved some of the acid retention and energy usually more characteristic of Brucke." This gem should be worth following for over two decades.

Helmut Donnhoff is quick to point out that the challenges of 2010 would seem normal by 1980s standards, and he likes the sharp differentiation of site character that he thinks is enhanced in a cooler, well-watered vintage. He harvested through the first days of November, but voiced skepticism that one could have accomplished much - at least in his vineyards - thereafter. "We harvested like the world champions in the last days, practically around the clock, because the weather reports had forecast rain and that's what we got," he noted, handing me a slip of paper on which his vineyard manager had written a day-to-day report intended to explain to yours truly "who had a free day November 10 and had hoped to be present for some late picking" why the harvest here ended November 5. "It would have been nice to have been able to wait until the second half of October to have begun," he adds, "but practically speaking, I need four weeks to harvest all of my vineyards, so in my mind I plan from back to front. You can't just wait, wait, wait, or it might be too late, you'd end up rushing, and as a result lose out on precisely what would have been your best (wines). We de-acidified the early pickings - simply with calcium carbonate,"he explains. "Acid levels were dropping, but very slowly, and in the end we arrived at levels of 9.5 or 10 grams in the must, which is still high, but by that time the levels of tartaric and malic were comparable (to one another), and with the strong must weights we had, it was enough to do the job." Bottling for most of the wines took place in late May or in June, around a month later than usual. There was some discussion, notes Donnhoff, about whether to leave higher than usual residual sugar behind in the dry wines. "But I decided against that as I didn't want to mask the wines' character. To be sure, there's a sort of hardness here - though it's not a green, under-ripe hardness but rather (an expression of) sheer density. At first I had some misgivings about the (dry) wines, but later on, I didn't merely reconcile myself to them. On the contrary, I really started to take pleasure in them, admiring their straight lines, their clarity, and their potential. I-m a fan of Clos St. Hune and a devotee of this puristic style." Donnhoff has repeatedly expressed his satisfaction in being able to ostensibly -complete- his vinous tour of the middle Nahe - first by acquiring property in Norheim; then in Bad Kreuznach - but the expansion has taken yet another turn with the acquisition of two and a half acres in the red Permian sandstone Roxheimer Berg, for whose maintenance his son Cornelius - a critical if publicly little-known member of Team Donnhoff for some years now - will be responsible. It was another case of a site about whose many steep, once-prestigious and increasingly-neglected vineyards Helmut Donnhoff felt frustrated and apprehensive. "One by one," he relates, "I gazed out at parcels about which I thought, 'Man, if things go on the same way for another year or two, this vineyard will be finished,' and I thought about the distance - seven or eight kilometers - from Oberhausen; and (my wife) Gabi could tell just what was going through my mind, so she grabbed me under the arm (and said) "No!""? to no avail. The old Riesling vines are being restored and a barren portion will be replanted, but 300 liters were bottled from the 2010 crop of (no, that isn't a misprint) Gewurztraminer." (WA)

"($62) Pale golden yellow. Tantalizing aromas of papaya, cherry, sweet herbs and tobacco. Discreet but intense cherry fruit rises from the mid-palate, brightened by brilliant acidity. This lusciously spicy spatlese finishes deep and long. I may be underrating this." (IWC)

"2010 Niederhauser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese: Sicilian juicy lemons, pineapple, orange and orange blossom on the nose. Dense and well structured on the palate. Loads of ripe apricot and oranges. A much richer wine than the other I have tasted. More ripe and dramatic. Very intense but balanced. Love the way the acidity plays alongside with the ripeness. 94 points." (JS)

Winery Notes:
What, really, is left to say? All the images have been spent, the cupboard of adjectives is bare. In 2010 the slate is more prominent, the tones go less to scarlet and raspberry and more to limes and leaves and a surmise of licorice; the focus is arresting; the wine bores into you. Spit all you want, it won’t leave your mouth.