When the traditional autumn wine auction of Germany’s Nahe wine region takes place in the eponymous winegrowing region on 22 September 2019 in Bad Kreuznach, Gut Hermannsberg will yet again offer a one-of-a-kind wine. The last two years the estate set new price records with a 100-point Riesling TBA 2015 and the last bottle of their legendary Riesling TBA from 1921 – both wines from the VDP.Grosse Lage Kupfergrube site. This year they will present a stunning, handmade limited-edition sparkling wine from the same famous vineyard.
In 2013, Gut Hermannsberg had just been chosen by the GaultMillau wine guide as ‘Newcomer of the Year’, and cellarmaster Karsten Peter set off to tackle a big project: he wanted to produce a single-vineyard Riesling Sekt. Bottle-fermented Sekt like this is the German equivalent of champagne and made by exactly the same methods.
The conditions were ideal: in 2013 Karsten Peter had been caring for the vineyards of Gut Hermannsberg for four years and had converted them from conventional to sustainable viticulture. The vines were also cultivated with higher foliage and lower yields, changes as apparent in the taste as they were clearly visible. The wines became more distinctive, complex and sophisticated with each passing year. In particular, the wines from the Kupfergrube – a steep southwest-facing slope, which not only provides the estate with its highest-rated wines but also has great visual presence – had shown an extraordinary development in quality.
The perfect vintage
In addition, the 2013 turned out to be an ideal year for sparkling wine, because the weather was cool and the vegetation cycle progressed slowly. When Karsten harvested the Riesling grapes for the Sekt in September – long before the grapes for the estate’s still wines would be picked – they showed exceptional fruit and great freshness, with moderate sugar content. That’s exactly what one wants, in order to make a great sparkling wine with significant aging potential.
Winemaker Karsten Peter © Gut Hermannsberg
Karsten Peter first vinified the base wine – wild fermented with natural yeasts – then in June 2014 he put it into the bottle, where the second fermentation took place creating the bubbles. The Sekt then matured on the lees for five years; the dead yeasts were then gently herded down into the neck of the bottle via traditional hand riddling beginning in 2019. In July 2019, Karsten Peter disgorged the total production of 800 bottles. After bottle fermentation and sixty-six months aging on the lees, the 2013 Kupfergrube Sekt shows such perfect natural balance that Karsten Peter declined to add any dosage, even though it has just 1.6 g (!) residual sugar, or bone-dry. Although Extra Brut is printed on the label, the wine is actually ‘Brut Nature’ in the full sense of those words.
Riesling is the greatest!
Experts are in complete agreement: Riesling is one of the greatest grape varieties in the world. Light and charming sparkling Rieslings are quite common in Germany, but vinifying a high-end sparkling wine out of it is a challenge that few dare to accept. This is because Riesling stands for precision, tight structure and minerality, but not the creaminess Chardonnay and Pinot Noir often give champagne and other sparkling wines made from those grapes. Karsten sums it up: ‘For a sparkling wine from Riesling, you need a top site, one that exhibits strong character even when the grapes are picked early. In the vinification you have to be sensitive in bringing freshness to the wine without forcing the greenish flavours of early-picked grapes. And finally – and this seems the most important thing to me – you have to patiently give the Riesling Sekt a very, very long period of maturation’!
2013 Sekt available, beginning with the auction
This extraordinary Sekt from the Kupfergrube will be launched at the Nahe auction on 22 September in a lot of just 240 bottles. Bids can either be sent to the auction commissioners or directly to Gut Hermannsberg.