Wine Books: Diel & Payne
Armin Diel and Joel Payne were the critics jointly responsible for Gault Millau for two decades, and this guide is produced in the same style. Armin Diel is also an accomplished winemaker, and this conflict of interest (and revolt among the German winemaking community) ultimately forced Joel to go it alone. At the time of this guide's publication, however, the two were definitely still very much a team.
An indispensable guide to the shamefully under-rated fine wines of Germany, Diel (owner of the Schloβgut Diel estate in Burg Layen, Nahe) and Payne make excellent guides to all the wine regions of Germany, not just the exalted vineyards of the Mosel. This is the sixth annual edition of their wine guide, although it was the first (and only, as far as I am aware) to be published in English. This is a great shame, because for up to date information on the wines and producers of Germany it is otherwise unrivalled. Following a brief but satisfactory introduction covering vintages, German wine terminology and classifications, Diel & Payne then deal with each of the thirteen German regions alphabetically, from Ahr to Württemberg. For each region there is some useful background information, followed by a ranking of the regions top producers and profiles of the estates and wines. There is some useful information regarding vineyard locations, terroir and so on, although I would have liked to have seen more of this, and less shopping lists of wines. Nevertheless this is the style of an annual guide, so perhaps Diel & Payne should consider penning a more authoritative work on German wine. Despite this minor gripe, I have found this book to contain information which is like gold-dust in quality. It’s also nicely executed, with good quality glossy paper, plenty of monochrome label images and also a number of colour plates, showing many of the author’s award winning winemakers and other personalities for the years 1995-99. I do have a few other niggles about this book. In particular the book is not marketed as an annual guide, and there is no mention in the title (or anywhere, for that matter) that this is a 1999 edition. Being pedantic, the book is therefore clearly out of date, although in fact many of the wines discussed are still available on the market. The authors method of scoring wines out of 100, without any accompanying tasting notes, also subtracts from the value of the book. Nevertheless, it's a useful guide to some great winemakers.