Dönnhoff Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese 2006
I am sure I am not alone in being fascinated by the patchwork quilt of vineyards which blanket some or Europe’s greatest vineyards, with Burgundy and many of Germany’s wine regions being prime examples. They each boast a myriad premiers and grands crus (or grosses lages if you are in a German frame of mind) providing endless opportunities for research (the kind of research that involves wielding a corkscrew, rather than scrolling through online databases of scientific abstracts). It is no wonder that these regions draw in dedicated oenophiles like the proverbial moth to the Riesling and Pinot Noir flames.
I can’t help thinking that a similar approach would be appropriate in many of the top vineyards of the Loire Valley, with Savennières, Chinon and Sancerre three where a number of individual sites perhaps deserve greater recognition. Of course, many German and Burgundian vineyards have been tended for more than a millennium, often with ancient ecclesiastical origins. In comparison the Loire Valley has – save for a few notable exceptions – a much less illustrious history, many modern-day appellations only having emerged from polyculture during the last one or two centuries. Give them another thousand years, however, and I am sure they will catch up.
In the meantime I will salve this itch with various maturing Rieslings pulled from my cellar, and the latest rubbing of witch-hazel comes courtesy of the 2006 Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese from Dönnhoff. The Krötenpfuhl vineyard is located on the banks of the Nahe, on the slopes opposite the town of Bad Kreuznach. We are quite far downstream here, not far from the union of the Nahe with the Rhine, with many of Dönnhoff’s more famed vineyards in Niederhausen and Oberhausen some way upriver. Krötenpfuhl sits close to the historic Kahlenberg vineyard (first cited in 1499), also worked by the Dönnhoff family, but it has slightly warmer loam soils, rich in quartzite. The slopes are up to 40% in parts, so while this is not one of the vertiginous sites images of which serve to illustrate almost any published article about German wine, it still has an excellent south-facing aspect.
These days Cornelius Dönnhoff, the fourth generation of the family to run the estate, tends to produce off-dry kabinett and dry Grosses Gewächs (or ‘GG’) wines from this site, so we are certainly in ‘grand cru‘ territory here, but fifteen or twenty years ago this vineyard was also known for its spätlese wines. In the glass the 2006 Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl Riesling Spätlese from Dönnhoff displays a richly polished golden hue which is perhaps a little advanced for its age, but is perhaps typical of Dönnhoff’s style. The nose suggests a delicious sweetness, with an open and expressive stance, throwing out aromas of juicy white peach with honey-drizzled apple and pear, quite pure with no obvious botrytis notes, all wrapped up in ribbons of smoke and slate mineral suggestions. The palate feels no less broad and welcoming, with a delicious weight of zesty and tangy citrus alongside the orchard fruits seen on the nose, with a tangible slate mineral core, and a precisely balanced interplay of sweetness and rather subdued, fine-boned acidity. All in all this is delicious, and unlike some of the more wobbly wines recently encountered in my 2001 at Twenty Years report, clearly has some years of life in it yet – but then I suppose it has five years on its side. Drink or hold, but I would lean towards the former. The declared alcohol is 8%. 92/100 AP number: 7 753 010 09 07 (3/1/22)