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Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2005

Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2005

While I may usually restrict myself to writing about Bordeaux and the Loire Valley, this is not necessarily true of my drinking, as other wine regions continue to fascinate me, not least Germany. I think it is something to do with the historic patchwork quilt of vineyards, the slopes and hillsides of slate-strewn soils painstakingly carved up into individual sites, as much as it is the excellent quality of the wines. Of course many (if not all) regions are carved up in this way; the vineyards of Chinon, Bourgueil and Savennières, for example, are all neatly defined and delineated. Few regions bring it through onto the label with the regularity and reliability that Germany (and Burgundy, of course) manages though, allowing even casual drinkers of the wines such as myself to explore the region’s soils and wines down to a very fine level.

The Leistenberg vineyard has long been associated with the Dönnhoff family, perhaps the leading winemakers in the Nahe. Today in the hands of Hermann Dönnhoff and his son Cornelius, the family have been based in Oberhausen an der Nahe on the banks of the river for well over two hundred years. The first mention of a Dönnhoff in the region dates to 1761, and the family’s own records begin with the vintages of the 1780s. Having said this, it was not until the arrival of another Hermann Dönnhoff (1880 – 1953), grandfather and great grandfather to the current proprietors, that the foundations of the modern-day estate were really laid.

Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2005

While today the Dönnhoff family have holdings in some of the valley’s top sites, it is not inaccurate to think of Oberhäuser Leistenberg, which sits on a southeast-facing slope in a small side-valley directly behind the town, as the ‘original’ Dönnhoff vineyard. The name Leistenberg is probably derived from the sandy slate soils, lei being a local word for slate, although leisten can be translated as ‘to achieve’, so perhaps there is an alternative derivation. Its wine tends to be at the kabinett level as the vines here give fruit with a relatively restrained must weights, so the raw material leans much more towards this style than spätlese or auslese.

The 2005 Dönnhoff Oberhäuser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett is just shy of fifteen years old, perhaps a little longer than many drinkers would choose to cellar their kabinetts, although I need not have been concerned regarding its age. In the glass it displays a pale, confident and reassuring green-gold hue. And there is no shortage of expression on the nose, at first vibrant, explosive even, with scents of blackcurrant leaf, orange zest, barley water and lychee, before later opening up to reveal more honeyed tones which are redolent of lemon curd and wax. The palate feels wonderfully tense yet this character is backed up by a waxy and vinous twist to the texture, with seams of matchsticky minerals which feel a little reductive, supported by a pointed acidity which is woven through the core of the wine. Initially vivacious and bright, feeling rather youthful, this finishes long, velvety and with a little edge of bitterness. On the whole, it is drinking very well now, and I sense no need to rush to open my remaining bottles. 93/100 AP number: 7 753 010 04 06 (21/10/19)

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