The Rheinhessen region’s reputation in Germany hasn’t been helped by its creation of Liebfraumilch, or by its production of 25 per cent of German wines, most at low prices commensurate with their quality. Riesling accounts for less than 10 per cent of the region’s vineyards; they’re mostly planted with muller thurgau and sylvaner.
Yet banker Carl Gunderloch bought the 5.5ha Nackenheimer Rothenberg Vineyard in 1890 – and the five family generations that followed have taken Gunderloch into the top tier of Germany’s producers, with only Klaus Keller ranked higher in Rheinhessen. Fifth-generation Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach took over the estate in 1980, and made regular trips to Australia where they won customers and friends with their sunny disposition; they also worked tirelessly on the estate’s three vineyards. Gunderloch has the highest proportion of steep slopes of all 3000 wineries in Rheinhessen; moreover, 80 per cent of the vines are low-yielding riesling, almost all classified premier or grand cru.
In 2015, and following the death of Fritz, Agnes handed over management to son Johannes and his wife Marie, who has many years’ experience on the estate. Says Johannes: “Each generation ends up defining its own unique relationship to the land. We want to honour the history of our vineyards, but we feel also responsible for their future.” Hence the decisive move towards organic certification.
In the winery, he says, “we pursue non-additive winemaking”. But it’s far from the Will of Allah approach of natural wine. Thus the 2019 Als Wär’s ein Stück Von Mir explores a back-to-the-future approach emulating that of his forebears; the crushed grapes were macerated for 72 hours, with wild yeast fermentation, no fining, no enzymes, wine movement by gravity.
2019 Gunderloch Als Wär’s ein Stück von Mir Riesling Trocken
Uses a deliberately extractive approach with prolonged skin and lees contact. The bouquet is striking in its power and complexity, spice and fresh pipe tobacco leading crushed lime leaf, the palate a moving tower of fruit and mineral increasing all the way through to the finish and aftertaste. 11.5% alc; screwcap 95 points; drink to 2030; $43
2019 Gunderloch Rothenberg GG Riesling Trocken Grosses
Gewächs signifies vineyards of grand cru equivalent, the term outside the strict confines of German wine law. The rapier-like intensity of the aromas and flavours is glorious, the laser beam of purity built on a mouth-watering spine of juicy minerality. 11.5% alc; screwcap 97 points; drink to 2040; $118
2019 Gunderloch Jean Baptiste Riesling Kabinett
The balance between acidity and residual sugar is the framework for the marriage of intensity and delicacy of the palate, dominated by lime juice, with Granny Smith apple playing second fiddle. Irresistible value for money. 10.5% alc; screwcap 95 points; drink to 2030; $36