It’s for long been an often true saying in Australia that all droughts end in floods, but Germany? Well, 2018-20 were drought years in the Rheingau, and the 2021 vintage was pre-empted by flood in some parts – no more than the Ahr Valley, and Weingut Meyer-Näkel, one of the top rated wineries of this pinot noir (don’t sneer) dominated region.
Wine Searcher (https://www.wine-searcher.com) spoke to Näkel sisters Meike and Dörte who had gone to their winery to save equipment from the flood, but became trapped by the rapidly rising water and made their way to the roof until it was smashed by a large gas tank. Their next move was to dive under the barrels floating in the cellar and kick out a window, the flood washing them downstream before taking refuge in a large tree, spending seven hours through the night before rescue. They’ve lost what was a new winery, its equipment, and most of the 2020 vintage, which hadn’t been bottled. (Offers of help have come from many sides.)
Their vineyards, like those of the Rheingau proper, are on steep slopes above the floodline. Fred Prinz has seen it all since he began working for Rheingau’s legendary Bernhard Breuer in 1987, in 1993 moving from the small to largest in Germany, the state-owned Kloster Eberbach (founded in 1135). He stayed there until 2004, but had made his first garagiste wine in the basement of the family home in 1991. The quality of his wines and adroit marketing has seen sites on Hallgartener’s Schönhell and Jungfer grow from 1.55ha to 9.2ha of organically/biodynamically farmed vines.
Prinz says the 2021 rain began in a cold spring, and continued in the first weeks of summer, coupled with high humidity. The result was downy mildew, and the loss of 10-15% of the crop, which he laughingly describes as a victory. The upside down conditions saw the strange outcome in the third year of drought (2020) with yields 20% above long term average.
2020 Prinz Rheingau Trocken Riesling
An array of meadow, spice and blossom aromas open the door to a precisely shaped palate of lime, Granny Smith apple and granitic acidity. This is unabashed power, albeit with the perfect balance that will pay endless rewards over the next 20-plus years.
95 points; drink to 2040; 12.5% alc; Screwcap; $38
2018 Prinz Riesling Le Cœur VDP. Auktion Réserve
Bright straw-green; it’s not until the aftertaste that still holds the attention of this elegant, dainty wine wine for a full minute, indeed more. Repeated lip smacking and heavy breathing are auto responses during the journey.
95 points; drink to 2028; 13% alc; Cork; $112
2020 Prinz Riesling Kabinett Jungfer
Wine professionals are taught to always spit, never swallow during a tasting. Well it’s not possible to eject any of this ravishingly delicious wine. Its magnetism is created by the perfect balance between dew drop acidity and apple/lime/Meyer lemon infused sweetness.
97 points; drink to 2035; 8.5% alc; Screwcap; $52