2019 Weingut Donnhoff, Dry Slate Riesling, Tonschiefer, Nahe Germany.
Like the 2018 version the 2019 Donnhoff Tonscheifer (Dry Slate) Riesling is pristine and crystalline with crisp details and a salty freshness with a slate/stony core, it shows a range of tangy white and yellow orchard fruits and racy citrus. The nose is smoky and lightly floral, it leads nicely to a poised lighter framed palate that hints at green apple, tangerine and peach all in perfect proportion as one expects from this famous winery in the Nahe region. Terry Theise, one of the world’s most renown Riesling gurus, has often quoted Helmut Dönnhoff “Extraordinary wines are based on extraordinary vineyards.” has always stuck with me, and it shows in these Donnhoff wines, throughout their full range of offerings, and I also feel grateful whenever I can sit back and enjoy a bottle, which I did with this 2019 Tonscheifer with sushi recently. The terroir driven Tonschiefer is heavenly weightless, bone dry and zesty with flinty intensity, wet rock and with laser like focus, while still being nicely generous in the glass, it was perfect with the purity of the raw briny selection of fish, proving an excellent companion and palate cleansing, it was especially joyous with the Spanish mackerel and local catch crab roll. As the wine opened it gave even more, adding apricot and a white currant fruits, as well as chamomile, delicate rosewater and orange blossom. This bottling is value priced and well crafted with Cornelius Donnhoff choosing to ferment and age this Tonsheifer in a well judged combination of stainless & used large oak to preserve its dynamic personality and transparent flavors, while also allowing a subtle textural presence. Tonschiefer, which means “clay slate”, is named for the soils that dominates the Leistenberg vineyard, that rarely sees any botrytis, making it perfect for wines like this. This is also the original Donnhoff vineyard site, so for the family it holds a very special place in their hearts, and I can feel the pride in this wine, as well as in their Oberhäuser Leistenberg Kabinett.
The Dönnhoff’s, one of the great German winemaking families, first came to the Nahe region over 200 years ago, and after establishing a modest farm, it slowly evolved into a full-fledged wine estate, in more modern times it became world renown when in 1971 Helmut Dönnhoff began the making the wine here. Now Helmut’s son Cornelius runs the show and crafts the wines, and as I’ve suggested, the wines seem to just get better with his gift touch, both the ultra premium dry stuff led by his awesome GG’s and the off-dry and sweeter versions from Kabinett to Eiswein, which maybe be one of the greatest wine I ever tasted, are just fantastic and elegant examples! I love their Spatlese and Auslese bottlings too, these are high residual sugar wines that do not taste overly sweet, the they are impeccably balanced, complex and glorious wines of class and refinement. That said, it is almost impossible to resist these Dönnhoff Trockens, like this one, and especially Cornelius’ drop dead gorgeous Hermannshohle GG, one of the planet’s absolutely best dry white wines! The Nahe, and Dönnhoff, have a wide variety of soils from loess to volcanic, as well as gravel, sandstone and a mix of slates to work with and Donnhoff puts them all to good use. The Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling comes from a pure slate set of vines, all between 25 and 40 years old, at the Oberhausen Leistenberg estate vineyard. The weathered grey slate and clay Leistenberg vineyard, a VDP Grosse Lage (Grand Cru), lies in a small side valley of the Nahe just outside Oberhausen where these warm, carbon-laced decomposed argillaceous slate soils and steep terraced hillsides provide ideal conditions for Riesling, and the cooler afternoon conditions here allow for long hang times and lower natural alcohol, making for sophisticated versions of this grape. Like all of the Donnhoff wines, this Tonscheifer comes from organically grown grapes with Fair’n Green certification and while it was made to be drunk young, the quality here allows for solid midterm aging as well. Now, I can’t wait for the much hyped and acclaimed 2020s, though I will happily cherishing these 2019s in the meantime!
($28 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive