Anyone seeking to assemble a cellar of 2019s to mark the birth of a child or grandchild can take their pick of excellent wines from any number of regions, from Burgundy to Napa. But perhaps nowhere was the ‘19 vintage a more resounding success than in Germany. As Stephan Reinhardt put it, writing in the Wine Advocate: ‘The 2019 vintage has produced some of the greatest, finest and most energetic Rieslings of the last 20 years, especially in the Mosel, Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen and the northern Pfalz.’

Despite a challenging growing season in 2019, with widespread drought, even before the Riesling grapes were harvested growers were marvelling at their magical amalgam of ripeness and acidity, which has resulted in wines that are as sensual as they are intellectual. Many are approachable – and hugely enjoyable – even now, but will serve for decades as a reminder of the incredible longevity of the finest German Rieslings, and the wines’ capacity to capture and express terroir to a degree that is almost unmatched in the world of wine.

The news for future oenophiles born a year later is also extremely positive. We have tasted fewer 2020 Rieslings, but again the best wines combine juicy, ripe fruit with shimmering acidity and a stony mineral character. We are delighted to offer a small selection of 2020s alongside the 2019s. Growers sheepishly acknowledge that recent vintages have benefited from global warming, but how long before their wines are blunted by its effects? If this is a golden age for German wines, it may prove to be a brief one, making the 2019 and 2020 vintages all the more significant.

Our offer includes fabulous wines from Schlossgut Diel, a leading light of the Nahe region. It focuses, however, on the Mosel, showcasing some of its most celebrated vineyards and best-loved estates. Weingut von Hövel is a standardbearer for the Saar (a tributary of the Mosel) subregion, while Heymann-Löwenstein is among the great names of the Lower Mosel, where the river nears its confluence with the Rhine. Based in the Middle Mosel are Vollenweider – established only in 1999, but already with a cult following – the bijou Weingut Merkelbach, and Weingut Willi Haag, a favourite of the Stannary team, whose wines represent exceptional value for money.

The conditions in 2019 and 2020 were especially favourable for drier Rieslings, and botrytis was not widespread, hence the predominance of Kabinetts, Spätleses and Ausleses. Yields in 2019 were notably low, owing to a combination of factors outlined in the vintage report below. They were 3% higher overall in 2020, but still just below the average. The excitement around these vintages is entirely justified, and we expect high demand for many of the wines offered today – the majority made in tiny quantities even in the most generous vintages – so please register your interest with a member of the Stannary Team as soon as possible.

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Spotlight on 2019

2019 was another precocious growing season, although in most regions budbreak occurred a little later than in 2018. Widespread frost on the night of May 5th was particularly severe in the Saar and Ruwer, at the southernmost end of the Mosel. Yields were further reduced by intermittent rain during flowering in the month of June.

Summer was notably hot and dry, with three spikes of extreme heat (over 40 °c) towards the end of June, July and August. Between the three spikes, however, temperatures dropped considerably. According to most growers, 2019 was characterised above all by this variation in temperatures, which distinguished it from the consistently warm 2018 vintage.

The heat resulted in small, tightly packed bunches of thickskinned berries, which again contributed to the small crop, but explain the exceptional concentration of the wines, while the cooler interludes account for their freshness and precision.

More of a problem than the heat was sunburn to the grapes, which can cause uneven ripening and excess levels of TDN, the flavour compound responsible for petrol and kerosene aromas. The worst-affected bunches (often those facing west, which are exposed to the stronger, afternoon sun) were removed at green harvest, again decreasing the yield, but ensuring there would be no negative impact on the quality of the wine.

Harvest was a stop-start affair, owing to frequent rain showers from mid-September, but the logistical challenge was welcome, since the rain refreshed the vines and kept sugar levels in check. Botrytis was not forthcoming, so rather than wait – and risk the weather deteriorating – many growers chose to make Auslese from shrivelled (but un-botrytised) grapes. Nonetheless, a limited number of botrytised Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese were produced in 2019, primarily in the Middle Mosel and Nahe, and are just as compelling as the drier wines.