The SOMM Journal

August/September 2014

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Page 37 of 119

38 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2014 { terroirs } THE ROTER HANG (ROH-TER HAHNG, "RED SLOPE") is one of Germany's most famous hillsides. Here in Rheinhessen, flanked by the mighty Rhine, the red rock called Rotliegendes, a rigosol/rhyolite formation, is laid bare. In the surrounding areas, this rock is covered in layers of loess and sand; here it is a curved ridge, stretching for about three miles from the villages of Nierstein to Nackenheim, facing south and east. It catches the sun which is also reflected from the river and creates a string of legendary vineyard sites like Orbel, Ölberg, Hipping, Pettenthal and Rothenberg, some of them at a 55% incline. For centuries Riesling has grown here and excelled. Wineries like Louis Guntrum (since 1648) and Kühling-Gillot, among others, have made and are making unique dry and off- dry Rieslings here. Each estate makes a distinct style, but both express the essence of the Roter Hang totally. "We don't use the word 'terroir'," declares Carolin Spanier-Gillot of Kühling Gillot. "We refer to ourselves as stone-wine producers." She has parcels of Ölberg, Pettenthal and Rothenberg and crafts, together with her winemaker husband Hans Oliver Spanier, three dry Grosse Gewächse (classified single sites under VDP rules) from these organically farmed sites. The Rieslings are fermented spontaneously in large, old 1,200-liter bar - rels, the oldest of which dates to 1897. The fruit that goes into them is so pristine that the wines can remain on their gross lees until bottling; they are never fined or filtered. Tasting them, her statement makes sense; the wines seem like elixirs, like essences of that red rock. "I believe that's our theme, the uncompromising pursuit of bringing out the soil," Spanier-Gillot says. Louis Konstantin Guntrum of Louis Guntrum, who makes two Grosse Gewächs Rieslings from Hipping and Pettenthal and also vinifies Orbel separately as Auslese and Ölberg as Spätlese, ferments everything in stainless steel and with cultured yeasts—and the site expressions are as distinct as at Kühling-Gillot but a different interpretation, just as eye-opening. Neither winery looks for primary, easily dis - sipated estery fruit aromas; both want to bring out the savouriness of the sites and the deeper, longer-lasting fruit flavors. "The vine roots can penetrate the soil, the rock, even in deeper strata, is relatively soft, this is where the taste comes from: mineral, slender, fruity, but there also is spice," explains Guntrum. "For me, the Red Slope is always reticent at first, the real music starts at the back of the palate: ripe peach, apricot and a soft, subtle savouriness," he muses. "This is what makes this a unique origin, this softness, this tenderness but also that very expressive spicy, aromatic, salty quality." Spanier-Gillot expresses similar sentiments: "The red stone always brings flinty notes; there is creaminess, herbal notes reminiscent of rosemary, basil and even nutmeg, a salty minerality. The wines are unique." Both agree that Red Slope wines take time to show their potential. Even at a tender age, they are impressive. Getting the Hang of It TWO PRODUCERS CAPTURE THE ESSENCE OF RHEINHESSEN'S "RED SLOPE" story and photos by Anne Krebiehl Kühling-Gillot 2012 Riesling Grosses Gewächs Ölberg Intense nose of lemon-thyme, lifted, intense notes of grapefruit zest, opening into a wealth of ripe citrus fruit. While the mouthfeel is rich and dense, there is not a gram of fat, the striking but ripe acidity is completely integrated, overtones of fig leaf and manda - rine make for a compelling, long finish of immense purity. M. S. WALKER Louis Guntrum 2007 Niersteiner Ölberg Spätlese Trocken Golden hue, then lifted notes of chamomile tincture, fir honey and dried apricots. On the palate and explosion of candied orange peel with a balm-like mouthfeel of exquisite slenderness and depth, a savory herbal streak finishes in an edge of pleasant honeyed bitterness and a lasting, stony savouriness that just stays and stays. Perfectly balanced; 6 g/l r.s. BROADBENT SELECTIONS Soil in the Kühling-Gillot parcel of the Rothenberg Grosses Gewächs. Vintner Louis Guntrum on Germany's "Red Slope."

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