Von Winning: Grand Cru Riesling from the Pfalz

Von Winning: Grand Cru Riesling from the Pfalz 1

Located in the village Deidesheim, the von Winning estate looks back on 160 years of winemaking history, however the style of the wines currently being made are unique and unlike anything else in the region. Formerly called the Dr. Deinhard Estate, the winery was purchased in 2007 by Achim Niederberger, a businessman interested in reestablishing the quality and reputation that this part of the Pfalz enjoyed a century and a half ago. Dr. Deinhard was renamed von Winning after Leopold von Winning, founding member and first president in the Pfalz of the 1910 VDN or Verband Deutscher Naturweinversteigerer, the association of quality minded wine producers committed to not chaptalizing (adding sugar) to their wines. This was the precursor to the modern day VDP or Verband Deutscher Prädikatsweingüter, an association of producers widely regarded as the top estates in Germany.  

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Stephan Attmann & Andreas Hütwohl

Mr. Niederberger hired the brilliant and wine obsessed Stephan Attmann to lead the estate and make wines with only the highest quality in mind. Attmann recognized the power of the great Grand Cru sites in Deidesheim and Forst. His experience in the Cote d’Or encouraged him to pursue a new regime for the estate including fermentation and elevage in oak barrels. 2008 marked the first vintage of von Winning and the wines did not immediately meet universal praise. After many successful vintages, von Winning has won virtually every award imaginable from the German wine press. Today, von Winning is regarded as one of the very finest estates in Germany.

In the 1940s and 1950s stainless steel became de rigueur for producers of Riesling across Germany. It was thought that Riesling, an inherently delicate and elegant grape variety, should be vinified in the most neutral vessel possible – stainless steel was deemed perfect. This was a new phenomenon and prior to the introduction of steel, Riesling was most commonly vinified in oak.

The refrain we hear from every quality minded producer is that excellence begins in the vineyard. “From the vineyard, you are holding 100% of the potential quality – once the grapes are picked that potential decreases and a good producer knows not only what needs to be done but also when it is time to do nothing, to be patient.” says Andreas Hütwohl, Stephan’s second in command and one of the winemakers at the estate.

DSC_3344The sites that von Winning has been able to purchase in the past 8 years are among the very best and most famous sites in the Pfalz. The Grosses Gewächs or “Great Growths or Grand Crus” are located in Forst (Forster Pechstein, Forster Kirchenstück and Forster Jesuitengarten), and the village of Deidesheim (Deidesheimer Kalkofen, Deidesheimer Kieselberg, Deidesheimer Grainhübel and Deidesheimer Langenmorgen).

Vineyard work at von Winning is as close to nature as possible, utilizing biodynamic practices like pruning and harvesting with the moon, homeopathic treatments and extensive cover crops. After harvest the grapes are pressed, and macerated depending on the vintage. After this, the juice flows by gravity into 500L and larger oak barrels for fermentation with natural yeasts. This natural fermentation happens very slowly in oak, often lasting through spring and even into early summer. Most importantly, the wines are never racked; they stay on the full lees from fermentation until the barrels from each site are blended together for bottling. This makes for a very interesting combination of slow and positive oxidation from wood and reductive elements from the protective lees. There is no temperature control, no fining and no filtration for these wines. Von Winning remains one of the few wineries working with oak in this manner, though many producers have taken notice.  

“The issue of Rieslings-with-oak is really not pertinent any more, as the casks get less expressive over time. These are simply classic forceful Pfalz wines. And Attmann wants everything he does to reach for the outermost limits of expressiveness. “ writes Terry Theise in his most recent catalog. The wines from
von Winning are are the purest expressions of different terroirs in their unique idiom.