August 22, 2013
Better Hurry Before the Leitz Go Out!(Pssst: today’s featured wine is from the vineyard on the far right)
Germany’s Rheingau is pure magic! The 50th degree of latitude runs right through it, marking one of the northernmost regions of viable viticulture. While near the entirety of the Rhine River’s 700+ miles flow in a northward direction between the Swiss Alps and the North Sea, a small 18 mile stretch of the river zigs from east to due west, allowing for a small group of prized south-facing vineyards. This is the Rheingau. And here sits the village of Rüdesheim, home to some of the most notable vineyards in all of Germany – some dating as far back as the 15th century.
In the realm of German Riesling, the Mosel region may be recognized for its vibrant minerality, and the Pfalz for fuller-bodied, fruit driven wines, but the smaller region of the Rheingau, many believe, is perhaps the strongest white wine region in all of Germany, producing wines that are an uncommon balance of richness, earthiness, and elegance.
The Magdalenenkreuz Vineyard (named for a shrine of Mary Magdalene located on the site, which was historically owned by the Abbey of Saint Hildegard) sits steep above the banks of the town of Rüdesheim. Located between 100 and 165 meters, it is closer to the river than some of Leitz’s other notable sites (Kirchenpfad and Klosterberg), meaning it absorbs more reflective heat from the Rhine river, thereby imparting a power and majesty that balances the raciness found in the vineyards above it.
Johannes Leitz has a lot to love up to. As the latest generation to run his family’s estate in Rheingau, Germany, he is upholding traditions that started in 1744. His family label, Josef Leitz, is known for producing haunting, ethereal and utterly addictive Riesling.
When Johannes took over the family business in 1985, Weingut Josef Leitz consisted of about seven acres. Today, the winery has grown to almost 70 acres in the top sites of Rüdesheim, including Berg Roseneck and Berg Kaisersteinfels, recently expanded to Geisenheim. In 2007, the winery produced 30,000 cases of wine, 85 percent of which were exported around the world. Leitz likes to talk about his different vineyard sites as though they were people, describing one site as wise and serene, reminding him of the Star Wars character Yoda, and another vibrant vineyard as raucous and racy, like Pink.
Josef Leitz Rudesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Riesling Spatlese, Rheingau 2010 ($27.95) $16 special
Wine Spectator 91 points – “Minerally aromas and flavors give this juicy spätlese plenty of verve. The midpalate is filled with verbena and chamomile notes, which extend on the long finish, joined by hints of smoke and plenty of spice. Drink now through 2030. 1,466 cases made.”
“A Rheingauer making wines this stellar could easily ask double these prices. Could drib-and-drab them out in crumbs to make them seem more precious. Could sit in his ivory tower waiting for the world to beat a path to his door.” – Terry Theise