2014/2015 Rings German offering

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Grüße aus dem neuen Lied eines alten Land
Today’s introduction is the product of a spontaneous and unplanned fermentation of sorts…Whilst attending the Mainzer Weinbörse tradeshow in April to get a rapid fire impression of Germany’s enormously promising 2015 vintage, I already knew all of the houses that I was interested in visiting/tasting with, or at least I thought I did. I visited with my “list”, and then crossed paths with my friend Rudi Wiest. He asked me for a second time, “Have you tasted with Rings yet? Those kids are doing some things…”. Then, when von Buhl’s Richard Grosche asked me the same thing, stressing that as good as their dry Rieslings are that they may be one of the top 3 Pinot Noir aka Spätburgunder producers in Germany, I knew that I apparently didn’t get the memo, and made a beeline to find them…
They were three: two brothers, Steffen and Andreas, and their sister Simone. To give some context of the unlikely and stratospheric rise of these budding stars, I leave it to Simone to tell their story:

Weingut Rings’ history by Simone Rings
The year 2015 was a milestone in our winery’s young history. In June 2015 we became a full member of the VDP*, “The Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter” (the Association of German Prädikat Wine Estates, abbreviated VDP), won Germany’s most important award for red wine, the VINUM Rotweinpreis in October and got promoted into the prestigious 4 grapes ranking at Gault Millau Wineguide in November. The icing on the cake was the 1st place for our 2013 SAUMAGEN Spätburgunder at the BerlinSpätburgunderCup – a blind tasting organized by wine professionals of 41 Pinot Noirs from Germany’s top producers.

None of these things were imaginable 15 years ago… Up until the early 1990s, our parents cultivated fruit as well as grapes. My brother Steffen (born 1978) was obsessed by the idea of producing his own wine, in these days especially of great red wines. He was convinced that this is possible in Germany and more than ever in the “Mediterranean climate” of the Pfalz. It was the site “Schwarzes Kreuz“ that inspired him most due to its very dry soil of gravel and sand and its hot micro climate. Here, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc come to their full maturity. The red cuveé “Das Kreuz” was the first wine which attracted the attention of wine professionals at blind tastings when it was judged as “typical left bank Bordeaux“. That way the winery became first known as a top red wine producer.

Andreas (born 1986) joined in the winery in 2007. He grew up in a very dynamic and fast developing period. Spending his childhood in the vineyards and cellars, one of his favorite plays for example was turning a grape in a little plastic box around and around until juice came out. Before he turned 20 he had tasted a lot of wines from all over the world and was infected by the wine virus, diagnosis: incurable :0 All he wanted to be was a vintner, but our father kept pushing him to better become a banker or businessman in order to live a calm and secure life. Andy refused to do so, thank God. Instead, he went to Wagner-Stempel in Rheinhessen for education.

When he came back, he immediately joined Steffen at the winery and since then, they really had the pedal to the metal for Riesling. They invested year after year in the best sites like SAUMAGEN or WEILBERG. In parallel, they built up their own cellar, nearly from scratch. Not with regards to the latest wine making techniques but with the traditional methods in mind: wooden casks moved in and many small vessels to ferment the grapes of every single vineyard on its own in order to be able to separate the best parties from the second best later on. During this period, they also experimented with spontaneous fermentation, which went out well from the beginning and became state of the art at the winery. They banished all kinds of fining and move grapes, musts and wines as little as possible. Another key contributor to quality is the partial use of big wooden casks also for the whites (traditional 600 liter barrel, called “Halbstück” and 1200 liter barrel, called “Stückfaß”) and let the wines stay on their lees very long. But asking Andreas what is the most important part in terms of increasing quality the answer lies not in the cellar. ”It’s in the vineyard. It starts during the winter time by cutting the grapevines back in the right way, controlling the yield permanently and harvest nothing but perfect grapes – no matter how many hands and working hours it takes. It’s hard sometimes, but there’s no other way.” Thank God we have a dream team for the vineyards, the best people a vintner can imagine. They have picked up the “nothing but perfect grape philosophy” from Andy & Steffen and have an eye on each other that no harmed or imperfect grapes find their way to the winery during the harvest.

We believe that it helps a lot to work with nature rather than against her. Farming organically for several years now, we bring out compost and use several different cover crops, like soil-building legumes and grass mixes to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil in order to keep the vines healthy. In addition to that, beneficial insects were attracted by these plantings while grasses and clovers control erosion. Our efforts towards organic production are going to be certified “EU-Bio-Label” in 2017.

Next to Riesling, our biggest love is Pinot Noir. As we adore the great Pinots of Burgundy, live in one of the northernmost wine regions of the world and having wonderful limestone terroir available – what could be more worthwhile than producing elegant, cool climate Pinot Noirs? It is the ph value which turned out to be key for quality in Pinot Noir. As a maximum of ripeness was the goal in earlier times, Andy is convinced that this applies not for Pinot Noir. “When I think of Pinot Noir, I think of elegance, freshness and minerality. To preserve these characteristics of the Pinot Noir grape, I have to meet the ideal point of time for the harvest, when sugar, acidity and ph value is in balance and the seeds peel away from the pulp of fruit. We taste the grapes and decide depending on the taste, not on Oechsle. High Oechsle are counterproductive!” This allows by the way to reduce sulphur and to give a very low amount of sulphur at a very late point in time. We let the Pinots ferment spontaneously, at 33° C with a short maceration time of 20 days max. No pump over, as we don’t want any hints of oxidation. This results a fresh, mineral and vibrant Pinot Noir style; which is in many aspects similar to Riesling and exactly the style we like it to be :0

Coming back to the VDP membership and making it into the VDP within this short period of time, I think one important thing is that Andy & Steffen have a great feeling in choosing the best sites for Riesling as well as for Pinot Noir. And they are also not afraid to make big efforts and even resurrect old sites if they see potential as they did with the “Berntal-Project”. This is an almost forgotten site near to the “Pfälzer Wald” (Palatinate Forest) in a preserved area called “The Berntal”. They bought the old, completely south-facing site in 2010, rebuilt the old stone walls (the “clos”:0) around it and replanted Burgundian Pinot Noir grapevines. All this had to be made by hand as the valley is too tight and too steep to have big machines at work. With the ’13 vintage, we launched the first wine from this promising area, the FELSENBERG Spätburgunder. This could be seen as a big step in order to preserve the viticultural landscape and viticultural culture, which is a key mission for the VDP.

Considering the fact that this elite group of vintners very carefully appoint new members, it is really remarkable that a winery with a 15-year-history, led by two young brothers was accepted. Throughout this whole period of time, I cannot remember discussions if we should follow special market trends or things like that. The only goal is to produce individual, authentic wines that show their origin as well as the signature of their vintner, pure and genuine. It’s the absolute dedication to premium quality, to which all other considerations are secondary. Not more but not less :0 "

I had zero expectations beyond my respected friends’ opinions. I didn’t know that they had won best Pinot Noir in Germany in a few different publications last year, nor that they were chosen as “newcomer of the year” a few years prior in the Gault Millau, nor that they joined the ranks of Gault Millau’s “four grape” estates alongside greats like personal favorites Zilliken and Schäfer Fröhlich, nor that they were accepted to join the VDP in record time. A true rarity in my obsessive wine geek life, I was able to come at things free of preconceptions. I asked Simone if I could taste through the range, and she obliged. By the time I got to the gutswein, I already sensed why there was so much fuss, and by the time that I finished with the weightless spherical intensity of their Grand cru Pinot Noirs, I was plain blown away…so THAT is what people are talking about…I then introduced myself to Simone, who had been watching me carefully taste a few paces away, and the rest is history. Birds of a feather, continuing to flock together…
The house style has a very pure and modern execution of traditional methods, with the natural spönti yeast aromas and silky polished textures in the whites reminding me of what Tim Fröhlich’s wines would perhaps taste like if he lived/farmed uniquely dry wines in the Pfalz. There is a sense of crystalline purity and intensity that is clearly the result of impeccable standards in the vineyard and cellar, with a very very deft winemaking sensibility on display. In the range of Spätburgunders (Pinot Noir), I was transported to that rare and wonderfully haunting place of power without weight, of heart swooning red fruited delicacy, mineral/savory/spice complexity, and ever rising inner mouth perfume that is so rarely encountered outside of great 1er and Grand cru Burgundy. I distinctly remember feeling as though everything slowed down, the quiet delicacy of the flavor impact getting paradoxically louder in my consciousness, all of this in spite of the circus of souls buzzing about me at a trade show; it was a very zen moment of turning up the quiet. Based on my impressions that day, there is no argument to be made vis à vis the quality level here; it very clearly speaks for itself as the real deal.
I am proud to be able to present for the first time to a US audience the full cellar from this unlikely and remarkable success story. On a gut level, I have an intuitive sense that their type of wine passion speaks of my kind of people, and that things are just beginning to peak for these three siblings. What follows is a comprehensive offering of their new releases, the 2015 whites/rosés, and the 2014 reds. Their recent accolades have rightfully given them some swagger, as their Grand cru Pinot Noirs have jumped significantly higher in price since winning best Pinot in Germany last year. It is hard to fault them for cashing in, as I can only imagine the costs/debts that they face…nonetheless, most of the range is still very very fairly priced that will give most folks a chance to taste for themselves why Weingut Rings is one of the hottest estates in Germany today…many of the wines offered here will not be released in the German market until a few months after I receive mine in the early Fall. They’re psyched about the new partnership, so they’re letting me have a bit of a sneak preview.



2015 Riesling Kalkmergel $ - I am sure that you have by now been beaten to death with accolades, but whaddya know? This was chosen as the third best Gutswein of 2015 in all of Germany in Martin Zwick’s Berlin Riesling Cup. This has screamer great value written all over it. For an intro to their house style, an exceptional point of departure for its precision, purity, and lingering mineral/chalky core…from their website: “From the young vineyards in Kallstadt. Ripe, yellow fruits and a slightly chalky aroma. Noticeably chalky on the palate, as well as crisp and spicy combined with fine acidity.”

2014 Spätburgunder $ - With how good their cru Spätburgunders are, this should be a terrific intro to their Pinot style, and a great everyday Pinot Noir buy no matter how you slice it. This, like all of the 2014 reds, wasn’t yet bottled when I tasted with them at the Maizner Weinbörse. From their website: “Ripe aromas of light-red cherries and warming spices. Spicy on the palate as well, with a certain density and lusciousness. Very ripe taste with a smooth and long-lingering finish.”

Ortsweine: These villages level bottlings from lower lying vineyards in and around Freinsheim should prove to be crowd pleasers.

2015 Riesling Freinsheim $ - Climbing the ladder, this is a slight step up in complexity and pronounced minerality. From their website: “Complex aroma of stone fruits and red vineyard peach. Noticeably mineral taste with notes of grapefruit and peach.”

2015 Spätburgunder rosé Freinsheim $ - As many folks know, I’m big into German rosé of Pinot Noir as I feel that their mastery at balancing higher acidity makes for terrific refreshment and high toned floral notes. This is their best rosé, and I have zero doubt that it will kick major butt, punching well above its pricepoint. From their website: “Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes after one night skin contact, spontaneously fermented. Bone-dry, with aromas of berries combined with a gentle glaze. A serious Rosé which matches well with many kinds of food.”

2014 Spätburguner Freinsheim $ - Greater clarity and finer texture is what I found in the 2013 counterparts to these 2014s in the Gutswein vs the Ortswein quality levels. For a sexy every day Pinot Noir with savory complexity to boot, hard to beat for the money. From their website: “Aromas reminiscent of wild cherries, with hints of laurels and juniper. Complex, delicate taste with silky tannins and beautiful length.”

Erste Lage: Their premier cru level wines get pretty serious. I’d say that these hit a certain sweet spot in terms of complexity/quality/price.

2015 Riesling Ungseiner Nussriegel $ - From their website: “Meager soil and limestone rocks characterize this site. The grapevines have to fight for every single drop of water and thus deliver fine mineral wines. Ripe yellow fruits for both nose and palate, while at the same time very spicy, vibrant and complex. Of exceptional length.”

2015 Riesling Kallstadter Steinacker $ - This is again from poor, limestone dominant soils, with an ever greater sense of dry extract and mineral tension. Both of the 1er cru Rieslings impressed me mightily in 2014. From their website: “Cool and refeshing, aromas of stone fruits, pomegranate and mint. Influenced by the lime-rich soil, very mineral and forceful with excellent length.”

2014 Spätburgunder Kallstadter Steinacker $ - I don’t recall tasting this in Mainz as it was sold out. The '14 is slated to be released in December in Germany along with the other 1er/Grand cru reds, but SImone is letting me pickup early. Based on what I tasted in the '13 Grand cru reds coupled with the consistency throughout the range, I have little doubt that this one will be a showstopper in its own right. From their website: “Cool aroma, evocative of fresh red berries. A lot of minerality and grip on the palate with firm, but silky tannins. With the pure elegance of Pinot Noir.”

Grosse Lage: Their Grand cru wines are plain terrific no matter how you slice it. The whites are terrific values, especially from the Saumagen, one of the most historically prestigious Grand cru sites in all of Germany. The reds are the most convincing Grand cru, world class caliber Pinot Noirs that I have tasted from Germany alongside those of Fürst of Franconia, so any Pinot Noir lover looking for such examples would be remiss not to check in. I’ve included a smidge of their 2014 Grand cru whites as well, so a vertical comparison is possible if that is of interest. The '14s are cooler and classic in their profile and wowed me at the Weinbörse.

2014 Riesling Ungsteiner Weilberg GG $ - The Ungsteiner Riesling is from a rare type of very iron rich loamy soil called Terra Rossa, found in only a few places in Germany. It has palate staining breadth and richness that is given a fine sense of shape from weightlessly counterbalancing acidity. Classy and delicious. From their website: “This site enjoys one of the longest traditions in the Palatinate. It is here that the Romans first brought viticulture 2000 years ago. The heart of the Weilberg consists of ferruginous loam, called “Roterde” (“Terra Rossa” or red earth). Slightly smoky aromas. On the palate, aromas of mature mirabelle, rich and opulent, yet vibrant with a distinct acidity. Of impressive length with a long, spicy finish.”
"From a warmer, well protected vineyard in Ungstein – and thus picked a week earlier than the Steinacker – the 2014 Riesling trocken Weilberg offers a very clear and delicately aromatic fruit on the nose, which is followed by a round, very elegant, mineral, lovely, juicy and full-bodied palate with a long, complex finish. This Riesling from iron-rich Terra Rossa soils is full of vitality, but also sensual fruit. Forty percent was aged in 600-liter barrels and all parts were kept on the full lees until shortly before bottling in May 2015. Highly recommended. " 91 points Stephan Reinhardt

2015 Riesling Ungsteiner Weilberg GG $ - The comparison between the two vintages should be some fun, as both vintages are qualitatively excellent, 2014 in a slightly cooler vein, 2015 a slightly richer vein. Their analytics are very similar (similar level of acidity, dry extract).

2014 Riesling Kallstadter Saumagen GG $ in 750ml, $ in Magnum - The Saumagen is one of the most famous sites for dry Riesling in all of Germany, producing wines of self-evident pedigree that are complete and complex. They age magnificently, jam packed with material in harmonious proportion, all built around a wow factor mineral core. This stuff is rock star good to my taste. From their website: “Marl lime mixed with countless small limestone rocks is typical for the famous Saumagen site. Out of the meagerness of the soil arises an extremely opulent wine, with a rich mineral quality and excellent ageing potential. Cool, mineral aroma of stone fruits and wild herbs. Profoundly forceful, complex taste, yet elegant with notes of fully ripe yellow fruits. Intense minerality and a pleasingly salty core.”
"From chalky marl and limestone soils, the 2014 Riesling Trocken Kallstadter Saumagen offers an open, chalky and lemon-flavored bouquet of great intensity and balance. Full-bodied, juicy and very elegant, this is perfectly balanced Riesling with an intense, complex, mineral finish. Although the wine is already accessible, it will gain complexity over the years. " 92 points Stephan Reinhardt

2015 Riesling Kallstadter Saumagen GG $ - Again, the vintage comparison opportunity here should be awesome. I’m told that the boys are particularly proud of the way the '15 has turned out as it approaches bottling, nailing the balance.

2014 Spätburgunder Kallstadter Saumagen GG $ - This is the bottling that won best Pinot Noir in Germany in both Martin Zwick’s Spätburgunder cup and the VINUM Rotweinpreis last year. I was absolutely spellbound by the 2013 that I tasted in Mainz, and had no problem seeing why folks are so freaked out by the quality here. If great 1er and Grand cru Burgundy is something that you prize, you want/need to check this out. From their website: “From our top site, Kallstadter Saumagen. Only the best vineyards and grapes deserve to be bottled as a “Saumagen”. A stunning complexity arises in the nose. Aromas of dark red, ripe fruits remind one of a wine from Burgundy. Very crisp on the palate, with intense minerality and density. Compact and well balanced, with a lot of freshness. Great potential!”

2014 Spätburgunder Leistadter Felsenberg GG $ - A remarkable accomplishment in both its aim and execution, the Rings have brought this isolated site back from the brink. It is already producing jaw dropping quality, but only two barrels are made each year, roughly 50 cases. The 2013 version of this one had me seeing stars as well, as I have only encountered such intensely flavorful yet airy complexity in a few German Pinot Noirs. I’m glad/lucky to be able to propose this one. From their website : “Our monopole, single-site vineyard “Felsenberg” is situated within the nature preserve of the „Berntal“ valley and surrounded by a limestone wall. Sitting on Tertiary limestone bedrock, on a slightly steep slope, the entire vineyard faces south. In 2011 we resurrected this old, almost forgotten site and planted Burgundy Pinot Noir clones there. Fresh red berries dominate the nose, and the entire character is one of marvellous coolness and freshness. Very silky on the palate and elegant with intense minerality and honed, fine tannins. The high percentage of lime in the soil is definitely perceptible.”


I am psyched about the young generation synergy and wine passionate freaks united potential of this new relationship, as I know that these “kids” are just getting started, and have no sign of letup. I know that the superlative accolades will only continue to pour in as the world gets a chance to tune in. This is yet another relationship that just feels like the right time and the right place colliding, good signs that we’re both on the right path, finding kindred spirits along the way…
These wines are offered here during a one week presell, after which pricing will rise 10-15%. Upon confirmation, payment due in full via check/Friends and Family Paypal/CC+%. Wines are set to depart Germany in September, arriving in October '16.
As always, with any questions or interests: rob@downtoearthwines.net