Germany's 2021 vintage - as seen through the lens of Weingut Keller

Part I.

Hi folks!

I thought I’d add my 2 cents to the new 2021 vintage in Germany given that it seems to be such a special vintage that we won’t see too often. My apologies to those with little time at their disposal - for you, I would suggest just reading the headline and try finding as many 2021s as you can afford and make your own empirical studies - I know I will! Riesling Kabinett in particular was terrific in 2021, perhaps better than it has been for many years, because the late vintage, the good water supply to the vines, the moderate sugar content, the cool nights and the racy acidity, it was in one word: Perfect. For the remaining poor, old sods with no real life other than reading nerdy impressions on wine from another fellow wine nerd, I offer you my first glance of the new vintage in Germany through the lens of Weingut Keller. It will be followed by impressions from my recent visits in March and April to Krüger-Rumpf, Dr Crusius, Joh Baptist Schaefer, Schlossgut Diel, Dönnhoff, Emrich-Schönleber, Peter Lauer, Zilliken, Egon Müller, Julian Haart, Weingut Haart, Fritz Haag, Schloss Lieser, Willi Schaefer, Dr Loosen, Joh Jos Prüm and also impressions from VDP’s fabulous Mainzer Weinbörse. So hopefully a little something for everyone’s taste… :blush:

The 2021 vintage - THANK YOU, mildew!

You might wonder about the headline. Is mildew really something to be grateful for? After all, it’s a nuisance that threatens entire crops, it’s spreads like wildfire among the vines and it’s often associated with rain and unfavourable conditions in the vineyard. Yet…a ”thank you”? Yes. Indeed. Actually, when thinking about it, why not thank the entire vintage with its mildew with a song? A music video that comes to mind, is THANK U by Alanis Morissette. We all need a little music in this gloomy world today.

So…THANK YOU. I’m grateful! In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and claim that mildew is the very core reason, together with picture perfect harvest conditions, why the 2021 vintage, which could have become a very troublesome year, produced some of the most breath-taking wines I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste in my lifetime. Don’t believe me? Well, at least remember where you heard it first, so that you know where to go back reading about it when you’ll be crying you don’t have more 2021s in your cellar. I, for one, thank mildew - and the hard-working winemakers - for the opportunity to taste some truly mindboggling, world-class wines. B) Having said that, it’s quite interesting to see how professional wine journalism works. Especially when it comes to predicating how a vintage will turn out. Among fellow wine aficionados, some of them sommeliers and journalists, we often joke among ourselves how sometimes vintage reports or actual comments about the vintage quality, come out when there are still some weeks before harvest has even yet to commence. Quite amusing, when you think about it. So, in retrospective, how WAS the 2021 vintage in the German wine landscape? Well, I don’t have the exact data from every single square meter of German soil but a few weeks ago, Paula Sidore, writing for Jancis Robinson’s homepage (you know, the one Jancis no longer owns after she cashed out) published a vintage report titled “Germany 2021 - wet, wet, wet”.

In it, she describes the various perils some selected winemakers encountered during the growing season and how it might have negatively affected the vintage as a whole, with comments about the 2021 vintage like “a vintage that will be remembered for when the rain wouldn’t stop”. It was indeed a cool and rainy year in Germany. In some parts. Part of the time, but when reading comments like “And then the rains came. Across the country, the skies opened in June and seemingly forgot how to close. Countless rainstorms refilled the once-dry earth, and then some”, you are left with the image on your retina of an Apocalyptic Disaster where you’d better build Noah’s Ark to save yourself from the reckoning of the Flood. There were indeed some outlier events like the Hochwasser in the Mosel valley, not to mention the terrible flooding in the Ahr, but that had little to do with a summer of excessive rain but more due to how water catchment works in an area with dry soils combined with lots of precipitation in a short time, and would be too technical discussion about hydrology and soil science to merit an overview in this limited space. Nevertheless, she sums it up with this sentence: “The 2021 vintage will be remembered by and large for the power not of its wines (which this writer has yet to taste) but the power of its weather.” Well, then. Case closed. Enough said. The wines will most probably be forgotten and utterly diluted from such an appalling vintage.

I should probably leave it at that. I mean, why ruin a good story with something as boring as…facts? It’s not at all as entertaining and it won’t create as fun headlines for the tabloids but nevertheless… Just for the fun of it, let’s examine the facts, looking at, for example Rheinhessen (I could literally choose any winegrowing region since the “wet, wet wet” reference relates to open skies across the country. 2021 had 100 mm less rainfall in total than the much heralded and arguably great 2019 vintage (some 490 mm in 2021, compared to 590 mm in 2019). It is true, however, that 2021 indeed had a considerable spike in rainfall of 120 mm in June (when the grapes are tiny and hard), that lead to higher mildew pressure (unfortunately for me personally, because my beloved Scheurebe took a hit), but between July to October, every single month were drier than (the dry) 2019 vintage! Facts like that makes me sometimes wonder about wine journalism.

Asking Klaus-Peter Keller about the 2021 vintage, he replied that he experienced one really wet and humid month (June) but he was happy about it because the noticed that the vines really needed it after the dry 2018, 2019 and 2020. “Not only the vines but also the trees!”, he added. Despite the unfortunate consequences of flooding (Mosel) and flash floods (Ahr), nature urgently needed water after so many dry years. In fact, it can be very beneficial to the quality of grapes - not if you have extended periods of rain at harvest time but when you have high water content in the soil during the build-up phase in summer - but again, I could discuss the favourable mineral uptake and water distribution through the xylem and phloem of plants but that too would be more of a technical discussion, rather than a quick impression of wines actually tasted from the marvellous 2021 vintage. A quite cool August with single digit temperatures at night prolonged he ripening process and rewarded the winemakers with great flavour structure. And then came…September. Look at all the instagram posts from basically everywhere in Germany. Happy smiles - that was the month that became the real summer for the vines. Intense sunshine from blue skies caressed the grapes and accumulated sugar. Without this last-minute savoir, the vintage would be problematic to say the least and winemakers would struggle to get the grapes into full ripeness, just as you had in similarly cooler vintages like in 2013, 2008, 2004 and even back in 1996. In summary, 2021 seems to have become this vintage where really express the quality and characteristics of the soil, a vintage with high and ripe acidity, beautifully balanced by high dry extract. And all this THANKS a rainy June and THANKS to very too low yields, as a consequence from mildew and in some cases thanks also to old vines. If you, on the other hand, didn’t have a considerable yield reduction due to mildew and were not blessed with old vines, then you’re probably sitting on some larger volumes of wines that don’t have the desired concentration. Without the yield reduction, it would probably be close to the cool 1996 vintage, maybe even with higher acidity. Arguably exactly what you wish for in combination with residual sugar in sweeter wines but, unfortunately, sometimes creating rather unbalanced dry wines. So, during the sunny and warm autumn months, harvest was easy since the conditions were picture-perfect excellent but during June/July, there were some major challenges. Those who finally harvested grapes from low yields and from old vines has a brilliant, brilliant vintage in their tanks. In general, my best advice is to run, not walk, to obtain some of the precious gems that are now waiting to be released. A vintage like this doesn’t come too often.

While this little post of mine will be of the up-and-coming young Weingut in a small village called Flörsheim-Dalsheim in Rheinhessen, called Keller (great potential - with a little more work in the vineyards and more focus, they are certainly onto something… I would check them out, if I were you. :slight_smile:, I know many fellow wine aficionados in this forum are lovers also of Mosel Riesling so while I’m at it, why not also do some comparisons with Mosel? Rainfall in 2021 was about 790 mm, while 2020 had…more. About 805 mm. Also, the distribution of the rains was slightly different, with a spike in July in 2021 while June was the wettest month in 2020. Hence, a very wet July but not June, like in Rheinhessen. In the crucial months of August-September-October, there was almost double the precipitation in 2020 compared to 2021. (2020 vintage: 140 mm in Aug/Sep mm, 230 mm in Aug/Sep/Oct, while for the 2021 vintage: 86 mm in Aug/Sep, 120 mm in Aug/Sep/Oct). So, the wet, wet, wet analogy leaves me kind of puzzled. Could the professional reviewers really have missed out on a vintage that is nothing less than stellar? As always, boots on the ground, with personal visits to every wine estate is the preferred way to actually get a correct snapshot of a vintage.

If we move to the Saar, Peter Lauer has published his take on the vintage and mentions that “First, 2021 is clearly one of the cooler vintages of recent decades, comparable to 2010 and 2013. The acidity levels were correspondingly fresh. But what distinguishes 2021 from the equally cool previous years 2010 or 2013? The sun made the difference! It shone more often in 2021 than in other years of the last decade. Except for the three uncharacteristically hot vintages of 2018, 2019 and 2020. The quality-determining harvest months (September, October and November), which were all sunnier than the average of the years, particularly contributed to this relatively high proportion of sunshine in 2021. In addition to the cool and partly stony-fresh notes of the 2021 wines, there is therefore often a finely dosed fruitiness, which rarely seems exotic, but rather local-herbaceous.” You can read Florian’s full vintage report here

I also asked Egon Müller for their 2021 vintage report and here is what they wrote:

Winter once again was mild with plenty of rain in December, January and February. It wasn’t enough however, to balance the water deficit from the previous string of hot and dry years. February began cold with some snow but quickly it became very warm with temperatures reaching 18°C. Concerned by the ever earlier start of vegetation in recent years, we pushed through with the winter work, but the beautiful weather did not last long. From March through May it was colder than average. From May 14 to 26 it was rainy but otherwise quite dry. June was beautiful without extreme heat. Flowering began late, but proceeded quickly. Due to the dry conditions, we only started spraying on 22 June when flowering was almost finished.

On July 14, heavy rain, mainly over the Eifel, caused unprecedented flooding. It was worst on the Ahr but Kyll and Sauer also rose very quickly to never seen highs with great damage. The Saar, on the other hand, which rises in the Vosges, was hardly affected. The persistent humidity caused enormous Downy Mildew pressure. We sprayed systemically on July 16 and 17 and, after further heavy rains, on the 27th/28th. This treatment, the 4th, which was supposed to be the last, came a day late and there were infections on the grapes. We estimate the loss at about 20% and we had to treat the most heavily affected vineyards a fifth time.

August was very cool and humid, the young leaves continued to be infected by Mildew and verraison didn’t begin until the middle of the month. As the grapes softened, it became apparent that there were unusually big differences in ripeness even in adjacent plots, which appeared to be due to the mode of cultivation of the vineyards and the level of yield.

September was warm, dry and sunny. October was also nice and mostly warm. We started the harvest on October 11th, 3 weeks later than 2020. (In the 80s, that would have been considered early.) At the beginning of October it had rained a bit and the previously very healthy grapes began to rot. The sugar levels were consistently pleasing, acidity was after the cold August very high and the grapes were particularly aromatic. About half of our harvesting team were first-timers. Since there was not much noble rot overall, it turned out to be very difficult to train the new pickers. Therefore, we formed a selection team, with the most experienced pickers harvesting the Botrytis grapes while the main crew picked the remaining grapes behind them.

We finished the harvest on October 28th. The average yield is 30 hl/ha, the sugar levels are higher than in 2020 but do not reach the level of 2019, and the acidity gives the wines an almost electrical tension, which, in combination with the brilliant flavours, gives reason to hope for a very special vintage.

In additon, The VDP came with the following report and comments from selected winemakers:

The 2021 Vintage

Compared to the three previous years, a delayed budbreak was observed in 2021 due to the cool spring, which also resulted in a later flowering of the vines. The warm and humid weather in summer not only led to an enormous growth spurt of the leave walls, but at the same time also increased the infection pressure from the fungal diseases Oidium and Peronospora. In order to counteract the fungal pressure, the winegrowers entered a labour-intensive period of plant protection, which presented organic wineries in particular with sometimes great, but not insurmountable challenges. Precision, manual labour and many extra hours of detailed work steps were necessary to avoid major losses. Due to the late budding and the associated late harvest, especially in the VDP.GROSSE LAGE® and VDP.ERSTE LAGE® classification levels, the grapes had to be picked carefully and selectively in order to harvest the grapes at the optimal time of ripeness and, above all, healthy. Drought and lower temperatures not only led to a relatively long harvest period, but also to must weights that were significantly below the previous year’s. The harvest and the entire year 2021 will be remembered for a long time.

“It is difficult to make a general statement for all wineries because the local weather conditions were too different. In many cases, this led to greater yield losses - especially on wineries working organically - but did not affect the quality and character of the vintage. Here we expect fine, elegant, wines with longevity. A cool vintage that wine fans all over the world will continue to enjoy for a very long time!”

Hansjörg Rebholz, VDP.Weingut Ökonomierat Rebholz, Pfalz

"The 2021 vintage is the most dramatic and emotional we have ever had. The relief after the last grape has been picked is immeasurable. Without the solidarity, help and support of so many, we would not have managed all this. This has given us courage and strength to persevere.”
Meike Näkel, VDP.Weingut Meyer-Näkel, Ahr

“Looking back, we can say with satisfaction that we were able to harvest a very gracious vintage in 2021. In the summer, we would probably have signed everything, would we have known what fascinating and characterful wines awaited us at the end of the year as a reward for the sacrificial vineyard work. The weather conditions during the season challenged winemakers, staff, machinery and nature to and sometimes beyond their limits. I am convinced that the wines obtained from this year will still shine full of energy and youthful aromatics long after the efforts and the hard road to a successful harvest have been forgotten.”

Johannes Hasselbach, VDP.Weingut Gunderloch, Rheinhessen

Enough talking about the vintage! Time for some impressions of actual wines. So…next out of the blocks is Weingut Keller (remember, these impressions are just meant as quick glimpses of what’s to come - there will be an overload of impressions from Germany’s 2021 vintage, just to show that it can be done with a minimum of resources). Speaking of EIN MENSCH, as discussed in another thread about Helmut Dönnhoff, another of these truly Giants, in my humble opinion, has and always will be Klaus-Peter Keller. He’s the person I have probably learned most from in my life, and not just about wine, but also about friendship, humility and those other little small tidbits in life, like the simple fact that wine indeed brings people together. Yes, I know. I really do know that I’m in a very privileged position because I’m quite aware that many wine aficionados out there see him as this demi-God in the wine world, a true wine icon and celebrity, making stellar and hard-to-find wines. Sure, he is but to tell you the truth, having seen all aspects of his family life, I see him for what he really is. A humble farmer happy for the rare privilege to live a life spent outside in the vineyards, as opposed to being stuck working in an office, shuffling papers from one pile to another on the desk. And as a consequence of his obvious success, Klaus-Peter is a person who doesn’t indulge in fancy cars or a swimming pool in the backyard, but rather enjoys good food and good wine from around the world. If not most of all whatever comes from their own backyard garden.

Photography is another of Klaus Peter’s passions. Modesty prevents me from mentioning any names but thanks to first class tutoring for many, many years, young KP Skywalker has by now stepped out of the shadows of his more experienced mentor and is now talking photos second to none - you should see the magical images he captures with his outdated mobile phone (I try to encourage him to switch to a new Iphone with better resolution and specs, because he has the same outdated version as I do, number 8, but his telling answer when he refused to update was: “the beauty of imperfection” ), simply because he does what every photographer is dreaming of - being out ON SITE, where the magic happens. Like that rare second of light playfully shining through a misty morning fog as the sun rises above the Hipping vineyard outside Nierstein. Arrive 30 seconds later at the very same spot and the magical light might have disappeared and no matter how many photos you take from the very same place, they will never capture the same feeling. Photography happens to be a true passion of mine as well, but no matter how much fancy professional photo equipment I bring with me when I visit, it cannot compete with the simple fact that Klaus-Peter (KP from now on) is out there all the time, capturing those rare moments when light creates the real magic in a photo. He’s a winemaker who doesn’t just appear on the cover of glossy wine magazines for a photo shoot but who actually gets down and dirty in the vineyards or in the cellar on a daily basis. No wonder his photos from the vineyards are far superior compared to mine. I’m in the nagging business (Scheurebe, Chardonnay, to take a few examples) when it comes to KP and another persuasion project is that he should use his photos to produce a photography book from different seasons and different vineyards. It’s still a work in progress - I predict it will take another 2-3 years of nagging. Imagine, what a wonderful little surprise it would be to find a copy included his famous vintage box, “Kellerkiste von den Grossen Lagen”. Ooops, this turned out to be a long intro, far more than I had planned for, because my main objective was just to give you a quick glimpse of the new vintage as a teaser before I publish the more comprehensive tasting notes.

You can’t be mistaken when you see Julia and Klaus-Peter Keller together… They share the same passion.

As much as I’d love to just share some photos and impressions from the wines tasted already now, I still feel in every bone in my body that I can’t continue without adding some additional thoughts and comments about the Keller family. Many people I meet while on the road and at different wine events, talk about and think about Klaus-Peter Keller, when Weingut Keller is mentioned. I, who know the family, can give you a hint - Weingut Keller is not a one man show. Julia Keller, KP’s passionate wife, love and partner-in-crime, is as much involved in the magic as is KP. Not as a side-kick but as a central part of what Weingut Keller is really all about. If you don’t believe me, please join the harvest once and experience the “delightful” Julia in action (and bring ear plugs, because the birds are terrified to the point where need to seek professional counsel therapy and the wild boars are running their legs off to put as much distance between them and Julia as possible). I know this sounds confusing but you need to be there, then you will understand. Much better than me trying to use simple words to describe the feeling - you just need to experience it first-hand yourself. My doctor told me that my hearing should reach a full recovery but it will take some more years of healing. Let’s leave it at that. :stuck_out_tongue: And if don’t dare taking the plunge yourself, here is a previous account on how it feels harvesting with Julia at the helm.

Admittedly, it’s difficult for me to write about the Abtserde since I have this special relation to this vineyard. It’s the place where I lost my virginity… No kidding! This is a tale not much different to the Seinfeld episode “Rochelle-Rochelle, a young girl’s strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk”. (Here, if you’re into that…) But in a different setting. Ok, so I was a virgin. Yes, until very recently. I admit it. There’s no excuse. I simply hadn’t tried the awesome pleasure before, of what was my first step into the adult world of that “stuff” going on in the vineyards…

To begin this tale, I need to introduce the key player in my experience. Julia.

I like her. Not only is she very cute, as if that has anything to do about it (well, sort of, because the initial appearance is that she comes off as somewhat soft and feminine) but also very kind and generous as a person. And above all, she makes a killer osso buco. But for God’s sake!! Don’t let her soft, innocent appearance fool you! She plays the leading character in the tale of how I lost my virginity. However, she won’t enter the story until later. I took a little trip to Germany some years ago. It was late autumn. Well, I took several trips there when I think about it but this account originates from a very specific tour at end of October and hence right there smack in the middle of…harvest. Although I have been visiting the German wine regions on more occasions than I can possibly remember and although I have been there at the start of harvest many times, this was the first visit which coincided right there in the middle or rather even towards the end of harvest. My trip had so far been as awesome as ever, with hours and hours of tasting with my favourite winemakers and Keller was my last stop of the tour. The next day I was preparing to make it to the airport for a flight later that night but having noting much to do I asked the Kellers what they would be doing that same day, hoping to maybe join them to shoot some photos.

  • Oh, we’re harvesting the Abtserde, Julia replied. Do you wish to join and give us a helping hand?

Wow… That was a first! An opportunity to actually participate in a harvest for the very first time in my life and not just any kind of wine but harvesting the grapes from one of my absolute favourite vineyards in the world, the magical Abtserde. There was no hesitation before I quickly shouted a happy YES and joined the picking crew out to the vineyard, eager to get a taste of how it really feels to be harvesting the combined efforts of one year’s meticulous work and care of the precious vines. It was a lovely autumn’s day with some mist in the morning and a rising sun that would soon caress the lovely vines with golden sunshine and make the landscape picture perfect and oh-so -beautiful both for shooting some photos as well as picking grapes. After taking some pictures early in the morning I was given the standard tools for harvesting. A bucket and pliers to cut the bunches of grapes.

Ahhh, it was such a lovely day, I thought. The smell of autumn, to the sound of birds and the beautiful rays of sun caressing the yellow-green canopy and the inviting bunches of mature grapes. It took some moments of inner contemplation before I even kneeled down and grabbed a bunch in my hand to study it. How beautiful they looked. Truly the harvest of nature’s treasure. At first, I couldn’t bare myself to cut it but was stuck in a moment of awe as I studied and admired the beautiful grapes packed with sweet, luscious juice. I mean, just look at them. How juicy they are! Bursting with accumulated flavours from the sunshine, the earth, the rain…from Mother Earth. How easy to become philosophical and ponder on the great miracle of birth and growth. It reminds me of an old poem by… Oooops! Sorry. I finally snapped out of my philosophical contemplation, grabbed a bunch and started thinking of how and where I should cut it. Hmm, maybe at the top taking the whole cluster in one action. Or should I rather cut one part of the bunch and carefully remove the rest in a second cut? Or maybe, wait, maybe I’ll cut off some grapes on the lower side and then continue with the rest? So many questions but how soothing to just enjoy the silence of people working and minding their own business as they were harvesting along the rows of magical Abtserde. Ok, so I finally decided to cut just one part of the bunch. The left one. Cut. And the grapes fell into the empty bucket. Ahh, such a delight. So, THIS was harvesting? This tranquil, contemplative Zen moment of silence was synonymous to harvesting? Wow, then no wonder that winemakers really enjoy their work. This is so relaxing. So soothing. So…

I was completely immersed in my own thoughts and totally unprepared for the vocal eruption that hit my ears like a roaring tsunami and almost threw me onto the ground. It came suddenly. It came fast. And it came from nowhere, totally unexpected.

- M i i i i i i i i i r a a a a n ! ! ! !

It was Julia

Her voice no longer soft and feminine as silk. This was a deep, firm SHOUT that exploded in the air and ripped the silence apart, leaving me completely disorientated by the sheer force in her voice as she shouted. Was this really the same sweet, soft Julia Keller? What on earth was all this racket about and why was she shouting?, I wondered.

- What’s the matter?, I replied almost whispering.


“Bucket? What bucket??”, I wondered perplexed as I stared down the bottom of mine, where twelve grapes were now lying after my first cut of part of a grape bunch. Why would she need my bucket??

- Empty it NOOOOOOOOW!

…she shouted with a voice that must have left the poor birds in the vineyard absolutely paralysed with sheer Angst.

Astonished, I came to grips and walked towards her with my empty bucket just to see what the chaos was all about as I noticed that going towards her were also the pickers that came out to the vineyard together with me that same morning. And their buckets were full of grapes to the rim! With firm hands they all emptied their buckets and quickly returned to the position where they left to continue the picking. And now I saw for the first time how they were actually working. Cut-cut-cut…boom-bang-boom! The bunches of grapes were falling into the buckets at industrial pace and the workers seemed to be doing this as if they had never done anything else in their lives. No wonder they filled their buckets so quickly! Perplexed and somewhat off balance I returned to the row where I had started and stared at the grapes. Aha, so THIS was what harvesting was all about. Well, no worries. I could do it. After all, how hard could I be? It’s not rocket science. So, I kneeled down and began cutting. Cut! Cut! Cut! THAT will show them…! And would you believe it, having filled my bucket with only a little less than half, Julia’s voice again erupted and broke the peaceful silence.

I watched as the pickers rushed to empty their full buckets and return to their stations in less time it took me to straighten my back from this back-breaking position and take the first few steps towards the basket where all grapes were collected. With sweat pouring down my forehead; I emptied my few grapes and limped back to my row and again kneeled down to position myself to cut the lower grape bunches. This was really hard work! My back hurt, my hands were numb, I was thirsty and I just couldn’t believe that THIS was what harvesting was all about. After an hour I was completely exhausted. As I fought the pain in my back and stumbled across the rows to empty yet another bucket, I passed Julia and asked her with a voice full of hope:

- Is it time for a break soon?

- Yes, in a few hours! Now work!, she shouted back.

Huh! Looks can really be deceiving… Now THAT certainly wasn’t the soft-spoken and feminine Julia I have gotten to know. That was it! I’d had it! I gave up. No more harvesting, please! After an hour my body was surrendering and in no shape to cut even one tiny additional grape bunch. At least I’ve done it. I lost my virginity. I’ve actually harvested grapes for the first time in my life and in one of my all-time favourite vineyards. No longer a virgin I was happy to have done it, despite the numb fingers and the pain in my back.

And Julia…well, she’s still my friend, I still like her osso buco but I will never look at her with the same eyes ever again. Every time I will taste another wine from Keller, I will remember that heart-stopping…


And Abtserde…it will taste even more special now that I lost my virginity in this vineyard…

I digress. Back to the Keller family. Now, with their son Felix by their side and fully committed to working with the winery, while Klaus (KP’s father) is happily driving his tractor out in the vineyards (and occasionally sneaks into the cellar to taste Scheurebe from the barrels with me), you have three generations adding to the flavour, from different aspects and angles. Like older wisdom and experience from Klaus, mixed with fresh new ideas and enthusiasm from Felix, and then as a final additive, the passion from Julia and KP. Not a bad team indeed. And if you thought THAT would be the complete family, think again. I always enjoy discussing wine and comparing impressions whenever I have the chance to share a glass with Max, who has been a source of constant enthusiasm ever since he was a toddler and don’t you even dare think I have forgotten another family member and a good friend of mine, without which the Keller family wouldn’t be complete, Sir Pinot. The beloved family Labrador and joint (with yours truly) Royal Guardian of the Scheurebe plot in Morstein (we take turns in guarding it to protect it and keep KP out to allow the grapes to mature and be harvested at Kabinett level and nothing else…).

Every once in a while, Klaus sneaks into the cellar to check on young KP Skywalker - otherwise he loves his life on the tractor out in the vineyards.

Max, Julia and Felix at the VDP Auction in Bad Kreuznach in November last year. Keep an eye on Max… He is currently studying in Munich and I predict he will play a major role in the future of German wine business one day…

I will try to share much more detailed impressions in The Riesling Report on all things Keller but if I could just mention one more thing, that’s constantly been on my mind when it comes to the impact Keller has on wine in Germany (and elsewhere). As impressive as the wines are, I think the REAL legacy from Keller family right now and since many years back, have been the way they act as a nursery to other young and passionate winemaker generations. I believe this is an over-looked contribution that is seldom mentioned. There are so MANY different things the Keller family is doing under the radar, that in time will take root, grow and develop into new emerging superstars that will benefit all of us thirsty wine lovers in the future. Not just in Germany but all over the world, where younger generations are now working on their own land, influenced and inspired from what they have learned from internships while working together with Julia and KP. This is as an important contribution as their fabulous wines, if, in fact, not even more important. It’s of course a long-term investment in the next generation and I will probably be six feet under since long before many of these new super stars will emerge but at least I get to benefit in a small scale already now from this commendable nursery activity - why do you think I rush over to Julian Haart in Piesport and Peter Leipolds in Obervolkach on a regular basis…? [blush2.gif] They are on a path towards becoming icons themselves one day in the future - what they needed when they took their first fledgling baby steps to where they are now, was a little nurturing through a friendly pad on their back and some experience gained from working with people who excel at their craft, like Julia and KP.

The purpose of this little snapshot is to report on the 2021s from Keller but as always, any young wine vintage presentation is also a stellar opportunity to taste the previous vintage for the reds. The 2020 vintage once again brought wonderful small-berry grapes and excellent ripeness. All Pinots are between 12.4% and 12.9% in alcohol, so very moderate for a warmer vintage. KP told me that this year they increased the proportion of whole bunches (i.e. non-stemmed bunches) to take advantage of the delicate flavour and freshness of the stems; a method practiced in Burgundy by the Dujac, Leroy and Domaine de la Romanée-Conti wineries. The use of whole cluster is up to 50% for Bürgel and Frauenberg, while Reserve du Fils and Morstein are both completely hand-destemmed - but only the green middle part is thrown out while the side stems are still in full contact with the berries - again a method used by Leroy for their Grand Cru Pinots.“It’s the way you get the purest fruit and the finest expression of soil in your wines”, KP added. This practice takes the heat out in warmer vintages and makes the wines more precise and are wonderfully balanced. For sure, they might need a little longer to mature, but then captivate your senses with their wonderful flavour and complexity combined with great finesse. Sounds easy? Please bear in mind that you need six people one day per barrel. So it’s crazy work! But you need to know Felix in person to understand that even this daunting task is possible if you are stubborn enough. Already at age of 9 he loved to sit for hours and hours hand-destemming for his own wines. And that’s what he is doing with those two cuvées.

Unfortunately, yields in 2020 were again super low, about 20 percent less yield because the berries were particularly small and loose-grained but the thick skins are also full of the finest aromas. They are bottled unfiltered and unpumped and moved only by natural gravity.

Bürgel: 29 hl/ha

Frauenberg: 23 hl/ha

Reserve du Fils: 21 hl/ha

Morstein: 14 hl/ha

So, low production but the quality…the quality! It’s fun to hear KP talk about and explain the progress at the winery. The main reason, he claims, for the jump in quality, is that he now that Chef KP has Felix as a great Sous-Chef by his side so that he himself can fully concentrate on Riesling when Pinot noir is harvested and Felix concentrates on the Pinot fermentation. Together, they decide when the open oak fermenters are ready for pressing (two basked presses, one over a 100 -years-old, are used for pressing the reds).

Let’s give them a taste, shall we!?

2020 Keller Spätburgunder Réserve du Fils
Well-well, the first wine I tasted was really done in a very, very annoying setting. Normally I prefer to taste wine in a quiet room, allowing for contemplation in silence as I gather my thoughts and write my tasting notes but when tasting the 2020 Keller Spätburgunder Réserve du Fils, the music from the loudspeakers keep pumping out this heavy rhythm, making it almost impossible to focus on the wine. Such a pity, because when tasting it, I felt it had so much potential, with this wild, wild, rebellious teenager defiance, like a wild child. Think a young James Dean driving a cabriolet, with this hair in all directions from the wind. It was so childishly playful, with loads of spices and an intriguing mixture of raspberry flavours together with dark, dark berries that together created…IF THEY COULD JUST STOP THAT DAMN MUSIC WHILE TASTING! It felt like the damn bouzouki players in the Cheese Shop sketch by Monty Python. I’m VERY surprised that Klaus-Peter would ruin, what could have been a nice tasting, with that DAMN music! Until I realised…the music didn’t come from any loudspeakers. In fact, there weren’t even any loudspeakers in the room. The music came from…the wine. I can scribble down line after line of tasting notes about how this wine tasted but nothing will come even close to simply playing you this song, and you will know exactly how it tasted. Please turn up the volume and make sure to give it a chance by at least listening to the first 30 seconds - and ABOVE ALL - look at the photos, and you will know what I mean. THIS - exactly - is what will be waiting on your palate if you open a bottle of Réserve du Fils.

In other words, wild, rebellious, defiant with a wild spiciness to it and a moist, black forest floor texture and aromas, with a firm grip and a ticklish sensation of minerality and a final uplift from the tension in the wine. KP and Felix used a lot of stems in this vintage, which they prefer to remove from the berries and hand-select for inclusion in the fermentation vats, as this way, they can make sure they only have perfectly lignified stems in the vats. Of course, it’s super young at this stage but this is delicious already now and when you have a wine you don’t seem to be able to leave but keep coming back to, you know you’re in the presence of something special. 94-97 points. With a big smile. What a FUN wine! I realise it’s a rather broad score range but as you might notice from my impressions, with a wild child like that, at this early stage, I really don’t know where it’s heading but I certainly do admit I had a hard time putting the wine down and continue with the next, because this one really left me intrigued, and bewildered, with its wild and defiant behaviour. What it is, is a family teamwork where there was some considerable labour required. What a success story!

I have seen the future, and it looks bright with James Dean, eh, I mean Felix Keller…

Notice the similarities…? :slight_smile:

2020 Keller Dalsheim Bürgel Spätburgunder GG
The 2020 Keller Bürgel Spätburgunder GG from Dalsheim is still planted on 100% German Pinot noir clones (but the Kellers used covid time to ungraft some Massale in the Bürgel, so, from the 2021 vintage and onwards, it will be a mixture of French Massale selection and German clones) and has now come to a considerable age. KP, can you tell us when the vineyard was first planted? Is it 50 years by now? Today the wine was firing on all cylinders from the get-go. Such a lovely playful wall of spiciness with a touch of raspberries as background, pierced with darker fruit to make the whole drinking experience feel deeper and more complex. What I loved about the Bürgel was this sense of…harmony. Rarely do I remember such elegant harmony already at this young stage but it impressed with its inner balance. Juicy feeling, lip-smacking succulence and that wonderful and prolonged tension from the limestone minerality made this a winner in my book. The tannins are so polished and fine-grained that it allows for the fruit to take a centre stage, despite its mineralic grip all the way to its core. This is all about focus, grip and tension. I’m happy it was just meant to be sampled, not consumed - otherwise I would have been completely sloshed already from the beginning. 93-95 points. Just WOW. When attending a dinner recently, we discussed how fun it would be to compare Keller’s Pinots with those from really good Burgundy producers and we decided that in a joint effort we will scramble together some bottles from both camps and have a blind tasting. With this level, I think it will be very interesting to make that comparison.

2020 Keller Nieder-Flörsheim Frauenberg Spätburgunder GG
Massale clone selection from Burgundy, resting in barrels from you-know-who in Burgundy, no surprise then that the 2020 Keller Frauenberg Spätburgunder GG is just an absolute delight. Not as opulent and “immediate” as the Bürgel but instead imagine a camera lens where you adjust the sharpness even further. This is slimmer and more precise in its texture than the flirtier Bürgel. Here you get a more delineated, firm, yet elegant cornucopia of cool, red fruit. Classic and aristocratic, almost recumbent in its erect, noble style, the Frauenberg oozes with class. I wonder of this could possibly even be used as the source of blood and iron extraction on an industrial scale. Again, lie its sibling, the tannins here are so lovely polished and integrated into the fruit, creating such a delightful harmony and impeccable balance between its components. Beautiful tension and long finish make it no surprise why many people are going gaga over this. Long-long finish and hence almost a little annoying that you need to wait for it until you can taste the next wine. 93-96 points.

2020 Keller Westhofen Morstein Spätburgunder Cuvée Felix (Auction)
Oh yes! Oh yes, indeed… Those were the first words I scribbled down on paper while enjoying the smooth, velvety waves of red fruit splashing around on my palate. Compared to the wines above, there is a distinct sense of greater depth and more complexity in this wine. Above all, the first impression is that of utter…harmony. Yes-yes, I know I scribbled down “harmony” in some other tasting notes as well, but what should a poor old man otherwise say when that’s the fact. If even possible, there’s even more harmony here, like an extra layer of soothing and relaxed pleasure. Such a lovely sense of balance among the different characteristics already from the very first sip. A sense of noble elegance that just carefully caresses your palate as an initial impression and then slowly invites you deeper inside, where you discover the impressive depth. It feels as if you could pick up a shovel and start digging though several layers of spices, lingon-berries, mixed with dark cherries and even black plums, not to mention the minerality sprinkled through every layer. So smooth, so elegant, so velvety…you hardly feel the touch of the wine on your tongue. George Costanza from Seinfeld would LOVE this wine (see below). Complex, focused, sensual and with a long, long finish. This is truly a Grand Vin. A dream would be to one day have a blind tasting with this (and the following) wine together with some Grand Cru Burgundies. Unfortunately, I own exactly zero bottles, so that will have to remain a dream in theory only. 95-97 points.

George Costanza on the velvety feeling of 2020 Keller Morstein Spätburgunder Cuvée Felix…

2019 Keller Morstein Spätburgunder Cuvée Felix (Auction)
Someone suggested we should compare the 2020 with the 2019 version. I don’t know who suggested it but whoever it was, he deserves a big hug. Oh damn it! This is dialled in from the very start. COME TO PAPA! The fermented juice in the glass is sooo…VIBRANT! Like the 2020 version is too adds utter harmony and balance from the very beginning but adds this wildly shaking oscillation of pure energy. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised with one more year in the bottle but still…holy cow! This is a stunner! Imagine the 2020 version as comparison and then imagine a camera lens that you turn slightly for a little more sharpness (or focus if you will), a little more power, a little more “Spitz Gefühl”. It’s like everything is more tense, like you grabbing the belt around your trousers to tighten it a notch. A sense of focused tension, full of vivid energy and vibrant tension. What this greater feel of sharpness brings to the wine, is that it seems to open up doors to other layers, making it easier for the minerality and spiciness to compete with the luscious fruit of both fresher pomegranate seeds mixed with luscious plums, cherries and wild strawberries, and together create a different textural and mineral-driven profile, compared to the more sensual 2020 vintages of this wine. Funny, but comparing the 2019 and 2019 Keller Morstein Spätburgunder Cuvée Felix, very much reminds me of the 2019/2020 vintages in Barolo, with the 2020 being darker and smoother while the 2019 is more sturdy and powerful. At the end of the day, both are as delicious so it’s only a matter of personal preference but today, here and now, I’ll give my nod of approval to the fabulous 2019 vintage. 98 points. I believe that with this staggering beauty, KP is up and running with the Big Boys in the Pinot noir world. No wonder, given his experience and the support he is given from some of the very best in Burgundy. In fact, this might be one of the best red wines I have had in a long time and definitely the best German red wine I’ve had the privilege to taste. What an unbelievable treat to be able to compare these two beauties side by side!

(to be continued…)


Part II.

So how was the 2021 growing season for Weingut Keller? Well, a quick look at KP’s own report and assessment, we can conclude that the 2021 vintage was a late bloomer. March and April stayed cool, but fortunately their vineyards were spared the late frosts that have repeatedly caused damage in recent years. With flowering delayed by almost three weeks, compared to the previous year, the rain came in June, which the vines urgently needed after four dry to very dry years. June had 17 rainy days, with almost 120 mm of precipitation. In one way, it was a blessing for the vines, garden and the fruit trees. On the other hand, the frequent precipitation meant high fungus pressure, mildew infestation, small working windows and often full commitment at the weekend. With the pleasant summer temperatures, the vine growth seemed to literally explode and they had great difficulty in keeping up with the work. And then…when the German Weather Service again warned of “extreme storms” and “continuous rain” in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July, it lead to considerable worries, not just for Weingut Keller but for many estates. The weather app showed 108 mm of precipitation in just one day for July 14th, with the expected severe erosion in the vineyards and further increased fungal pressure on the vines. With these conditions, nature really demanded a lot of work in June and July, reports KP. The heavy rain on July 14 just missed the vineyards of Weingut Keller but hit parts of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Ahr with full force. An avalanche of mud and water not only destroyed houses, bridges and vineyards, but also 134 people died that day in the floods of the Ahr. A tragedy that still stuns the German wine community today. When the extent of the disaster became apparent, the Keller family drove together with the entire team, equipped with generators, pumps, hoses and shovels to their friends and colleagues in the Ahr Valley to support and help them. Fortunately, in addition to plenty of rain, June and July luckily also brought a lot of sun. Both months had significantly more hours of sunshine than August, which was cool but also dry. Compared to the previous year, KP estimates they were three to four weeks behind in the vegetation at this point and knew that they would only achieve excellent quality with small yields and a nice Indian summer.

On the other hand, cooler August days and nights increased the chances of particularly aromatic grapes and musts. So, nature indeed offered a Yin-Yang of contrasts. A rainless (23 mm) and sunny September initiated the final ripening phase of the grapes. A glorious Indian summer weather put smiles on many winegrowers’ faces. The good water supply for the vines in combination with the cool August and September nights increased the potential and the possibility for particularly fine aromas in the grapes. This phase in the vegetation cycle, a summer in September, came as a true blessing after all the challenges in the course of the year so far. I know…because I too was harvesting both Schubertslay, Kirchspiel and Morstein. The grapes were loose and healthy on the vine when the harvest started in mid-September, about two weeks later than in 2020. First it was Felix’s sparkling wine parcels; 2021 will be an excellent sparkling wine year: small yields, classy acidity, perfect conditions for great sparkling wines. But there’s no point in talking too much about it and make the readers here in this forum water their mouth in anticipation just yet, because you’ll have to be patient for a few more years before you can enjoy the sparkling wines (the Keller family used the covid period to build a champagne warehouse with Felix - there, under perfect conditions, his sparkling wines will get the maturity they need to shine in a few years).

After the sparkling wines, they harvested the first Pinot Noirs in Bürgel and Morstein, and the higher-lying Frauenberg followed a little later. The weather was almost perfect. Small showers in the middle of the month were followed by ten dry and sunny days, in which they were able to bring in excellent qualities. The hard work put into the vineyards throughout the year was worth it and in 2021 it became clear once again why the work of the winegrower in the vineyard is always an essential factor in the meaning of the French term TERROIR comes to that. As KP points out, “you never only taste the vintage, the location, the soil, but always also the people who cultivate and nurture the vines with great dedication and passion throughout the year”. The red Burgundies were followed by Weissburgunder and Chardonnay, with some of barrels waiting in the cellar at a quality level that might not have been seen before. Multi-layered, velvety, complex Burgundies that seem to put a big smile on KP’s face (you should see him when he talks about his Silvaner wines…). At the beginning of October, they continued with the original Rheinhessen variety, the Silvaner, which the Keller family historically have always valued very much. Small in yield, big in quality. From the Grüner Silvaner to Silvaner Feuervogel, the 2021 Silvaner wines have a lot of Rheinhessen soul when you taste them from the glass. Fine herbs, salty, complex aromas: apparently there were quite a lot of goosebumps among the family members in the cellar when they tasting the barrel samples and I can only concur when tasting the tank samples (see below). I’ll let KP continue: “Happy and therefore a little euphoric, we went into the last two weeks of harvest: week six and seven and thus more than two weeks longer than 2020! They had matured long and slowly, and some of the best grapes of the vintage were now hanging on the vine, ready for harvest. We were able to harvest thick-skinned, aromatic grapes for our Riesling “von der Fels” and the Grosse Gewächse from great plots with limestone subsoil. Nierstein and hill country In Nierstein, the slope benefited particularly from the water-rich 2021 vintage: small, loose-berry grapes with a perfect balance of sugar and acidity. We are never concerned with high yields. In 2021, small yields were the basic requirement for flavour density and complexity. If the 2017 vintage has so far been cited a lot in our winery as a reference for great wines from the red slope, I would cautiously indicate that something in this hierarchy might change with the 2021 vintage. The time will tell. Anyway, it’s gonna be damn good! Then we continued here in the hills and we are sure that nature also felt that our great-grandfather Georg bottled the “Oberen Hubacker” here for the very first time 100 years ago, because the grapes from there smiled at us: long and slowly matured, great intensity in taste, rich in finesse and mineral! Oberer Hubacker at its best! The heart of the 2021 “von der Fels” also comes from there. The harvest in Kirchspiel and AbtsE began at the end of October. Here, too, we have small quantities, but the very best quality, which we gently pressed with our small press. A fantastic end to the harvest in Morstein and AbtsE. The 2021 wine year began with a lot of precipitation, the exceptionally good September (“summer in September”) and the sunny October have ensured that very special character wines will be bottled again in 2021. Character wines that would not have grown if only the sun had shone. It was important once again to be very close as a winegrower and to accept the challenge in the phases in which nature again demanded everything from us. Anyone who was willing to do so has extraordinary qualities in the cellar. The 2021 vintage ends for us with an extremely satisfied smile on our faces.” It’s difficult not to salivate just from a description like that and see KP’s happy face when he talks about the vintage. :slight_smile:

2021 Keller Grüner Silvaner trocken
Oh dear… Imagine an Aligoté from d’Auvenay - but with a different price tag. A lovely “clip” immediately on the first sip, it just bitch slaps you (no pun intended, Will Smith) into awakening with a lovely acidity I’m not used to in Keller’s Silvaner, followed by a lovely mixture of green apples, pear and would you believe it, some cactus. Just this pure Silvaner feeling throughout, supported by a refreshing acidity and finished with a lip-smacking sensation of minerality and salinity - I told you so, you need more. I dare you to find a wine of this quality at this price… 89-91 points. The drinkability index is high here and I had to remind myself to taste and spit and not swallow, because I kept coming back to this wine again and again. I had to laugh when KP said at the table while we were tasting this beauty that a friend was mailing photos of white asparagus and KP answered: “You have white asparagus, we have Silvaner - what are you doing tonight?”

2021 Keller Westhofen Silvaner trocken
Oh, deeper… You can really sense how the layers open up and invites you to more complex aromas beneath that upper layer of pear mixed with yellow and green apples. I love this sensation of polished pebbles in a spring mountain creek, a sense of purity and lightness while retaining a broader kind of brush strokes on the palate, simply more stuffing. Apparently, a plot adjacent to Abtserde in Westhofen and well, the rate of evaporation while you drink this bottle will be rampant and make you demand a refund from the winemakers, or at least a re-fill. Robert Dentice is absolutely right, there is indeed a Silvaner Revolution going on - and it won’t be televised. 91-92+ points.

2021 Keller Silvaner trocken Alte Reben Feuervogel
From 60-year-old vines, this comes out shining like a super star, with layers of yellow/green fruits, a sprinkle of spices and a zappy minerality not often seen in Silvaner. This just shows you what can be done when you combine meticulous attention to detail in a vineyard with old vines on top of limestone rock. Did you taste Silvaner wines a long time ago and still have that drinking experienced etched into your memory? Fuggetaboutit, as Lefty would have snorted in the movie “Donnie Brasco”, this is something completely different.

It offers up such an intriguing combination of both being aromatic (but not in any ripe, bombastic and super-fruity style) but the vehicle of transportation into your mouth and onto your palate is that of a sleek, precise and utterly pure sensation of minerality, polished stones and a summer’s bouquet of flowers. It’s light, yet complex, with grip and energy that keeps you coming back for another sip, then another then…until KP looks at you and silently (with his eyes only) asks you why I’m holding an empty bottle…? Ahhh, there are OTHERS at the table that want some too? If anyone would have told me… 94-95 points.

2021 Keller Neu Bamberg Schlossberg Silvaner trocken Alte Reben
Oh Lord…now this is an intriguing creature! The new Silvaner plot (but with old vinews…some 60+ years) and the first vintage in a highly unusual setting, like one of the those old “Clos”, enclosed plots of vineyards, surrounded by stone walls, like you can find in Vouvray, Loire. Still in Rheinhessen but very close to Nahe, this is a magical place. Some 30 million years ago, there was a sea called Mainzer Becken and this region is basically at the crossroads between land and sea in ancient times, with the Neu Bamberg vineyard sittings at the very border where the sea ended - they call it “brandungsriff”. For millions of years, oysters settled on the top of the volcanic rhyolithe soil, resulting today in a unique combination of 60 cm chalk on top and rhyolite soil below. I wonder if the oysters knew that millions of years later, one day early dawn on October, pickers would arrive with empty buckets and harvest the beautiful nectars of old Silvaner vines… The wine? You want to know about the wine? Patience, young Skywalker! It opens up very reduced, even muffled but with each sip and more time in the glass, it opens up and reveals broad brush strokes of yellow fruit embedded in a bouquet of flowers. The salinity dances around the yellow apples while spices keep pumping up the volume. This one still needs time, as you can still feel yeasty notes on the finish so I will defer any rating right now but Oh Boy, how much potential is hidden in this beautiful creature! I’m tempted to give it a high score already now, despite my inner feeling that it needs more time for a fair assessment but I don’t really want to add to the already apparent hype of this super rare wine (“The G-Max of Silvaner”…Robert Dentice, imagine how difficult it will become to get our hands on this ultra-rare creature!). So instead, I’ll leave it for the next tasting (people who know me will of course see right through this nonsense and understand I’m just teasing with the winemaker in the hope of luring him to give me another chance to taste this again).

Neu Bamberg Silvaner plot, just at the crossroads between land and an ancient sea.

Normally you have either chalk or volcanic soil - here you have the very rare combination of both, with oysters on top from the ancient seabed.

This particular picker had to be reprimanded for tasting and eating too many grapes while harvesting - thus the ultra-low production this year.

Mature Silvaner grapes from Neu Bamberg bursting with flavours at cold temperatures early in the morning.

You might think Julia is The Boss but think again… Sir Pinot is watching closely to make sure picking is done efficiently.

Apparently, some people are picking grapes with a smile, despite the freezing temperatures early in the morning.

Julia and KP are an important part of the A-Team, the very “spitz” when it comes to Keller’s harvest team.

So, in summary, some of the very best Silvaners I have tasted at Chez Keller, if not the best. And again - why? Because of combination low yields from mildew, a prolonged, slow ripening season, with cool temperatures (and extra high acidity), together with a picture-perfect September. All this has created just amount of freshness from the higher acidity that Silvaner, sometimes lacks in warmer vintages. I cannot stress fervently enough, to PLEASE hide these beauties away from Robert Dentice! Otherwise, you’ll have to wrestle him and try to bend off his cold, dead fingers before you can grab a bottle to yourself… [neener.gif]
2021 Keller Chardonnay Réserve “Felix”
Great confusion seemed to be lingering at the table when this wine was poured, which was a little of surprise to me because I thought I was crystal clear in my communication. Julia and Felix in particular, looked astonishingly surprised when I gave them the measurements of my rented car and claimed that with a little effort and help from the entire Keller family, we should be able push the barrel and squeeze it into the car. “Why on earth would be push the barrel into your car?”, Felix wondered, to which Julia nodded affirmatively as if she seemed to have been caught complete off guard when she puzzled repeated my modest request load to herself. I can only cite my old friend Tino, when he was drinking Keller’s Morstein: “THIS, we drink ourselves”. Meaning: this wine the Kellers shouldn’t put out on the market at all - we’ll just drink it up ourselves (to which KP never seem to listen, despite the great advice). In this case, I’d like to modify “we” to an “I”. This wine, I drink by myself. What an absolute delight! The first second you put your lips to the wine you immediately feel tension and energy. There’s a dynamic electricity throughout the palate, just like a great Chardonnay is supposed to be. I’m just surprised that you would have this quality from basically the first production year (vines are three years old) from the new high-density planting by Felix and KP. There is an impressive intensity that creates a firm backbone to the fruit components. And oh, the fruits, the brightly yellow apples, even a touch of yellow plums and melon but above all this cool, fresh feeling of slow-ripening Scandinavian winter apples. Like looking through a frosty window in winter. So utterly refreshingly cool. I hesitate to give this such a high score knowing it’s just the first stumbling step on what will hopefully be a very successful journey but I have to follow my heart and judge it as I actually see it. This is a GREAT Chardonnay already now and has that immediate appeal that doesn’t make you hesitate for a second. Pass the bottle! Again, please. 91-93 points. I suspect that with some more time, I’d probably be leaning towards the latter assessment but don’t take my word for it - hunt it down and find out for yourselves – I’d love feedback and comparison of impressions on this wine. I remember muttering something about the Keller family should be shifting focus and consider starting up a bigger production of Chardonnay and I still remember Julia’s words: ”Wait until you taste the Rieslings…” She was indeed right! I really did enjoy their Rieslings, both dry and off-dry, so I take back my statement. This wine, above all, is a showcase of what Germany is capable of when you combine excellent soils with ditto experience, passion and winemaking from the very best. Bravo!

2020 Keller Alte Reben Réserve
Lovely! That’s the first note I scribbled down. It comes packed with energy and complexity from the first sip of this mixture of Weissburgunder and Chardonnay. Love the sensation of green, noble, ticklish minerality. Not ”green” as in green apples but imagine rather something that could best be described by a mixture of stone melon, cactus and that Fazer mint candy that are best described simply by adding a link to a picture here. It’s not sweet but dry, cool and somehow just lovely ”green”. The texture and midpalate is quite intriguing. My best description is the inside of a freshly baked baguette, imagine this feel of light and delicate bread, almost champagne-like in its clarity and freshness, and despite that, it has structure with broad brush strokes of mineralic cactus/green melon. Lovely saline backbone on the finish. Makes it lip-smacking and makes you crave for more. A class act. I might be too stingy here but 92-93+ points.

Next up are the Rieslings.

(to be continued…)


Part III.

2021 Keller Riesling von der Fels
Outrageously sharp and delightfully clear-cut acidity, not in any bad way. Imagine, again, because I think I have used the same description for another wine, an ultra-sharp Hattori Hanzo Samurai sword where you have asked the knife Master to polish it a bit to a still sharp but rounded blade. You can still kill your opponents but they will enjoy the cut more. B) What I believe is mostly Kirchspiel fruit, with added extras from some of the other Grand Cru vineyards, offers an initial first wave of freshness, only to change into this lovely bright note of grapefruit, ripe, zesty and fresh-squeezed citrus fruits and hints of…I know there will be few fellow wine aficionados who will follow me now, but hints of toronja, those pink grapefruits found in the Amazon rainforest if you travel up the river Orthon in the deepest of Bolivian Amazon. It’s so FRESH and bright and shiny, like when Kate Blanchet offers Frodo the Light of Eärendil in The Lord of the Rings.

“May it be a light to you in dark places when all other lights go out.” Or imagine a classic laser sable from Star Wars. It just oozes with energy. I love the vibrant structure, the coolness of the fruit (like slow-ripening fruit from Scandinavia) and the lovely elevator lift from the sappy and energetic saline minerality that pushes you up from the chair when drinking this impressive nectar. Don’t have the money to chase after the GGs? Stop chasing - drink as a Royal here and now. 92-95 points. This beauty is impossible not to like and only the staring eyes from the others around the table prevented me from grabbing the bottle, rising from the chair and make a run for it, just like Miles in Sideways (watch from 1:57 - that’s me with a bottle of Keller Riesling von der Fels…).

2021 Keller Westhofen Kirchspiel Riesling GG
This is a stunner…and basically just continues where the fabulous Riesling von der Fels ends. No wonder since there are some barrels if Kirchspiel in it! The bright sensation is persistent throughout the tasting experience but here you have more of a mandarin and yellow peach notes in the shining cornucopia of freshness and citrus fruits. Actually, I’m a little surprised by this Riesling. One of my ongoing ”quarrels” with KP since almost 20 years now, is that I feel he has fine-tuned the Kirchspiel a little too much. Initially, I always loved it for its broader texture and spicy aromas, with plenty of mandarin and peach. Over the years I have watched how KP slowly has fine-tuned it into a more and more precise, slim and focused creature, which, I admit, is his personal style of preference - and who wouldn’t as a winemaker make a wine you like yourself? - but nevertheless, I have always wished for a little more “dense” structure and would you believe it, in a cooler vintage like the 2021, we’re actually a little (note little - it’s still a marvel of elegance) step back towards what it once was. A lovely brightly yellow note of mandarin, yellow peaches and above all, a juicy, succulent feeling that just keeps hitting all the right notes. It keeps pumping out those peachy flavours without falling into that too light territory I have given KP such a hard time about over the years. 95-97 points. What a wine… I could have stayed with this one all night long but “unfortunately” the next one in the line-up was already waiting and asking for my attention…

2021 Keller Dalsheim Oberer Hubacker Riesling GG
Such wonderful news from the Keller family! From this vintage and onwards it’s actually a “Monopole” called Oberer Hubacker, as a celebration to Great-great-grandfather Georg Keller III who in 1921 bottled the first Hubacker, a mixture of Riesling and Gewürztraminer from the particularly calcareous soil in the Upper Hubacker and now 100 years later, it has come around full circle with its original name coming back to life. I LOVE history and I love tradition! More about the background story later - first some tasting impressions. Well, Hello! Hubacker at its best. So erect (no pun intended), so noble, standing like a proud statue, chiselled out of the hardest and most precious marble. Here, obviously (the favourite expression of Andy Murray, yes, the tennis player - check out any interview and you’ll understand what I mean), KP did a major mistake that could cost him dearly. I don’t know how the insurance policies look like for a winery when important equipment breaks down but I’m sure negligence by the winemaker in handling the equipment might render a higher premium. What has clearly been forgotten here is the simple fact that a wine press is meant for…grapes. Not pure limestone rock or stone pebbles. After all, the grapes are supposed to be gently squeezed in a press but this…well, this can only result in some major damage to the finer parts of the machinery. I’m a bit surprised, to be honest, how an experienced winemaker like KP could have forgotten the cardinal rule of grape pressing. Instead, with this obvious faux pas, the consumer is left with pure liquid mineral. I mean, imagine pressing stones - you get a bright, cold, mineralic liquid that feels like, well, rocks. How else could I describe this? So pure, transparent, erect and just irresistible. I could have sworn it was a G-Max had I had it blind but it clearly says Hubacker on the label. What a vintage to continue the legacy! 95-98 points. And think about it, to give you some perspective… What kind of hardships George Keller III must have experienced 100 years ago. The war that plagued Europe was over with millions suffering, people being poor, the Spanish flu was in full swing, the economy was ailing, inflation was rising…I could think of better circumstances for a wine to be born. Then came the hot summer of 1921 which resulted in fully ripe grapes and was followed by gorgeous autumn weather that crowned the vintage. The refractometer showed a sensational 114 °Oechsle at harvest and the grapes tasted powerful and noble. Next year, in the early summer of 1922, the entire Keller family bottled the wine together, labelling the bottles and packing them in straw tubes. George III delivered from the winery. From then on they went to the customers themselves in heavy wooden crates, most of the bottles went to restaurants in southern Germany. With that, George III, laid the foundation for what the Keller winery is today. Looking further back, you realise that it’s a vineyard with a fascinating history. In 1789, Johann Leonhard Keller acquired the 4-hectare limestone slope that was owned by the monastery and was called “Oberer Hubacker”. The 25-30% south-east exposed slope lies in the rain shadow of the Donnersberg at 180 to 200 meters above sea level. Around 30,000 Riesling vines (mainly from the Saar) grow there on skeletal clay marl and limestone soils, which Hedwig Keller, KP’s mother, selected herself as a young woman at the viticulture school and brought with her to Rheinhessen when she married Klaus. 200 years ago it was often too cool on the well-ventilated slope and the grapes did not ripen perfectly or only ripened at the end of November, they were simply too acidic to be able to press great wines from them. It’s one of my favourite vineyards. I realise I could say that about basically any of Keller’s vineyards, however there is at least a very special place in the Hubacker vineyard that has become my favourite place - a six meter high natural stone tower built by family and friends has been at the centre of the location since the year 2000. It is dedicated to Hedwig Keller, who has always loved the wines from the Hubacker. I took some of my favourite photos of KP standing on top of that tower. I called the photo shoot - The Maestro. :slight_smile:

The Maestro…conducting his orchestra.

2021 Keller Nierstein Hipping Riesling GG
I have known the Keller family long enough to actually be able to retell the story about how KP acquired the very filet parcel in Hipping. So, THIS is how Roter Hang from Nierstein with plenty of moisture in the soil tastes like!? WOWSA! You can literally feel the mineral uptake from the roots: This is such a classic Hipping with all its typical characteristics that makes the Hipping vineyard such a magical place on Planet Earth. It pops out of the glass like one of these prank boxes (when you open it a squeezed-in figure pops out and scares the shit out of you, not unlike Barolo Margheria does, compared to other vineyards, if you want a Barolo analogy). This is positively brimming with bright energy, zest and oscillating energy, totally and utterly flirting your pants off with its unbridled enthusiasm. Think white flowers, white peach, freshly squeezed, cooled grapes and absolute crystalline brilliance! I swear, you could shine around in the darkness with this line when all other lights have faded. This is all about super-tension and vivid energy, the bottle literally vibrates from the trapped energy inside. This is such a palate cleanser and such a teaser that I have a hard time understanding how you could possibly remain with any droplets at all in the bottle shortly after it’s been opened. The rate of evaporation must be approaching the speed of light here. An absolutely towering wine! Bravo! 97-99+ points.
2021 Keller Nierstein Pettenthal Riesling GG
So, tell me…how do you describe almost perfection? How do you possibly describe beauty and convey it to other, thirsty fellow wine aficionados in the world to give them a hint or impression of what will be waiting for them once they open a bottle of this elixir? Always, always, always the same notes, this moist blanket of light, pink grape fruit caressing your palate. I’ve been in love the first time I put my lips to this wine already from the first vintage and I can tell you, it just never disappoints. This vintage has added a beautiful and somewhat intriguing saline note mixed with herbal spice and deep, deep minerality - not to mention all that pink and then – sorry for my comparison that few people can relate to, but those outrageously delicious pink Bolivian grape fruits (toronja) growing along tributaries to the great Amazon River. So close to the Hipping, yet always so different. While Hipping is the loud, flirty bowl of energy, the Pettenthal speaks softly with a velvety tone and just sensually caresses you gently. Seduces you (be careful!) and makes you lured deeper and deeper into its hypnotic magic. Some at the table had the Hipping as the better wine, and I must admit that was my initial impression too, because it really flirts your pants off with its energy, but the majestic, noble and delicate Pettenthal grows on you and towards the end, is simply irresistible. Just immensely impressive… With the only sad reality is that I will own exactly zero bottles since I simply can afford this wine when put into the VDP auction - but for those who do and can, you will have a wine to remember for life. 97-99+ points.

2021 Keller Westhofen Morstein Riesling GG
I was contemplating about one thing. This wine needs a music intro to best explain how the fermented grape juice from this particular vineyard actually feels once it hits your palate. Searched for it and finally found it. The first 20 seconds should do it - that’s exactly how this wine introduces itself on the stage.

BRRRRRRRRUTAL…! It’s pumping out heavy rock’n roll from the loudspeakers. Stone, so much stone, crushed limestone rock, rigid, erect (I realise I’m heading towards an R-rated review soon) and so mind-blogging - I’m going to use the word again, since I scribbled it down several times in my tasting notes - BRRRRRUTAL. It’s like taking the crushed rocks from an iron pit in Svappavaara in northern Sweden. “Hold on! There are no grapes growing up there! That’s way above the Polar Circle!”, might be your objection. Well, my friend, I TOLD YOU. There are no frigging grapes in this wine! KP and his team must have seriously been damaging the poor basket press when shovelling in all this iron pit into the press with the hopes of squeezing anything wine-like out of it. You want fruit? Okay, I’ll give it to you but only in the way of the slightest, most whispering and delicate traces of grapefruit (almost with a pinkish hue) and some droplets of lime just to freshen it up and even throw some dried grass into the mixture but common, let’s get real here, this is NO WINE for drinkers of squeezed fruit… This is about MINERALS, about crushed bones (poor guys, maybe still some remnants from a medieval Abbot or two who might have got lost on their pilgrimage way to the Abtserde vineyard not far away) and bare boulders of limestone rocks. We’re talking smoke and salt here, where the minerality acts as a tense arch, stretched to its limit, almost to the breaking point, in the uncanny tension and lift this wine offers on the palate. This is laser-focus clarity at its best, purezza in Italian. Long, long finish that became somewhat irritating towards the end, as I was eager to continue with the next wine in the line-up but had to wait for the last flavours to slowly fade on my tongue. Whenever I drink a Morstein, and especially if it behaves like this in the glass, I always remember our joint friend and wine lover extraordinaire, Tino, and his comment while we where sipping on a Morstein with KP beside us at the table. “This, we drink ourselves”. Message implied to the winemaker, as he stared at us in bewilderment: this Morstein shouldn’t hit the market - this wine we empty ourselves. Together. As it turned out, KP never listened to our sincere advice but nevertheless, this is a stunning Riesling. 97-100 points.

2021 Keller Westhofen Abtserde Riesling GG
Everything Chevalier-Montrachet ever wanted to be but was afraid to ask about… Oh, how much I LOVE this Westhofen vineyard. I have lost count on the many occasions I have stopped by just to walk along the rows for a few minutes before continuing to a new destination. Even when I haven’t even visited Weingut Keller but was just on my way to some other wine region. I seemed to be locked in a perpetual love affair with this magical place. I will never forget the story KP told me about how he and his father were searching for old church records, only to find Abbot’s plot (Abtserde) and how it became the wine for the Abbot. In this vintage, I feel it displays a little more herbs than usual, with lovely dried grass and dried flowers as part of the flavour profile and - as always - this nervous, nervous energy, like a young child who is too afraid to take your math test and runs away only to hide under a table (that might have been a give-away hint about how my students react to my math tests…). Above all, in this particular vintage, perhaps more than ever, it’s about stone and salt. It’s sooo mouth-watering, lip-smacking saline, sooo stony and even chalky, with a laser-like precision that cuts your palate until you start bleeding (picture THAT if you will - Mayhem at the tasting table with Julia running around providing paper napkins to keep the blood flowing). My best analogy would be from my stint as a Ph.D. student in the Brazilian Amazon, when you passed a mineral lick in the rainforest and the parrots were going berserk in their effort to get hold of those vital minerals. It’s chaos, there’s shouting, feathers are whirling around. A mayhem. And…picture this, throughout this chaos, you have this pitch-perfect oscillation of nervous energy, like a Chablis on steroids. 96-98 points.

2021 Keller G-Max Riesling trocken
This Behemoth of a wine, needs no introduction. No introduction at all… Nor does it need any tasting notes. (It really doesn’t but hold your breath - I WILL offer some). I can only quote - and agree - to the following quote from an article in Decanter by William Kelley.

"Is G-Max the Montrachet of Germany?”, tweeted Christie’s.

“Or is Montrachet the G-Max of Burgundy?”, riposted Zachy’s

Actually, The Lord of the Rings comes to mind.
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Every single aspect of the wine, the minerality, the laser-cut diamond of a solid core of impenetrable rock, the BRUTAL power, the endless finish, yes everything can be summed up in this song by Rammstein. The MOTHER of All White Wines in the World.

So, what can I tell you about this wine that you don’t already know or already suspect? It’s…perfect. If this is how liquid mineral tastes like then please let me lap the nectars of melted limestone rock and leave me alone to contemplate about life. This is sheer brilliance in a glass of wine, so racy and electric, brutally powerful and then, yet, with such pose and elegance that it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. The brutal stone power hits you like a hammer and more or less hypnotizes you as you stare into the glass. Once the spell was broken for a moment, I grabbed my zipper and threw a glance over at KP, kind of in silence asking for permission in secret, hoping to get some sign if it perhaps would be appropriate to…you-know-what, but with panic in his eyes, KP nodded dismissively as to indicate it wouldn’t be appropriate given the other people present at the table. I’m a bit disappointed that I could openly express my utter joy and satisfaction over this STUNNING wine. After all, it’s such a beautifully natural expression of pure happiness. Well-well, I finally let go of the zipper and refrained from just throwing myself onto the table to do a full rotor helicopter swing. You know, just to make a statement. It’s that good. I seldom do it but when it’s called for, I find it appropriate. This is just flawless. 99-100 points. The score range is just for show and to follow the principle that it’s actually still in barrel but who really cares? This is a three-digit wine. Period.

It’s with mixed feelings I drink this wine. KP has decided to keep it a secret from where it actually is. Not because of a wish to create something mystical and hyped but I believe that it’s from a story where he found a visitor simply departing with a large chunk of a vine in his hand – as a souvenir. Therefore, I can understand the secrecy but as a friend to the family I would have loved to know. Mainly because I want to understand what I’m drinking. That’s half the pleasure for most wines we drink, that we sip on an Abtserde Riesling and contemplate on the site and its soil while we drink it and take in all our knowledge and experience from the vineyard in question. Perhaps we have even been there in person, like me in the Abtserde, where I have been crawling around on the ground (with a numb as and fingers as a result of some poisonous plants between the rows) and thus feel a special connection to the wine nowadays. My wish is…that I would have the same opportunity with the G-Max. As it stands now, I drink it and I enjoy it because it’s a fabulous wine but I feel no connection to it as I have no understand of the soil and exposure. It’s like drinking a delicious wine at a blind tasting with friends and then being deprived of the traditional conclusion, that whoever served the wine brings the bottle and thus allows all the pieces come together and the discussion take place among the happy few who have tasted the wine. It’s part of the fun, to relate to the site and compare you own impressions. So, one day I hope I’ll be included into the trusted few who get to know where the grapes are from, to understand and appreciate the wine better. But I have also realised that I’m getting old. In my younger days this would have been a major frustration and I would be extremely eager to find out somehow what the secret is, but nowadays I find myself just shrugging and feeling that life will still go on without it. :slight_smile: In any case, it’s a very special wine, occasionally one of the best white wines I have the privilege to taste. And I do have two guesses about its origin. But again, right now it’s just like drinking a wine blind without actually revealing the wine at the end.

2021 Keller Scheurebe Kabinett Alte Reben
People who know my or whose path in life I have crossed, usually portray me as someone with humour who has offered them a smile once in a while, or even a laugh or two on occasions, but truth be told, I’m also carrying a sadness within, for many reasons. Don’t worry, I seldom bother people in my vicinity by showing it on the outside. We have all our burdens to carry, our sorrows, things that make us truly sad. Like the situation with my mum. It’s a deep sorrow of mine. When she’s gone, I’ll be truly alone in this world and the only surviving member of my family in this country. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to face these sorrows alone, where no one can see you or hear you or have your back when you’re hanging on the ropes. And that’s sad. Even a little tragic.

So, I do my best to forget all sadness - but also to remember all the joyful moments in my life. It’s a Yin-Yang thing. When I’m sad, I drink my beloved Scheurebe and think about the many memories wine has given me, simply from the fact that wine brings people together. So, in a way I’m not alone. So many friends, so many memories. Truth be told, wine has given me the privilege to meet so many absolutely extraordinary people. Like Klaus-Peter, Julia, Klaus, Felix and Max in this report. Hence, let it be known, that I drink Scheurebe when I’m happy too, and when I want to celebrate. Scheurebe is the beverage I choose when I just want to relax and take in the moment. When I’m thinking about all the friends I have met in my life and been fortunate enough to share a glass of wine with, I raise a glass of Scheurebe to their honour. When memories of passed love ones, dead or alive, I cherish the memories in their company by drinking a glass of Scheurebe. When I feel poor, I grab a bottle of The Scheu, when I feel I’m rich, I pour some Scheu into my glass. Or, when I feel I have too many Math Exams to correct, like now as we speak, I sip on a glass of Scheurebe. Whenever I feel terribly lonely and mis-placed in this big, big world, like now, I drink Scheu to keep me afloat and in moments of utter joy and pure happiness, I treat myself to a glass of Scheu while unzipping and doing the helicopter. Days when I totally and completely exhausted, I drink Scheurebe and when I’m almost drowning, I feel that the only thing in this world that could save me is, not a glass, but a bottle of Scheurebe. As you might understand from these confessions, Scheurebe is a big part of my life, come rain or sunshine. If people only knew how much work and persuasion it took to even give birth to this lovely, seductive angel called Scheurebe Kabinett. The only person who knows the real story behind the creation of this wine and the effort and struggle it took, is Klaus-Peter Keller himself. You’ll have to ask him if you want the full scope of this story. And the struggle isn’t over (if THAT’S what you thought…). This is an actual, uncut and unedited dialogue between me and KP:

**_- How many bottles can I buy?

  • You can get 6.
  • 6 bottles!??? Are you crazy, I CAN’T survive with only 6 bottles!
  • Well, mildew took almost the entire crop.
  • Klaus-Peter, listen to me and listen carefully - if all I can buy are only six bottles of the Scheurebe, I will travel to Flörsheim-Dalsheim, set up camp in a tent outside your home and run naked around the village with a big sign saying “Keller sucks!”
  • Oh… Well, maybe 12 bottles then._**

The wine is…simply brilliant. Maybe not as hauntingly beautiful as the 2014 vintage (to which all the world’s Scheurebe are measured - but I actually doubt any Scheu will ever reach those astronomical heights, because something truly special happened in that Morstein vineyard that year), but one of the best renditions of this grape the last couple of years. Once you let the first sip roll down your tongue, you are completely immersed by white peach, elderberries and pink grapefruit - everything points into the direction of summer. A giant summer’s bouquet of Lilies and similarly aromatic flowers. What impresses the most is - the same old, same old…absolute clarity, like a polished window or like that James Webb telescope now, once it has been adjusted and calibrated. It’s clean as a whistle. Completely crystalline in shape and form, with that almost indescribable lift-off, like NASA rocket escaping Earth’s gravity and just pushing further into space. Hans-Günther Schwarz would be proud. An absolute stunner! 96-99 points.

I should be thrilled, yet, at the end of the day, when life really sucks and dark thoughts become overwhelming, the feeling I sometimes have, when holding a glass of Scheurebe in my shaking hand, is this this:

Wo ist die Liebe geblieben? Ich weiß nicht. Ich weiß es wirklich nicht.

2021 Keller Westhofen Kirchspiel Riesling Kabinett
Oh, chalky, dusty stone aromas with a spritz sensation of pure underlying tension that just cannot prevent a constant force upwards, like holding a bunch of helium-filled balloons to the point where there’s a lift-off and just makes you float away, high in the sky. Like Lucy in the sky of diamonds. I know what you’re think now - what on earth is he mumbling about?? WHAT has he been drinking? I’ve been drinking a nectar of limestone rock mixed with succulent peach, grapefruit and yellow apples that throws a punch with its power but seduces with its lovely elegance. What especially strikes me is the tension and harmony created by the interplay between residual sugar and a string sense of yellow limestone rock. It melts together to something truly seductive. An ode to what Kabinett can be all about when you pick the best grapes from a Grand Cru vineyard and a celebration to the yummiest of deliciousness. Bravo! 94-96 points.

2021 Keller Westhofen Abtserde Riesling Kabinett
I have forgotten how many years I have been asking the same question: “What about a Kabinett from Abtserde?” And here it finally is, right in front of my eyes (for your info – all my ideas seem to need some 10-15 years of contemplation by the Kellers before they materialise – sometimes I suspect they actually do things after many years just to quit my nagging). And the wine? Well, what can you say? I mean…for GOD’S SAKE!! Are you serious?? A Kabinett from a Grand Cru vineyard, from the best parcels – what did you expect? Completely mesmerising. Captivating. Hauntingly beautiful in its structure, texture and delivery to your sensory buds. Totally transparent, like looking through a window without realising there’s actually a glass window between you and reality. There is such brightness and LIFT(!), or call it energy or tension or whatever makes you understand there is a buoyancy here that is uncanny. It doesn’t have zero gravity - it has negative gravity! THAT must be how those Alien UFO’s must be moving around… Drinking this wine is like having a rocket engine up your ass – once you take a sip you find yourself on top of a rocket on your way through the clouds. To your great surprise, because you haven’t even had time to pack a suitcase. All is light, all is bright, like the light that lits up a car and makes you float away up in the air (like those eye-witness accounts from people who claim they have been abducted by aliens…). In fact, all is crystalline precise. This is what happens when laser-cut minerality meets oscillating, nervous energy in a wine, where residual sugar and bouncing acidity interplay and create a seductive dance and a tension that almost bursts on and shatters your palate. WOWSA! I’m completely exhausted just writing about the wine - imagine actually drinking it. A wow-wow-wine! 97-98 points.

2021 Keller Piesporter Schubertslay Riesling Kabinett Alte Reben (Auction)
So, 120-year-old vines on their own rootstock, overlooking the most beautiful part of Mosel, can that really be something? It sure can. First of all, just the VIEW from this sight, overlooking the big bend of the Mosel River as it floats pass Piesport - we have often discussed it before, that some places are so beautiful they simply MUST produce great wines. And then the old, old vines, perched on ultra-steep slate soil that at times feels more like a wall in front of you. Not to mention when you turn around and look down. One slip and you might be tumbling all the way to the river and take a huge percentage of the vineyard with you. Imagine that… I’d be famous in Mosel. The wine is just breathtakingly delicious. There is such brightness steaming from within the core of the wine; everything is so bright and light and crystalline and this cornucopia of energy indicators creates such a tremendous LIFT! Everything seems to be floating in a perpetual weightless state of mind, between power and ballerina delicacy and then back to full throttle power again, only to oscillate back into almost nothingness, just the slightest touch of caressing minerality whispering on your tongue. In, out, up, down, like a perpetual state of Schrödinger’s cat. It seems to balance on an edge of contrasting expressions without really landing in one or the other. Hugely mesmerising and intriguing, to say the least. Then, when looking at my hand-written tasting notes, I wrote down Penny (wonder if that referred to Penny played by Kaley Cuoco in the Big Bang Theory) and “I love life”. I don’t know what the heck that is supposed to mean. Nevertheless, a firm 96-98+ points. I realise the scores are stratospheric in this little report of mine but I’ve got to tell you taste the wines yourself and YOU tell me. In my humble opinion, these are some of the most delicious wines on Planet Earth. I could be wrong but if you would like to find out, attend the excellent VDP auction in Bad Kreuznach in September this year and you’ll be able to taste the auction wines yourself - then we can compare impressions.

2018 Felix Keller Rosé Prestige sparkling
- I’m sceptical… That’s what I told both KP and Julia when they enthusiastically talked about Felix being bitten by the sparkling bug and that a new Keller project will be world-class sparkling wines from Germany. “It can’t be done”, I lectured them (just imagine the audacity…but sometimes it’s fun). Kind and generous as I am, I let them know why. I explained that “Riesling Sekt”, to begin with, just doesn’t do it for me. It’s the grape’s fault, not the winemaker’s. What I have trouble with, is that I don’t sense any “mousse”, and with it, the complexity I’m looking for. Everything becomes too “fresh”, with the tiny bubbles literally disappearing up my nose and down my throat without exciting the sensory buds like a true vinous champagne. So sure, by all means, do sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot noir, as has clearly been demonstrated by Schlossgut Diel, not to mention Raumland. But from Riesling…? “No-no!”, KP and Julia, replied. “Just you wait until you taste what Felix is up to”. And…well, I didn’t get to taste that but instead a Rosé made from 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot noir. Well, hello! Felix might be onto something here… A light but delicate and balanced mousse, some fresh bread and an intriguing, light sensation of wild strawberries. I admit, this got my attention. The mineralic string flows through the wine and gives you a sense of glittering droplets of water splashing down a waterfall. Delicious. A pronounced rock-steady character with zesty freshness and that little ticklish feeling of red apple skin on the finish. Well, if THIS is Felix’s first attempt at a sparkling wine from Germany, then I’m all in. 90-91+ points. Please allow me to come with a bold prediction here and now - in a few years, Felix Keller will be one of the dominant players when it comes to German sparkling wine. Remember where you heard it first… The combination with his apprenticeship at Bérêche et Fils in Champagne, together with the guidance from KP and Julia and…the use of some Grand Cru vineyards for his projects, this will at the end of the day create some true magic for future generations. Mark my words!

2019 Felix Keller Grande Cuvée
Come to Papa! Now this is a step further up the - not quality ladder, because you shouldn’t rely on me giving any advice to people on sparkling wines (I drink them too seldom) - but the ladder of my subjective, personal pleasure index. It has more nerve, an intriguing tension that tightens the whole package into a full-blown tasting sensation. Oh Boy, would I LOVE to have a bottle of this to put into a blind tasting with classic champagne! Apparently, a mixture of more than half Pinot noir but also Chardonnay and Pinot meunier, this seems to have a two-way trick to lure you in. First it comes bursting out with spritz, lovely yellow fruit flavours and a lovely hint of slate-driven minerality and hints of smoke (without even knowing how the soil actually looks there) and then, just as it has your attention, it settles down into a more mellow and complex creature with several layers that begs to be investigated further. Unfortunately, the rate of evaporation made this sparkling beauty disappear quickly so new pressure, Felix, but could you please open another one very soon? 91-92+ points. In fact, as the evening progressed, I DID get a second pour and even a third and I actually admitted I had a hard time leaving the bottle at rest because I was drawn to it and found it intriguing and delicious. Maybe my curiosity overwhelms my enthusiasm, this being Felix’ project, but again…try it out yourselves and let me know. My bet is that many more will find it as promising as I do.

Suddenly both Felix and KP asked: “Would you perhaps be interested in comparing Hipping GG and Pettenthal GG from another vintage than the one we just have tasted?” Now, HOW are you supposed to reply to a question like that!? What else of the bleeding obvious could you possibly ask? Does the bear shit in the forest? Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back? OF COURSE (!!!) we didn’t mind doing THAT comparison! Bring ‘em forth with all haste! For pure scientific purposes, mind you. Only because of that. Nothing else. So here we go.

2017 Keller Nierstein Hipping Riesling GG
It’s so fascinating how a vineyard year after year exhibits such distinct characteristics so that you put it to your mouth, even blind, you feel you have quite a good guess of its origin. These two vineyards are so close together yet display a completely different flavour profile. Again, this one pops up from the glass. In Swedish we call it “gubben ur lådan”. Have you ever seen that prank where you are given a wrapped box and as you rip of the paper and finally open the box, a head, a body, a snake or whatever jumps out of the box after having been squeezed together so that when the box is opened, it propels it out like a rocket? That’s the feeling of the Hipping GG. However, it doesn’t been there is an inherent “power” in the wine - it’s not about brute force. This beautiful creature displays so many intriguing characteristics. It shines of crystalline brilliance, like when just pull out those Zalto glasses from the dish washer, shiny and glimmering in the light. Lemon and white flowers, the smoky powder from rocks crushed against each other. Imagine total mineral freshness. A palate cleanser. It literally screams out freshly cut minerals from the rocky soil and with a texture like that of a shining laser beam. “Impressive” is a mighty gross understatement… And right there in the mid-palate, surrounded by all these brilliant colours, you have an impression of juicy grapes, even with a hint of vanilla sprinkled onto the crispy notes of grapefruit, everything presented with Keller’s characteristic filigree lightness and elegance. Everything is so utterly in balance and harmony yet so astonishingly vibrant. When you hold the bottle, the oscillation spreads like rings on water through your body and make you shake your ass, whether you want it not. What a potential embarrassment that could cause depending on the tasting environment! The only strange thing with all this is that when I read through my impressions, I notice that I’m talking about a wine with a delicate, sublime lightness and touch – yet, in reality, when I think about it, it literally screams out its oscillating power and shakes you around like an earthquake. Now THAT is an impressive combination! To find hose two extreme opposites in one single wine. Congratulations to those who happen to own a bottle. 98 points.

2017 Keller Nierstein Pettenthal Riesling GG (Auction)
Oh dear… As hard as it may be to understand or even believe it, this magic genie in a bottle is even lighter, even more filigree and with that feeling that the camera lens has been adjusted one click more to an even higher degree of sharpness. This is just outrageously delicious. I was just about to repeat myself and scribble down again that it’s a combination of brute force & power while at the same time being “light” on its feet but I take all that back – this wine has actually no weight at all. Put it on a scale and you would start checking the batteries or the connections, just to figure out what’s wrong with the scale since the needle obviously isn’t moving and registering any sign of weight at all. Newton would have been perplexed and even let out a curse word – “What the fu…?” while staring at something that clearly MUST have mass but don’t register on the scale. How could it be weightless? Surely there is gravity on Planet Earth but if so – how can this wine exist? Because it DOES exist – it isn’t just a mirage. Pettenthal is all about elegance and class, silkier than its sibling from Hipping, this one caresses your palate with smooth brush strokes of pink grapefruit – there is such finesse and lightness in this beautiful creature of a wine. Tip-toe, tip-toe, tipi-tipi-tip-toe… Like a delicate ballerina dressed in white, it tips gently across your palate like a delicate feather. Add to it an intriguing layer of spiciness and smokiness and you have clearly a winner. Those lucky few who happens to own a bottle or two…you’re in for something unique in the wine world. Unfortunately, my total collection of this astonishing beauty is exactly zero. Way, way beyond my pay grade as it comes up for auction but I don’t mind since I know the money will be used for a good cause. 99+ points.

When looking over my impressions and what I have written down in my tasting notes, I realise that my scorings are in the upper stratosphere. It would be easy to dismiss them as score inflation or just sheer happiness to finally indulge in wine tastings again after these crazy last two years, but then again, these ARE some of the most precious and delicious wines I have had the opportunity to put to my mouth so I’m looking forward to other passionate wine lovers around the world to taste them as well in the future and report back on their impressions. Then we can compare. As for the Keller family, I’m always contemplating what actually makes them such super stars in the wine world. What’s their secret? There’s of course no ONE single explanation but a combination of multiple factors that has propelled them into super-stardom but if I could choose one word only, it would be…passion. They actually love what they are doing and they seem to love to excel at what they are doing. I could tell you countless of stories how this passion and determination manifest itself in the vineyard and in their daily choices but I’ll leave that to the more extensive presentation of the Kellers in The Riesling Report… Aside from that, add certain ingredients like stellar vineyards - they are sitting on not only some of the best and most famous vineyards in Germany but also have the (sometimes through luck, sometimes by canny planning) some of the best plots in those vineyards, with the highest active chalk content from the limestone rock. I would also attribute a precise focus in what they are doing and also the humble characters that actually are the Keller family.

Love. And passion.


Part IV.

In my view, they are since long completely and utterly dialled-in and always seem to think about long-term sustainably. That includes minor details like since 2021 they’re no longer heating their winery with fossil fuels, but with renewable raw materials. This year, their plan is to generate their energy as self-sufficiently as possible with a photovoltaic system. In the vineyards, they rely on dense plantings, which enable the vines to penetrate even deeper soil layers in order to better survive the increasingly dry vintages. In addition, they rely on self-made composts that activate soil life and they make their own preparations for plant protection and plant strengthening. The natural stone walls they have rebuilt over the years in the vineyards, create fascinating habitats for salamanders and insects, but also wildflowers and herbs thrive there and sometimes it looks like a real rainforest. And occasionally you have plants in the vineyards (the rows in-between) that numbs your fingers and your ass if you come into contact with them - that I will save for another report… I believe that where this passion surfaces most evidently, is when you listen to KP talk about the joys of life. When I sit down with a glass of wine and listen to him explaining how he sees the benefits of being a winemaker and living the life he does, I’m constantly reminded that these people are NOT the super star celebrities everyone is writing about but rather simple, humble farmers who rejoice in the simple gifts nature and life itself actually offers them. Just listen to this: “Since last year, two bee colonies have been collecting honey from wild flowers on the Frauenberg, our chickens provide us with fresh eggs and our fruit and vegetable garden, in which we have planted more trees, provides almost everything your heart desires. Enjoying fresh products straight from your own garden every day is simply priceless and our greatest luxury.” I think that says it all and gives you a much better understanding than the oh-so-many more words that come out of my insignificant tasting notes… I guess, what I’m trying to convey here is that, to me, the Keller family seem to have found this sense of…harmony. Everything seems to be in place. But don’t get me wrong - not harmony as in status quo, that there is some kind of optimal level that has been found and all you have to do now is maintaining it. On the contrary. If it’s anything that has kept amazing me with everything “Keller”, it’s the constant changes and search for something better. Out of passion and curiosity. I said to myself that I should try to put into words why I think the Keller family has had the success they obviously enjoy nowadays and then it hit me - I have actually been babbling about them in a piece I wrote almost ten years ago, about the family and about some comparisons between Keller’s different wine regions, so instead of inventing any new words, I’ll just use the old wines because they still bear fruit today (no pun intended).

In my opinion, Klaus-Peter Keller has one thing in common with other winemakers I know and respect: he evolves. There seems to be constantly on the move, always with a precise and determined direction. A focused mind with a clear ambition. Not from the ambition per se but more from the passionate curiosity. He never sits still, but seeks out information, seeks out new ways to manage nature’s gift to him, having a curiosity of a young and eager student who never rest on his lees too long but instead looks forward, beyond the next hill, to seek out the challenges awaiting him there. Actually, he reminds me of the Abtserde Riesling when I come to think about it, constantly in motion, on his way to somewhere, always vibrating with this vivid energy. You see it in his eyes, or the way he talks and even the way he tastes and analyses his own wines. It’s that laser beam of intellectual and emotional focus that does it. These type of curious people are winemakers on a mission, a quest, searching for something better and while doing it, they are applying the humble role of a student who is learning and contemplating on the discoveries already made.

Why is this so important? It tells me, that although the “ultimate” level might already have been reached with some of their wines, I KNOW that these curious and eager students will be even better for years to come as they get to ”understand” their terroir better and better each year. Sure, they will always remain just that – students – since Mother Nature will constantly provide them with new challenges but one thing is always the same – the apparent lust for life and curiosity to suck in every new piece of experience and apply it to new set of tools. You simply cannot be mistaken by this high ambition when sitting down for a moment with Klaus-Peter to taste his wines. And the fun thing here is, that although I believe he is at the top of his game when it comes to Riesling, he doesn’t seem to feel content by this astonishing feat. Try him… Sit there with him and sip on some Riesling and then suddenly change the topic to Pinot noir in general and Burgundy in particular. I have always wondered about which moments his eyes really are glowing with most intensity; when he speaks about Riesling or Pinot noir. Hum…maybe I’ll conduct an empirical experiment on this topic the next time I visit him. Nevertheless, the concept of Red Riesling, as he calls Burgundian Pinot Noir and his own beloved Spätburgunder, occupies a great deal of his time and I’m positively sure he won’t rest until the undulating hills surrounding Dalsheim-Flörsheim are producing some of the best Pinot noir in Germany. I have a feeling he won’t settle for that either but wants to take on the world, especially with his new Morstein Alte Reben Pinot. Many years ago I was very sceptic, a few years ago I began realising that he was onto something; recently I have to admit that he might prove me wrong and after being an eyewitness to the rise in quality with every vintage of his Spätburgunder I believe that we have a fun and interesting time ahead of us when Klaus-Peter will obnoxiously keep annoying us by opening his Red Rieslings blind side by side with great Grand Crus from Burgundy. Rest assured I will not be betting any significant fortunes on who’s who at these tastings…

Back to Klaus-Peter again: ”In the easy vintages you can buy everywhere – but the easy vintages often tend to be boring on a high level”. He stresses that sure enough, no one will complain if you have a picture perfect growing season but the difference, according to Klaus-Peter, is that in those vintages you can indeed buy everything blind because most wines will be quite good, or very good, but at the higher – or no – at the highest level, the vines need to struggle to achieve those extra 5% that make them produce not just super delicious but truly extraordinary wines. As Hans-Günther Schwartz of Müller Catoir always said: ”The vintages with a mix of sun, rain, higher and lower temperatures are perfect for Riesling because Riesling does not need (as for example Cabernet or Merlot does) the warm summer and the dry October. Riesling needs the mixture of ALL. We try to wait for the first frost to pick and the flavours then start to explode.” Thus the pinnacle of the vintage concentrates the grapes at the top estates who dare to take a gamble.

Nierstein vs Westhofen and Flörsheim-Dalsheim
I also had time to exchange some thoughts on the new parcels in Nierstein and compare them to the original vineyards in Westhofen and Flörsheim-Dalsheim. In Nierstein, Keller works with lower canopy (only around 5 to 6 leaves per bunch of grapes), and in Hügelland with more leaves as it’s cooler and more open to wind. Now with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and more sunshine hours, the Nierstein vineyards face the risk to not have enough water (so by lower canopy, you also save water). Of course, there is no one single method of how to work the vineyards in Nierstein, as the growing season will be different from year to year; it’s different but in general Nierstein is warmer and has less water. In former times it was often an advantage – today it can easily turn into a disadvantage. You simply have to develop a feeling for your vineyards. ”I think the secret is we try to feel like our vineyards feel. Nierstein is warmer, very steep (up to 80%) and not a white or yellow rock but red stone that saves the temperature and retain the warmth during night. You have to think of water (you have less on steep soils), you have to think about the height of the canopy (low canopy will save water), and you have to think about the relation of leaves to grape bunches – what is the perfect ratio for a steep, warm site when I want to produce an elegant, precise, soil-driven, low alcoholic wine? There are always a lot of things to think of and every year is different with some new revelations.”

Compare this to the vineyards in Westhofen, with its pure limestone rock, where Abtserde is Klaus-Peter’s prima ballerina – which sounds nice but it also comes with all problems of a classical prima ballerina, with all the attitude problems you can imagine! It’s stony like Le Clos (Klaus-Peter mentions that many Americans were saying they think they have a Raveneau Le Clos in their glass when they drink the Abtserde Riesling GG, as it reminded them so strongly of a top-class Chablis), with the highest active chalk content of all Keller’s vineyards. That translates into a real danger of chlorosis, which means he must be very careful with how to work the soil. Often, there is a problem with the supply of iron during flowering, which means the development of very small berries, low yields, and faster ripening. And this is the mind-set of Klaus-Peter, all these little details depending on which parcel and its corresponding micro-climate and soil profile. As he mentioned: ”Such ideas we have for every vineyard, so we really try to find their true soul and therefore we treat every single parcel in a special way – and that’s the secret to our wines! I have a vision of how a wine from a particular soil could taste and I’m try to bring this vision in the glass. And that means…a lot of extra hours in the vineyards."

Winemaking philosophy at Weingut Keller
Of course, it’s impossible to end this Keller Report without discussing some of the philosophy that serves as the backbone of how Klaus-Peter approaches his craft as a winemaker. I general, there has been a shift since 2006, when he and his wife Julia took over the management of the estate. Now, both of them are focusing on more filigree and finesse at lower alcohol levels, to really bring out the terroir of each individual site. And above all, doing this within the limits of a family business. I have decided ONE thing – if be it the last thing I do while still alive. One day I will take Klaus-Peter on a road trip to California and make sure he meets another fellow winemaker, one that I know Klaus-Peter admires, Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non, who in a recent interview stated the exact same words I know that Klaus-Peter abides to – as KP told me: ”Manfred wants to be the winemaker. So do I.”

“We’re small enough now where I can make the art and the wine”, Krankl says. “If someone asks who’s the winemaker, I can confidently say it’s me. I could keep on growing, but my life would change completely. I would become another sales guy doing dog-and-pony shows. I don’t want to do that. It’s a wonderful thing to preserve. How much do I need to live a happy life and to thrive? What do you have to give up to get to that point? Unfortunately, I think a lot of people get sidetracked by the rat race."

Those could as well be the words by Klaus-Peter because when he talks about his life as a winemaker he says: ”What we (by ”we”, he means his wife and his family) want in life is being close to our vineyards, eat from our garden, have the eggs from our chicken and the good ham and sausages from our own pigs. As an American sommelier from 11 Madison Park told me last week: Julia and Klaus-Peter, your wines are really magnificent – but I could die for your home-made liver sausage“. That’s life, my friend! And to share.”

I can only concur and confirm to people that haven’t met the family that this is the very essence from which the Kellers derive. The happiest face on both Julia and Klaus-Peter can be seen when they have the possibility to share. I see no fortunes in their home. Sure enough, they have a gigantic television screen but given the humongous amount of time spent by Felix playing all those computer soccer games and Klaus-Peter’s immense passion for soccer, it’s a small investment that has paid off multiple times. Otherwise there’s no Porsche in the courtyard (but an old, dirty Audi, if I’m not mistaken), no Rolex watches, no amassment of luxury goods at all. In fact, what the Keller family seem to enjoy the most, except for sharing the little wealth they have acquired, it’s eating and drinking well. If you wish to impress them, don’t dazzle them with luxury but serve them the best fish or seafood you could muster and you will be greeted by big smiles.

The reason for this success, apart from the extraordinary vineyards they have collected? I actually know why Keller is so successful. Hard, damn work… It sounds so simple. Don’t ALL winemakers work hard? Think about it…how many of the front figures from various estates really DO the work in the vineyards themselves? Take a guess. To quote Klaus-Peter again: ”Here at Weingut Keller the winemaker is the vineyard manager as well. When we have apprentices from California they often tell us: you do work that at Napa only the Mexicans are doing! And then I answer: Then we are all Mexicans here! It’s important to be close to the vineyards – otherwise we would not do it”.

And in those very words, those few syllables, I think we have reached the core why this estates shines so brightly in the German wine heaven – and why I have urged you not trying to make an appointment but instead knock on their door at 3 am to be sure to catch the winemaker in bed – otherwise it will be too late. This really IS a family that live for their wines, living close to their vineyards and doing the hard work themselves. Like Klaus-Peter said: ”Perhaps we are also in some ways the last unicorns – many winemakers look at us really strange when they see Julia and me standing in the vineyards. They say: no one will taste it! And I tell you: perhaps they do not taste it and perhaps 95% of the customers will not taste it – but WE will taste it and perhaps the last remaining 5% that are sensitive enough to taste the differences – and that makes it worth it.“

So in other words, it’s not easy to get an appointment with the winemaker because he’s in his vineyards most of the time. And he has a wife, Julia, who is as passionate as himself. And speaking of Julia, I asked Klaus-Peter if he has any famous last words: ”I think the support from my wife is very important. Without her – no Weingut Keller.” And I think that says it all. Because here I have been talking about Klaus-Peter this, Klaus-Peter that but in reality, Julia is very much part of the Keller team, both at the office, in the vineyards during the growing season, again at harvest time (as I can attest through my experience in the Abtserde!) and in the cellar, tasting together with her husband. And she does a killer osso-buco. I feel privileged to call them my friends.

Almost ten years has passed since I wrote those words. My gosh! I was not lost for words then, nor am I know. Not much has changed. I still have the same feeling, that they are constantly on the move and since those words above were written, the major change has been the inclusion of brilliant Felix into the permanent Keller team now that he’s finished his studies at Geisenheim. To me, Felix brings new energy and ideas into the Keller winemaking, just as I saw when Cornelius started working with Helmut Dönnhoff in 2007 Helmut confessed that he need that input and he believes the wines have become better ever since (oh boy, when you hear how the fabulous 2021 vintage tastes like at Dönnhoff…) and I think it will be the same with Felix, as he comes with new ideas and youthful enthusiasm and energy that combined with the experience from KP, Julia and Klaus, will probably propel the estate to even new heights on the quality ladder. I’m not expecting any giant leaps forward but small, small steps in a focused direction. Just one of several examples of what a positive impact on the quality of the wines from the inclusion of Felix into the team, is that they are using small basket presses for more and more of their cuvées. I remember the joy on KP’s face when they bought the first one - how KP was glowing with anticipation, and with now Felix becoming more involved, they have the opportunity of pressing very slow for a prolonged time, sometimes two or three days for a single vineyard. Why is this an advantage? You get a super fine structure and a beautiful, positive phenolic backbone that will make the wines age even more gracefully. Together, they have also embarked on a new, fun project with a high-density (20,000 plants per hectare) Pinot noir close to the Frauenberg vineyard. This will require work solely by hand, oh boy watch this space…this could indeed be the beginning an even higher level of quality of their Red Rieslings (Spätburgunder) in the years to come. Not to mention the new high-density planting of Chardonnay, with the first vintage in 2021, raised in futs that Felix got from the Ramonet family. So, in summary, there many things going on at the winery and for all these fun and potentially revolutionary projects, one single generation is not enough but with Klaus happily on his tractor in the vineyards and two generations of Keller now working side by side, there is a lot of passion and knowledge that will be transferred to the next generation - the future is bright and I for one, believe it will be fun to watch what the future of Keller has in store (as long as I’m not six feet under…).

Don’t you ever think I have forgotten… All members of the Keller family have not been accounted for. There is one missing and he will by no means be forgotten, because he happens to be an old - and close - friend of mine. Sir Pinot, the joy-spreading Labrador of the Keller family. So many laughs, so much happiness - I have lost count by now how many times I have been chasing him through the rose bushes (and I have the scars to prove it!).

Finally, sorry for me digressing, but in this world of today, we need to have a moment of reflection. More passion is needed now than ever, and more heroes. Pink Floyd just announced they’re coming out of retirement with a new single for one cause only. What is now going on in Europe is simply horrible and while I enjoy a good glass of wine, as the final act in my little Keller Report, I leave you with David Bowie, who, had he been alive, I’m sure, would suggest a unifying concert in Kiev once this madness is over, just like the world came together for another worthy cause in 1985.

And as a similar reminder, just like KP’s slogan “wine brings people together”, despite KP’s expected objection on the choice of team, this “togetherness” can also be illustrated like this:

That was Keller… Time to write up impressions for the next Weingut. On my last trip I also visited Georg at Krüger-Rumpf, Rebecca at Dr Crusius, Sebastian at Joh. Baptiste Schaefer, Caroline and Sylvain at Schlossgut Diel, Frank and Werner at Emrich-Schönleber, Florian at Peter Lauer, Veronika at Egon Müller, Johannes at Weingut Haart, Ernie at Dr. Loosen and Katharina at Joh. Jos. Prüm, so there’s plenty to report on. I also just came back from the Mainzer Weinbörse so a lot of impressions are in the pipe-line. I’ll be back in Germany in two weeks to attend the vintage presentations at Fritz Haag, Schloss-Lieser, Dönnhoff and I will hopefully also be able to squeeze in the vintage presentation at Maximin Grünhaus. Will be back in Germany for Keller Open later in June and then there’s of course also…K-Day. Now THAT will be a truly awesome celebration of this astonishing delicious vintage of German Riesling! Especially K-wines… All in all, these impressions combined should provide at least a little glimpse into Germany’s 2021 vintage. But please…! Don’t come to me for too much advise. I remain a humble student and I’m learning more and more every year but I’m in no way some kind of oracle who has all the answers. Rather than asking me for advice, come and join me by being as curious as I am and let’s discover Germany’s wines together by tasting them and reporting on them here and in other wine forums.

Thanks for listening. In fact, I would like to thank everyone who had the stamina to endure this reading challenge and just like John Cleese, I would like to thank some people who have helped me put together this little report of mine.


Thought I’d also share some photos from the magical Schubertslay vineyard in Piesport, Mosel. I was about to travel to Germany at harvest time last autumn but realised that the flight tickets had become so prohibitedly expensive that there was simply no chance I would be able to afford even a normal economy ticket to Frankfurt (wjhere I usually go to). After an extensive search, I found, not a cheap but at least not an über-expensive ticket to Brussels in Belgium, where I rented a car and drove straight to Schubertslay in the night. I arrived at 2 am and parked myself high above the Mosel river and watched as the vineyard and its surroundings came to life in the early morning. A moment of magic…

For those who couldn’t be there, I’m offering some snapshots just to show you how breathtakingly beautiful the landscape is. Just LOOK at those old, old 120-year-old ungrafted vines. Imagine the history they have seen from where they are standing… They can hardly produce any grape bunches to speak of but those that emerge, taste like champagne bubbles…

And look at the weather. Crystal-clear blue skies, once the morning fog disappeared. No wonder the wine taste as beautiful as it does.


So in synopsis, 2021 was too wet and mildewy and no one should buy '21 Keller…

:+1::joy::+1: In a nutshell. And if Keller is not your cup of tea, there are SOOO many other estate that have produced some truly majestic wines. I believe that in this vintage, the off-dry wines are particularly delicious, when ripe and high acidity is beautifully integrated with the fruit and the high extract - and the wonderful salinity. Sweet-Sour-Salt, those components combined makes for some truly remarkable wines, especially Riesling Kabinett.

Enjoy! :muscle:

My God that is a book. Thanks for the post, looking forward to reading it when I have a few hours… :slight_smile:

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Thanks Miran. Great piece of prose / poetry

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Thanks Miran for the write up. both personal and informative with many interesting observations.

To be honest, your down to earth confirmation, fully hands on, dedication, etc. is quite exactly what I expected from following Keller on Instagram.
The pure joy and happiness KP and Julia has together shines through.

The auction wines for me are far away and I’m not sure I’ll ever taste the top bottlings, nonetheless even the entry riesling is quite a wine. Just grows by the day (almost felt simple yet great the first night) after opening, developing complexity. A terrific entry bottling says it all (for me at least).

Hope you find time to “publish” online as you set out some time ago and start getting traffic there. Looking forward to postings there or if you continue dropping them here.

Bravo Miran!
Simply Bravo!

Having been fortunate to meet KP and Julia, they truly have an aura of their shared family passion which you have accurately covered in your writing.
Being a 18 yr fan and follower of the Weingut Keller efforts, I can enthusiastically state that after following many brilliant wines over the years that
the family will create even more exciting wines in the future as nature allows. IOW: “The best is yet to come”
Sincerest Thank you Miran for this fine coverage and tribute to the Keller family.
And also public thanks to life long friend Dade Thieriot (DVW) who sent me KPK wines to try 18 yrs ago.


Sorry for the radio silence (national exams in Math can make the most talkative person silent). Now, when they are over, the only thing left are the skyskraper-high piles of tests to correct and grade - anyone interested in a swap?).

To all, thanks for the kind and encouraging words.

Max, indeed. This modest little report on the 2021 vintage in Germany through the lens of Weingut Keller, will take some time to read and digest and are only for the really serious wine geeks out there. Hopefully, the general wine lover will at least get something out of my photos and some of the tasting notes, at least for the wines that will be readily available to most consumers. As for the rest, it’s indeed something to save for a rainy day. For those who DO take their time to read my impressions, I hope that you will at least appreciate the effort to share many details and personal anecdotes, and above all, a more in-depth knowledge than just a shallow intro so common these days of insant gratification. It’s written with passion and I hope that somehow this passion shines through.

Mark, I completely agree - the best is yet to come. Which, in my opinion, is even somewhat “frightening”, given the stratospheric quality achieved at the winery already now. It should be stated that I’m fully aware that there are people out there who say that they don’t feel the same enhusiasm about Keller’s wines as I do and all I can say is…God bless them. And congratulations. I too would love to be in that position; like saying I don’t really care for Armand Rosseau, Leroy, Giacomo Conterno, Chateau Petrus or Coche-Dury, because I drink so many wines that are equally good or even better. Life would be so much more simple. As for Germany, I actually do have many wine estates, both friends and colleagues to the Keller family, whose wines I enjoy as much, but overall, I would say that I know of no other winery that, to my personal taste mind you, have the same consistency at the highest level. This is of course personal and your taste might not be the same as mine - and thankfully so! Because then we’ll have something to discuss and bicker about at the table, while sharing some gorgeous wines.

Mikael, very much agree with you. I can’t deny I find Keller’s Riesling GGs as good as it gets when it comes to dry white wines of the world but still…look at their “basic” Riesling, or even better, take a sip of their fabulous Riesling von der Fels or one of my personal favourites, the Riesling RR - in my opinion, you can drink like a Royal without busting your bank account. And don’t get me started on their beautiful Silvaners - but that’s not all - they too have Weissburgunder (Pinot blanc), Grauburgunder (Pinot gris) and Rieslaner that are just ridiculously delicious for the price of admission. I’m refraining on purpose from mentioning the Scheurebe because I don’t want anyone else to look for this wine. Forget about it. Treat it as if it doesn’t exist. I don’t want to share… [dance2.gif]

And finally…yes! There will indeed be more publishing of reports now that I have just secured a new teaching position. Instead of having a 2 hour commute each day between my home and work (imagine, that’s 10 hours per week and about 42-44 hours (!) per month**** just for travelling, I will now have a situation where I see my school after walking exactly 1 minute and 40 seconds from my home, arriving to work 3 minutes later. That will certainly free up much needed time and energy and hopefully you will notice it through more regular reports. Probably not here but on my own homepage (which will be free for all and no subscription will be needed).

Next report out will be that of Peter Lauer (from Saar) or Poderi Aldo Conterno (yes, a completely different wine region).

Until then…thanks for listening. :slight_smile:

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what an awesome write up Miran thank you!!! I can hardly await your next reports was a true joy to read about the kellers

Ken, thanks for your kind words.

Had to add this (because it shows, in a nutshell, part of the reason why I think their wines are at the stratospheric level they actually are) - Klaus-Peter Keller was asked about the pH in his wines and here is his response:

“As a young student, Charles Rousseau told me that wine is not about understanding but about feeling. I never forgot these words. My personal feeling is that if you know too much about a wine‘s technical sheet you loose creativity and sometimes courage as well. Making good wine is easy, making great wines also sometime means taking risks (and even considering the loss of a barrel). I am the owner and the grower at the same time - I don t have to report to anyone, I am 99% free in my decisions, I have a wife, a son, a father and family that supports even if shit happens to a barrel that I did not anticipate. My personal feeling for our winery is: the less I know about information from the labs the better. I want the next generation of young growers to be as close to the vines as possible and try to influence them in that way. If you are employed and have to report to your boss I would not take that risk. That’s an advantage of the family owned wineries.”

My response was this: I’ve got to give it to you, KP… I use many words in my report on the 2021 vintage and when describing your wines but in my humble opinion, you actually nailed it with these very few words. To me, this is exactly why I love Germany as a wine country and its various wine regions because when you meet the persons behind the wines, most often you meet the winemaker, the cellar master, and the vineyard manager in one and same person. It’s usually a family affair and you - particularly you - are really the persons working out there, knowing the soil and the vines and everything that affects the vineyard. So, I agree 100% that when I open a bottle of wine, I also taste part of you, in a sense. And all the people who have been working the vineyard to create the magic in the bottle. Call me a romantic but this is my firm belief. as is yours. This is probably as far you could possibly come from Bordeaux and technical sheets with pH reports or other characteristics. As you know, another member of the Ein Mensch Club - in my humble opinion, of course - is and always will be Helmut Dönnhoff. When I walk the vineyards with him, I notice one simple fact - he knows every centimeter of his most precious vineyards. He has been there hundreds, no, thousands of times and he can point to the slightest change in soil composition. Same with you and all others who actually spend most of their time among their vines. This, to me, is the same as Zlatan and all my other soccer heroes mean when they say The Beautiful Game. Same thing.

And finally…can’t help showing you a photo that captures the one world I think is the driving force behind the Keller success train: passion.

Wow, thank you for the compelling and deep dive into the Keller world. I haven’t spent much time down there so I really appreciate the insight.

I apologize that it’s taken me a bit of time to return to this as I was busy tasting throughout DE and AT over the last few weeks. But because I not only appreciate the value of a good headline, but also do really enjoy the significant employ of caps, bolding, and exclamation points, your post was much fun to read. I did, however, want to point out a few small generalizations you made in citing my report for JR.

You say: " Among fellow wine aficionados, some of them sommeliers and journalists, we often joke among ourselves how sometimes vintage reports or actual comments about the vintage quality, come out when there are still some weeks before harvest has even yet to commence. Quite amusing, when you think about it. So, in retrospective, how WAS the 2021 vintage in the German wine landscape? Well, I don’t have the exact data from every single square meter of German soil but a few weeks ago, Paula Sidore, writing for Jancis Robinson’s homepage (you know, the one Jancis no longer owns after she cashed out) published a vintage report titled “Germany 2021 - wet, wet, wet”.

  1. JR may have chosen to go with an investor but from my own boots on the ground experience, I can say she is still very much involved in the day to day operations, shaping and content on the site. In fact, without having to also run all the back-end work, I dare say it seems she is perhaps more involved than ever. I guess similar to your observations about concentration due to outside influence below, no?

I, for one, thank mildew - and the hard-working winemakers - for the opportunity to taste some truly mindboggling, world-class wines. B) Having said that, it’s quite interesting to see how professional wine journalism works. Especially when it comes to predicating how a vintage will turn out.

  1. You are absolutely correct that mildew was responsible, in part, for a breathtaking vintage. The mildew did indeed act as a natural reduction/selection of sorts, concentrating the efforts of the vines’ on the remaining fruit on the vine, instead of diluting it in high yields. So for those growers paying attention and with the resources to devote upwards of 3x the amount of labor of past years, the results are – I agree with you – fantastic. But not everyone was so lucky, nor so attentive. To that end, it’s important to set the entire stage in order to better appreciate those stars in the spotlight.

But here is where we differ:

You say: “The 2021 vintage will be remembered by and large for the power not of its wines (which this writer has yet to taste) but the power of its weather.” Well, then. Case closed. Enough said. The wines will most probably be forgotten and utterly diluted from such an appalling vintage."

See, that’s only part of the story. Maybe it’s my fault for writing such compelling copy that you stopped reading, but in the report I did not suggest the vintage was forgettable. In fact, the second clause, of the teaser you cited went on to suggest exactly those wonderful results you talk about in your post. Here is the full text:

“A vintage that will be remembered for when the rain wouldn’t stop, and hard work paid dividends. Eventually.”

  1. You are correct that I did not cite the rainfall, and I can only say mea culpa – I will be certain to do that next year. But as KPK said “My personal feeling is that if you know too much about a wine‘s technical sheet you loose creativity and sometimes courage as well.” And I guess to that end 2021 is an emotional year that can not be reduced to numbers. Maybe the actual rainfall was less but the results, the devastation, can not be ignored. I struggled with how to represent that in my report and ultimately chose to talk with vintners in almost every region, many of them cited in the piece. I wasn’t interested in giving MY thoughts and observations because, hey, I am only a lowly journalist, but rather the observations of the boots on the ground in the vineyards, in the cellar, in the tractors and in the literal and figurative water. And while southern Rheinhessen in Florsheim-Dalsheim did indeed benefit from some of the rain, not everyone was so lucky.

  2. "you are left with the image on your retina of an Apocalyptic Disaster where you’d better build Noah’s Ark to save yourself from the reckoning of the Flood. There were indeed some outlier events like the Hochwasser in the Mosel valley, not to mention the terrible flooding in the Ahr, but that had little to do with a summer of excessive rain "

And speaking of boots on the ground, perhaps I allowed my own personal observations to cloud the story, for which I do apologize, but the truth is that for 2021, what you describe above is exactly what will be remembered. I live across the river from the Ahr valley. I was there quite literally Boots on the Ground (very very muddy boots of which I am happy to send you pictures, together with others that cast a more sobering light than your Schubertslay photos.), washing bottles, shoveling mud, in the vineyards, and holding people whose homes and families were washed away. And regardless of how good your Keller wine in your keller (tr. cellar) is, wine is more than just what ends up in the bottle and on your table. And I can’t responsibly speak of 2021 without having those images and heartache in my mind and thus in my pen, heartache that will continue long after that bottle on your table is nothing more than a laudatory tasting note.

  1. I also finished my report with the following: "said Oliver Müller of Weingut Wagner-Stempel in Rheinhessen. ‘But those [growers] who kept a close eye on their vineyards, have fantastic wines in the cellar today. What I’ve tasted so far from ‘21 is megastark [incredible]. Don’t tell, but I might even like it better than 2020.’

    Or as Glass succinctly said: ‘2021 will be a year that shows who can and can’t.’ As I encounter more and more of these bottles in the coming months, I’d swear I can hear a faint ‘challenge accepted’."

The vintage report was more about the weather than the wine. Hence “wet, wet, wet.” I freely admitted in the first lines of the piece that I had yet at the time of writing, tasted any finished 2021s (only fassproben). But even then I was – admittedly perhaps too subtlely, but that tends to be my style – alluding to the fact that the results in the bottles would be excellent based on vintner observations.

And I can confirm that the 2021 vintage is truly lovely, timeless in every sense of the word and a return to the nimble, agile and aromatic wines that established Germany’s renomée, with the modern experience and know-how of the growers today. Obviously these are mere babes in the bottle, with many not even finished. In fact, I have to wonder that you were able to assess an entire vintage in your multiple posts in early May (when many wines are still in tanks/barrels or still fullkrank), based on primarily one – admittedly benchmark – estate. That said, I would agree ‘Acid freaks unite,’ 2021 is one for the books.

But then again, I guess we journalists always say that, don’t we?


Will comment and offer some subjective feedback but right now too busy tasting through the entire portfolios at some German wineries.

Tasted at Schloss Lieser on Thursday (second time this year, so now impressions from both fassprobe and bottled wines), same day at Fritz Haag, also second time this year - for both estates I return a third time in s few weeks to taste their GGs. Yesterday, the line-up at Willi Schaefer, also second time this year, then on to Dönnhoff a second time this year - they have an absolutely increeeedible line-up this year. First time I sat down with Helmut Dönnhoff for a couple of hours, tasting the wines as fassprobe, so it’s fun and interesting to compare them now that the wines are bottled (although with very few changes of impressions). Today a second round at Dönnhoff and while I’m at it, tasting also Dr Heger, Künstler and Meyer-Näkel. Off to Dr Crusius later today and tomorrow to Maximin Grünhaus. Boots on the ground and the nose firmly hovering above the glass - it’s the only way to do it. :slight_smile:

I feel truly privileged to have these opportunities to taste some absolutely world-class wines. Impressions coming soon!

Jesus Miran. It is frightening to read notes this long. I’ve spent less time reading sections of Ulysses. However thanks for the details. Sure you didn;t leave something out?


I freaking love it! Keep it up Mirian. Love reading your notes on German wines

I did answer, but it seems it didn’t post. Will look forward to your feedback, Mirian. Have you had a chance to taste any of the non-VDP estates. I would be curious to hear your opinion on the vintage from those without the resources and experience of the VDP growers. As we all work our way through the creme de la creme, it’s easy to forget that those estates represent only a small fraction of German winemaking. Much like in Burgundy or Bdx when one is only tasting primeurs, it’s easy to forget that we are only evaluating the very tip of the proverbial iceberg from which the rest of the population drinks. (forgive the mixed metaphors, please, it’s late here…).

I started to read. Gotta go to work. Want to finish, maybe on my lunch break. Miran, can you put this on Audible?:joy::rofl: