Germany is the source of most of the world’s greatest Rieslings. That should make it indispensable to wine lovers. The flagship grape offers a vast stylistic range—creating wines that can be bracingly dry or unctuously sweet, fruity and floral or extremely mineral. Here, twelve brilliant and reliable producers.
The much respected Helmut Dönnhoff creates masterfully balanced wines—both dry and sweet—that are some of Germany’s most sought-after bottlings and command a cultlike devotion from fans. The estate is not in the prestigious Mosel region but in the less heralded Nahe zone, where the slightly warmer climate works to Dönnhoff’s advantage by giving its sweet Rieslings their famous opulence.
Every wine region needs someone like Ernst Loosen, an ebullient, charismatic risk taker who helped revolutionize German winemaking. Loosen had intended to become an archaeologist but ended up in 1987 taking over his family’s Mosel estate, where he focused his efforts on old, ungrafted vines and low yields. His powerful single-vineyard Rieslings epitomize site-specific winemaking; his more affordable wines are made mostly from purchased grapes under the Dr. L label.
Joh. Jos. Christoffel Erben
One of the great names in Riesling, the Christoffel estate is located in the Middle Mosel town of Ürzig, best known for the legendary Würzgarten (literally, spice garden) vineyard, which yields wines of profound depth and distinctive spiciness. Since 2001, Robert Eymael of Weingut Mönchhof has leased the Christoffel vineyards and made the wines, hewing closely to the Christoffel style of pure, racy Rieslings.
Joh. Jos. Prüm
The eldest of three daughters, 31-year-old Katharina Prüm has been apprenticing with her famous winemaker father, Manfred, for half a decade and will soon become the latest in a line of famous Prüms to helm this renowned Mosel estate. The family’s Rieslings are built for the long haul, with tight, mineral-laden flavors that expand after a few years of aging and can continue to gain complexity for decades after release.
Maximin Grünhaus/Schlosskellerei C. von Schubert
The Maximin Grünhaus estate consists of three esteemed and extremely old vineyards in the tiny Ruwer valley region. Romans first planted grape vines here; the vineyards were later farmed by monks and finally purchased by ancestors of the current owner, Dr. Carl von Schubert, in 1882. Today von Schubert farms naturally; winemaker Stefan Kraml, who arrived in 2004, turns the estate’s grapes into outstanding, expressive Rieslings.
This Pfalz winery shook up the German wine world in the 1980s by producing stellar dry whites from unfashionable grapes. Thanks to the brilliant, influential cellarmaster Hans-Günther Schwarz, Müller-Catoir became known for extraordinary wines made from Pinot Gris, Scheurebe and Rieslaner as well as Riesling. Winemaker Martin Franzen continues the tradition today, and all farming is now organic.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt
Manager Annegret Reh-Gartner and winemaker Wolfgang Mertes can afford to be choosy about which vineyards they showcase in single-site cuvées: With nearly 90 acres of vines in enviable locations along the Mosel, Saar and Ruwer rivers, this is one of the largest of Germany’s top wine estates. Their single-vineyard wines offer compelling individuality, whereas blends from multiple vineyards deliver terrific quality for the price.
This historic Rheingau estate produces some of the world’s longest-lived Rieslings. Founded around 1100, Schloss Johannisberg was given to the famed diplomat Prince Klemens von Metternich by Emperor Franz I of Austria in 1816. The estate remained in the Metternich family until 2006, when it was sold to the Oetker family, German packaged-food magnates.
This famous Mosel estate was founded in 1961 by Hans Selbach, whose family runs a well-known négociant firm and has been making wine since the 1600s. His small winery initially relied on a historic five-acre estate vineyard, but today son Johannes works with nearly 46 acres of superlative, steeply terraced estate vines—including legendary sites such as the Sonnenuhr in both Zeltingen and Wehlen—to make his masterful Rieslings.
Weingut Josef Leitz
Josef Leitz got his winemaking start working out of a cellar attached to his family’s home in suburban Rüdesheim (an old Rheingau wine town). His stunning Rieslings quickly made him one of the brightest stars of the modern German wine industry. Now installed in a sparkling-new facility, Leitz turns out a range of Rheingau Rieslings offering both terrific value (the Eins Zwei Dry bottling, for one) and extraordinary quality.
Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl
The Reichsrat von Buhl estate landed in capable hands when businessman Achim Niederberger bought it in 2005—a lucky break for a winery that’s one of the most historic names in the Pfalz. An expert team is making the most of von Buhl’s 150 acres, which include some prime Pfalz sites. Now organically farmed, the estate is a fine source for Riesling.
Weingut Robert Weil
Star Rheingau winemaker Wilhelm Weil made radical changes when he took over his family’s estate in 1987, like picking a vineyard 17 separate times in order to harvest only perfectly ripe grapes. The resulting wines are some of Germany’s most prized. His finest come from three superb vineyards near the town of Kiedrich; grapes from other sites go into two entry-level blends.