Stuart Pigott: Generation Riesling, I salute you

17th June, 2016 by Darren Smith

Wine writer and German wine specialist Stuart Pigott has used the 10th anniversary of Generation Riesling to praise young German winemakers for transforming the image of the country’s wine.

Stuart Pigott

Generation Riesling, I salute you: Stuart Pigott hosts a seminar showcasing wines from up-and-coming German winemakers in Frankfurt (Photo: Generation Riesling)

Hosting a tasting of wines from the new generation of German winemakers at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt, Pigott – who was appointed a Riesling Fellow by the German Wine Institute in 2015 – said Generation Riesling had transformed the German wine industry to such an extent that it was unrecognisable from 20 years ago.

“Germany is not the same place it was 20 years ago. Something very fundamental happened,” he said.

“Wine reflects not only where it grows but who was responsible for cultivating those grapes and making that wine. I think this is a great virtue of German wine today – that this point is regarded as something absolutely critical right across the industry.

“Because Germany fundamentally would not be able to compete purely on price. It is not an option for the German wine industry. These things are clearly realised today, but 20 years ago it was very rare to find a German wine producer who could say those things that clearly.

As well as writing extensively on German wine since the early 1990s, Pigott spent about 15 months living among young German winegrowers while completing two semesters at Geisenheim University Hochschule. Many of those growers are now the leading lights of the Generation Riesling movement.

He explained how, before 2000, there was a profound unwillingness of older generation winemakers to pass knowledge on and that they tended not to communicate with their fellow winemakers about what they were doing in the vineyard or the cellar.

“This was the old model of German wine,” Pigott said. “Thank goodness that has gone. What a contrast there is between that situation and the young winegrowers of today.

“They are very rarely lone wolves. They gather together in groups. For them it is obvious that wine is a part of pop culture. They are celebrating their wines at wine parties…

“Within these groups there is always completely free exchange of information and experiences. They’ve all been abroad somewhere – be it Burgundy, or Marlborough or Sonoma County – and they are exchanging all thee thing which they have learned.

“They also all experimenting and they’re exchanging the results of those experiments. [This] has been a dynamo for the jump up in quality in many of the regions in Germany.

“Behind all of this and driving the whole thing, is there conviction that ‘we’ is stronger than ‘i’ can ever be.”

Young winemakers celebrate 10 years of Generation Riesling at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt this month (Photo: Generation Riesling)

Young winemakers celebrate 10 years of Generation Riesling at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt this month (Photo: Generation Riesling)

10 years young

Generation Riesling was launched by the German Wine Institute in 2006 to provide young winemakers with a national and international platform for their wines.

The group has in turn proved to be a strong marketing tool for German wine, overhauling the country’s image as a mass producer of sweeter styles of wines.

Generation Riesling events have taken place at venues across the globe since 2006 – the first of which was held in London in 2006.

While Riesling is the main grape cultivated by the group’s members, this is not a prerequisite and other German varieties are often showcased.

Generation Riesling group members must be under 35 years of age and act as ambassadors for Germany’s modern premium wine production. The group now includes more than 530 members, making it the largest organisation of its kind in the world.

Pigott explained how the young winemakers in the group has been successful not only in highlighting the quality of German dry wines on the international stage, but also in raising the profile of some of the forgotten wine growing areas of Germany.

“A lot of the young winegrowers are in places that are not famous, that have no reputation,” he said.

“Wine locations become famous because winegrowers do something there. They produce a remarkable quality and most importantly a distinctive wine which doesn’t taste like everything else.

“One of the most important things the junge winzer have been doing is rediscovering that forgotten potential.”

Winemaking talent

At the Generation Riesling seminar in Frankfurt, Pigott presented examples from young winemaking talents such as Andreas Bieselin, who makes wine in Ettenheim, Baden, and Matthias Bickel-Stumpf from Frickenhausen in Franken.

Bickel-Stumpf

Matthias Bickel-Stumpf, a Generation Riesling member winemaker from Franken

Producers like these are making wines for which there was no modern-day precedent, said Pigott – Bieselin’s Grauburgunder trocken and Bickel-Stump’s Grosses Gewächs Silvaner Mönchshof, for example.

The New York and Berlin-based wine writer said that praise was due to these winemakers for overturning the preconception held by many wine consumers outside Germany that German wine is largely sweet and characterless.

“For them it is all about making (mostly dry) wines that are as attractive and distinctive as possible. They don’t have any problem with the fact that the wines of some grapes and vineyard sites need only a little fine tuning to reach their optimum whereas others need turning upside down before they realise the Generation Riesling members’ goal,” he said.

Speaking of the breadth of young winemaking talent at the tasting of wines of 10 Generation Riesling winemakers he hosted in Frankfurt, Pigott said that he samples he selected were not the cream of the crop, but were representative of the quality of winemaking that existed throughout the new generation of winemakers.

“The selection I’m wines I’m showing today, this is not ‘the best of’, this is not a greatest hits compilation: this is one possible selection of wines from the Generation Riesling members and ex-members. I could have put together at least a couple more completely different tastings that would have added up to the same thing.”

The wines chosen by Stuart Pigott for his Generation Riesling seminar at the Palmengarten in Frankfurt on 13 June 2016:

  1. Weingut Bieselin 2014 Grauburgunder, Baden
  2. Weingut Bickel-Stumpf 2014 Mönchshof Silvaner GG, Franken
  3. Weingut Meyer-Näkel 2012 Kräuterberg Spätburgunder GG, Ahr
  4. Weingut Thörle 2013 Hölle Spätburgunder, Rheinhessen
  5. Weingut Eva Vollmer 2015 Kalkader Scheurebe, Rheinhessen
  6. Weingut Sinß 2015 Riesling, Nahe
  7. Weingut Axel Pauly 2015 Helden Riesling, Mosel
  8. Weingut Margarethenhof 2014 Jesuitengarten Riesling, Pfalz
  9. Weingut Georg Breuer 2010 Schlossberg Riesling, Rheingau
  10. Weingut Peter Lauer 2007 Ayler Kupp Riesling Auslese, Mosel

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