These are some of the most acclaimed Trockenbeerenausleses. (Prices will vary from one vintage to the next.)
Gunderloch Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Rheinhessen Nackenheim Rothenberg
In the 1890s, banker Carl Gunderloch used to trek from his home in Gundersblum, his place of birth, to his bank in Mainz. On these daily journeys he would observe how the sun played off the hills along the Rhine Terrace. Based on these observations, he purchased vineyard property that appeared to collect sunlight most efficiently. Those vineyards now are considered among the best in the famed wine village of Nackenheim.
Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach now operate the Gunderloch estate, which includes the Rothenberg vineyard in Nackenheim and the Pettenthal and Hipping vineyards in Nierstein. On the Rothenberg, the soil is dyed red from the high iron content that gives every Gunderloch Nackenheim Rothenberg an earthy flavor of white peaches, the kind of thing that so delights fans of terroir. Slow, temperature-controlled fermentation preserves the fruit character of the wines. ($345/half bottle) www.gunderloch.de
Mönchhof Riesling TrockenbeerenausleseErdener Prälat
“Since 1177” says a plaque on the wall, and indeed, that is how long they have been making wine at Mönchhof, Robert Eymael’s wine estate in Ürzig on the Mosel. For the first six centuries or so, the vineyards were the property of the Cistercian monks who built the manor house where Eymael now lives and works. The Baroque facade was added much later, after Napoléon seized the property from the church and sold it to the winemaker’s ancestors. Eymael’s manor home is also familiar to millions of Germans as the backdrop for the TV series Moselbrück. Mönchhof’s vineyards are found on the steep inclines of the Ürziger Würzgarten, Erdener Treppchen, and Erdener Prälat. The latter vineyard provides the grapes for the Trockenbeerenauslese, a wine with more than seven centuries of history. ($675/half bottle) www.moenchhof.de
Georg Breuer Rüdesheim Berg Schlossberg Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese
Peter Breuer founded his wine estate in 1880—he named it for his son—and the company now is in the capable hands of his descendant Heinrich Breuer, a man known for the dryness of both his wit and his wines. The family estate comprises 77 acres, all in the renowned Rheingau communes of Rüdesheim and Rauenthal. “It is large enough to offer some economies of scale but small enough to allow us to maintain an artisanal philosophy toward winegrowing,” says Breuer. The estate’s best sites include a major portion of Rüdesheim’s dramatic, precipitous Berg Schlossberg and all of Rauenthal’s Nonnenberg. The Breuer estate makes several distinguished Riesling wines: Berg Schlossberg, Nonnenberg, Rüdesheim Estate, and Montosa, all of which are mouth-puckeringly dry.
Breuer can be as adept with a sweet wine as with a dry, as evidenced by his Trockenbeerenauslese, which is loaded with flavors of dried fruits and candied apples. ($250/half bottle) www.georg-breuer.com
Schloss Schönborn Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese Rheingau Erbacher Marcobrunn
In May 1999, a tasting was held in Toronto to mark Schloss Schönborn’s 650th birthday. Among the vintages tasted were the 1937 Marcobrunner, 1933 Hattenheimer Hassel, 1915 Geisenheimer Rothenberg, 1911 Marcobrunner, and 1893 Marcobrunner Auslese, all of which, according to guests, were still robust and flavorful. So what was Günter Thies thinking when he decided to tamper with this ancient winemaking tradition? Until the arrival of Thies, who became the vineyard’s winemaker in 2003, the wines had fermented and aged in oak. The flavor, said Schönborn’s new winemaker, careful not to slight his predecessors, was a little baroque. Thies decreed a switch to temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The result is evident in the Trockenbeerenauslese: According to critics and connoisseurs, it is fruitier and fresher than ever before. ($720/half bottle) www.schoenborn.de