Consumer studies show that most wine purchased in the United States is consumed within weeks after purchase, and that less than 10% of wines purchased are squirreled away for aging. Indeed, most wines are intended to be consumed young, but with a little bit of patience, maturation opens a whole new dimension of enjoyment for wine lovers. Among the best candidates for cellaring are quality German wines.
The best examples of German wine—particularly varieties like Riesling, Sylvaner and Pinot Noir, but also Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Scheurebe, too—tend to age better than most due to their low pH and high levels of acidity. A broad mix of flavor compounds and phenolics as well as fermentation and maturation in traditional oak casks all contribute to age-worthiness.
Opened young, German wines are often exuberantly perfumed and concentrated—a glorious explosion of fresh fruit and flowers. With age, these primary characteristics start to recede, often exposing a textural richness, smokiness or yeastiness attributed to fermentation or maturation in oak. With extended bottle aging, fresh fruit gives way to preserved, baked or dried fruit and hints of earth, minerality, leather or mushroom.
Riesling, whether sweet or dry, is singular in its ability to show well at each stage of its maturation. When young, it is thrilling and electric, a showstopping blast of peach, apple and grapefruit flavors bolstered by sprays of orange blossom and spine-tingling acidity. With age, its fruit profile seems to caramelize and honey, shifting its center of gravity from feather-light to something richer and unctuous. While acidity levels remain constant, the perception of it softens in time. For wines with residual sugar, the perception of sweetness also lessens as the sugar molecules polymerize.
Across the varietal spread, there’s magic to be found in mature, high-quality German wines.
Schloss Johannisberger 2018 Purpurlack Riesling Beerenauslese (Rheingau); $300/375 mL, 99 points. Seductive notes of rose petal, violet and saffron perfume this intoxicating, delicately spicy Riesling. Lusciously sweet and decadently concentrated, it’s packed with succulent flavors of pineapple, golden raisin and yellow peach. It’s remarkable how much power and penetration such a light-footed wine can have but this wine’s a stunner now and sure to improve for decades upon decades to come. Freixenet Mionetto USA. Cellar Selection. —A.I.
Dr. Loosen 2018 Erdener Prälat Riesling Auslese Gold Capsule (Mosel); $114/375 mL, 98 points. Luscious notes of apricot preserve, honey and marmalade combine in this powerfully concentrated auslese. Sourced from ed-slate soils of the Erdener Pralat vineyard, it’s intensely fruity and lusciously sweet but spicy and earthen too, accented by hints of ash, saffron and struck slate. Supple and dainty yet nervous with an electric tension, it’s a fantastic wine to enjoy young or to mature for decades to come. Loosen Bros. USA. Cellar Selection. —A.I.
Ökonomierat Rebholz 2019 Im Sonnenschein Weisser Burgunder GG (Pfalz); $119, 96 points. Powerfully concentrated yet svelte and steely, this full-bodied dry Weissburgunder, or Pinot Blanc, is an expression of Rebholtz’s flagship GG, or grand-cru Im Sonnenschein vineyard. It’s richly concentrated in pear and Meyer-lemon flavors but brilliantly stony on the palate. Creamy in texture yet vibrantly balanced in acidity, it’s a wine that’s just approaching peak but likely to improve through 2035 and hold further. Sourced from biodynamic grapes. The German Wine Collection. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2019 Graach Josephshöfer Riesling Trocken GG (Mosel); $55, 95 points. This is a powerfully ripe, spicy expression of Riesling from Devonian-slate soils in the producer’s monopole Josephshofer vineyard. It’s a dry, svelte wine richly concentrated in white pear, quince and grapefruit flavors. Deeply textural yet steely and scintillating, it’s an elegant reflection of the Mosel in a hot vintage. Approachable young but should improve through 2030 and hold further. American B.D. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Hans Wirsching 2018 Iphöfer Kalb Erste Lage Silvaner Trocken (Franken); $39, 94 points. Long, meandering veins of crushed chalk and smoke lend a cooling mineral tone to bright lime and grapefruit here. Tasted at the beginning of 2021, it’s gorgeously fruity still with a depth and weight that’s thrilling. Dry and briskly balanced, it’s a stately wine that should appeal widely and drink beautifully through 2035 at least. The German Wine Collection. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Franz Keller 2018 vom Löss Pinot Noir (Baden); $38, 93 points. Fresh fruited and slim in profile, this zesty Pinot Noir balances crisp black-cherry and dried strawberry flavors against a zippy spine of acidity. Edged with crushed stone and a lingering smoky undertone, it’s a juicy but complex and nuanced wine at peak now through 2030. Delicato Family Wines. —A.I.
Maximin Grünhäuser 2018 Pinot Noir (Mosel); $72, 93 points. Delicate aromas of violet and fresh black cherry are intoxicating on the nose of this intensely fruity Pinot Noir. It’s a profoundly ripe, robust expression of Mosel Pinot Noir studded with concentrated blackberry and plum flavors but it maintains a vitality throughout. While approachable now for its opulence and perfume it should drink well through 2030. Loosen Bros. USA. —A.I.
Weingut Karp-Schreiber 2018 Brauneberger Juffer- Sonnenuhr Riesling Beerenauslese (Mosel); $47/375 mL, 93 points. Delicate hints of tea leaf and saffron lend complexity to succulent, sweet flavors of preserved peach and apricot marmalade here. It’s a delicate, darting wine that packs a deeply concentrated punch of sweetness balanced by spine-tingling acidity and a subtly earthen, spicy undertone. At peak now–2035 but will hold much further. Winesellers, Ltd. —A.I.
Friedrich Becker 2019 Weisser Burgunder Trocken (Pfalz); $22, 92 points. A swathe of orange blossom perfume introduces this pert, juicy Pinot Blanc, known as Weissburgunder in Germany. It’s a succulent dry white packed with ripe, sun-kissed white peach and lemon flavors that seem to pool in swirls of silk on the palate. Crisp in acidity and chalky on the finish, it’s lovely young but likely to hold through 2025. The German Wine Collection. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
SJ Montigny 2017 Kreuznacher St Martin Gewürztraminer Spätlese (Nahe); $20, 92 points. Rose petals, white peach and lychees extend from nose to finish in this exceptionally light-footed, perfumed Gewurztraminer. Medium-sweet in style, it’s exhilarating and fresh with a pert spine of lemon-lime acidity and a lingering veil of sweetness on the finish. Drinks gorgeously young but should maintain peak through 2026. Wein Bauer Inc. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Ulrich Langguth 2019 Riesling Kabinett Feinherb (Mosel); $20, 92 points. Gunflint and crushed slate introduce this spicy, smoky Feinherb Kabinett. Despite an intensely hot vintage, it balances ripe yellow-plum and gooseberry flavors with a zippy, spine-tingling frame of acidity and a delicacy of texture that’s refreshing. It’s just a hint off-dry but delightfully lip-smacking on the finish. Hard to resist drinking this one young but it will gain unique complexities through 2030 as well. Miller Squared Inc. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.
Willi Haag 2020 Juffer Brauneberg Riesling Kabinett Grosse Lage (Mosel); $22, 92 points. Swathes of orange blossom and gardenia notes perfume this exuberant, perfumed Kabinett. While off-dry in style, it’s a richly extracted, intensely ripe Riesling packed with honeyed white-peach and grapefruit flavors. Textural and mouth clinging but held upright by a steely mineral core and lip-smacking acidity, it’s a hedonistic wine that’s irresistible young but likely to improve through 2030 and hold further as well. Leonard Kreusch, Inc. Editors’ Choice. —A.I.