Style: Off Dry White
Who: The Dönnhoff family first came to the Nahe region 250 years ago, establishing a traditional farm in the village of Oberhäusen an der Nahe, which included livestock and vegetable gardens in addition to some grape growing. Oberhäusen and this part of the Nahe river valley is very pastoral; it feels far away from the relative hustle and bustle of the Rheingau and wine tourism. The countryside is serene and beautiful, marked by steep hillside vineyards in the succession of villages following the river from Norheim to Niederhausen, through Oberhäusen, ending in Schlössbockelheim.
The estate was started by Helmut Dönnhoff’s grandfather, Hermann, in the 1920s. Helmut took over from his father, Hermann Jr. in 1966; at that time there were only four hectares under vine and still quite a bit of farmland, which was rented out. In 1971, the farmland was sold and Helmut turned his full attention to producing quality wine.
Helmut is a very instinctive winemaker with a natural touch that he’s clearly passed on to his son Cornelius, who joined him at the winery 2007. The Dönnhoffs believe in craft and workmanship with the understanding that “winemaking alone cannot bring quality; it can only retain the available quality.” In the 40+ years that have passed since Helmut began his work some things have changed and shifted, but the commitment to excellence and transparency above all has remained constant from one generation to the next.
The Estate has grown to 25 hectares but both father and son feel that this is as large as they want to be; more growth would mean less time in the vineyards and cellar, where they feel most at home and in their element. Cornelius is as thoughtful as his father and the two share the same view on winemaking, viticulture, and taste in wine; balance and “Das ganze ding muss klingen – The whole thing must be sound” are at the center of their philosophy.
What: The idea here is to make a village wine, basically, though it’s sold and marketed as a Gutswein or Estate bottled basic wine. The Estate wine combines the two major soils that dominate the holdings for the estate, giving the drinker a look into what Dönnhoff is all about. The basic wine is a calling card and thus Cornelius wants to make statement.
Geology: The geology of the middle Nahe is notably shaped by its eons-old clay slate formations and rich volcanic soils. The concentration of porphyry and melaphyre stone in and around the old Oberhausen vineyards – Kieselberg and Felsenberg, help provide the perfect berry base for Gutsriesling.
Vineyard: Mostly from Oberhauser Felsenberg (volcanic), Keselberg (slate)
Soil:The vines grow in stony, weathered volcanic soils of porphyry and melaphyr in particular, with certain amounts of slate and quartzite.
Wine-making: Fermented and matured in a mixture of stainless steel vats and neutral 10+-year-old 1200L German stückfass from Hösch.