A German wine label can be beautiful but also confusing. Among the various terms included are vintage, vineyard site, grape varietal, ripeness level of that grape, and location within Germany. The name of the producer can be hard to find, while “banners” or “secondary titles” pose as that name. To start, I’ll explain the label at hand. This is a 2005 Riesling Auslese (“Auslese” meaning "a selection" of late-ripened grape clusters) from the vineyard site Graacher Himmelreich in the Mosel region of Germany (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, found on the label, is even too vague). In the bottom right-hand corner of the label is the name of the producer: Weingut Stiftung St. Nikolaus-Hospital (“Weingut” meaning “Wine Estate” and “Stiftung” meaning “Foundation”) or simply St. Nikolaus-Hospital. The banner, "Cardinal Cusanus Stiftswein," reveals a specific history of the winery: Stiftswein (I translate as “Gift Wine” or “Donation Wine”) historically linked to Cardinal Cusanus.
Importer Fran Kysela contributes: "Himmelreich" means Kingdom of Heaven, which reflects the historic commitment of the churches in wine production, with holdings in the best locations. St. Nikolaus-Hospital is the oldest estate in the Middle Mosel region, founded in 1458 by Nikolaus von Kues. He later became Cardinal (“Cardinal Cusanus”) and founded the St. Nikolaus-Hospital, a social service institution that has been functioning since 1465 (now home to Red Cross Social Services).
Can a consumer benefit from being charitable? To be sure. To start, Terry Theise calls the typical 2005 Mosel a “wine of staggering ripeness and concentration yet still elegant and transparent.” The vineyard site is self-described as heavenly, the facility is state-of-the-art, and winemaker Achim Kerpen enjoys the fruit of numerous international awards. Combine this with a winery of over 500 years history, and I offer my tasting notes:
Minty – but more “subtle herbs” reminiscent of Campari. When held to the light: golden fleece with a pure green tint. Clarified apple cider in the mouth. Very pure. Nice fatness but not utterly viscous. A light girding of minerality (the vines are planted in slate) and imperceptible acidity. ($30)
A beautiful example of German Riesling. You will be struck by the generosity. In this case, the winery’s history adds nothing but class. This holiday, gift wine (Stiftswein). As you enjoy, others will benefit.