wit1This is one of the most forward thinking, exciting estates in all of Germany. Located in the Rheinhessen, with some of the same great vineyards as super star Klaus-Peter Keller, Phillip Wittman does not miss a beat making predominantly dry wines in the small town of Westhofen. As soon as you enter this estate you know things are a little different around here. From the amazing rose garden in the entrance, with at least fifty varieties of roses, to the Burmese ducks walking around and the lovely Buddha in the cellar. My type of winery and vibe. wit7I visited in the summer of 2007 and tasted many of the 2006’s. Phillip Wittman guides you through all the wines with consuming passion and the detailed knowledge of a devout scientist. We got into a conversation about the aging of the Grosses Gewachs wines. He told us all to wait a second, ran away to the cellar, and came back with the moldiest, untouched and out of this world bottle of 1989 Morstein. That put to rest the position that the great dry wines of Germany don’t age. Then we got to talking about the specialty at Chez Wittman, Albalonga TBA. Albalonga you say? Albalonga I say. Alabalonga is one of those wacky German hybrids. A marriage of Rieslaner and Sylvaner this yields such a high acid grape that it is rarely used for anything besides sweet wines. So Phillip pulls out a bottle of the 2003 and we finish off the tasting with that. A splendid afternoon and, from what I understand, very typical at this winery. wit2Phillip is an impassioned winemaker and has greatly improved the quality of the wines since taking over for his father Gunter. The estate has been organic since 1989 and biodynamic since 2003 and really does everything the right way. The winemaking is fairly traditional with the use of indigenous yeasts, hand-picking in the vineyards at absurdly low yields at 20-30 hl./ha, and old wooden casks or stainless steel vats for the long slow fermentations. The style here is of utmost delicacy married with intense terroir expression. The wines are dazzlingly pure but also have the structure to age gracefully for many years. Most of the production is dry, but the small amount of sweeter wines they make can be just as compelling as the dry stuff. I fondly remember drinking a lot of the 2001 Westhofener Morstein Spatlese which was as sweet as a candy cane but delicate like nobody’s business. wit6So what do these wines taste like? The first thing that comes to my mind is the intense crunchy minerality along with the uncanny reflection of site. These are wines of racy acidity, intense minerality and wonderful aging capability, Even the lesser wines like the estate Riesling or Silvaner are agers. Phillip puts in the same care across the range from Estate Riesling to Morstein GG. They make really compelling Riesling but Phillip is also deft at other varieties like Schuerebe, Chardonnay, Weissburgunder, Silvaner (Gruner Silvaner in the Rheinhessen) and Albalonga. One of the reasons for the diversity of varieties is because Phillipe went through the painstaking process of analyzing the soil and microclimate and seeing which varieties were suitable for planting in this not very popular area. Now it is very popular as a result of Phillip and his hard-working neighbor Klaus-Peter Keller. wit3Phillip makes many wines, but the estate is famous for its three fantastic Grosses Gewachs sites: Morstein, Kirchspiel and Aulerde. Morstein is seen as his greatest wine but each of them is special in their own way. The soils of Morstein are chalky loam, limestone and loess. Aulerde is south and southeast facing vineyard with heavy clay-loam and loess with barely any limestone. Kirchspiel is in a sheltered amphitheatre and the vines face east and southeast. The soil here is clay-loam with some limestone. Beyond these three sites, Wittman makes compelling wines under the “S” designation which means “Selektion” which Phillip uses for particularly outstanding bottles. The Weissburgunder and Riesling “S” were particularly impressive in 2006. As an aside, the 2006 GG’s from Wittman are around and are spectacular wines. For under $60 they are steals in profound German white wine, If you cannot visit this estate when you are in Germany I highly recommend you find some bottles as they are magical and unique wines and quite cerebral. This is a superstar estate in Germany but still suffers from a lack of exposure in America due to weak distribution and high demand in Germany. I think only Morstein comes in for the Grosses Gewachs and don’t ever remember seeing much “S” around. Too bad as this is one of the great estates of Germany.