Forty years later, Helmut Dönnhoff can show for a great career but he is still very down to earth because he know how hard it is to run this king of business. However, when he was 22 years, he had set some big goals for himself: "I wanted to own vineyards in the top plots that used to be part of the Nahe-elite with Anheuser, Plettenberg and Staatsdomäne". Today, he can show off his 30 hectares of wines from the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle as well as the Schlossböckelheimer Felsenberg and Kreuznacher Krötenpfuhl. He took on taking care of the plot Norheimer Dellchen, which was pretty overgrown with weeds for a while. Everyone around Nahe knows how much Dönnhoff likes to purchase. "Sometimes I just happen to be walking through a plot and before you know it the owners are raising the price because they think I'm going to buy it", he jokes.
He likes to reminisce about his very first vintage 1971, from which he recently selected a fascinating Riesling ice wine. "I was young and naive to believe that I could come out with the big vintage" he remembers. "Then the miserable 1972 happened and 1973 and 1974 were not much better at all. It was not until 1975 and the hot year 1976 that I managed to make great vintages again".
The Riesling-magician, who also has 20 percent Pinot Blanc and Gris wines in his product range, still has not lost his love for the wooden barrel. "This is the best kid's room for a wine". He also remembers the production processes that seem pretty problematic nowadays. "Back then we did not have a laboratory or anything like that. We had to make fast decisions for many things, whithout being able to test them first". The result: many of his wines from back then had plenty of sulfur, which would get him in big trouble nowadays. However, back then wines had plenty of time to consume sulfur. And the higher dosage led to even the 1966 (the year that Helmut Dönnhoff started his training) still being very stable today.
Dönnhoff has learned throughout the past few decades that wines change. "Some of the Riesling wines start having blemishes and it seems like they suddenly go through puberty. But they quickly get over that". Although it seems that in the past people appreciated nature more, there is much more focus on the work in the vineyard. He does not, however, appreciate every quality-increasing process there is. "Some of my colleagues manage to come up with 20 or 15 hectar liters per hectar although they had an extremely low harvest yield. Such extremes are definitely not healthy for the plant, which suffers in the end". Dönnhoff considers this a marketing method.
His current wine style focuses on juicy Riesling wines. He has plenty of dry wines among his products, including many Große Gewächse, however, when you taste juicy late vintage wines from 2001, 1994 and 1989, these wines do not show their age whatsoever and that is exactly what makes a consumer a Dönnhoff-fan.
This celebrity, who also works great as a trainer, got himself a great vintage for his 40th anniversary. This vintage will be yet another "dusty" candidate for a Großes Gewächs from the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle. (r.knoll)