As Christina Thanisch says, 2020 is a vintage to get excited about. Wines of finesse, which are poised between the flesh of a generous summer and the precision of a cool harvest period.
Although summer 2020 was warm, the season overall had low rainfall and was cooler on average than 2018. There were also fewer heat spikes than in 2019. In the context of the last three vintages, it is the most refined and elegant. Acidity and alcohol levels are both a notch lower than last year, making for beautifully approachable wines which are a pleasure to taste.
It is also a welcome return to classicism and a break from the modern run of ‘climate change vintages’. As Europe warms up, how many more such years will we have? Years of terroir definition and filigree-fine structure.
We are also proud that the 2020 vintage marks a half-decade for C&B as exclusive UK agents for the Thanisch family!
“There is reason to be excited in 2020!” CHRISTINA THANISCH, SEPTEMBER 2021
Both winter and spring were warm, with far less frost damage than elsewhere in Europe.
Budding was early, as was the slightly uneven flowering. Otherwise, the summer was similar to 2019: hot and dry. Vegetative growth was rapid and grape maturity was well advanced by early September.
Under such conditions, it is unsurprising that picking was early, although cooler weather in the approach to harvest kept sugar levels at relatively moderate levels. Little botrytis developed – not a problem for the Thanisch family’s intentionally pure-fruited style.
Growing conditions aside, Covid-19 restrictions posed logistical challenges, including paperwork and testing for the estate’s dozen-strong Polish picking team, plus social distancing requirements.
Harvest started on 22nd September under sunny skies, although the weather turned progressively cooler and cloudier. There was a little rain, although less than in 2019.
The Thanisch 2020s deliver a delightful juxtaposition of ripeness and lightness. The vintage is particularly moderate in alcohol, underscoring its elegance and harmony.
Christina Thanisch described 2020 as a year in which the Kabinetts excel, their delicacy and filigree bone structure chiming with the precision of the vintage. The Spätlese and Auslese wines are also stunningly good, very much in keeping with the crystalline house style here.
This term was originally derived from the English word ‘cabinet’, which before the German wine law of 1971 was used as a mark of quality wines. Kabinett is the ‘lowest’ (least rich) of the six German wine Prädikats. Mosel Kabinetts are particularly light in alcohol and might be described as off-dry.
THANISCH ESTATE RIESLING KABINETT
The Estate Riesling comes mainly from vineyards around Kues, on the left bank of the Mosel. Pure lemon and lime aromas, with white pepper. Steely acidity and lemon rind on the attack, devolving into a wonderfully supple and sherbety mid-palate, sustained by fresh acids through to a focused finish. 10.5% abv. Bottled under screwcap.
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5+
Recommended drinking from 2022–2026
£85/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK £100/CASE OF 3 MAGNUMS, IN BOND UK
BERNKASTELER-KUES RIESLING ALTE REBEN
The alte reben (old vines) here are over 40 years old. This ranks between the estate wine (above) and the single vineyards (below). Playful aromas of honeysuckle, white flowers and lemon curd. The palate is cushioned and approachable, with a friendly level of acidity and ripe, accessible citrus, apples and pears. A precise, zippy finish. 11.5% abv. Bottled under screwcap.
The plumper sibling of the Feinherb (below). The only difference is the length of fermentation, which here is halted earlier, making this a touch richer and allowing a nice low alcohol level of 9.5% abv. Sherbety and generously fruited aromas, with slaty minerality. Ripe and effusive orange and apricot on the palate, with stony minerality beneath, all supported by fresh acidity. Excellent earlier drinker. Bottled under screwcap.
Corney & Barrow Score 17
Recommended drinking from 2020–2030
£95/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
BERNKASTELER BADSTUBE RIESLING KABINETT FEINHERB
This ferments for slightly longer than the ‘straight’ Kabinett (above), resulting in a marginally drier style. The aromas are tauter and more citric – lemon and lime, with a hint of honeysuckle. With time in the glass, apricot too. The palate is beautifully pitched between fleshy fruit ripeness and taut, steely acidity, with a crisply defined line of grippy extract. 10.5% abv. Bottled under screwcap.
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5
Recommended drinking from 2021–2027
£95/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK
BERNCASTELER DOCTOR RIESLING KABINETT
I am always excited to taste this wine, which represents a sort of pinnacle of Mosel Kabinett. The richness of the Doctor vineyard rises from the glass – the distinctive green apples, white flowers and honeysuckle are joined by a spicy opulence. The palate is supple and cushioned on the entry, before the stony mineral texture reveals itself, providing shape and harmony to the mid-palate. A mere 8.5% abv.
Corney & Barrow Score 18+
Recommended drinking from 2025–2037
£155/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK £170/CASE OF 3 MAGNUMS, IN BOND UK
Literally ‘late harvest’, within the Prädikat system, Spätlese is a step up in grape sugar, as measured at harvest time. Many consider Spätlesen to be the sweet spot (or in the other sense, not so sweet really) of Riesling – where the full expression of grape variety meets terroir.
BERNKASTELER BADSTUBE RIESLING SPÄTLESE
Flinty mineral aromas, with taut lemon, then more reticent peach and apricot fruit. The palate is supple and quite plushly cushioned, the fleshy stone fruit and fresh acidity an intriguing mix of 2018’s fleshy hedonism and 2019’s stricter classicism. This exemplifies the happy mid-point of the 2020 vintage, a year which will please widely. 10.5% abv.
Spätlesen have the great advantage of being versatile enough to pair with food or serve on their own and none shows that more than the Doctor Spätlese. Honeysuckle and crème brulée aromas lead into a supple, zesty palate of orange, apricot, mango and rich peach fruit, with a wonderful slaty mineral definition. An enveloping wine, which will drink relatively early but has a long life ahead of it. 8% abv.
Corney & Barrow Score 18
Recommended drinking from 2024–2035
£200/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK £215/CASE OF 3 MAGNUMS, IN BOND UK
AUSLESE & BEERENAUSLESE
Meaning ‘selected harvest’, Auslese is another notch up in volume. Auslesen may also have some botrytis, or ‘noble rot’, contributing to the sense of honeyed richness. In the best examples, this is offset by the Mosel’s signature high-line of taut acidity. In 2020, there was once again relatively little botrytis, due to the early harvest and cool late season.
BERNKASTELER BADSTUBE RIESLING AUSLESE
The Thanisch holdings are at the southern Bernkastel end of the large Badstube vineyard. Flinty mineral aromas with lemon rind, showing the cooler aspect of 2020 on the nose. The palate is soft-shelled and giving, the quince, lemon and apple crumble flavours making for an approachable yet multi-faceted, age-worthy wine. The zesty acidity underscores the energy. 8.5% abv.
Pale gold in colour. Flinty and slightly carapaced on the nose, with wet-stone minerality. The palate is super focused, with pure lemon and green citrus fruit on the entry, opening onto peach, orange and nectarine. Nothing showy here, and the sensation is drier and more clipped than you might expect, the high line of taut lemony acidity keeping everything tight and linear. A stunning wine, which lingers tantalisingly. 7.5% abv.
Corney & Barrow Score 18.5
Recommended drinking from 2027–2047
£335/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK £350/CASE OF 3 MAGNUMS, IN BOND UK
BERNCASTELER DOCTOR RIESLING BEERENAUSLESE
Having a Beerenauslese in this year’s offer is a real treat. Pale lemon-gold in colour. Intense apricot essence on the nose, pure and unencumbered, with playful lemon and lime aromatics. The palate is substantially textured and yet light on its feet, the laser-like Mosel acidity cutting through the layers of rich apricot and peach fruit like a knife, cleansing and refreshing it. The finish is remarkably crisp and focused, jasmine and honeysuckle lingering on the long finish, with persistent dry extract.
Corney & Barrow Score 19
Recommended drinking from 2022–2026
£595/CASE OF 6 HALVES, IN BOND UK
These two wines sit apart from the rest of the Thanisch line-up in that they are totally dry. As such, they are labelled Grosses Gewächs, or ‘GG’s, a pan-German term for the highest quality tier of dry wines, which come from Grosse Lage sites (similar to Burgundy’s Grands Crus). Some producers, including Thanisch, choose to use the word trocken on the label also, to underscore that these are bone dry wines.
Bernkasteler Graben is adjacent to the Doctor vineyard. Soaring, exuberant aromas of green apple, lemon rind and white and yellow flowers. The palate is slaty-mineral, with quince, lemon and lime fruit. The acidity is beautifully pitched, harmonious and poised. A long-lived wine which will nonetheless shine in its first flush of youth. 12% abv.
BERNCASTELER DOCTOR RIESLING GROSSES GEWÄCHS (TROCKEN)
The slaty minerality of the Doctor announces itself on the nose, beside a step-up in peachy, citrussy fruit ripeness. The palate is chiselled and lemony on the entry, with a sherbet tang and a crescendo of apple, pear and nectarine. The fruit recedes to reveal a bedrock of dry extract, which lends a fine-grained texture to the finish. Wonderful wine. 12.5% abv.
Corney & Barrow Score 18.5
Recommended drinking from 2024–2040
£215/CASE OF 6 BOTTLES, IN BOND UK £230/CASE OF 3 MAGNUMS, IN BOND UK