“I almost prefer inhaling to actually tasting,“ Johannes Leitz told importer Thierry Thiese in an interview. “I can’t really love a wine regardless of how it tastes if it doesn’t excite me on the nose.” I find this quote represents a very keen insight into a remarkable winemaker who is passionate about his vines. Of course, Riesling is such an aromatic varietal being able to inhale the aroma is usually easy. Johannes specifically used the word “excite” which is something else entirely.
With people who already know and love quality Riesling, I sometimes use the expression “like biting into a rock” to describe the rapture of how a wine tastes. The term is used to describe the incredible interplay of minerals and sometimes, volcanic soil, that can be found in quality Rieslings, an aroma and palate so pronounced the taster feels he or she is tasting the terroir of the land the grapes grew on, as well as the rich concentration of fruit.
Meeting Johannes Leitz on a bright fall day in his gorgeous, glass-enclosed tasting room that looks out over the vineyards, I am impressed by his enthusiasm and energy. In person, he is animated and straightforward, freely expressing his passion for his grapes and his vineyards. Weingut Josef Leitz dates back to 1744 and, like so many wineries in the Rheingau region, has passed from father to son for virtually four centuries. Fate put a crimp in the legacy as Johannes’ father died when he was an infant, leaving his mother to support the family with a flower shop business and await the time when Johannes came of age and could take the reins.
By the time he was in his mid-twenties, Johannes connected with importer Thierry Thiese, and today has more than 26 hectares of vineyards and produces 10,000 cases of wine. You have probably seen a bottle of his famed “Dragonstone” in your local wine shop. “It’s a fantasy name,” Johannes tells me. By this I infer Johannes is also trying to make the wine user-friendly to the millennial generation who grew up on Harry Potter novels and play video games like World of Warcraft. This dry wine hails from Leitz’s Drachenstein vineyard, is reasonably priced, and pairs well with a wide variety of food. Its numerous awards and user-friendly label have helped its popularity in America’s wine shops and restaurants.
During my sampling of ten wines, I found all to be enormously rich with a variety of minerals. Looking over my scribbled tasting notes, I see words not used for any other winery, including “grey slate” and “iron in slate” reflecting the varied terroir of his vineyards. My favorite wine, underlined and circled with zeal, was the 2007 Rudesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spatlese with its aroma of heirloom apples, slate, and rose that is echoed on the palate with a dazzling finish. This vineyard is known for its quartzite soil, with the age of vines between twenty and forty years.
Weingut Leitz is known for his first growth Riesling vineyards, and his insistence on low yields and high standards of vintage management. He is considered a rising star in the Rheingau and Germany, with his wines already receiving accolades by sommeliers and winning awards at competitions. If you would like to visit and taste, use the contact info below.
Weingut Josef Leitz
Contact: Johannes Leitz
Theodor- Heuss- Straße 5, 65385 Rüdesheim am Rhein
Phone: +49 (0) 6722- 48711, Fax: +49 (0) 6722- 47658